Yesterday, at a book exhibition, I came across an enduring secondhand of The Beach by Alex Garland and bought it cheap. I began reading it this afternoon and read it through the evening by the poolside at the local club. It had me in its clutches and wouldn’t let me go; I love when a book does that. And then after I took a swim, I realized how much of traveling I must do to ever write something close to a book drawn from personal experiences. Reading such books about escapism and hitch-hiking always evoke such thoughts in my mind. I felt very sad but also hopeful. Traveling, unfortunately, is not on my cards yet. First off because I’m only seventeen (this April; I share my birthday with Shakespeare). And second off, I’m middle class Indian. Both these factors speak for themselves.
You see, in the households of the middle class Indians, traveling alone at a tender age is believed to be quite preposterous. Indeed traveling alone at all is a strange notion. We are the sheltered ones, the homely ones; the people whose nearest brushes with adventure is in getting fined for drunken driving or having been bitten by a neighbor’s dog or having nearly survived a collision with a racing bike, we never get off the beaten track, hardly do we ever experience. Our idea of a holiday getaway is driving down to the nearest hill station or coastal town and checking into a luxury resort, sipping pina-coladas in hammocks (which by the way, most of us find uncomfortable, but we try to appear as nonchalant as possible when we are lying in them). Trekking jungles of the Sunderbans is for vagrants, for those who do not have any domestic responsibilities or worldly ties.
And growing up in a middle-class Indian household has been much hampering to my sense of adventure or level of comfort with traveling. But I don’t say I resent my upbringing which has several perks to compensate for its flaws. But I do wish that on our family holidays, we would do much more than fuss about our hotel room service or inquire about when is the pool open.
How I long to be old and brave enough to trudge forgotten streets in foreign cities, with a single back pack thrown over my shoulders, a weeks long beard growing on my chin, meeting beautiful people, coming close to death, having breathtaking experiences . . .
Wherever I go, the first place I wish to visit is Paris. I am not majorly obsessed with or anything (though I do bully my Dad into getting post-cards and souvenirs from there, buying dozens of French phrasebooks and movies set in that charming city) but I really do wish to go there. And you wait, soon my dream shall come true, I’m already saving up.