Extraordinary in the ordinary

When travel took me ‘home’

When I came back after soaking in the spectacular sunsets in the grasslands of Masai Mara, Kenya, I never realized that I’d equally miss the sunsets I watch with my parents, sitting on our terrace at home, with pigeons pecking on scattered bajra grains.
Published at Spark.

Last evening, as I sat down with my cup of freshly prepared coffee, I found myself reminiscing the year gone by. It wasn’t hard to observe that 2018 had been a year of remarkably heterogeneous experiences across continents.

Cruising on the Seine waters, I marvelled at the impeccably preserved architectural beauty of Paris. I indulged in copious servings of chocolate waffles in the fairy tale like Belgian town of Brugge and pedalled through the lively streets of Amsterdam. In the grasslands of Masai Mara, I saw National Geographic come alive as I witnessed the great wildebeest migration. The ancient 3000-steps baori (stepwell) at Rajasthan’s Abhaneri village and the haunted town of Bhangarh had their own share of storytelling. I lazed in a hammock tied to mango laden trees in Poynad village in Maharashtra, and hopped about like a rabbit in Ambala’s sprawling sunflowers fields. I walked on the untouched beach sands in Agonda and plucked large broccoli in Panchgani. I saw what nature’s painted canvas looked like when I crossed the distinct topography of Ahmednagar, and the Kenyan mountains from Nairobi to the Rift Valley. I enjoyed the burst of eclectic colours and graffiti on the walls of Fort Kochi, and come December, I will sign off the year canoeing in Munroe Island’s pristine backwaters.

Each of these experiences was delightfully stimulating, opening my mind’s doors to diverse cultures, histories, and alternative lifestyles. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunities to experience the world’s wonders.

Soon I asked myself – what were my favourite moments of 2018? Which experiences stood out? What were the first moments, the snapshots of the year that sprung in my mind before I had a chance to ‘deliberate’ and answer?

I quite expected any of these, and more, travel experiences and journeys in far and near corners of the world.

But that was not the case. Little did I know that the most endearing and heart-warming journey was the one that led me back to my living room. Here are a few moments that lit up my face instantly.

The evening when my younger brother, my sister-in-law, my husband and I sat together in our pyjamas, and chatted till wee hours of the morning, sharing stories, and laughing uncontrollably over the silliest of things. That unassuming almost-for-granted love between us is for keeps.

The night when my husband and I surprised my mother-in-law with a birthday cake laden with strawberries that she totally loves! The childlike joy on her face is imprinted in my memory.

The time I spent with my parents at my native home, every evening around dusk, sitting on our favourite wrought iron jhuula, watching pigeons peck on bajra grains strewn around for them, as the sun set before us. The sense of calm and positivity I felt is inexplicable.

The morning at my friend Manjot’s home in our neighbourhood, philosophising on life. We talked our hearts out. We knew that we were free to believe and express what we wanted. I realised that the power of a non-judgmental environment is invaluable.

The day (and night!) when my brother and I played eleven consecutive intense games of Scrabble and stopped only when the last cell in our brains was exhausted! I felt so contented that the energy and free-spiritedness of our childhood as siblings was intact.

The evening I narrated stories to my husband on my growing years with my pet Simba, who passed away peacefully from old age. He listened to me, with rapt attention, for hours together, living each moment of my happy memories, just as I relived mine. I believe I fell in love with him all over again!

The afternoon I walked with my father to our vegetable garden that he has grown from scratch, right from getting the land ready for cultivation, to the fencing, to daily tendering, and then finally seeing each plant come to life. When he made me pluck the latest batch of ripe tomatoes and ladyfingers, and my mother prepared the afternoon’s vegetable from it, I experienced my parents’ labour of love. I felt grateful.

I began to delve deeper into the reason why these glimpses seemed to override all my passport stamps and flight bookings! The answer was fairly simple, and yet, so easy to miss. Genuinely connecting with family, spending time with people who really matter to us, fulfilling the need to be loved, the feeling of surety that all is well, and that we are there for each other, to listen and be listened to, to take care of each other, to love each other, to become each other’s anchors – is incomparable. It’s a warm balmy feeling. A comfort that comes from the pleasure of selfless companionship. Adding balance and strength to our individual lives and homes.

So yes, appreciate the world. Learn new crafts. Meet new people. Understand fresh perspectives. Absorb varied ecosystems. Discover the kindness of strangers. Explore the untraveled. And do your bit of being a sensitive and responsible traveller. Travel not just to unwind or have fun, but to also become a globally aware and evolved person. But don’t expect these travels and trips to ‘deliver’ happiness to you, or ‘create’ lifetime memories, or even worse, ‘provide’ sustainable answers to worries or challenges that you are not ready to face in your regular routine.

Because however far we may travel, often, the most cherished memories may be made much closer home than we can imagine. After all, life and experiences inside the box can be as enjoyable and liberating as those we seek outside the box.

This article was published at Spark.

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