I lie here all alone, in this otherwise dry neighbourhood drenched wet by the absurdly heavy Delhi monsoons this year. And I hate having to wade through these filthy swimming pools that the streets have turned into. Instinctively, I latch on the SUV around me and set on a trip that I hope would take me far away from here. Destination?? Unknown. Does it matter? No.
This road leads me to Simla, but I don’t want to stop here. So I move on. Faster & higher into the hills till I’m away from the maddening world into the valley of Sangla, where one wrong turn would send me rolling down the cliffs into the Satluj. Do I care? No.
Onwards to Chitkul, where I spend the night, around the waters that flow from Tibet into India. In the next days, I climb up the passes, run down the hills, brave the coldest of temperatures, to reach Leh, on roads that I feel like making love to. I find a few companions and all we do is race our way to Kargil and beyond. But just then, when the dry air and the burning sun have weathered us out, we enter the valley of Kashmir where, perhaps the joy is not in speed but in slowing down. In taking in the softness of the grasslands and the greenery of the pastures we move over. I spend the night outside a mazaar; it’s only after the slanting rays of a morning Sun fall upon me that I decide to move on. To someplace south, far from here, may be as far as the.. sea! Yes! All the way to the sea from the mountains. That would make this a complete trip.
I leave the pastures of Kashmir for the fields of Punjab, through Amritsar and onwards to Rajasthan. From the oil fields in Bikaner to the sands in Jaisalmer. I burn myself in heat of the dunes and as I turn further south, I realise the car has given way. A road-trip has its own perils. The car has to be left in Bhuj, to be repaired. I attach myself to a bicycle and onward to a nearby village. The night is spent in the bicycle shed of the home of a poor yet generous family.
The wanderlust takes me further, now with a bus, towards the coast. Through roads that waded between the Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian sea on the other, between the greenery of the hills and the antiquity of forts that adorn the hills. And Finally I’m here! On the beaches outside Mumbai. I’m tired, worn out, my body creaks, my innards about to burst out of weariness. I lie down on this pier on the harbour and give up. The waves from the sea splash over me. Isn’t it all the same again? What I was running away from when I first started? But I’ve already had the trip of my lifetime. Through half of India, from the mightiest of mountains & the driest of deserts to the deepest of oceans. Yet, I know you’re still smiling over my silly story. How can anybody being a human, travel so much? It’s all fake.
Of course it is. Didn’t you realise all this time that I’m not human? I am however, another traveller like you. I’ve travelled distances and even histories. I am, my friend, the ‘wheel’ that stayed with you throughout your journey. A tyre attached to your car, when you ran away from the city. A steering inside the car, when you curved through the valleys of the Himalayas, the wheel in your bicycle when you slept through the sheds in villages in Gujarat and the tyre cushioned between the ships parked at the piers when you enjoyed a drink sitting beside the harbour! But how I wish, I could have been you, the human. If this was the perfect road trip for me, I wonder how much more perfect it’d have been for you. You, who sat beside the beach and felt its breeze past you, who saw the mighty waterfalls of the Ghats with childlike pleasure, who ate the most thrifty of foods in the huts of Kutch feeling like a King, who left me behind to stride on a camel to watch the most pleasant sunsets in a desert, who woke up listening to the Azan on a morning in Srinagar, who dipped his feet in the Indus that strode besides the road in Ladakh. I wonder how amazingly perfect it was for you who first decided to run away in the SUV, the feeling of liberation when you first played your favourite travel song in the car stereo and the fresh sensation of facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia as you escaped into freshness, while I fought my way through the wide open roads! Lucky me and let’s just say, luckier you! It does remind me of a song by Klak Tik in a Samsung camera commercial –
I found city life too loud,
So away I walked through the urban sprawl
Ears to the ground
Trying to find myself some piece of mind
Now I’ve finally woken up
To the beauty of the world..