The Travel Buddy
There is an African proverb,”Who travels alone tells lies.” And that is quite true. Travel is never without some God sent companion. May be some fellow traveler, may be some tradesman, maybe the scenes around, maybe the skies,,,,,anyone can be your travel buddy.
A few days back , I had to travel from Indias capital Delhi to Srinagar. The journey is 2 hrs if you go flying but honestly, travelling by air is sarcasm to the whole concept of travel. Most likely, it takes longer to realize that you have moved than your actually journey. So , unfortunately or fortunately ,this time I had to travel by road. The journey is supposed to take no less than 24 hrs and somehow long journeys always excite me. So ,I was same this time. My travel started from the point my friend dropped me at the cab station. From here , I was supposed to take a cab to famous Red Fort, where I could get a bus from Delhi to Jammu. So after long negotiations on fares (that is common in India), i reached a mutual point of acceptance with the cab driver. So I boarded the cab and set off for this wonderful journey. As soon as I boarded the cab, I started conversing with the driver. The driver was a thirty something old person namely Rana with peculiar UP accent. So we talked mainly on life in Delhi, weather, roads and so on ,,,,but somehow it was only me who was doing the speaking part and he was on the listening end. But somehow the journey moved into politics and from thereon , he took it from me and now the roles changed. It was like he was waiting for me to reach the political issues where he could take revenge. Now it was my turn to listen and he was speaking like one of those experts on evening shows on national television and may beactually better. I felt like I know very little about political happenings in country, while I had always boasted my knowledge of political affairs. So I was quite impressed and I have always noticed in my life that “Very few things in world can impress me”. He talked about politics, RamLeela Maidan and somehow connected them with common thread of corruption in country. As the conversation roamed through these subjects while we were passing through country`s most well known buildings- Jama Masjid and Lal Qila. Somehow through these epitomes of India`s struggle for independence, we stepped on the Bus stop marked by those cheap Travel Agencies or as the call themselves “Travel and Tour Operators”. Call my perception a biased one, but I see them all as “THUGS” trying everyway out to cheat you. They have that peculiar look with those fancy shirts and overdone accessories. As I moved towards one of them, I felt like I was asking somebody to cheat me. But that was what I was supposed to do there. Finally after quite some deliberation, I got a ticket of bus from Delhi to Jammu. After 2 boring hrs of waiting, I finally boarded the bus. And yes, It was a mess. The “Travel Manager “ took no less than 2 hrs to settle the passengers, not in their seats but in their lowest possible spaces , so that he can accomodate more and more people. Fortunately, I was allotted my seat pretty early waiting for my “travel buddy” while I was watching a fellow passenger accommodating his oversized luggage on the roof of the bus. He was wearing an over sized Khan Dress and was sweating like anything. He was talking to the coolie over the money he should pay him for his services and he was scolding him like anything. He had the vocal chord of a hawker and his “hindi” was desecrated by mother tongue influence. He was changing the sex of each and everything he was speaking of like a warrior on a mission to sterile the fertility of opposite army. And I couldn’t stop myself from taking a strong note of it. And somehow this person was supposed to sit on my next seat ,,and yes ,,,he was my “travel buddy”. As soon as he saw me, his eyes sparkled with happiness, for he marked that I belong to same place as him. No, it was not the love for home mate but happiness for freedom to abuse everyone he hated in Delhi in front of me. He wanted a listening ear to his abusive language. So as we comforted in our seats, I took up various topics with him. He told me about himself, his profession, his family and here and there. After an hour on bus, he was fast asleep snoring producing more sound than the bus itself. Thank God ,for I had my IPod with me to save me. The bus took pace and I kept my eyes fixed on those twinkling stars.
Next morning, I opened my eyes to the sounds of a train, but soon I remembered that last evening I had boarded a bus not a train. So I regained my consciousness to find out that our bus was moving parallel to the railway track and hence the sounds. At around 10 in morning we “landed” in Jammu .In the hotch potch of deboarding the bus, I saw my travel buddy rushing out away and I felt sorry for not being able to say goodbye to him. But then I realized, that this was his trademark style.
So all the travelers from my homestate who were travelling in this bus somehow congregated to get a taxi from Jammu to Srinagar. And i was excited to meet some new “Travel Buddies” and most of them will probably be my town mates. So I met these guys namely Mueen and Mehraj and we formed an army to get a taxi and negotiate for lowest possible fares. Mueen was a guy with distinct nose and drenched eyes with brownish complexion. He was married to a gal from UK and that was one of his intial inputs of information in his introduction of himself. Mehraj was more of calm homely guy with distinct way of pronouncing the word “cousin”, which he somehow pronounced as “counzin”. At first, I thought Mehraj was a good subject to talk to. But unfortunately he seated himself in the front seat along with Mueen and I had to seat with two different people ; a delhite and a gal. I presumed the journey to be “the most boring thrill on face of earth”. The taxi started trailing its way into mountains to my beloved hometown. As it moved on, some nonsense stuff kept on playing on the radio and it was doing nothing more than adding to the boredom of my fellow passengers. To me , I m insensitive to these things. The gal sitting next to me started to complain about the music. Soon I realized that she was a “hypersensitive ranting type “ who have problem with everything around them. But somehow the radio started playing the “new kind of” songs. So she started talking about how these new kind” of songs are so thrilling and full of energy. I don’t know why but she took it as her duty to explain her liking for such songs to me. May be it is that age where you want to change everything around to ideal states. And within no time, we were talking like we always knew each other. Her name was Tahira and she had just celebrated her 18th birthday and cleared a prestigious exam of country. But again that didn’t impress me. Nonetheless what impressed me was that even after getting admission in one of top educational institutes of country , she had decided not to get enrolled there but go to off track fields. Obviously, her parents and friends were against her decision but she decided to carry on. I saw the same spark in her eyes as was in mine when I was of her age-“The Rebel Attitude”. She explained how she felt about her rebel nature and I was comprehending it like I was talking to myself. I had gone through something similar in my life. At one point, I developed a sort of sympathy for her, for I knew what she must be going through. But then I remembered the thrill in this rebel attitude. And I had just these words for her,” The thrill is worth it”. By evening, we were tired of talking . For one moment , I thought of taking some contact of hers but then I don’t need it. We are travel buddies and so should we be. As we reached Srinagar, we said bye to each other and moved on in search of more “travel buddies”.