A trip that changed my perspective
Two weeks and a couple of hours back, I cursed myself a million times as the train jerk-started its 934 kilometre trail. I was a part of an idea – an idea that picked twenty individuals from different nooks of the country and confined them within a-very-uncomfortable-bus (it’s not the bus, it’s your bum, as a fellow individual later pointed out) – I was, as they referred to us, one among their tripper. THE BIG BANG TRIP – as they called it, took these twenty people on a backpacking trip across a major part of North India, namely, Delhi, Rishikesh, Kasauli, Kasol and McLeodganj. (Follow The Big Bang Trip for their upcoming plans and trips here.
Today, as I sit tapping the keys of my soon wearing out the laptop, the laziness surrounding my being seems to have betrayed it, and an uncharacteristic stream of energy flows through my body, so wicked is its nature that my mother never stops looking at me and my friends refuse to recognize me. Yes, I’m a changed individual. Yes, I’ve grown as an individual. And yes, I’m a proud tripper.
These trippers bonded within the seats of the bus, a big bum finding a perfect match in a small bum; an NRI head-banging his way to glory, accompanied by a fan of the tunes of a horrible Punjabi rapper; brothers from other mothers finally eyeing one another, greeting uncontrollably over hugs and bhais; a silent husband turning into a chatter-box with a junior, the wife later disclosing that, maybe, the former saw himself in the latter; a travel freak hi5ed an incredible cyclist as the tech-freak played their favourite song.
They bonded over awful music and DSLR lenses, thick accents and five tbs of extra sugar, alcohol,, and laughter, star-gazing and mountain trekking, taunts and flirts, lifelines and tears, inspirations and aspirations.
The Big Bang Trip – The Trippers
And today, as I sit and write this article, the problem of not able to jot down my plain feelings into sugar-coated words, remains, much to the annoyance and acceptance of my loved ones. Perhaps the filter that sieves expression is too fine and thick. Perhaps the people, who need to know things, better know them in person and not through a blog-post.
So here I am, doing things that I’m best at, sharing stories of random people I meet on the streets – their stories that shape my life (and somewhere down the line, I hope they shape yours too). Sharing lives of the people that I may never again meet in my life, but the memories and breaths that we shared, will stay etched within, forever…
The lane from the main market stretches to the Dalai Lama Temple, diverging twice on its way, but combining soon after. Cloth covered stalls stand tall on either side of this narrow stretch, supported by bamboos and modest in appearance. Each of these open-shops hold within them, the antiques that provide you with the glimpse of the rich culture of Tibet – their exuberant usage of colours and the stunning works over metal and wood, the calming aura of Buddha just adjacent to a huge animal mask. Most of the salesmen are well versed in both Hindi and English, but there are a few who know none of these languages.
I bumped into one such salesman while clicking pictures alongside a friend. His arm waved in my direction, inviting me to view one of the many singing-bowls placed over the desk. I walked towards him, politely declining his request, I bought it already, I smiled. Next, he picked up a unicorn and posed it in front of my eyes, mumbling its significance in broken English. It was an enormous horn then, followed by a wood-worked neck-piece and a pair of dice.
The words continued flowing from his mouth, praising his culture and describing the myth associated with it. In return, I obliged him by clicking pictures of each of the art-works that he turned up with. Although we couldn’t understand a single word from our speech, we had developed our own method of communication – the antiques in his hands, the camera in mine, the reflection of a picture in his eyes, and a thumbs-up from both the ends.
During this brief encounter with an exile, I could sense an unparalleled longing for mother-land through his moist eyes. A sense of helplessness that had crept into his being – the non-violent fight marched on the tender shoulders of compassion, but the feeling of being caged away from home seemed to have gotten the better of him.
I curled my lips and stretched my index-finger away from the thumb –smile – the camera posed in front of him. He saw his own reflection through the digital screen and laughed, his thumb acknowledging his own self.
The Salesman – Thumbs Up, anyone?
Apples, dear friend?
At a distance, I saw Che Guevara shining on a yellow t-shirt, his eyes looking up at the sky and no trace of smile on his face. I hurried towards him and asked the man sitting beside the trail of T-shirt about the price.
This-not-my-shop. Go-in. He fumbled and stuttered as I thanked him.
Dejected, I came back out – size issues. And just as I recovered myself from disappointment, this same man asked me to have a look at his shop. A small platform built adjacent to the shop over which, exactly ten bunches of apples lay lifeless. How much? I asked, as he unearthed a sheet of paper lying under a cloth – 60.
I looked at him for a long time – his legs, or whatever was left of them, crippled from below the knees. The struggle of his hands to co-ordinate together and lift the cup of tea that spilled the liquid everywhere before it finally reached his mouth. The latter finally making a hissing noise while sipping the tea.
I sat there on the platform and called out – excuse me! hey, could you please hang on for a moment and buy some apples from my friend? He’ll feed you with amazing apples!
And each time I called out his name or declared him my friend as people walked past us, he broke into a series of short giggles, looking at me, his cheeks blushing red.
So, tell me something about you buddy, I said sometime in the middle, when our business ran out of customers. This man then got up from his seat and hopped towards a bag supported on a wall, picked it and scurried back to me. Exhausted, he then asked me to unzip a particular section and dish out a piece of paper. I obliged. The hand-written letter (amazing handwriting) roughly read…
Hello, I am [name]. My parents are old and don’t have a job. My younger brother is handicapped too. I am selling apples here to support my family. I want my parents to have proper food. If you can help me with some money, it would be a great deal for me. Thank you.
Together then, we greeted people from different countries and backgrounds, not forcing even a single one of them to buy the apples, yet selling almost each unit of the day. Below is his photo, just a portrait, his story stands tall against his ability.
– Yashluv Virwani
One of the first TBBT Trippers
Our Next Trip: “The Leh Edition”: 28th July to 5th Aug