Travel and tourism

“People do read travel literature in a cheerful frame of mind, imagining themselves at leisure and the world at its best. It’s an intrinsically optimistic thing, travel”
The above is a quotation from a novel that I was reading the other day. Nothing great about the novel itself, but the quotation stuck to my mind. It really struck a chord. As I reflected on this I realized that the writer was absolutely right (alliteration unintended). Travel is something that you do with a very positive frame of mind. When you travel, you expect new experiences, new friends, new sights and new sounds. And you never travel unless you expect to enjoy the experience.
It is a different matter that the expectations may not match the experience. This, is also very common. Tiresome, irritating and sometimes even downright scary experiences do occur during travel. However a seasoned traveler takes it in his stride and can always extract some enjoyment out of any experience. In fact this is the hall mark of a traveler as opposed to a tourist. A tourist expects the destination or the journey to be like in the videos or the travel brochures, the traveler does not. Not only is he ready for surprises, he welcomes them and is ready for any change in plan.
Last week when I was in Calcutta I dropped in on Swapan Chakrabarty, one of my oldest friends and my companion on many a Himalayan, coastal and forest trek. Swapan is now retired from his schoolmaster’s job and spends his time with the serious business of life. He either travels or plans more travel! It is my ambition to be in a similar situation as soon as I ever can.
Swapan has recently published a couple of books on his travels both in the Himalayas, as well as more conventional travel in the different states of India. The books have sold well I am told. I figure in several of these journeys as well I might as I have been his companion on many a journey. There is something a little exciting about seeing yourself described in print. It makes you feel important somehow. I cannot still get over the childish pleasure of seeing my activities being described in a book.
Swapan, I and several others were an inseparable group and we have walked many mountainous and other trails together. We started in 1990, when I moved to Budge Budge, a small town adjacent to Calcutta. That is where I met him and our first trip was to Purulia where we attended a rock climbing course. The Ayodhya hills, where the course was held is unfortunately now more well known for Maoist activities. Later we have been in many journeys together and he was my companion during the Round Annapurna trek which changed the course of my life as I stayed on in Pokhara with the Manipal College, and resigned my Government job in Calcutta. It was the best thing I have ever done!
There is any number of experiences that we have shared and whenever we meet it is time to remember those. Last week we reminiscenced about the time we were crossing the Tentu Pass which connects the Beas with the Ravi Valleys in Himachal Pradesh. The climb was difficult with several dangerous river crossings and a mini avalanche as we ascended near the top of the pass. One evening we had reached a grassy meadow where we planned to camp for the night and as we approached a rock in the middle of the expanse of grass, it suddenly stood up and revealed itself to be a huge Himalayan Brown Bear which had been rooting for succulent tubers. Fortunately it was even more startled than us and took off like a rocket. However after we had pitched our tents we realized that the bear had several companions which peacefully dug for snacks, just about a few hundred meters from us. It did not however rob us of our sleep; after a long day’s walk at high altitudes, it takes a lot more than a few bears to do that.
I also remember that during this trek, Subrata, another of our companions (also a retired teacher now) and I were detailed to wash the dirty utensils after the cooking was done. This was because we were innocent of any cooking skills and thus had to be the scullery boys. Believe me, there is no torture worse than washing grimy pressure cookers and frying pans in an ice cold mountain stream while the others enjoyed a well earned rest from cooking. Ican still feel my numb hands as we rubbed them together in an ineffectual attempt to get the circulation going.
I miss those travels. Now I can afford to travel by air, not for me the sleeper compartments in the Doon Express with all of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh entering the compartment during the daytime. Nor so I have to stay in a tiny room in a small lodge, 6 to a room to save money. But I still remember the early morning starts, rucksack packed, camp site cleaned and then the order to march. The crisp clear air, the mountains looking so close that you feel that you can reach out and touch them, stopping for a snack after two hours of stiff climbing, the feeling that we would never reach the designated camping spot and the joy of finally reaching the goal. Then the evening campfire, lying in the sleeping bags and discussing the day’s events and what is to follow the next day.
That is travel, what I do now I just tourism!


y-axis! said…
brilliant! this is clearly one of your best according to me. thank you for sharing all that. im still in the travelling phase, i relate to the mess you described and circumventing it to obtain nothing but sheer pleasure. not as fervent as you were maybe but i do my bit and enjoy it throughly. bravo again!
Unknown said…
Truly travel and tourism are as different as chalk from cheese. When you travel you soak into the journey, feast in to the sight, smell and taste of the place and the pleasure gathered can last you throughout life. That is why when you tour you catch on to the flavours of the special places which you like more and hope you will be back there sometime again.

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