To quote Louis C.K: “You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling unsure and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.”
“Tell me something you did when you were 25” – I kept asking Maa this question, and her only answer would be – “I was married and you were born by the time I was 25”.
Every time I asked her this, I expected that she would tell me something different, something more interesting than her regular answer.
Quite evidently, that didn’t happen!
Her answer made me introspect about myself. I had this in mind that if some day my child asks me the same question, I should have a better answer. And with that thought, I wanted to make my '25th' better in all possible ways.
I didn’t have a checklist as such, but I knew that I have to just let go of everything and follow my dreams so that I don’t ever look back to regret (not that Maa regrets about her 25th, but she surely agrees that mine is better than her’s, and she’s quite proud and happy about it!).
My '25th' wasn’t smooth at all – though from outside it appears to be absolutely fantastic.
Quitting a well-paying job required a lot of strength. Thanks to a friend who helped me believe in myself, and pushed me to chase my dreams of traveling. Convincing people at the workplace was more difficult than convincing my family about my decision – because folks at home have understood my way to look at life, which is still a tad bit difficult for the rest of the world to grasp at a go!
I had managed to save a bit to sustain myself during ‘the no-work phase’, but savings never appear to be enough I guess! And once you hit the road, you have to be extremely calculative about all your moves. Never in my life have I calculated so much, the way I did while I was traveling.
From Rohtang La (13,050 ft) in the North to Pondicherry in the South, from Pushkar in the West to Yuksom in the East – I did see quite a bit (although, as they say, India is too vast to be covered in a lifetime!).
For someone like me who’s a little overweight, it’s obvious to get a glance or two when I say that I trekked up till Goecha La (16,207 ft) – but yes, I did it and did it quite nicely (that’s not what I’m saying, but even my teammates said the same for me).
I did ‘Open Water Deep Sea Scuba Diving’ in Pondicherry where I went down up to 40 feet and witnessed what the underwater life looks like! All that I’ve read in books appeared at a distance where I could touch it – and I felt that life indeed is worth living.
I met the most beautiful people during my journey – some amazing souls, each of whom had something special in them that made them unique!
I met the best auto wallahs and taxi wallahs, who not only gave me discounts but also helped me hunt my desired destination.
On this note, I remembered the Uber driver who picked me from Chennai Airport and dropped me at Guindy Bus Stop from where I was supposed to take the bus for Pondicherry. We didn’t understand each other’s language and only figured out what the other person was saying from those couple of English words. But he waited there at the bus stop for nearly 20 mins, till the time I got my tickets and boarded the bus. He waved at me, smiling, as the bus left the stop for Pondy.
The auto wallah with whom I traveled from Ooty to Coonoor bought me a cup of tea as he stopped for a smoke. He didn’t let me pay for the tea, saying that I reminded him of his daughter who’s married off to a distant village.
I had free meals at restaurants where I didn’t even bargain for it! The owners/managers came up to me to ask if someone was joining me, and when I said ‘No’, they usually had an inquisitive look on their face and at times when I said that I’m a solo traveler, they gladly offered me their best dishes without charging me! All they wanted in lieu was a Zomato review!
I met two most amazing guides – one at Agra and another in Hampi. Both of them won my heart with their knowledge of history, and I felt that I can actually record their versions of history and play it in some class – history would no longer be a boring subject if someone tells stories like that!
The guide who accompanied me and my friend was absolutely confident about everything he said because he is the 6th generation of his family doing the work! So, if any of you still wonder that why foreigners are charged Rs.750 to enter the Taj Mahal – then here’s your answer (according to my lovely guide) – “It is because the foreigners stole the Koh-i-noor! We are taking revenge by charging this entry fee!”
The guide who showed me the ruins of Hampi was more keen on making me his business partner! Yes, he actually wanted to set up a business with the photographs that I clicked. His business plan was to make postcards out of my clicks, and he offered me a 50% partnership.
Sadly, I couldn’t agree to his proposal, but his confidence (and English accent) did impress me!
I traveled 2,345 km (approx distance between Gurgaon to Pondicherry) to meet a school friend after 9 years and realized that nothing much has changed! The only thing is that she’s now a married lady, but equally crazy the way she was when I last saw in the school playground.
I went out for a dinner date (if I may say so) with a friend whom I dated during the early college days, and realized that the Bollywood concept of “You can’t be friends with your Ex” is utter bullshit! We laughed over endless things and agreed on the point that it was great that we parted.
I made friends with three crazy souls who traveled from a far-off land to India, to work in an NGO. We traveled together, celebrated birthdays and played stupid games while being high on alcohol. They taught me to make Spanish Omelette while I taught them how to bargain with the auto wallahs in Connaught Place, Delhi! I still don’t know how it happened but they became so close to me in few months, that I had tears saying ‘Goodbye’ to them.
I received messages from classmates with whom I haven’t been in touch for more than a decade, but they just pinged me to say how much they loved my travel photographs and little notes that I shared.
I exchanged letters with friends scattered in different parts of the country. I received parcels with my name written on the envelopes and words of love written inside.
*I went for road trips with friends and family.
*I traveled to more than 11 states in a year’s time.
*I walked on the beach and through the forests.
*I slept amidst chaos and woke up to nothingness!
*I had my first international trip to Bhutan, that too for a month!
*I sat by the rivers in different places to listen to their rumblings, and realized that every river has a different tone.
*I survived a snowstorm at a height of 14,000 ft!
And there has been so much more. . .
As I sat down with my diary the day before my birthday, I realized that the '25th' was not even closer to any kind of quarter-life crisis!
(I would rather laugh over those jargons!)
My '25th' was way more amazing than I ever thought it would be. It taught me hundreds of things about myself and the world that I never knew before.
For the first time in life, I realized that life can never surprise you until and unless you want to surprise yourself. I realized that procrastination will lead to more procrastination, and it’s like a vicious circle! So it’s better to just step out right at the moment you feel the need of doing so.
So it’s better to just step out right at the moment you feel the need of doing it.
P.S: '25' might be just a mere number to others, but for me, it was more of a benchmark – a chapter that I wanted to have the brightest of shades and hues!
I’m glad that I didn’t deviate from my thoughts and my actions were aligned to my dreams. I am grateful to each one out there who contributed in some way or the other, making my '25th' chapter so beautiful and interesting.