That single step, that leap out of your comfort zone to travel, to meet strangers, to make new friends is all it takes. The one who comes back from that is a totally new person, for they become a part of so many people’s life and many become a part of theirs. But travel is just not as simple as swiping right. It shakes your very foundation, debunks so many things and changes your perspective on everything you have ever learnt or grew up with.
I am an Indian who grew up solely fed on bookish and media’s views of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. So it came as a pleasant surprise, no, it was a shock to see the friendly treatment meted out to Indians during my maiden trip to France.
Travel makes strangers come close, atleast in the way they touch your heart. The stranger we met while boarding the flight to Italy (from France) introduced himself as working with the Technical Support team of the flight and said “I am a Pakistani and I ensure that your flight is safe.” It was like a sound slap, one that falsifies everything projected by media and people.
No matter how old you are you can still pursue your dreams and fulfil them. This is what we learnt from our host in Capri Island. Franco was a darling of a host, picking us up from the port of Capri and giving us a brief history of the island on our way to the hotel. Truly, the hotel and the beautiful garden speak volumes of the passion of the nearly 70 year old man. You get drunk in the beauty of everything and the hospitality of this gentleman. He speaks passionately about his grandfather’s winery which he has converted into an artistic abode for tourists. Luscious Roses, Lantanas, Figs, Olives etc are the fruits of his penchant for gardening. As Franco was driving us back to the port, we met the woman whom Franco later described as “A Storm of a Woman”. We have to agree that she indeed was one. Oh my! The energy of this woman was indeed contagious. She kept chatting with us despite a language barrier which didn’t seem to be a problem for her and she was giving off a friendly aura right from the moment she boarded the car. You just don’t get accustomed to the love of the islanders. We left the island with a lot of memories and Franco being a prominent one of them.
Back in France, at a Falafal shop, a Pakistani brother (as I would like to call him) who gave us a free Diet Coke because we are Indians told us that no matter what the Leaders or media say the Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis are all united outside the country. That’s when the glass shattered; shattering all the prejudicial thoughts you grew up with. This is when you realise that you are really growing.
But all was not as beautiful as it sounded so far. It was saddening to see a North Indian couple openly criticise the way we were eating South Indian food using our hands (How else would you eat South Indian meals?) in a South Indian restaurant (un)safely assuming that we don’t understand what they are talking about.
Life is all about this. The diversity of humankind. A rude stranger, a bunch of girls on a fun trip on their own, 4 women in their 50s going on a trekking trip, a polite teenager who gives way to you so that you can have a better view of the statue of Pieta, a stranger offering to help your friend to carry your unbelievably heavy suitcase, a museum staff who says all Indians look alike and gets confused and the list goes on.
You end up carrying a small part of them in your life and heart and you also give away some in the process. The more colourful it is, the more you have loved, lived and grown. And all it takes is that one step.