Why do I not want to continue with college this year?
This is the question everyone has been asking me for the past few months when I tell them I won’t be applying to any college this year. I simply answer ‘I’d like to backpack across India – Ladakh, Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, and so on.’ But instead of asking me how do I plan to do all of that in twelve months all they blurt out is, “Are you crazy? Why are you wasting a year?” So here is my answer.
I am not wasting a year by traveling the way I want to. I don’t travel to places to soak in the nature and the beauty of the abstract. I travel to meet new and different people and know their stories. Travel for me has always been a medium to explore new lives and cultures and to learn more about the human mind.I like to wonder why would someone still work for 7000 bucks a month at a little tea stall when his son has a job in a multinational company. There are such stories everywhere that may not catch the attention of those who find solace and ecstasy in the trees and the mountains. They forget to search for the ‘feel’ that lies in observing the local life and culture. I want to explore these corners of a destination. To look for stories about how the local people reached where they are, how much do they appreciate the nature that surrounds them, and the lengths they would go to to protect their heritage. For them money is just a matter of continuing with their business and fetching a few extra luxuries. They have been working in the same hamlet for years and never wanted to expand the business and move to the cities. This is what I want to see from their perspective and hear in their words. Not out of a bestseller that a hippie wrote while soul-searching in the Himalayas.
My journey to these places will be more than the checklists and the hotels and the top things to do. It would be more of just walking miles to reach a place which probably hasn’t found it’s mark yet on the google maps. I want to know about local food, customs, and dresses. How each piece of jewelry came into existence and the songs that are sung for different occasions. I believe in experiencing culture first hand. Of course I know people who would be thinking, ‘why waste so much money to get to know a culture when you can just google it.’ How about googling a traditional Khasi dish, only being able to see it without ever knowing the sensation of all those unfamiliar flavours exploding in your mouth? This is part of what is going wrong with the tech savvy. All that we seem to want is ready for consumption on google, while we miss out on experiencing these little things and slowly forget how to even appreciate such beauty. All because we couldn’t care less about searching for real happiness in real places.
I happen to be a student of psychology. We like to think that it’s our aim to decipher and understand human mind and behavior. I too wish to develop a deeper understanding of our species, which you can only get so much of in the books written by others. Moreover, all my books are by foreign authors and how will I ever dream of understanding the peoples of my own country if those books are all I read and depend on for shaping my own perception of the reality.
I would like to understand their psyche, the problems they face, their defense mechanisms, how do they deal with situations where they feel they might be wrong but they have to bear the pain and guilt because it’s all a part of cementing the community and forging its cohesive existence. For the large majority,their home, family, and community is all the reason they need to live a purposeful existence. People in most parts of India do not strive to become the best at something and join a rat race. They would rather work themselves as a resource in the larger interest of the tribe rather than working for an MNC to make big bucks and live a luxurious life fueled by selfish motives. And then there are those who defy community values and build individual existences.
This is what I want to explore through my journeys over the next few months. I want to hear the stories of the unsung heroes of all the various tribes or even how they were exploited by the government in the name of civilization and modernity.How sometimes even the hierarchy in the tribe has only been partial and there’s more than what meets the eye.
I want to be my own encyclopedia of places, lives, cultures and “lists of things to do before you die.” I’d rather be my own go-to name for travel hacks
Editing Credits: Rana Divyank Chaudhary