Traveling is more than sightseeing and looking at unknown people. It is about our interactions with the place. That most of the time comes through our interactions with people. Travel Experience and interactions leave you with new insights. An expanded worldview, a peep into the minds of people who have a very different life than yours. And sometimes a memory that lingers on forever. I love to talk to people who are not like me. Say vendors on the streets or taxi drivers or co-passengers on trains.
They show me their world. I sometimes just sit back and listen. Sometimes I ask curious questions and sometimes I flirt with their curiosity.
Travel Experience – My World Through Her Eyes
It was November of 2004, and I was on my way to Hampi with a friend. We were booked in the second-class compartment of the overnight train that goes from Bangalore to Hampi. I was all excited about my first trip to the world heritage site, with tales of Tenali Ram ringing in my head. I was reading all I could about the destination until I fell asleep with the guidebook in my hand. We got up early morning and sat by the window observing the landscape.
The lady on the opposite seat got up and went through her morning routine before she settled in the opposite window. And exchanged a smile with me that started the conversation.
She was a middle-aged middle-class woman probably in her 50s. Wearing a pale orange traditional Gujarati Sari, a big Bindi on her forehead, a red clip in her salt and pepper hair and long dangling Jhumkas. I figured out that she lived in Chennai and was visiting an ailing relative in North Karnataka. Her face still stands crystal clear in my memory. After exchanging the usual Where are you going, how long is your visit? What is the purpose of the visit, where do you live and what do you do, she got curious about me.
I was not visiting family, a male member did not accompany me and I looked too ordinary and yet too confident in her.
But since I was answering her questions, she slowly kept asking the questions. She asked me about my education, about my job. And wondered if I was not scared of living in a big city like Bangalore all by myself. She asked me how big is the house that I live in. Do I have a maid to take care of the house, do I have a cook?
Gradually she was inching towards the basic question she had in her mind ‘How much do I earn?’ She kept skirting around the question. I kept answering the questions in a way that gave her hints but no direct answer. Now, the curiosity had peaked and she popped the question, with an unsure expression on her face ‘How much do you earn?’ I asked her to take a guess. She avoided the answer, as she did not want to offend me by being away from the mark and was not sure how I would react. I kept smiling to comfort her, and kind of challenged her to go ahead and take a guess.
She smartly said ‘It must be very good’. And I promptly said ‘Yes, it is very good, if that helps you to guess’.
She finally threw a figure that she had stretched as much as she could and was an outer limit in her mind. It was about a fifth of the actual amount and when I told her to multiply that figure by 5, she did not believe me. She thought I was joking or dreaming or I have gone mad. She did not say anything but her expression said ‘Come on, you want to fool a simple woman’. I left it at that, but it threw open the differences between her worldview of women and mine. Over time it became my favorite tale to narrate when speaking about gathering insights while traveling.
Once I was narrating this Travel Experience to a friend, and he pointed out that she must be thinking if you earn more than this then why the hell, are you traveling second class. Then, it struck me, yes, that would have been an important input that would have gone into her calculations.
Well, Lind Goodman says Scorpios love to travel Incognito. And I could not agree more with her.
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