185 days of travelling in 2016 took me to various places and brought learnings that were well embraced. People, places, journeys, destinations, and conversations alike, all had an underlying message waiting to be conceived. At times they are to be found, but mostly they just effortlessly crawl in to your mind and sit in your marrow as a discipline forever. Excerpts of some of the long-lasting learnings are here, only for others to learn from too.
Be Nice To People: Everyone wants to be nice too. Wave, smile, joke, hug, or wink, they will reciprocate. Amongst my fondest memories is when I traded spots with my tuktuk-driver in Badami, Karnataka, to let him enjoy munching on his handful of peanuts in the backseat while I drove the rickshaw. And boy was he excited. Denizens of Indian mountain states have very little on them, and they wish to offer nothing but simplicity and niceness. And as the rule says, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, you smile, so will they, and in a flip-second, it becomes a nicer place to be at. Climbing up to Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka, twice in the same night (almost a death wish), with a broken back, aching knees, and soar shins, my new momentary pal Frank (France) and I complimented, waved, and bucked-up other climbers and fed off of their energies and smiles to push them and ourselves in the process to the top. People wish to help you and show better of their place than harm you. Biggest proof of this is here
Carry Candies, Cookies, (And Alcohol) Always: Upon returning from Badami Fort, Karnataka, we walked the by-lanes of the village surrounding it and spotted a tiny shop on the sidewalk manned by a 10-11 year old girl with her classmates hanging around her. We approached
the shop, bought loads of candies, and distributed amongst the kids. They were surprised at first but the bigger surprise was how quickly they befriended us and started selecting which candies they wanted instead. The warmth we received was unprecedented and remains unexplainable, and it costed nothing. Same happened with a near 60 year old man at the Badami Caves who was unapologetically running in to my frames. I approached him with candies, had a tiny chat about his travels and mine, didn’t utter a word about the situation. Soon we were pals, and thereafter he started requesting to view the pictures taken, even invited his wife and son to see them. In Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, I hailed a bus to Dambulla which was filled with kids who had just got off school escorted by their mums. I had cookies and I shared with them and their mums and they soon became pals and appreciated the gesture. My woman and I ensure we have an entire pack of biscuits to feed the doggies outside her apartment and they are now the best pals we have now in Noida. We feed them, they feel nice, and in return we feel nice about ourselves and one good deed done through the day.
Money Is Redundant, Memories Are The Real Currency: Money may not bring you happiness, to others it may. I’ve moved away from the idea of collecting money and materialistic things around me. And within the scopes of being principally just and intelligently and morally appropriate I wish to create wealth through emotional and human bonds laced with numerous memories. I wish to have more memories and experiences than money and wealth. However, money may have varied utility for others and that must be appreciated. I saw a tinkle in my brother-in-law’s eyes while talking about Laphroaig Whisky one evening and decided secretly to gift him one on his birthday. Come his big day I returned to India and bought him that dram and drove at midnight to his house to surprise him with it and share a drink. Who cares what the price of that whisky was, the memory of sharing that drink on his big day, the smile on his face, the appreciation of the effort behind, and the surprise around it, is what we will forever be recalled. Spend your money, create memories of a lifetime.
Respect The Poor: You can only be impressed from their situation, learnings, and what they’ve gone through. You are not man enough to go through it yourself, and survive, and still wear a smile on your face. Thus, thank your parents, siblings, and friends for what you have and what you are. Your happiness is luxurious and extremely want-based and theres need and survival based. If you cant be them, respect them, and thats the least. They should be looking down on yourself for abusing what you have, being unappreciative, ignorant, and unworthy. Principally you can’t even allow yourself the authority to judging them on what they don’t have and tag them as losers. Poverty is a lack of cash, not character.
Yardstick To Success: Success is not who you are, but what you are and where you have been. Measure your and anyone’s success from their learnings and preachings, not job position, money, or fattiness of their passports and account sheets. You may’ve travelled the world and been to places, but if it didn’t humble you, created peace within, and didn’t fill you with energy that can’t be ignored, and broadened you horizons, then you only transited physically and returned. When a tree is loaded with fruits, it bends and offers. A successful being is open, giving, forgiving, and most importantly gracious at that. Be whatever you wish to be, always strive to be a bigger and more humbled version of yourself. If our CVs and professions were to define us then heres some feed for thought – from my first backpack trip last year, which took me to Sri Lanka, the two best accommodations I stayed at were at Sigriya and Ella, and they were local tuktuk drivers’ homes. They were the warmest people and they opened their hearts and homes but what they opened the most was their genuinity at it.
Human Touch Can Be A Big Healer: Hug people, known and unknown. When did you hug your family last? Chances are you wont remember, and why? A dirty shirt and a sweaty man is a memory, not disgusting. He didn’t chose it for himself, if only he had an option.
I met with a man named Rishi at Murthal. He is a man of substance and my hero. Sits outside a tiny liquor store day in day out collecting empty bottles to earn only 2500 bucks a month, has never begged for even a single bottle and wait patiently for you to finish your beverage. He speaks proudly about having gotten his daughter and son married and has a never ending smile and grace in his eyes. He shares his mobile number and asks to call him in advance before planing your next trip there so that he could bring his family photo album to share. He gives out hugs with warmth and is just awe inspiring. His eyes had the simplicity and warmth we city-life lads don’t.
Beauty Is Subjective: Not all cities will be like the one you stay in, some will be poor, some great. See it from their view, not yours, be humbled, imbibe, enjoy, get impressed, and leave. You don’t belong there, their joys and troubles aren’t yours. Don’t judge.
I am in awe of Rajasthan and their ways of living. They are progressive but still tightly hold on to their roots. Even if you own palaces, you feed the cows and play with animals and get dirty each day. Sand is not annoying, it’s a part of their identity and being. Beauty is what you make of things, always see the obvious and then think of other ways of looking at it, expand your horizons. A graveyard is not the most beautiful idea or concept but it is the way you look at it and conceive. I saw the most beautiful graveyard in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Nestled in a valley between two imposing mountains, surrounded with British styled houses, overlooking the biggest botanical garden in the city, and a massive lake in its background. Suddenly death looked better than living. I would want to die with that view. It is often at beaten and forbidden paths I’ve found the best views of the area. Being lost is indefinitely a troublesome feeling, but its rewards are to be appreciated to see the optimism, hope, and learnings in it. Be lost to find beauty.
Never Disrespect A Grown Up Man: He has kids and for them their father is their hero. Just like yours. I would never have my parents disregarded by anyone. Would you? He may be a fruit-seller, a rickshaw-puller, a fisherman, or anyone by profession, it’s our principle incompetency to see people for what they are and rather judge them from their appearance, quick to sit them in their deserving bracket of the society as per our poor and twisted way of evaluation of them, and treat them the way we deem correct. What we forget in the process is that they are a men of honour as well. As I once heard, a nation can not be great unless we treat each other with respect and gratitude. And I concur. The only judge to one’s due treatment is their action. I’ve blasted off my elders too for something they did wrong, but have justified it as well. Theres always a better way of handling a situation. At times we can not be in control of what we get in to but we can always control the outcome. Respect is due and must be provided. And if you can not, just walk away.
I’m recording these learnings for posterity. I once read – the value of your learnings is measured by its power to change others’ lives. I would be blessed to know if these, in one way or another, could alter anyone and/or anything even by a tiny fraction. That will be the biggest success for me.