A colonial cottage cocooned in salubrious surroundings nestled amidst rolling mountains, a gentle breeze ruffling the azure waters of a nearby lake, drops of dew rolling down the waxy foliage, a window with no bars that open to these scenes and my tired palms wrapping around a warm mug of hot chocolate savouring the paradise beneath is how I had imagined my blind date with the world! However, little did I foresee that it was going to end differently…
Embrace the unknown
Growing up in a joint family has never necessitated me to look out for travel companions or travel groups to plan vacations. Yet, there are times when I do long for solo trips in spite of being a family traveller, just to escape the mundane and indulge in some self-exploration, soak in the pleasures of a place, revel in the solace it offers and to discover the unknown gems of a destination at my own pace – the glitter of which sometimes tends to lose sheen amidst the cacophony that surrounds family travel. This is my own way of saying yes to the world.
On many family trips, I have managed to sneak out and venture all alone – to explore a destination without a bucket list, to have Irani chai in the wee hours of the morning near Charminar without the clutter and chaos surrounding it; to learn the art of making something special by entering a handicraft or handloom unit without a prior plan just because I happen to be intrigued. And, I end up often chasing street art, ancient and quirky doors, and architecture in the lanes and alleys of a place while keeping my loved ones waiting at a restaurant!
Unplanned Planning of #TheBlindList !
With memories of past solo trips back of the mind, I plunged into planning a highly ambitious road-trip of driving all the way from Delhi to Ooty, last month. By traversing the length of India and ticking off the #theblindlist, I was ready to brace the unknown en route and indulge in another solo travel, to explore the road less taken.
What was planned as a solo trip escalated to a full-fledged family trip around a cousin’s marriage as word spread and the course of the road changed from Ooty to Rameswaram! I could not but get frustrated at first and chuckle at the same time for an Indian traveler knows how diversified are these two destinations.
However, my gut instinct reverberated that the forthcoming trip would be a memorable one and sure to be the best of all the family trips we have ever taken in all these decades, in spite of all the chaos and confusion. And, Rameswaram was a relatively unknown destination for me. So, my blind date with the world still held good.
Saying Yes to another Family Trip
The logistics for the family trip were in place, routes were chalked out and we were all set to embark on this journey though I was being troubled- for my dream trip was cut short or should I say chopped to death. The long road trip turned into an overnight drive from Chennai to Rameswaram while flying all the way from Delhi to Chennai prior to the trip.
We have always travelled as a family of at least 20 people and believed in the concept of ‘more the merrier’ when it came to family get-togethers and trips. So, pop came in an aunt’s brother or that brother’s brother-in-law or a family friend’s parents whenever we chalked out the list, and this sort of stayed and still stays as a norm as we collectively #SayYesToTheWorld. The tradition continues even today after the Generation Next is married off and is the reason why I am a family traveller too.
I was absolutely delighted when this family road trip turned out to be one memory worth cherishing with lots of fun, food, debates, and discussions!
#TheBlindList and its learnings
I was awestruck upon reaching Rameswaram. The tapering end of the bridge over which we stood seemed to be leaning towards the blue waters. Bobbing catamarans and fishing boats made for a pretty sight and I don’t remember the sea look so azure ever. The pale yellowish hues of the sky at dusk made the roof of a train go lavender as it chugged past. I calmly soaked in the splash of colours in front of me that nature’s palette had mixed soothingly. I fell in love with this world and the people around me, all over again on this totally unexpected journey 😀
Post our mandatory visit to the temples and a bath in 22 wells of Rameswaram, we headed towards Dhanushkodi, the place at the fag end of the Pamban island in TamilNadu that almost was a stone’s throw away from Srilanka. When I learned that this place was battered by a cyclone in 1964 that destroyed and wiped away the whole town in a few minutes, it just made me appreciate the people around me and value life all the more.
The sombreness that pervaded the place, a hollowness that I felt upon knowing the tragedy and a sense of appreciation about ‘life is a celebration of being alive‘ can never be gauged or experienced sitting inside the four walls, through written words and stories of such tragedies.
To forge an association with, and understand places, one needs to visit them, interpret the language in which the place is trying to strike a conversation and relate with the mood of a place at that moment.
With these as takeaways, we embarked on our journey back to our hotel in Rameswaram a bit early. After all, we had to be ready early the next morning to witness the sunrise. And, sunrises over the oceans are always special.
Dawn of an enriching experience
An early wake-up call paved way to a half-sleepy me, reluctantly pulling myself out of the bed to get ready for a blind rendezvous with the sustainer of life on earth – the Sun god, himself, but not before another visit to the temple with family. This visit made sure that I left the cameras and gadgets behind in our hotel room, as an entry of these were prohibited inside the temple. It seemed like I was seeking divine blessings before a date with him-The Sun!
We bought ourselves some ‘filter kaapi’ and headed towards the Agni Theertham, the place of confluence of two seas- Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. We waded through wet alleys, meandering our way around groups of people waiting for their turn to either take a dip in the Agni theertham or visit the temple. There were already many groups of pilgrims performing traditional religious rituals on the shore, tourists ready with their cameras shooing away the cattle that roamed scot-free on roads, three-odd cows sitting majestically near the shore facing east and some of us searching for a space for an unhindered view of the sun as he rose. A common thread that bound all of us in that chaos was ‘a glimpse of him- the Sun’.
I cursed myself for not carrying a camera. Finally, I managed a sleek glimpse of him as a thin orange crescent rose over the horizon, just above placid waters of AgniTheertham, far away, as if in a distant land. He was rising slowly sans any urgency and turmoil, not tired of waking up every day to rise and shine, spraying hues of deep orange, yellow and red all across the morning sky. The vibrancy of the canvas created by him reflected on the placid sea, setting fire to the waters just by the tints of his burnt orange.
The pandemonium around me faded into oblivion and a sense of tranquillity engulfed, as I came face-to-face with him. It was unblemished and uncluttered. Just then he rose high and I could no longer see his face though I still remember the first glimpse of him.
I may not have photographs to prove that this blind date happened while I brazenly brooded deep into his face without being blinded by his sheen, undeterred of people’s presence around me. But, I know for a fact that this meeting and the trip ticked off many items on #theblindlist and will always remain a special sunrise forever.
I also realized that moments like these cannot be captured with the artificial lenses in our cameras for sure, but need to be experienced and relished with the lens of our eyes!
Yes, there was no window with bars that hindered this view and my palms were wrapped around a cup of filter kaapi instead of a hot chocolate on this occasion. But, I was at ease with my family around, on this blind date with the ruler of the world, though impervious of their presence. This was a meeting that the whole universe conspired to make it happen!
So, do not pull yourself back from exploring the unknown. Indulge in a blind date with the world even if it is with your family around, as it’s a blessing to have family and friends around us to share our discoveries, happiness, and learnings.
We all are going to be alone in the grave when dead .So, why not surround ourselves with people when alive and embrace the world, unhindered.Happy travels!
P.S: This post has been written for an IndiBlogger contest in collaboration with Lufthansa
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