“I was forced to wander, having no one, forced by my nature to keep wandering because wandering was the only thing that I believed in, and the only thing that believed in me.” ― Roman Pyne.
A few days ago- ”Before coming to India I was visiting some friends in Rwanda. I’ve been here for three weeks and will be returning after another five. Are you travelling alone, too?”, asks Merry, a Canadian middle aged, single traveller who sits across from me at The Four Seasons Cafe, a tiny joint in McLeod Ganj. “No, I just managed to narrowly escape my buddies. We’ve been travelling like crazy- Chamba, Khajjiar, Dalhousie, we are here today and leaving for Dharamshala tomorrow. I’ve gone 72 hours with just two hours to myself and I was about to burst. While, they are out there visiting one more place, I needed some time out to have a coffee, chat with a Local…just be. I’m not really a traveller just a wanderer”
” It’s so cold in Quebec. For three months in a year, I take off. I prefer travelling alone!”, says Merry.
”’Me too! I travel to Kashmir for a month every year.” I’m super excited to meet a kindred spirit.
”Most people travel like they live…they have a check list. Been here, Check…Done That…Check! When I’m alone I don’t have to compromise, I do what I want and I get to meet so many interesting people, along the way. My friends always ask, if I feel lonely travelling alone. But I don’t! When you’re with other people you are in a bubble, in your own World. But when you’re alone, you become one with the surrounding, you’re more open, more approachable. Last evening I was sitting here, I met a very charming man from Punjab and then I met another traveller. Today, I’ve met you. Would that happen if I was with a companion?”, she asks.
” No, it wouldn’t! But I have a problem I’m trying to solve. I’m a loner. I need my space, to not put on my mask. I feel very uneasy with ‘the game’ and that’s becoming a hindrance. As an experiment, I’ve decided to travel with friends, people whose company I enjoy, at least once a year. It will teach me how to live with other people, something, as of now I have no capability of!”.
Right on cue, my phone starts to buzz. My travel companions are back and I have to meet them for dinner at a tiny eatery down the road. I gulp down my coffee and I leave Merry to polish off her Dumpling soup.
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m racing with my own shadow, Korogi says. But that’s one thing I’ll never be able to outrun. Nobody can shake off their own shadow.” ― Haruki Murakami
Today- ”You’re just jealous because I’m finally happy!”, he accuses me gleefully. ‘He’ is one of the most interesting characters in my life, someone who is capable of saying the nastiest things with great panache. ‘Saare jhalle mere palle’, I yell into the phone as I make one last attempt to ask Shets to return to his life and work in Mumbai. As I’m the more sorted one, at least in this relationship, I play the Devil’s Advocate. He is one of the most talented men, I’ve had the privilege of knowing. A cinematographer by profession, a flutist by passion and a royal pain by God’s design. For the past few years, he’s been living out of a suitcase, wandering the Northern side of the country. Currently, he temporarily resides in Leh, where he is taking Archery lessons. “You know running is not going to help. You’ll have to deal with your shit, eventually.” As the words slip out of my mouth, I feel like such a hypocrite. After all, I’m an award winning escapist. But he wriggles out of it, smoothly. ”I’ll go back in June.” I give up. “What can I do? I’m stuck with you!”
We have a strange connection, he and I. The first time he saw me, I was consuming opium at 7 a.m during a shoot in Jaisalmer. It was love at first sight, for the nutcase. By the time he figured I wasn’t really a junkie (the crew was having a recommended dosage for staying awake after many sleepless nights), the damage was done. My aloofness surprisingly never put him off and right from day one, he figured out I only spoke, when I was spoken to. His friends in an attempt to get us to talk pulled a prank and told me he was interested in my male assistant. Long story short by the time we both figured out the truth about each other, we were already great friends. We’ve seen each other go through heartbreak and existential angst, irreparable loss and a setting in of our own brand of cynicism. The one man who gets away, with calling me ‘baby’ (how it infuriates me). The secret to the longevity of our friendship is that we’ve never been lovers… maybe not! Maybe the secret is that we are just similar beings, looking for someone to call home!
“You can run away from yourself so often, and so much, just because the broken pieces of you cut your feet too deeply if you stay around for too long. But then what if someone were to come along and pick up those pieces for you? Then you wouldn’t have to run away from yourself anymore. You could stop running. If someone sees you as something worth staying with— maybe you’ll stay with yourself, too.” ― C. JoyBell C.