THE MINDFUL WANDERER
Grazia|May 2021
Four acclaimed writers on what travel means to them, and the ways in which places come alive in front of eager eyes
ARMAN KHAN

It’s certainly a sight for sore eyes: The hills, resorts cuddled by virgin forests, fallen strawberries, grandma’s frayed mittens, and clear morning sunshine grazing across moisturised palms that heralds the beginning of better days.

At a time when we are tiding over the lockdown blues by amusing our senses with reels of exotic beaches and infinity pools, travel has taken on a new meaning altogether. Tinged by nostalgia and history – it no longer means mundane planning, booking the same three hotels, or even those mindless walks along crowded mall roads of hill stations.

The next travel won’t be superficial for many people. The pauses will be profound. The casual conversations under a banyan tree flanking the highway won’t be all that casual this time.

Four writers who have covered the length and breadth of travel writing, in their popular books, share with us their time-tested ways of straddling across the miracle that is the Indian canvas.

WAY OF TRUCK DRIVERS

When you speak to Rajat Ubhaykar on a Zoom call, you cannot guess he has travelled to most regions in the country – solely with truck drivers of all kinds. Ubhaykar is soft-spoken, and there is a perpetual smile punctuating his kind face. Fresh from clearing the Civil Services exam, one thing is clear at the onset – he is not a jaded, weatherbeaten soul.

In Truck De India, Ubhaykar recounts his experiences – from documenting the fascinating tradition of truck art in Punjab, the thrill in travelling alongside nomadic shepherds in Kashmir, surviving NH-39, the insurgent-ridden highway through Nagaland and Manipur, and everything in between.

“We all say human beings are grey. That there is no black and white. But when you travel with truck drivers, you learn to appreciate what that truly means,” says Ubhaykar.

In a particularly graphic chapter in the book, titled ‘Angrezi Waala Porn’, Ubhaykar recounts being asked by truck drivers whether he had English porn and the hilarious conversations that followed.

“I have always believed India’s true gems lie in detours,” he says, and then goes on to recount one such detour that he hasn’t written about in the book: “This was in Dimapur, Nagaland. I took this dusty detour and reached a small hamlet. Nothing wild happened, but I ate street food of a dubious nature, let’s just say,” he laughs.

Ubhaykar has gone out of his way to acknowledge stereotypes and then present a historical context behind them. As Indians, we’re the first in line to fall for prejudices and stereotypes about our own countrymen. And while travelling, it only gets amplified.

“In the chapter about Punjab, I talk about the drug problem. And how its historical roots date back to the 17-18th century opium trade. The sociological and cultural angles to it,” he says.

Ideals and moral standards that we, as city folks, hold so dear – also stand no ground in the India of buses and trucks and dusty villages. “For instance, adultery. If we tell our friends we’re cheating on our partners, we are immediately looked down upon. But for truck drivers, it is perfectly normal. You can’t get scandalised there. They are on the road for weeks, even months. Of course, no one’s justifying adultery. But you learn how different people may have different ideas of normalcy,” he says.

WORLD CITIZEN

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

Love, Non-violence, and Truth

DR. PRAKASH TYAGI is the Executive Director of Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS), an NGO dedicated to working in impoverished rural regions of India, including the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Bundelkhand. In part 1 of this interview with KASHISH KALWANI, he speaks about applying the Gandhian principles of love, non-violence, and truth to support communities in need.

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

WISDOM FROM MY FATHER

The tempo 1 was ready to depart. It was a short 30-minute journey from Bhatkal to Uppunda, a sleepy village in coastal Karnataka, India. My father, sister, and I were traveling together.

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

GM's Exit From India Hits a Roadblock

The long-delayed sale of its plants to a Chinese company faces local labor and political opposition

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 22 - 29, 2021

Self- acceptance

ELIZABETH DENLEY has been a student of both science and spirituality all her life. Trained as a scientist, she turned her field of inquiry and research skills to the field of meditation and spirituality after starting the Heartfulness practices in the late 80s. Here she shares some thoughts on the importance of selfacceptance.

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
November 2021

The New Storytelling:We Are All Indigenous Global Citizens

WAKANYI HOFFMAN is a Global Education Specialist and founder of the African Folktales Project. In Part 2 of her interview with SARA BUBBER, Wakanyi shares the value of storytelling, passing down wisdom through generations, her Kikuyu culture, and how we are all indigenous global citizens.

7 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
November 2021

The Vaccine's Last Mile Problem

India is racing to vaccinate its villages, including many in remote and desperately poor areas where suspicion of the government’s motives runs deep

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 15, 2021

India's Fintech Boom

A government-backed system of digital payments has set offa wave of innovation

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 08, 2021

THE GAME CHANGER

INSIDE DHD’S RECORD-SETTING DURAMAX

2 mins read
Diesel World
November 2021

Building Community Through Education

KIRAN BIR SETHI is changing the experience of childhood in Indian cities through her education curriculum and initiatives to build healthy relationships between students and their communities. Here she is interviewed by KASHISH KALWANI.

10+ mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
September 2021

Granny Chic Galore!

A homeowner’s holiday décor is an homage to Christmas at her grandma’s house.

5 mins read
Cottages and Bungalows
FMD Christmas 21