All of these sorts of train of thought will always lead to the Kangchendzonga. And then, there I sit in front of the computer, marveling and fantasizing about this majestic peak.
Amongst my casual reading today, I came across this picture gallery by a then young hippie who had traveled to India in the early 70s. Apart from wonderful pictures of Sikkim and the K., there is also a small narrative of how he found himself there, which intrigued me. I shall narrate his story as briefly as possible. Backpacking in Calcutta, someone suggested to him to go to Nepal and he agreed, initially thinking that it was in Africa and that was a place he had never visited. Arriving on top of a bus in Kathmandu, he had found his Shangri-La. He then teemed up with a few English Hippies he met by chance and traveled to Sikkim, where he proceeded to stay for many a years, with no definite plan or source of income.
I probably have to mention that I am currently engaged in reading the collective short stories of Somerset Maugham, a great travel writer, whose stories are spread all across the globe. I love the casualness with which he writes. "I left Capiri islands in the south of Italy and decided to rent a boat and go to the southern shores of France and stay there for a few months". As though it is as easy as that. There are no grand stories filled with action and adventures but simple tales of travel and the strange, interesting characters he meets on the way. From a convict in St. Laurent de Maroni to a plantation worker in Singapore.
Given this and the inherent passion towards traveling, the need to do so has arisen again. I have to admit though that given the circumstances, I have traveled quite a bit. Stayed in Lancaster, UK for a couple of years, the first one was used to do my Masters in economics, where I got the opportunity to meet and converse with academics from all over the world, which was quite an interesting and enriching experience. The next year was probably equally interesting. I was managing a local community pub in Lancaster and got to meet the average Joe on the street: a carpenter, a plumber, a mason, a graphic designer and so on... and the pub was owned by a former particle physicist. This I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave me the opportunity to soak in the local British culture, talk about local issues and become a fleeting part of that community. And it shall stay with me for some time. Like an informal cultural duel citizenship.
Throughout that period I had traveled as much around Britain that my time and money would allow me. I had scaled the grandest peaks and been to the cultural hotspots, to the shores and the villages, which was extremely satisfactory. However, towards the end of that period, I was again beginning to get itchy feet. I wanted to be on the road again. So, just before returning back to India, I went for one more grand tour. In a matter of 10 days, I had climbed Cow Hill on the way to the summit of Glen Nevis, Ben Nevis, half of Anorch Morr, then down to the lake distric peak of Helvellyn, before enjoying some tranquil country life in the small port town of Christchurch. I landed in Calcutta and headed northwards towards the grand peaks of the Himalayas. First to Darjeeling and then Sikkim and Lachung. As a side anecdote, for 5 days in darjeeling, I woke up at 4 in the morning to catch the Kanchendzonga at the first break of dawn and for 5 days, it alluded me, deciding to hide behind the clouds.Quickly after reaching Bangalore, I set off again to climb one of the higher peaks in the beautiful Western Ghats, viz. Kudhuremukha and then again, to the lovely beaches of Gokarna on the west coast.
I want to be on the road again. However, these timid and short travels for a week or so obviously does not have the capacity to satiate my desire. What I want, what I really covet for is the kind of travels of the young hippie mentioned above or like Maugham. I want to be able to stay in a place for a few months at least and breathe the place, the people and the culture in. These fleeting week long travel will never provide with this kind of opportunity. Everything is rushed. There is always a place to be, something that must be seen and conversations with the locals are sharp, brief and precise. There is no time to win over their confidence for them to reveal their political preferences or their way of life or even their love stories.
However, given the conflicting desires, this becomes an increasingly difficult thing to achieve. You see, on the other hand, I want a good education, a meaningful job with a steady income and good career prospects. Right now, while the good education has enriched me in no uncertain times, it has also left a burden in terms of financial obligations to the banking system. Sigh! What I also find incompatible with the kind of travel I described is this societal obsession with order and rigidity, not to mention the extremely linear conception of time and its scarcity. Let's say that I work diligently for a couple of years and clear off my loan, it would still be deemed insane if I were to settle in Lachung in Northern Sikkim or even Gangtok for half year, sustaining myself by working as a hotel receptionist or as an English teacher. Time is too precious to do this, they would say. And how would I explain the gap in employment to my next employer? Am I not serious about my life and career? Probably the only situation in which that would be considered appropriate is if I was a disguised anthropologist doing research with a heavy grant from a fancy university.
|How I'd love to wake up each morning to this sight!|