I love going away and I love coming back home. I love leaving home because vasudhaiva kutumbakam—the world is my family. Unless I set myself adrift, how will I discover the people I am related to? How will I know who I am till I discover who and where I belong to. Besides, I love sitting on sidewalks and somehow that happens a lot when I travel. I walk a lot, I don’t have a car, I get tired and sit on the sidewalk, preferably near a street-food vendor. I rest, I eat and I belong.
Talking about looking for people I am related to, I must confess that I avoid my own relatives. I divide the time allocated for real relatives like this: 99% for my husband’s relatives and 1% for my own. I spend more time with my husband’s relatives because they don’t know me, they have low expectations from me and I love to surprise them every once in a while. Sometimes I relax and just meet their expectations.
I love my own relatives very much too. They are very well-behaved on Facebook. Sometimes we behave well when we meet also.
Wait, I was talking about travelling, not relatives. It is related, we travel to get away from relatives and create new ones. We also travel to relate to ourselves.
Last year, when I was packing to go on a shoot to Chhattisgarh, I found myself pumping my fist in the air in between looking at my list to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. I was also organizing our children’s school uniforms for the next day or two.
“Yes!” I was going away. “Yay!”
I mentioned it to my colleague at the airport the next morning. I described how physically happy I had been.
“Oh, that’s sad,” he said. “You don’t like being with your children?” Perhaps he also felt sorry for my husband, my house plants and the street dogs I feed leftover dinner to every other night.
“Oh no, no, I just love to leave home,” I said, dreamily, as we moved small steps in the early morning queue that snaked towards the security-check barrier. I remember I was wearing a cotton sari with a printed blouse. I love leaving home so much that sometimes I wake up at 4.30am to bathe and wear a sari to celebrate the occasion.
“Your mother has wings,” I said to my children when I was leaving them in their grandparents’ home this summer to travel to Bundelkhand for a workshop. “She flies so that you can also fly one day.” All three of my daughters were hugging me at the time. I often say corny things to my children. I am corny.
I also love coming back home. I keep a special outfit for my return home too. I love being welcomed back. Maybe it’s that phase when our children are just the right age. Happy to see me go and just as happy to see me return.
My husband was seeing me off at the Varanasi railway station for that trip to Karwi in Bundelkhand. We had reached early and were sitting on my berth in the train and talking. He had bought me fresh jamun sprinkled with rock salt from a vendor at the station. Soon we were joined by an elderly woman who was being seen off by some men in her family. They made sure she was comfortable and then began to leave. All of them touched her feet deferentially and very seriously before leaving.
Soon it was time for my husband to leave. Without dropping a clue, he bent down and touched my feet too. Then we shook hands, trying not to grin too hard. Then I said to him, “You can smooch me now to complete the rituals.” He laughed his embarrassed laugh when he tries to keep his mouth closed but his teeth shine through his lips and flash at everyone.
Then he left. Then he came back.
“Why should I leave early when the train is not leaving yet?”
He sat down. Next time he began to leave, I said I must return the favour and bent and touched his feet. Then I got off the train and stood on the platform with him. Now we were outside the window of the woman who was going to be my travelling companion. We shook hands outside her window again. Then I returned to my seat and began to eat jamun again.
When my phone rang, my companion was more than mildly curious about who the hell I was and where I was coming from. I spoke to my sister-in-law in Urdu. Then I spoke to the journalists who were going to receive me in Karwi and gave them a list of camera equipment to bring along. Then I spoke gibberish to my children in the third call. My companion on the opposite berth must have slept well that night.
This week, I just wanted to talk to the traveller in you. The maverick child and the errant adult who hasn’t run free for a while. Be by yourself, meet strangers, fall in love with life for a bit. Be wilful, be strange, do things that aren’t expected of you. Be unpredictable and a little disruptive. Even corny, if you like, just like the tear-jerking movies and books you love to hate so much.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She tweets at @natashabadhwar and posts on Instagram as natashabadhwar.
Write to Natasha at email@example.com