A Pedacito Of Anusha Parthasarathy
As a kid from a middle-class family in India, I did not grow up traveling. Once a year, for four days, my father would pile us into our tiny car during summer vacations for a trip to the hill stations nearby – Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coonoor, Thekkady, and when we got a bit adventurous, Munnar.
It was exciting since we were from a city that had no weather; it was searingly hot and humid in summer and warm in winter. And these trips were the only time we pulled out our old sweaters from the bottom of our cupboards.
They smelled of camphor and neglect when we pulled them over us as the car struggled up the windy roads of India’s Eastern and Western Ghats. The air got cooler, crisper, and suddenly, it felt like we were in a completely different world. I looked forward to these trips all year long.
I had cousins in distant countries who visited us often. My father and I would take our car to the airport those nights, waiting there as smartly dressed tourists and visitors piled out of the airport with their large suitcases and expensive jackets.
Those hours we waited to receive my uncles, aunts, and cousins, I wondered what it felt like to be on the other side of the railing, traveling to different countries and experiencing life in another place.
When my grandmother fell ill, our yearly trips stopped, and there was nothing else to look forward to. Friends sent me pictures from America and Europe while I wilted away in the confines of my room with only my imagination for company.
I grew frustrated that we couldn’t go anywhere and would often fight with my father about it. “I know it’s hard, but your time will come,” he said, a look of helplessness on his face. As someone who had traveled across South East Asia and Australia alone in the 80s, he understood my pain and my yearning to get on a plane.
Finally, when I began my first job as a journalist at the age of 20, my life opened up. I was moving around the city a lot, talking to people from various walks of life, and it filled up my travel void to some extent.
Eventually, I traveled within the state for stories and bought a carry-on suitcase to take with me. When I chose the suitcase, I told myself that this is the bag that would travel with me everywhere. And it did.
I traveled extensively in India, by bus, train, flights, bullocks, and local vans, watching the country reveal itself to me with wide-open eyes. I danced along with the locals in the Thar Desert, walked far into the shallow seas of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, stayed in a hut and rationed ½ bucket of water a day at Orccha, walked around the ancient temples to Khajuraho, and trekked through a snowstorm in the Himalayas.
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