It has been six months since Deepti Khera quit her job for the love of travelling and learning. And each one of her trips has taught her something new, brought her closer to herself, and helped her grow.
I don’t want to romanticise travel. There are many others who are already doing that. Travel to me is not about the pretty places one sees, but more about the experiences – I dream of covering every nook and corner of the country to understand its diversity. And it was to collect these experiences, that I quit my job about six months ago; just for the love of travel, with no fixed plan.
I will be very honest about the scenario today – the struggle to sustain myself becomes very difficult sometimes. But still, there is always “something” that keeps me going. While for the longest time I did not know what this something was, I have the answer now. Its humanity!
These are five out of the many instances through which travel has helped me restore my faith in humanity.
1. The time I stayed with a strange family in a village and felt safe:
“You are like my sister, I will call you Tai (Marathi word for sister) from now on,” said my host and Warli art teacher, Sandeep Dada (brother) from Veti, a small village in Dahanu, located 130 km from Mumbai.
At the first look, the village was a barren land and had nothing much to offer. I was living in a hut there. Some days, I would walk around with the children, and other days I would just sit and gaze at the stars – but it felt like home. I also attended a traditional Warli wedding where they gifted me a sari. I was speechless. Sometimes, there is beauty in the ordinary, and in the people you meet.
2. The time when strangers from a backpackers’ hostel took me to a hospital:
I had moved from Mumbai to Delhi for a travel fellowship. To experience the city in a different way, I thought of staying at a backpackers’ hostel. Singing Bollywood songs was the most popular thing to do there. Ezgi, a girl from Turkey, loved the song Gulabi Aankhain Jo Teri Dekhee. We had a deal. She would teach me about her culture and I would teach her Bollywood songs.
But I met with an accident one day. I was walking when a car tire ran over my foot, and it was fractured. I was taken to a hospital by people from the same hostel. On returning, as my room was on the first floor, a girl from Iran let me sleep in her room on the ground floor. I was not able to walk. But by the time my cousin arrived to take me to a better hospital, I was already taken care off. Someone from the hostel would help me take my medicines, while another person would take care that I was fed well. Once again, I felt at home when I was away from home.
3. The time when a girl from Hungary helped me drape a sari:
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“Things like a house don’t interest me. It is the new experiences in life that I am looking for,” said Hajnalka Zsuzsanna Rácz from Hungary. I met her while I was volunteering in the south. This 30-year-old sold her house because she did not want to keep paying the EMI. She quit her job, worked in a bar for five months, and came to India with the money she made. She said, “In volunteering, I find selfless love. No salary can give me that.” I met her two months after I quit my job. These words gave me courage and I knew that I had taken the decision.
One day, I bumped into her at a shopping complex of the ashram where she was picking up a sari for herself. I told her, “I want to wear a sari too, but I don’t know how to!” She smiled and said, “I know it! I can help. Why don’t you come to my place?” It was ironic she knew the art of draping the sari better than me. I had some of the most meaningful conversations with her.
4. The time when a 12-year-old said she wanted to change the world.
I was a part of Jagriti Yatra, which gave me an opportunity to travel 8000 km and visit 12 cities in India. I had to do this with 450 other people and we had to live in a train for 15 days. Our first stop was Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya, at Hubli, a school which imparts education to children through music, amidst other things. Having worked with the NGO sector earlier, I was expecting a sob story. But the environment at the institute gave a very positive vibe. I bumped into a 12-year-old girl, Tejaswani. She could speak in French and also knew how to play tabla and violin.
I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. And she said, “I want to change the world.” I was taken aback by this thought coming from a teenager.
5. The time when I met a 50-year-old woman from Paris soon after the Paris terror attacks:
On another trip, I was on a mission to live without technology – no phone or camera. I thought volunteering would help me divert my mind. So I met a 50-year-old woman and asked her if I could volunteer in her canteen. She was polite and put me in touch with the head chef. The next day at 5 am, I was chopping fruits for a fruit salad. I began talking with the 50-year-old lady, who was from Paris and had lost a dear one in the Paris terror attack.
She had boarded a flight to India on the day the Paris attacks took place. She started crying when talking about her loss. She didn’t know me, but we had a meaningful conversation.
On the wall of the canteen were words which said- Love all Serve All. This made me think – Paris is everywhere. Terror is everywhere. But love is everywhere too. It takes time to figure that out. But let it come to you. It depends on what side we are at and what we want to see.
– Deepti Khera
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I blog at Nostalgic Hobo. Facebook page: Nostalgic Hobo