The funny thing about life is that the harder you chase a dream, the quicker it disappears from your horizons.
I am a nomad. That is not a frivolous statement of a wannabe traveller who wants to lay claim to her territory. In my three decades on this planet, I have lived, notice I did not use the verb visited, in 15 cities. From the swanky, cosmopolitan tier I to the grubby, blink and miss villages, all, down to the last one, have been in ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’.
The first time my father travelled abroad, I went batshit crazy planning, theorizing, and scheming foolproof ways to hoodwink the airport authorities. Nothing less than a Potter-esque scenario could have bailed me out. Let me just say, the muggles brought me down. I stayed put as firmly in India as a fucking banyan tree. But therein were sown the seeds of my life’s hugest ambition, apart from owning a Jaguar (the car) and winning the Booker (the prize, not a bibliophile sex worker (yes I have been asked that, thus clarifying)).
I had my entire life ahead of me. In college, with students from all corners of the world, I was invited by my phoren-friends to break bread and bed in their homes. But instead of brains, I had self-righteous shit that was fuelled by my smug and wantonly misplaced overconfidence about the trajectory of my career. I refused each of their warm invitations because ‘I wanted to sponsor my tickets and not my father’.
However, when life presented me with a handsome take-home package, I decided against it and chose the other extreme. Only poverty could make my journalism foray authentic. Such strength founded my beliefs that when I realized that the office peon earned as much as me, instead of bringing me shame, I felt vindicated. With peanuts for salary and food, there was no way I could finance my ambition to fly away.
When I started working for Google, I thought I had arrived. Nothing could stop my sojourns abroad. But I am me. Before my career could take off to shoot me into the skies of the world, I decided to quit that to marry my soldier and turn into an unemployed writer. A honeymoon abroad would have surely broken the jinx of my failed travel plans but nope, did not go to the ‘a’ of abroad.
When family and friends would post pictures of their foreign vacations, I would enthusiastically make my lists- what to see, eat, and go where. When I crossed my seven seas, I would put a NASA spaceship to shame- such was the level of my preparedness. Until I realized that the way life had it in for me, I was going to die, tied to a bedpost, in a bloody village, in some obscure corner of India, with names not of people who loved me but of places I never could visit. My dying breath will say Venice instead of goodbye.
I now live, in a ten-shop settlement, one hour away from the nearest Bhutanese town. The mountains of that lovely country are a mere five kilometres away from me. I could hop, skip, and jump across to Phuntsholing to eat Ema Datchi (Bhutan’s national dish). Nevertheless, I stay here, in India extolling the virtues of dal-chawal.
At one point in time, I had decided that since life was thwarting all my plans to travel overseas, I would pledge that never will I set foot outside this country. But that would have been an exercise in futility since I will never set foot outside this country any which way. Now I fear for my other dreams. Since I will have to travel to Guildhall, London to collect my Booker and fates will see to it that I stay cemented to this land, the prize will instead be rewarded to the next best. Life has no mercy, either way.