Choose Your Own Adventure books are quite popular. So for this post, I guess you could Choose The Title You Prefer. Because the post is about such a non-adventure, I had to give my reader something!
What feels like aeons ago, I quit my first job, packed my bags, locked my one-bedroom rented flat, returned the keys to the landlord, and moved to Bangalore. In the first three months, I had lived in four different residential areas, across the length and breadth of
the cit Silk Board Junction. The first was a hostel of sorts. As I tried to figure out the various “mains” and “crosses” that make up the labyrinthine layout of the city, I noticed a restaurant that started using as a landmark to remember the way.
Much later, I made a huge move in my career, and thus began what I will always refer to the best phase of my professional life. Right before my transfer to the new team, the old team members and I decided to go for a short trip. We stopped on the way at this little dusty, nearly invisible bakery for breakfast. The breakfast was fine, but what I remember most is all of us laughing a lot. A lot! I don’t even remember the joke, but that memory brings a smile to my face.
The whole world, it seems to me, is “embarking on a journey of self discovery”. I am not used to doing a lot of mainstream stuff that involves me burning a crater in my pocket, but this year that’s all I seem to be doing. I bought an iPhone recently, which caused one of my best friends, a Nexus-wielding knight in sports-label clothing, to give me the nickname “iSheep”. Now while it is one of the cuter nicknames I’ve earned over the years, I don’t like to think of myself as one of those sheep-ly people.
Why then did I go on this utterly sheep-ly activity of a solo trip? Because I was curious and determined and damn near egoistic about my introverted abilities of staying out of the company of other human beings. Plus, while I love travelling, I got a little tired of waiting for everyone to be free at the same time.
Those who know me know that my dream destination is Paris. Yesterday, a Buzzfeed quiz told me I was anti-romantic, but oh, hell, no, I want Paris. The wine, the air, the love in the wine and the air (Fuck you, Buzzfeed Quiz). Here’s the thing though – pisspoor people like me don’t go to Paris. So I chose a place that, if nothing else, had street names beginning with “Rue de la lalalala”. I went to Pondicherry (yes, I know, that sounds sad in comparison, but it’s a lovely place)
So I packed my bag and set off, feeling for the first time since second grade like a “grown up”. I went to the bus station and asked the clipboard guy where to wait for the bus, and he told me to “wait near that bakery.” A few minutes later, I realized it was the same bakery where I had breakfast with my friends a few years ago. Things were looking up. This is a sign, I thought to myself.
Then the bus went around half the city picking people up. Interestingly, one of the stops was near my old hostel, right in front of the restaurant I had noted as a landmark. My mind went into some kinda cosmic-sign-philosophy-overdrive, and words like “Retrace”, “Odyssey”, “Cleansing”, “Independent”, “Journey”, “Enlightenment”, “Find Yourself” and other jargon appeared like blips, like on the Ghost Radar app. So excited was I about the whole “on my own” thingy that even peeing in a public restroom made me do a little celebratory dance (yeah, don’t ask).
That was the view from my room. Quite breathtaking. I stared long and hard at the early morning sea and thought to myself, “This is really where a person can think.” More daydreams followed, of me sitting in a chair facing the sea, writing pages upon pages of my next book, with biographers lining up to find out more about the reclusive author who can only write while facing the ocean.
A few hours later, it hit me. I was not writing. I was not looking at the beach either. I was not even thinking. I was just, sort of, simmering. Like soup. It made no sense. I realized I had more thoughts in my head while on the toilet seat, or in the shower. Not quite in a hot cottage, feeling kind of immobile, cos the lady who owned the place had four dogs. Call me a monster, but I don’t like dogs. They scare the shit out of me. Don’t you remember what happened to Thalia? From And The Mountains Echoed? So I stayed put in my room. There was the beach right there, but instead I chose to get coated in sweat and dust.
Then I thought maybe I could go all spiritual, hmm? I went to Auroville, a place where others have found wisdom generally found in the snowy peaks of Himalayas, or that pond in Kung Fu Panda 2. I won’t lie to you – it’s an amazing place and you must go there sometime if you get the chance. But here’s the thing:
I’ve never been very spiritually inclined.
I was determined to make this work, nevertheless, like a little soldier. But while other people somberly marched up that giant golden ball, seeking inner peace and all of that, I went “Whoa! Cool! This is like the Cerebro!” And while other people seemed to be taking their meditation session very seriously, I spent my time trying hard to focus while marvelling at the crystal in the centre of the hall, staring at others, trying to control my laughter because the gentleman behind me began to snore – in short, everything but meditate.
I mean no disrespect. It’s a wonderful community, but I am just not the right person to appreciate it. Correction – I do appreciate it, just not in the way it was intended to be.
I went back to my cottage feeling rather let down by the whole “solo” experience. I craved company and realized, maybe I’m not so anti-company as I thought I was. I most definitely function better with other, than I was doing on my own. This, certainly, was some kinda revelation to me.
And I can’t say the trip was wholly without adventure. I discovered that I can frame an entire question in Tamil, thereby impressing the locals who until then had taken me for a bewildered tourist. Of course, it’s a whole other matter that I did not understand a word of their answer. But nonetheless.
So, did I attain the nirvana that I had hoped? No.
Will I go gushing to my friends about how solo travel changed my life (till they hatch a plan to murder me)? No.
Will I go on another solo trip? As much as I love travelling, and as much as this seems to work for so many people, I don’t think I’m one of those people. So, Maybe no.
But Pondicherry’s cool, right? Oh, yes, definitely! Take sunscreen.