A few days ago, my mother decided she wants to renovate a room in the house. This decision had been a long time coming, but it was only recently that we managed to find the funds for the work. So, after the masons had a look at the place and the carpenters arrived, the work began in earnest. For days now, the house has been thrumming with an orchestra from hell. The banging of nails into the walls, the slamming of the plywood, the infernal screeching of the saw and much more. For my mother, these were the satisfying sounds of a new room being made. A moment she had been keenly waiting for the past two years. But, for me, it has been much more trying.
So, yesterday, I decided to escape the house by setting off on a bicycle ride. I wasn’t looking to ride within the city itself, given that Nagpur city has itself become a massive construction site. There was a need to go away from the city to a quieter place. There is a road near my house in Nagpur that connects straight to NH-44. If you go along that road long enough, you just might reach Jabalpur. In between you will find lots of places, like smaller hamlets and such. That’s the road I took and kept cycling for a whole hour before I became aware of my surroundings again. The urbanscape of Nagpur refused to end for almost 10 kms. I was looking for a tea stall in the middle of nowhere. A place where I could sit and have a cup of tea. But, I realised you have to go far from somewhere to reach nowhere. And Nagpur is a big somewhere.
I wondered to myself — what the people in these villages think about the city. Do they enjoy the quiet surroundings they naturally have? Or is there somewhere within them a clamouring to reach the big city, the way there is a clamouring within me to leave the big city? I discuss this with my friend Ankit on many days, ‘Why do we feel the need to go to another place? Why cannot we find the same kind of peace in Mumbai or Nagpur, that we find in some far flung place like Sarni or Chabua? It is question we are still exploring together. As far as I have read, (but I am yet to experience it) peace isn’t really a function of the place, it is a quality of the mind and can be experienced deeply no matter what place you are in.
While on this evening bicycle ride, I was trying to notice all the different feelings bubbling inside me. In this very year, 2019, a lot of changes have happened in my life as a traveller. Where before, all my excitement used to be reserved for the place that I was visiting, I gradually started connecting more to the path that it took to reach the place. Then, there was a shift and my reason for doing journeys became about the purpose. The place didn’t matter so much and I would be focused on the purpose I was going there for. Every place started becoming special as long as the purpose was fulfilled.
Then, after months of operating like this — a state came where neither the place nor the purpose are important to me. It is about seeing everything closely no matter where you are. Every place is as special as another. And in places that you cannot observe this, then that is what the journey is about. To be able to treat every step of the journey and every destination as sacred. The hope is that when you go very slowly and treat every place with the same kind of reverence, you will see that peace and joy are not a function of the place or the purpose, but actually are with you at all times.