“There is no happiness for him who does not travel, Rohita!
Thus we have heard. Living in the society of men, the best man becomes a sinner… therefore, wander!… The fortune of him who is sitting, sits; it rises when he rises; it sleeps when he sleeps; it moves when he moves. Therefore, wander!”
― Aitareya Brahmana in the Rig Veda
I love travel, but I barely leave my home a couple of times a year. And increasingly it seems to me that everyone else is travelling all the time. It seems to be their number one priority. I liked it better when travel was a rare thing, when every journey was almost a pilgrimage in terms of dreaming, planning, scrimping and saving, and roughing it on surface transport of various kinds, often uncomfortable and generally piggish. But since the Indian economy was opened up in the 90s, the middle class has literally taken off, and there is no corner of the globe untrodden by our desi tourists travelling in style – I like the nice distinction between travellers and tourists. America is our home from home, and “Swisserlaand”, that dream destination of my generation, is now passe. In order to impress, you have to visit remote villages in the mountains and undiscovered gems in the desert; the Amazon rainforest, Antarctica or Galapagos.
The casualty in all this relentless travelling is the feeling of rootedness and centredness. Yes, travel is broadening, but have you considered that it is also shallowing? (There really should be a word for that.) No one wants commitment any more, they want to be free. No job, no elderly parents, no cat or dog is going to get between them and that next scalp off the map.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’d have guessed by now what’s bugging me. Yes, the kitten is back in our midst. No one wants the poor thing. Fortunately, it’s oblivious to that fact and goes on its merry way, galloping, climbing, stalking, pouncing and tumbling. The way I see it is, here is a little scrap of life that needs so little to survive; how can one grudge it a sheltered corner and a few bits of food when we have so much? But on the second paw, what a huge investment of emotion! On the third paw, it is non-stop entertainment and a barrel of laughs. But on the fourth paw, it is a commitment to being there.
In my grandparents’ time, people didn’t think twice about animals that wandered in and out. They weren’t allowed indoors, but the garden was open house. I have been bitten by cats and dogs and squirrels, and carried on playing, in blissful ignorance of the thing called rabies and even the thing called hygiene. There was also no concept of commitment to animals, but of course there were always plenty of people in the house so everything got taken care of without much thought, worry or disruption. Co-existence was the name of the game. While seeming casual, this relationship was actually one rooted in deep tolerance and a feeling of belonging to a place and everything and everyone in that place. Strangely, I find many of my globetrotting compatriots are narrow nationalists, while the stay-at-homes are often more generous and inclusive.
So what am I drivelling on about? I guess it boils down to just this: cut down on travel. It’s bad for you, for the environment, for the family and society. Chances are, you aren’t cut out to be a Xuanzang or a Marco Polo; the world will not miss your observations. Stay at home, luxuriously spreading your roots in your native soil, and enjoy the moss you gather.