While there are loads of people who can just throw their stuff into a bag and traipse out to discover the world, there is one thing I would reluctantly confess – I am a rather reluctant traveller even though right from my childhood, I remember travelling at least once or twice a year with my parents on holidays across the country. Thankfully, in the last few years, the travel bug has bit and I now look forward to my getaways from home and routine.
Thanks to my fledgling years, I have literally travelled from the North of India to the South – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, have seen India in her colourful hues and variety. In Srinagar, we did the typical touristy thing and a black and white snap of me in the traditional Kashmiri attire is still there in one of my albums.
On yet another holiday – where we did a tour of the South in our sturdy Fiat – when my brother and I were still at school, I remember Dad and the two of us setting out ahead on schedule from Mumbai. My gynaecologist mother joined us later, as she had to stay back for a delivery that had come up. Babies don’t wait for journeys, you know. But luckily just as we were about to leave Pune to drive further south, she arrived – and we continued happily.
The joys of life were simple then as were our cameras and the memories we recorded on them. We drove down right through Karnataka, into the interiors, and since Mom was a better driver than Dad, she was the one who took the wheel the most. And in the early ’70s a lady driver at the wheel and that too on the highway had little kids and even adults staring at us agog.
That is one holiday which I will never forget. Gorging on phutanyachi chatni (which I did in plenty at Hubli-Belgaum) is a native treat that no one can recreate anywhere. The steaming hot idlis, the bhakris (rotis made of jowar and bajra) eaten with home-made white butter…. Ah Paradise! Even though it may be sacrilege to say so they were meals that would perhaps outrank any starred eatery in taste and flavour. And the fun we kids had when our car’s horn lost its tone on one stretch of the highway, sticking our necks out of the window to shriek and honk our way ahead of the other cars! We enjoyed that so much that though our throats went hoarse, we rued the return of our mechanical horn at the next station.
Driving down on winding highways is a pleasure of a different kind lost in this age of flights and expressways. The tree-lined roads, the people walking alongside in small hamlets and bigger villages and towns, women walking carrying pots of water on their head – the last being a lasting image of endurance and grace that our cameras captured forever!
Some man-made monuments – if I may call them that – also stood out. The famous Nandi Bull near Mysore, the Shravanbelagola statue in Hassan district that towered over all who came to see it, the stately palaces of the maharajas of yore, all are filed carefully in our albums of that trip to Karnataka.
Post my childhood – way, way after – I have made several trips to Bangalore or Bengaluru as it is called now. I lived in the Garden City for a year immediately after I got married before returning to base in Mumbai. But the excitement is of a different more mature kind. The cityscape has changed, has become busier. There are more malls, more people and a far greater number of cars at every trip that I take.
And yet every time I return I make it a point to visit the Vidhan Soudha constructed in a style sometimes described as Mysore Neo-Dravidian, and the red-hued High Court building – both magnificent examples of architecture. I am looking forward to connecting with my memories again next month as a visit to the city is planned.
Today, as I travel, mostly for work – and occasionally when all our holidays coincide with family – I can see the changes in the urbanscapes that I have visited before. Last year, I did the routine spots of Delhi for the sake of my son who for the first time was in the capital – India Gate, Qutb Minar, Lodhi Gardens, Red Fort, the Supreme Court and more…. And my mind went back to the long summer holidays that I spent there on Tughlaq Road, cycling on the vast lawns of my grandfather’s bungalow, relaxing with my head on our golden retriever’s body as both of us sprawled on the verdant space in the shade.
Ah, that was living life the way it should be – in a world devoid of e-entertainment and with just one channel on TV to keep you indoors!
Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena, currently Executive Editor, VERVE magazine, is a senior journalist who has written on a variety of subjects in the last two decades and more.