What had happened to me at the bus stop in Rajasthan? 2018 in Retrospect.
2018. The year of many solo trips, minimal living, and real-world realizations.
Jinx in the 1st of January.
As the city lights diminished to the bright daylight we wholeheartedly soaked ourselves in the golden hues of 2018’s first Sunrise. Somewhere perched by the edge of the coast, we were high on life. High on 2018. Amidst romancing the many shades of Mumbai’s mesmerizing Bandra Worli sea link, we’d closely overlooked the rise of the sea water.
In the blink of an eye; a few minutes later, we bent on our stomachs only to see the roaring waters wash away our slippers. Shivered; we stood at the top of the edge struggling to step on to the slippery rocks and balance ourselves with the motion of the rough waters. Eight minutes by and by we geared up courage and dipped our feet in the turbulent water currents only to slip off the rocks a hundred times. We struggled again; past the angry sea and swore to get through the consequences of a very stupid adventure we’d chose to set out on. After seven minutes of strenuous efforts in finding our way ashore, we were escorted by two local guys who walked through the knee-deep stormy sea only to help us reach back to the safe shore.
375 days down the line till this very moment, as I write this, I am just as scared as the day it happened; or possibly even more. My heart still skips a beat at the very thought of it. The imagery of my feet being stuck amidst the roaring waters still baffles me.
The Sun. The sea. The shore has definitely played an ace in teaching me a lesson~
To always take calculated risks beyond the illusion of whatever my ‘high’ would be.
And this is certainly something that I’ve carried along my journey.
Did I ditch the first solo trip of 2018?
The night before, a very dear friend of mine ditched our long-awaited trip to Revdanda. After multiple attempts of convincing her, it still failed to work out. My mind then, spoke of a hundred negative affirmations only to not make it happen but the itch in my heart spoke of something I couldn’t decipher. Despite snoozing the 5 am alarm ten times, I chose to wake up to the eleventh buzz and set out for the first solo trip of 2018. With no itineraries in the plan and only a meandering fearful mind, I promised to take this leap. The leap of an uncertain trip that could lead nowhere or probably everywhere.
With some loosely set steps on the lonely streets of Mumbai that were fast asleep, I voyaged across the grey waters.
180 minutes later, I found myself in the middle of a black sand beach. With no soul in sight. I found myself in Revdanda.
As I wandered about, what had strangely struck my mind was the fact that I was just as fearful with no soul in sight as I was when a gang of rowdy guys raced their car by my side just to scare my already frightened mind.
In the middle of the ten steps I took forward and a thousand steps I took backward, I felt as all of it was just worth it. The fear. The strangeness of the gully guys. The lonely stretch of sand. Were all worth it. It felt as if ~
Solo travel isn’t only about charting out the way my footsteps paved but also about conquering all the places my wandering mind took me.
This wasn’t the first time I’d embarked on a solo trip.
Perhaps, that’s the thing about solo trips, no matter how many trips I’ve taken before, every time it feels like ‘tis the first time’.
Did I quit Mumbai?
Midst evolving from a child who played in the tiny city parks to growing up as an adult wandering in the fussy streets of Mumbai, a bright summer afternoon of 2018, promised me of a new home, somewhere in the far-fetched countryside of my native state ~ West Bengal.
Just like everyone else who clings to their version of home I too had borne a feeling quite similar to that. The one that made it very difficult for me to bid a cheerio to Mumbai.
But the train of my life had arrived to alight me to the plains of West Bengal.
And just like everything else that’s comforting and homely, I also had to realize that it’s just as fleeting.
Also Read: Mumbai Under the Covers
19 years later, where am I?
What called for home was somewhere nestled in the hinterlands of Medinipur. From chasing sunny summer days, stormy skies, to multiple rainbows; West Bengal saw me transition from a full-time college student; part-time travel blogger to a full-time professional. Medinipur groomed me into adulting and to pretty much keep the going balanced, I’d often set out to explore the offbeat in my home-base.
From the canyons, forests, beach stretches, ancient temples, to the historic ruins, I’d pretty much placed the Bengal bloom deep within; only to wake up to moving out yet again; this time to a tiny village ~Tilonia in Rajasthan for a long span of two years.
No matter how much of Bengal I’d borne within, I was glad that a new chapter of my life had unfolded in an entirely different bit of India. Just as they say ~
Life happens when you are busy making other plans
Am I a Minimalist?
The multiple rainbows I’d chased over my stay in West Bengal definitely added color to my going in Rajasthan.
Fringing somewhere in the middle of Jaipur and Ajmer, Tilonia could be located.
Tilonia was different from the other villages I’d been. It was one-of-a-kind. The one that had a lofty hill amidst thorny scrubs and barren stretches of sandy soil to mark its boundaries. The one that saw heaps of tourists and women coming from different corners of India and beyond. The one that was home to an organization called the Barefoot College. The one that was home to me.
Tilonia offered me something that was entitled to a typical rural living coupled with minimalistic lifestyle choices and stepping beyond my comfort zone. This was the life where I earned just enough to suffice to my needs and embraced the idea of minimalism.
This was where for the first time in forever, I’d never really ‘needed’ any of what I’d left back home. Right from the materialistic things to the clinging emotion of holding onto possessions that occupy space in my wardrobe and my life.
Knockout at Khutiya
My job in Tilonia was that of a 9-5 English teacher to the tiny tots of a rural school ~ Shiksha Niketan. This clearly meant getting quite a lot of leaves to travel and also seizing opportunities in between, just like getting a chance to spectate a district-level Kabaddi tournament in a hamlet ~ Khutiya.
One fine afternoon, with 20 or so players we’d set off for the tournament in an over-packed jeep. What had started with a mount of excitement had slowly started to fade off as we reached Khutiya and were accommodated in a government school that had damp walls, a thin mat to sleep on, hundreds of acid flies, and no bathrooms and toilets. That very moment what I’d wanted to do was escape by any means, which would’ve been possible only if the team lost the match. And as openly as I confess this, I’d wanted to leave at the cost of anything. Even at the cost of their loss.
Come the next day, our team was on the field, competing. And just as (un)fortunate it might sound, we won the first match, which led to winning another match in the next half. The spirit of the girls elevated and their confidence grew while on the other hand what happened within me was something you might’ve already guessed.
That very night, the girls back in the room, the same damp room where I struggled to have a sound sleep, danced and grooved to celebrate their victory and included me in their tiny celebration. That’s when I got a reality check of how mean I’d been over the last few hours that I was blindfolded to their level of happiness and months of hard work.
All this while, I’d only been thinking of my comforts at the cost of their victory. In fact, I’d only been thinking of giving up on my responsibilities as a mentor at the cost of depriving them of their well-deserved support.
And that’s what had hit me hard, I’d chose to look only at the dark side over looking at the bright side.
Two days and a few more matches down the line, we were welcomed back in Tilonia with garlands, drums, and wholehearted respect.
We’d conquered the second position in the tournament.
Khutiya has definitely unfolded a chapter of my life that will always shed light on how empathy goes a long way.
What happened to me at the bus stop?
With a 90L rucksack snuggled to my drooping shoulders, I ran till I choked and trembled over pebbles only to realize that the train I was chasing was delayed. About 25 minutes later I was finally sitting inside the not-so-comfortable 2S coach, only to touch my desired destination (station to the bus stop) 02 minutes late (09:02 am). Since my bus was about to depart at 9:00 am sharp, I’d come to believe that I’d missed the bus, but later, I was informed about an ongoing bus strike which clearly meant no government buses and a limited number of private buses to Jodhpur.
With sheer disappointment and conversations within I dismissed the thought of reconsidering this trip to Jodhpur and gave it a go.
I sat there waiting for the next bus. It seemed like the cards played differently and I waited for four long hours on the same seat, the same bus stop with the same set of people.
As the minutes ticked off, the employees of the bus stop had grown to acknowledge the fact that I was traveling solo. In the middle of which, I was left completely overwhelmed with their constant help and support. Not only did they ensure I was safe but also took care of my huge rucksack at regular intervals.
Four hours later as I finally boarded the bus to Jodhpur, a part of me was really thrilled to see what more this trip had in store whilst a part of me was deeply moved to (not) bid adieu to the wonderful men I’d met at the bus stop. But like everything else, I knew I had to go.
Despite the start being extremely difficult, what followed through was heartwarming with Dal, Baati, Churma (A typical Rajasthan’s favorite dish) been offered to me by the RSRTC employees.
A lesson I’ve always treasured post this trip~
Persistent patience and belief on the road or life, in general, is truly rewarding and can surprise you in a zillion ways!
Was I Married?
After two days of giving off my blues in the blue city of Jodhpur, I was up on a bumpy bus ride to Osian followed by Bhikamkore, towards the Eastern edge of the Thar Desert.
I sat by the window seat overlooking the question marked gaze and overhearing the curious conversations of the local commuters. After a few minutes, their words finally broke the ice followed by a series of questions starting from ‘What is your caste?’, ‘Are you traveling solo? But why?’, ‘You must be scared, aren’t you'?’, ‘You are married right?’ to the last one that was hilarious in the beginning but comforting towards the end, ‘How come you’ve got no phone calls from your parents, had I been, I wouldn’t have allowed my daughter to go alone anywhere, but don’t you worry, we’ll drop you safely!’
The conversation that had started as an interpretation and a misinterpretation of the local dialect on a strange note had certainly turned out to be tender with gestures of being kind and caring towards a tourist in a merely touristic place.
Throughout the journey, all I had given back were kind answers to subtle their curious mind. In return what I’d got was kindness in some of the sweetest ways.
I’d simply like to quote Dalai Lama here ~
‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.
I’d like to add by saying, not always the strangers are suspicious. Some might be (and when they are; of course, I don’t deal with them the same way). In fact, I’ve come across a few of them. But through most of my travels, I’ve majorly met more of kind strangers than the unkind and weird ones.
Also read: My life as a local in the Thar Desert
Was I lost?
Fast-forward October and there I stood in the middle of a narrow dark lane in Jaisalmer struggling to interpret the map in the company of mooing cows, overflowing drains and old men gazing weirdly. Until I stumbled upon a local shopkeeper by the corner of the street to ask him for directions to what he first said, ‘Are you alone?’ ~ I nodded with an agitated look and started heading straight, in the middle of where I’d reached, I still couldn’t find a way out. Upon asking few other local passers-by I’d finally come to the point that led me straight to where I intended to go!
The very next day I was out exploring Jaisalmer under a warm winter Sun, yet again I found myself in a lonesome street that only offered me strange stares and gully gazes. Upon moving forth I’d come to the point where I had nowhere to turn but only head straight. Confidently and consciously walking straight with no mask of fear worn, I found a troop of about 40 to 50 Bengali tourists boarding autos to go to the same place I wanted to go. Just as expected I hopped in, greeted them and upon reaching the destination; bid them goodbye in Bengali.
Two months down the line since Jaisalmer happened, I’ve grown to adorn the experience of getting lost twice. No wonder I was shit scared that very moment, but despite heading forward and not looking backward like a part of me did in Revdanda ~
I’ve come to terms that discomfort is the greatest of all teachers in my life.
Why I dropped off the Himalayas from my travel plan?
Winter months rolled in and my plans of exploring Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand both for the first time seemed stagnant due to the withering condition of my health. Despite of being heartbroken of ditching my trip to the Himalayas, I chose to spend the last days of 2018 with my family back in West Bengal to retrieve my sick body and gift my disturbed mind a much-deserved break.
Midst all the joyrides in a short span of five months, my health had severely deteriorated and I’d been on several medications throughout my stay in Rajasthan. Come which, of what had seemed promising to move in for two years had been cut short only to five months with a plethora of (mis)adventures and narratives to come back to.
Now that my rendezvous with Rajasthan has officially ended, am back in West Bengal penning down this post, recovering from relapsing typhoid, catching up on piles of work, and resuming the slow village life.
Interestingly though, no matter how much I’ve loved planning, I’ve always been put up to agreeing that ~‘long-term plans at least in my life so far, have never worked out!
However, this is definitely not going to stop me from planning, just so ~
Now, I am planning short-term goals and living each day with minimal plans and taking a day bit by bit. The carpe diem way!