On Travel & Living —
In 2014, when I spent 5 months in Paris as an exchange student, I started questioning how the world glorified travel. I felt that the way the world, and I, saw travel was overrated. Having spent 2012–13 solo travelling across India, I realized it didn’t drastically alter my life. The only impact it had on me was it made me comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown, and made me more trusting of strangers — which is certainly meaningful, but even entrepreneurship or skipping campus placements teach us that, so why only travel?
One major reason behind my skepticism was that as a writer, I could not imagine setting any of my stories in any place I briefly visited. None of my short fiction could be set in Rome or Amsterdam or Brussels or Colombo. I had neither the narrative landscape nor lasting emotional hook that a city offers to set my stories. Contrast it with the cities I lived in — Patna, Delhi, Dhanbad, Hazaribag, I could write a frigging novel set in those places and I have. In fact Green Mango More, my last book, has stories from my schooldays in Hazaribag. I figured that to acquaint oneself with a place as a writer, one had to live at a place for substantial time — not just travel. Hence, while the rest of my friends flocked countries after countries in Europe over weekends, I decided to spend most of my time in living Paris, in walking to Sciences Po from the 13th arrondissement, in pedalling my second-hand bike along the Seine, in sunbathing in its jardins and lunching at its boulangeries and museums, in being pickpocketed in the malodorous RER and in getting my heart broken. With time, Paris became a suitable backdrop for my literary works.
Over the years, people have needlessly added a spiritual connotation to travel, which is mere hogwash. Travel doesn’t enlighten you. It’s you who can and if indeed, eventually does, and that can be triggered by reading, philosophizing, people or by circumstances. This was the reason I stopped doing weekend getaways, too. If I travelled, it was for people than the place — because I know that spending 4 days in Ahmedabad would offer me no revealing insights. Whereas travelling is exhilarating in moments, it is tiring in most parts. Travelling for travelling’s sake is a chore, because the primary intention becomes sharing what you’re seeing with the world — see how I have been barraging your timeline with the pics of the mountains in the past 2 days? Don’t worry, it won’t last for long. I’m still relatively new here and I am behaving like a traveller. My thrill with the mountains will become subtler and more natural as I become one with the locals and the place in months to come. Expect a story set in the Himalayas to be inked soon.