The thing about traveling…

The Mountain Walker Diaries, Note 1:

When I was a child, I remember going many places with my family. And I remember having a great time travelling, arriving, staying, etc because it was all new, exciting, and if I followed a few rules, I was mostly allowed to play and interact with my siblings and uncles and aunts and family and friends and family friends. While there’s a lot that one can learn from what I have written, the key message is that: we always travelled to places where we had family. To the best of my knowledge, up until the mid-1990’s this was still true of the annual holiday travel for the middle class families in India. And so, we had holidays in Delhi, Shimla, Benares, with most time spent in Delhi and all summers in Shimla. In turn, we were always thrilled to host family members from different parts of the country in Mumbai where we stayed, and make the occasional mini-tour to other parts of Maharashtra (Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Aurangabad, and so on) and once every few years even venture out to Goa and on one occasion I remember going to Kolkata and the Shibpur area in West Bengal.

As I grew older (can’t really say I grew up coz there may not be enough evidence to support such a claim), I looked forward to the annual holidays since it meant I could meet family and friends, but I longed for the opportunity to see other parts of the country – Kerala, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Himachal Pradesh in particular. But it did not really happen due to very real constraints.

I broke out of our family’s Annual Family Travel Plan almost as soon as I hit 18 years of age. It wasn’t a rebellion nor was it a Dil Chahta Hai kind of coming-of-age movie opportunity (Dil Chahta Hai arrived 12 years later in 2001). Mine was more of a non-dramatic, matter-of-fact practical evolution of personality with the blessings of the family and friends, more like a: “Right, so here’s your opportunity to do things your way since you keep cribbing all the time, so ‘go-find-your-way-in-the-world-and-drop-us-a-postcard-so-we-know-where-you-are’,” kind of transition, with youth, adolescence and adulthood all grappling for my attention at the same time. What I did not realise at that time was that I was the only one who broke the mould in our family. I did not realise it because I was raised to break the mould and so it came naturally to me, while others were not, and therefore it was an aberration.

In many moments since, I have aways found strength in the ironic humour of the dialogue in Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge, the one delivered by Amrish Puri to Kajol (Simran in the movie): Ja, jee le apni zindagi.” I have never looked back since and am still jeeing meri zindagi.

I grew up in the 1970, and ‘80s and had a deep enough understanding of my family’s (both sides) history to have an authoritative opinion on the 1950s and 1960s. My father and his immediate family went from well-provided for to poor to economically weak to lower middle class to middle class all in the span of the four decades from 1940-1980. And like many other Indian families that I came to know well over the years, ours too progressed as a unit (not just an individual’s progress but all siblings and cousins inched forward though in varying degrees). (In later years,  when I studied (as a student of History) the rise of peoples in different regions of India and then in lands such as the USA, South America, I found the story was similar and in fact, was the very reason why the people as a whole progressed).

My experience says that in India, the poor and economically weaker sections travel for work, migration (to look for work), births, weddings and deaths. The middle-class families traveled for work, weddings, deaths, and an annual holiday. Post 2000 this changed for the upper middle class and even middle middle class, but even today, this is true of the masses of the working population. People travel for births, deaths, weddings, and an annual holiday if they can afford it. When I say people, I mean the majority, the majority of working class people from which many of us have risen to a better life maybe, but we still carry the habits and notions of where, when, and how we travel. 

Why is all this important to a company that concerns itself with travel in the mountains? It is important because it is the very genesis of the idea of The Mountain Walker, it is the very reason why the three co-founders decided to collaborate, it is the very foundation of our philosophy and business goals.

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