If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Vinayak left us a few days ago on his way to Sikkim. We miss him. 

He is closely related to us as he is the brother-in-law of Gautam, a friend’s son who we watched growing up to his full six feet three inches. (Or is it four?) My wife Arundhati and me are fond of Gautam and his older brother Hari, who are both well over six and incidentally, wonderful young men. So recently, when my friend called up and said that Aditi’s brother would pass through Kolkata, and asked me to find a hotel room for him, I had no hesitation in inviting him to stay with us. We have a guest room which had been guest-free for quite some time and for much longer, I had had a creepy feeling that my wife was a bit tired of seeing the only other face available in our small flat.

Vinayak is in his early twenties, tall, handsome, has graduated, has worked for a short while, and plans to do masters next year. He is on a sabbatical and reached Kolkata after travelling for weeks through Lucknow and Varanasi. And his way of travelling is quite different from what most of us understand by the word.

He carries nothing but a satchel for his camera and accessories, and an enormously heavy rucksack. He does a lot of research about the places he would visit. For example, he knew the names of the very special paces of Kolkata and had clear idea of what to see and what food to try, like the polychrome flower market near the Howrah Bridge, and the Mughlai paratha at Anadi’s, an eatery where nothing has changed in the last fifty years, not even the piece of cloth with which they pretend to clean the ancient, pre-WW2 tables.

When Vinayak phoned me, I was in a class and couldn’t take his call. He had checked into a hotel and the next day, I picked him up from a pre-arranged point. I reached the place a little late and Vinayak hadn’t wasted his few minutes – he had just tasted a “Kolkata dahi-vada” from a run-down road-side shop. For someone from Delhi, it must have been a disappointment, but he didn’t show it when we met. His eyes smiled through his glasses as we shook hands. Carrying his above-mentioned huge backpack, he was in a blue T-shirt, shorts, and what must have been a pair of comfortable sneakers. They had better be. The previous day, he had walked from the Park Street Metro station approximately seven kilometres to his hotel carrying all his luggage.

The next four days was sheer joy for us. Vinayak had a list of places to visit all of which would take roughly four months, so he had to make compromises. At the breakfast table, he would check his day’s plans with me and decide what were doable. Then he would leave us, go round the city mostly on foot, shoot beautiful pictures from unusual angles through the day, and return home late in the evening. After reaching home, he would insist that he help Arundhati in the kitchen and made it a point to remove the plates after every meal. I didn’t see a tired muscle on his face. Whatever time we had together, he would show us his pictures and tell his travel stories. He stays at inexpensive hotels and travels by ordinary buses and trains even for long-distance travel. He sleeps with the camera bag as his pillow; the camera is the only companion in his long journey.

Since early Stone Age, doddering old fools like me have been telling the world how wretched and useless young people “these days” are. If you are one of them, please tell me, I’ll unfriend you in 10 seconds. (And this is one of the few books where Arundhati and I are on the same page.) Vinayak reinforced our faith that young Indians today are a lot more confident, a lot more clear-headed, a lot more adventurous, and basically good souls, despite most of them voting for the BJP in 2014!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

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