When I travel…

A reflective piece on how I travel, what is home and what is the meaning of life for Saurabh Garg

I wrote a part of this from an airport (DXB) when I was waiting to take my 27th flight of the year. And this has been a bad year in terms of travel.

Oh, and this one will take me home. Delhi. Where my parents are.

I had always imagined that at heart I would always be a Delhi person but now that I am fairly comfortable in my Andheri West and Ghatkopar West life, I dont know what is home. It’s no longer Delhi. And it’s not Mumbai yet. Apart from my parents, the only family I’ve known is VG’s and even he doesn’t have a base per se – so I dont know what or where is home.

Wait. That’s not the point at this time. Moving on.

The other part of this is being written from a flight. Indigo’s 1908. To Del. And since I have nothing special to do on the flight, I’ve had the time to reflect on how I spent the last 7-10 days in one of the top tourist destinations – Dubai. And an epiphany happened. The way I’ve spent the last few days in Dubai is exactly how I’ve spent my entire life as a tourist (or a traveller).

Read on.

So, I was in Dubai for a week or so. And despite it being a haven for tourists and infinite offers for food, attractions, experiences and whatnot, I did exactly what I would do if I were in Mumbai. I was in the infinite loop of “home to a coffee shop to a client’s facility (office, warehouse, meeting room) to another coffee shop and then to the bed for the night”. I have lived in this loop since 2010 now and I think this is for the first time I am thinking and writing about it.

Lemme elaborate.

So this must be my 10th trip to Dubai since the beginning of time. And I have not gone dune-bashing except for a trip back in 2010. I have not been to the top of Burj. I dont know how Dubai Frame looks from the inside. I can’t remember when was the last time I went for a Desert Safari and saw a Belly Dance or a Tanura Dance. The Museum of Future looks gorgeous from the outside but I dont know what it is like inside. The old Dubai may be like, well, the old Dubai but I have no way of knowing – never been there. I am hoping the Dhow River cruise would be nice on most days. The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi must be a spectacle. The made-for-tourist things like Yas Island, Ferrari World, F1 tracks and all that must heighten your senses. I have never experienced those.

Similarly, on my maiden trip to Manila earlier this year, I would walk every day from home to a coffee shop, park myself there and do whatever on the laptop. The only time I left the 3 square kilometre area of BGC was to go to the airport and once to a weekend getaway that I was not keen on but VG was. And at that getaway, I sat under a canopy while I saw people frolicking in the water.

For each trip that I have made in the last few years, this would repeat. Hotel. Coffee Shop or the same restaurant. Hotel. Repeat.

The point is, I do NOT do touristy things. I do NOT go to must-visit places. I do NOT indulge in experiences that people travel to the end of the world for. I can’t understand all those people who travelled to Ahmedabad for the India-Pakistan cricket match. Some of my friends have booked a visit to an Ed Sheeran concert for the next year. People I know plan for Diwali parties like we used to schedule classes in school and college – each hour of the day is preallocated and optimised. Reminds me of the fervour participation of people around me at MAMI – people made Excel sheets and all that! For watching some films! I mean really!

Brings me to the point – why do I live? I mean if I am unable to…

  • a, enjoy these experiences,
  • or b, crave for finer things (lately I have decided that I will only buy things when I ABSOLUTELY need them and I would stop wanting all the luxury brands that I’ve wanted (things like Prada sunglasses, Birkenstock chappals, Apple Watches et al))
  • or c, have the wants to attend social dos
  • or d, have any wants that most of us have (gold, sex, legacy)
  • or e, mindlessly consume content on Netflixes of the world
  • or f, have any large personal ambitions for self,
  • or g, have any familial or social attachments

…why am I even alive?

One line of thinking is that I live to be able to become the conductor of opportunity for people that I know – you know, create opportunities for people that I work with – even at my cost. Remember that quote that I often use? Sai itna deejiye?

However, I am unable to answer what drives me. I mean, there’s no end to the opportunity that I can create for people. Today I enable a few people to make ends meet in a respectful, kind manner. Tomorrow, these few could become many. And then those many could become a lot. But it remains a goal without a tangible finish line!

The other line is that I am lost. In the chase of grandiose ambitions and God-like plans, I am lost. And so lost that I am ignoring the very fabric of what makes us human – interactions with others, participation in society, celebrating social constructs and engaging in primal things!

I may be. I may not be. But this is how I am and on a day-to-day basis, I think I am ok. If someone were to ask me about what keeps me up at night, my answer is, nothing! Most days I sleep ok. Some days I want crave for someone special next to me but with time I think I have trained myself to ignore that instinct as well. I couldn’t understand how a lot of Bengali men remained single even when they were old – today I think I can relate to it even though I am unable to put that in words.

Things that people worry about – future, retirement, money, work, health, relationships, I think I am very blessed to found a way to not let those things affect me. I mean I know I dont have any savings, I know that my health is not the best, I know that my parents need my attention, I know that at work, we at C4E could do better, I know I sometimes crave for another human. But overall. I think I am ok.

So, either, I am lost. As lost as a child in the topless bar. Or I have attained Nirvana. And this brings me to the third line of thinking.

The third is that I have somehow attained Nirvana!

I have no needs or wants (except the AC, iPhone, shorts (not pants) and personal space) and I live in the present. I dont think about the past at all and I dont care about the future at all. All I have is this moment and I live in this. Right now, I am in a cramped seat (7D – I always take aisle seats) and writing about the trip to Dubai. I love the idea that I can express myself in a lucid manner and I have some people that listen to me when I talk.

I bring the best of my ability and intention in each interaction. I try and create abundance for everyone. Making movement is an important driver for me. I can not sit idle. I am that man with an axe who’d not breathe till he’s chopped the entire forest down.

While working, at a point in time, I had these rules that I made about the kind of people that I wanted to work with and live with. I was very very very selective about who got access to my inner circle and I was ruthless about who I slowly ejected from it. But I think over time, it’s come to a point where I dont even care about those anymore. Whoever I interact with slots me in a stereotype as per their understanding. I do the same. And as long as a relationship is kind, polite, rational, and win-win, I am okay. The ones that dont play long-term games get filtered out and are best allowed to slip through the crevices of time.

So, that’s that.

Brings me to the next important point.

Why do I travel and what do I do when I do that?

Well, I don’t seek any experiences that tickle any senses (apart from massages, and hitting a runner-runner nuts on a poker table) and that means I could travel each day of the year or I could be cloistered in a city and I would be ok. Wait. This is important. If I am held captive and I am unable to step out of a room, I’ll die. I need to be able to breathe fresh air (hopefully cold), walk around, see other humans going about their lives and augment the dataset on which I’ve built my life. But I am okay to do so in a tiny block or in the world at large. Preferably in the world at large because it will offer me a larger data set and thus more experiences and more lessons.

Also, I like the idea of living like a local. I love to look at people and from a distance, see how they operate, learn, live and all that. I like to experience routine but in new places. I fondly remember the Baristas at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at BGC. I almost became friends with the Barista at the Starbucks at the Marina Promenade. I think about people at the Kabra Starbucks store even though I haven’t been there in more than 10 days and I won’t go back for another 10.

I can call this way of life “living local in a global village” and I think I would love to roam around communities across the world and immerse myself as a local there. In fact, I started this piece with a quip on home. May be I am one of those people that aren’t meant to have a home. May be the nature of my nature to have homes in all the communities that I get to live in?

Of course, I know the flaw in this – my life has largely been spent in privileged communities (MDI Campus, Nahar, Address, DN Nagar etc) and I may not enjoy this local living in a global village If I were to live in harsh places.

So, with the awareness of this privilege, I am grateful that I get to have many homes in many places in the world. I hope I can create more such homes for more such people like me that dont have homes. Maybe this is the purpose that I chase. Maybe this is why I am alive. Maybe.

I guess this is it. If you reached till the end of this piece, please do let me know what you think. Am I ok? Or do I need help :D?

PS: If this has been established that I would live on the road, out of a suitcase, I think I need to be more present in EACH thing I do. While I enjoy doing many things and multi-tasking, I think I will want to live each moment as fully as I can. So, henceforth, I will bring my 100% attention and intention to each task that I do. While I will want to optimise things (say listen to podcasts while I am in transit), for each human interaction, I will give my 100%. If you see me giving any less, do point it out. If you see me checking my phone while talking to someone, please point it out. If you see me replying to emails while running an online meeting, please point it out. If you see me eating and watching TV, please point out.

That’s it! More later!

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