Dear 16 year old,
I was cleaning out our cupboard over the weekend and found the old diary. Sorry for peeking but I couldn’t resist reading the bucket list of sorts one more time. You had mentioned travelling as one of the dreams you wish to achieve. You had written about all that you wish to achieve and hoped to stay best friends with so and so. You sounded so excited about the years ahead and almost sounded gullible, hoping that your world will stay same.
Now, let me sit you down and explain to you that in a few years, life will change. You will get a job, get married and will have a beautiful baby girl. You are also going to see such a development of technology, you will be amazed. The development of internet will be immense, the extent of which I am unable to explain to you now. Your job responsibilities, travel plans, communications and even grocery purchases will be made over internet. Along with that, you will also see something called social media emerge. You will get the first taste of how influential social media can be through a website called Facebook. You will reconnect with long lost friends, learn new things, find that elusive pair of boots and even learn cooking. You will finally understand what Global village truly means. Imagine that!
Yet, you will also learn that social media will create barriers unimagined so far. Everything from political view to food choice to religious belief will be brought under scanner and be used as a reason to create rifts among people. The tolerance towards a view different from yours is going to dip, hate messages and making fun of anyone who makes a mistake (they call it trolling now) is going to rise. You will also get caught up in this tide and will start wearing mental blinkers and dislike opinions different from your own. Friends will become acquaintances; acquaintances, strangers.
Do not worry, there’s still hope. You ask how? Here’s how; Read this letter any time you get caught in petty arguments and fights and cannot see beyond it or let it go.
“We are from a country with of 122 languages, 29 states, 7 union territories and 6 primary religions. We are 1.2 billion people who have mastered the art of co-existing peaceful. We are a bunch of people who are tied together with two things; emotions, and dreams.
My dream…is to achieve the achievable and learn about my country and the countless cultures and emotions it thrives on. My dream is not to be an international nomad; it’s simply to open my eyes and mind to a world beyond the small snow globe world in which I exist and learn about my country and its heritage.
It is to travel, not because I want to check off another item on my bucket list, but to know the life beyond my life. It is to walk through the near sparsely populated Ladakhi towns, dive deep to explore the underwater coral reefs, fight the blush while furtively glancing at the Ajanta Ellora cave carvings and gape in awe at the grandeur of the regal Taj Mahal.
It is to hitchhike along with the fishermen, listening to their many folklores; cheering on the team winning in the boat race or melding myself into the ever moving crowd and surrounding myself with the smells of incense, sandalwood and flowers at Madhurai Meenakshi temple.
My dream is to lose myself in the gastronomic paradise called India, enjoying a bowl of Chikvi, relishing the burst of tanginess from yet another gol gappa, drinking from the never ending tall glass of lassi or seating myself cross legged and enjoying a traditional sadhya.
My dream is to get lost in the opulence of Mysore palace, listen for the tiger’s growl at Bandhavgarh national park and Garba my way to midnight. My dream is to search for the story each state, city, town and village holds to its bosom and calls its own and make it mine too. My dream is learn about the dynasties that have come and gone and understand nothing lasts forever. My dream is to stand in a Gurudwara, Dargah, Church and temple and learn that only kindness and compassion matters in the end.
My dream is to be able to open my mind beyond the chains of religions, languages, politics and states and absorb the knowledge that our country is made of heartbeats, smiles, hugs and laughs. It is made out of those moments spent chatting with a stranger over a cutting chai, speaking in signs with the guileless madisar clad patti in train and giggling about the sky full of kites along with the shy five-year old.
My dream is to live and breathe my way through my country, so that I can truly call myself an Indian. It is said that travelling opens eyes, warms hearts and frees minds. My dream is to be able to travel beyond the borders in my mind and discover myself and my country in the process. “
You will learn that there’s still hope because for every technological snob, there will be ten simpletons who will share their lunch, stories and smiles with you in a beat. You will do good if you will allow yourself to look beyond the rat race and will see that a sixteen year old’s dream will help her become a better person.
And he is the Dalai Lama after all, so listen to him!
So, until we meet again on one of the many trips that will get you closer to your dream, Au Revoir, my dear 16 years old self.