I blinked at his question “How many countries have you travelled through in your life?”
A young blogger at a blogger’s meet. Scratching memory, I counted one short of a bare handful. His mouth almost fell open.
Obviously memories would raise their heads. How do I manage to sound so well travelled, when in fact I am about the laziest person I know?
Two types of input surfaced: Reading and… Reading.
Today, the Net is a treasure trove of facts for those who care to dig for them; but the older generation reading carried us on magic carpets into distant lands that never failed to emote and evolve into treasured memories.
Regina Pacis School, Jakarta in the 1950s taught geography and architectural appreciation from Std. 1. Obviously they did a very good job for me to remember my first standard geography lessons on the rain forest lands of Brazil, Congo and Indonesia itself; plus architectural wonders of early England and Europe.
The library at Hutchings High School, Pune had perhaps most of the travel collection known as the Young Traveller Series, most of which I read, travelling through all continents and dozens of countries across the globe. Each book had a couple of youngsters landing up in a new country and going on to hand hold the reader through a graphic geography, city and rural scapes, plus individuals and interesting features of the country before flying out…from Argentina, Peru and Mexico to Nigeria, Fiji and Australia, and everywhere in between. …essentially wherever the white man went.
The second great travelogue is one which even today’s young readers may be familiar with: Mills & Boon novels. Hundreds of those must have been consumed between high school, college and a couple of years later too…. practically until motherhood overtook reading time.
Every Mills & Boon author in those times used to specialize in writing stories set in a particular country or a particular county of England. The places and settings of each episode would be vividly described, along with local highlights and notaries, along with ordinary sights and people. It was almost like visiting that place! With tiny interesting nuggets of information stored in the brain forever more. Bingo! I travelled around the globe, touching down on key cities as well as out of the way places few even knew off.
A far-ranging habit of reading anything and everything that fell into my hands must have fed that travelogue too; from Frangipani set in Tahiti, the death of Napoleon in forsaken St. Helena, Desiree` from France to Sweden and so many other countries and islands in between.
Today, born in Singapore, brought up in Jakarta and Pune, an adult life in Ahmedabad, wide ranging travels as a political journalist across Gujarat, across M.P. in search of the elusive Mastani and two visits to Dubai, I was reckoned a seasoned traveller by a young Traveller!
Sounds great, doesn’t it!