Around the world with awesome people

(This is an entry under "Around The World With Expedia!" contest held by Expedia and Indiblogger)

Blessed with a bloodline which enjoys traveling, I have been a traveler since birth,
moving from one place to another for reasons most ‘worldly’ people would not find 
convincing. They say-“Habits die hard”. My father was kind enough to administer
the drug of ‘traveling to get rid of the monotony of every day life’ into my blood early
in my life. Today, I travel (at my own expenses) at least twice a year to some tourist 
destination- mostly natural, sometimes historic, rarely religious and almost always 
Indian. Besides, the university I studied in and the organization I currently work for, 
I believe, wrongly chose me to represent them at international destinations; I must
admit that these experiences have also been equally gratifying. From what I saw, I
can affirm that any place in this world can be distinctively characterized by its people.
And certain special people residing there or visiting the place make a trip all the more
interesting. Here I bring forth a collection of chronologically-arranged (because I 
can’t think of any other reason why one should be placed before the other) stories 
from four different countries and three different continents.
[Thanks to Indiblogger ( and online travel company 
Expedia ( giving me a reason to write stories which
otherwise would have lost in Oblivion.]

Bhutan, 2002:
                                                        Could’ve lost here that night!

It has been a long time (for someone who has lived less than three decades) but
some people leave an impression that last a lifetime. It was October and I was 
traveling with my parents from Phuentsholing- a town that shares its border 
with India- to the capital city Thimphu. The public bus we boarded was
slowly crawling along the mountainous curves, gifting us a breathtaking view on 
the valley-side. At around 3 PM, the bus broke down. Except the tourists who 
wanted to enjoy the roadside beauty, all wore a depressing look. My parents and
I got down to feast on the changing face of nature while the bus driver and his 
assistant tried in vain to get it repaired. One of them had to travel to a nearby 
town to get a broken part from the engine replaced. We waited in tense anticipation
until he returned. When we finally reached Thimphu, it was 10 PM. We had no hotels
booked in advance. The bus-driver assured my father, “Don’t worry, Sir. We will 
not go home unless we find you a hotel.” Most hotels had shut down by then and 
the ones that were open weren’t suitable for a family to stay overnight. The driver
went with my father to every hotel by the road, literally knocking their closed 
doors begging for a positive response. Finally, one benevolent hotelier, almost woken
up from sleep, allowed us in. A middle-aged man, his wife and their fifteen-year-old
son would have left stranded on the streets of Thimphu that night but for the 
bus-driver who didn’t care about the extra fuel he spent on us or the time he spent
in getting us to safety. I don’t remember his name; in fact, I don’t even remember
if we had asked him his name. It is no wonder that Bhutan is today one of the 
“happiest” nations in the world. Trust me, I have now got ample reasons to believe
in what the economists have to say.

 Belfast (UK), 2008
                                                         There he is, welcoming us!

A group of 20 University students from India were invited to The John Hewitt pub
by the NRI professors. The only thing then on our mind was Guinness. Of course,
we had our share of the world-famous beer and the soulful ‘live’ jazz music that
was being passionately played to a cheerful crowd. Some time later, in the next room,
we were in a discussion with one of the professors: Satish. He had graduated from
a reputed University in Delhi and had gone on to become a teacher at a University 
in Belfast. His stories were amusing. His friends in India were largely influenced
by Marxism: while some were MPs in Lok Sabha, others became militant Naxalites! 
He said with an air of pride, “I am in touch with either faction.” We exchanged glances. 
He continued to amaze us: how he had to literally “ship” his huge collection of “two
tonnes” of books from India; how dearly he valued his Indian Passport and how
desperate he was in Indianizing his Irish fiancee. Certainly, the entire audience
wasn’t drunk! In fact, the next day, during his lecture at the University, we could 
feel that his love for India was oozing out in his words. There he is, Satish- an 
Indian savant in a foreign land- standing tall in my memory, for peculiarly
patriotically sentimental reasons.

Lava-Rishop (India), 2010
                           What do we owe him? Respect? Sympathy? A bit of both, may be?

Sixteen of us, basking in merriment in the final year of college, were to trek from 
Lava to Rishop, both small villages in the lap of the immaculately serene 
Himalayas in the state of West Bengal. It was nearly a 5 km-walk along a rugged 
terrain. For any experienced trekker, this would be a cakewalk but for amateurs
like us, it was indeed expected to be tiring. But the moment we started, our guide
Bhutia kept our spirits high. All through the journey, he entertained us with his
jokes in a mix of Hindi, Nepali and Bengali; we called them “PJs”.  Poor jokes, by 
definition, would not make anyone but the presenter laugh. However, Bhutia’s
PJs were so poor that we always burst out laughing! The very idea that Bhutia 
called his jokes “jokes” made us laugh. In fact, he was so charged with enthusiasm
every time we laughed that he kept telling us jokes every now and then and even
repeating them during our return trek. Sometimes, he told us stories from his 
village, spiced them up with a touch of history and served them to exhausted but
fun-seeking palates. True to his innocent nature and placid temperament, his  
jokes were remarkably simple and goaded us through a tiresome yet joyful walk.
When I look back, I’m not sure why exactly I feel sorry for this poor man. But I, 
despite a self-proclaimed non-believer, silently pray to God: May Bhutia entertain
travelers with his stories and jokes for years to come!

 Plano (USA), 2010
                                           Somewhere in a crowd that defied the music…

It was a chilly December night. Five of us decided to leave the comforts of the hotel
after a tiring day of work. “Let’s go to a club…and party all night. Tomorrow’s off”-
said one of us. At about midnight, we were with a crowd dancing to live music. 
Some people in our group complained that the crowd was ‘racist’; that most Americans
there made them feel so. While we were discussing the nature of the crowd in one 
corner, there approached a man who knew one of us from office. He was from Pakistan
He shook hands with each of us and introduced his friend Khan to us. Another 
tall Pakistani with broad shoulders, Khan did not shake hands with me. Instead he 
came close to my ears and said-“Why are Indians and Pakistanis standing so far 
apart?” I was taken aback. Common sense does strike me sometimes! Now that he was so 
close to my ears, I instantly said- “Really? Are we standing far apart? I don’t think so!” 
The next thing he did was to embrace me hard. For quite some time. I will never forget 
the spark of emotion in his glittering eyes; yes, I could see it in the dark. We, I felt, were
united by a common sympathy. He bought me a drink of my choice and asked me to 
keep in touch. He didn’t share his phone number. He was too drunk by then. What 
still moistens my eyes is the ‘sub-continental’ camaraderie of a stranger. 
People like Khan immensely contribute in bridging the walls created by petty politics.

Around the world in places known and unknown
Lives a drone, suitably adorning the throne
In the heart of a wanderer- some peculiar,
Some poor, others compassionate and pure.
The earth is adorned with Eiffel and bridges,
Rivers and wildlife, museums and caves,
They said that beauty lay in human heart-
What a piece of art! What a piece of art!


  1. Beautifullly written! Thanks for the read!

  2. Thanks Jaspreet, for dropping by and appreciating :-)

  3. lovely post. We need more people like Bhutia during our travel. To restore faith in mankind...

  4. Sure we do :-)
    Thanks for reading...

  5. Interesting experiences. And nice poetry at the end. I also had similar experiences whenever I met Pakistanis abroad. They act as if India and Pakistan are same country.

  6. Thanks for reading!
    Yes, the sub-continent has so much in common...