Every time we travel, I wonder how much of what we see or who we meet, will remain unaffected through our interaction. After-all, we did come from the outside, and that in-turn would alter the reality of those living in a world – very different from our own. And through every subsequent visit, by people, belonging to different worlds; there will be little left of what one originally set off to see.
And, yet, tourism may be the necessary evil for many dying local economies. In a nondescript tribal village in Nameri, Assam; Latun is well acquainted with greetings in English. His apprentice and he, know how to cook a meal, one that would normally have been cooked by local women. He picks up names of birds – ones he may have already known in his native tongue – on trips with tourists accompanied by a naturalist. Latun changed when the first visitor chose to visit his village.
In a rustic desert village in Rajasthan, kids are in a state of nervous excitement. We decide to click a snap together.
As I put my hand on a girl’s shoulder, she squeals, “Ooh…A boy!”.
To which, another kid replies, “No! She’s a girl wearing pants.”
After our photo, they make frivolous demands for money. I’m not sure, if they realised how their demand had changed them.
And then, there are those who don’t meet people from the outside. They have probably never faced a camera and don’t know whether to smile or not.
Not because they don’t know how. They simply haven’t done this before.
As we drive along a derelict road, in rural Maharashtra, we come across an elderly lady bathing her buffalo.
I ask her, “Maushi (aunt) can I click a snap.”
She replies, “Should I let you click my snap because you called me Maushi?”
I turn to myself. How much have I changed through every interaction? Initially, I was the one who was observing and probably been a catalyst for change. But, through each trip, it was hard for me to stay unaffected. For if travel cannot change you, perhaps, nothing else will.
As a traveller, haven’t I tried to live a life of a myriad realities? Often, I tried to forget where I came from or who I was. Tried to escape everything that I disliked in my own world. On every trip, all I did, was search for a world that I could call my own. Maybe, a near perfect world. Ironically, the more I seek, the more I’ve become distant from the world I will always return to.