With the rupee falling and the commodity costs increasing, the title does sound ironic, doesn’t it?
My intention is partially served but I should probably elucidate more.
The other day, I was travelling by a ‘through’ train from Bombay to Ratnagiri in the Konkan countryside of the state of Maharashtra. I don’t generally travel by these cross-country trains though. And when I do, I rarely converse with other passengers around. My chin generally rests on my sternum and my eyes are buried into a book or a newspaper.
However, this time it was different. I sat alone in the six-seat section of the compartment (hoping that my entire journey would be in solitude too), reading the Times. To my despair, a family walked who didn’t amuse my temperament. After what felt like days, I finally moved to the outside of the carriage for some peace where I saw a foreign tourist talking away furiously with a railway attendant.
Flummoxed, the railway attendant looked at me and asked me in his south Indian Hindi, “Sir, can you speak English?”. On having replied in the positive, I asked the girl what was wrong. She told me she’d left her ukulele in a different compartment and was trying to locate it. I, in the best of my capacity, guided her to where she claimed (thought) it was and I figured that was that. I got back to the ‘fantastic-four’ section and buried myself into the Times again.
Time rolled away, proving Einstein’s theory, slowly. Someone called out to me. I realized it was the tourist—and she beamed at me. She’d found her ukulele, with wonderful luck. (A wonder indeed that it hadn’t been nicked). I took the cue, got up and went to sit along with the tourist and her boyfriend and another relatively older, bearded gentleman.
Although the lighting in the railway was dull, the situation looked up. And so, I sat looking at the three; they had already started a conversation amongst themselves. The gentleman, an Indian, was a bank employee. He was patiently answering all the questions that the tourists asked him. They’d landed in Bombay only a day before, clueless… and as protocol dictates (apparently), were moving towards Goa. Absolutely everything was new to them—the culture, the customs, the places, all of it.
I got to know them better; he was 24, born in SA. He’d moved to Australia five years ago and had already traveled around Central America and Indonesia. She was 22, born in Germany. She’d moved to Australia three years ago. The couple had met in Melbourne and traveled all across Australia. They’d pick up any job and accommodation they found; earn, save a bit, survive on the remainder. They then, would continue travelling with the savings.
Their views weren’t ‘western’ as we imagine ‘western’ to be. They weren’t keen on drinking but very keen on family customs and closeness. While that was, I thought, all to do with the novelty of visiting India, the most interesting was their threshold of satisfaction.
They had, by Indian standards, not very prestigious jobs; not a lot of money. But they lived on. Saved. Traveled. Gained and enjoyed various experiences. They said they lived for the present and dealt with it as it presented itself to them.
That got me thinking. We, more or less, live for the future, don’t we? For education, for a job prospect, a good job and a nice track record for promotions, future investments for pensions and more. Do we really live our today? Are we too futuristic (all pun intended) for our own good?
This isn’t a sociology lecture. It is just something to ponder upon.