Dear ma & pa,
I’ve told you for years now that I want to travel, and despite how vague and aimless that sounds you both have done little to question that. I never told you why though. Sometimes I wish I had the clarity some of my friends do, of knowing what lays ahead, of how they’re going to be spending their next few years and the path they are likely to follow after. I don’t think it’s “cool” or different to do this, being a gypsy with no destination. That clarity would be great, but I don’t have an iota of it. All I have inside me is a desire to get out out out, out of this city, out of the comfortable, out of the familiar. I want to see new places and meet new people and experience things I may not know even exist yet. I used to think maybe this is my version of running away, from what I’m not sure, but it kind of feels like running away. Then I realised that’s not true. As much as I love getting away, I love coming back, every single time. This city is home and you are home; so why would I want new places and new people when I have this incredible place and amazing people already around me.
I think I know why now. It’s because of who I am when I travel. I find myself more productive, more driven, more open and compassionate and observant. I hardly ever frown, when you don’t speak the same language you can do little but smile at one another. I read more, draw more, learn more, absorb more. I observe more, I compromise, my needs are fewer and less superficial. I don’t miss going to Hauz Khas Village to listen to a band perform or lounging endlessly at Pragnya’s or Srikant’s. I feel like who I am is enough, what I do with my time is worthwhile. I like that person so much more, whose needs are fewer and wants simpler, who listens to others more. There is something amazing about setting off with nothing more than the pages of my Lonely Planet and my backpack, carrying my world on my shoulders.
I don’t want to be on an extended holiday or vacation. Vacations are meant for people like you, who have worked and earned and who deserve it. I want to experience things comfortable and uncomfortable so I can find my place in its midst.
I know it’s a scary world out there and sometimes thinking about all the terrible things that happen every minute of every day can paralyse me with fear. But I can’t let that happen, because what way is that to live? It’s not the metro that is scarier or the auto, it’s everything – everywhere. It only needs to go wrong once, and then who knows if anything or anyone touched by it will ever be the same.
When we used to talk about atheism Ma you used to ask me how it is that I believe in nothing. You have your faith, and I understand the strength you draw from it. I do believe in something though. I believe in humanity, in human kindness. Maybe not in Karma, because bad things happen to good people and the other way around every day, but despite so much evil, goodness shines through in so many ways. Of course, every day we see all around us the lack of humanity, but it still remains the most real thing I can believe in, because for every bad person ruining it for everyone else, I see so many good ones. People who are kind and helpful and offer safety and security in their presence. People who open their minds and hearts and homes to you selflessly and without hesitation. People who fight tooth and nail every day to try and make sure humanity wins. I know this can sound naive given the world that we live in, but I have been fortunate to encounter so much more good in these 21 years than evil. For it to be something I believe in, for it to be the force that drives me, I need to know it exists even beyond this safe cocoon you have so lovingly built for me.
I hope one day I find the thing that makes it click for me, that’s simply enough, where everyday life is as wondrous as deep blue oceans, towering mountains and surreal sunsets. I hope I find that stability and security, but I don’t think I can right away, not until I rid myself of this urge to explore and see and roam and wander before I settle.
I hope I can be every day and in every place the person I think I am when I travel, and I hope more than anything that you can meet her, I really think you would be proud of her.
– Nikita Seth