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I am but a traveler, my friends!

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So I packed up all my things, pretty much just as I had unpacked them what seemed like only a few days ago. And like the four hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings“>The Lord of the Rings</a>, I found myself looking upon a familiar sight: Montreal, home sweet home.

Despite my folks alluding to my room being the new office, or the new extension to the master bedroom, everything was just as I had left it (i.e. messy). The next few days were a welcome break before I embarked on the real journey – 9 months straight in a different hemisphere, time zone, and in totally new social environments. Needless to say, I took full advantage of home-cooked meals, sleeping in, and watching movies with my parents.

The last weekend before I flew out, we drove to New Haven to my sister’s place where again, I took advantage of her home-cooked meals, sleeping in, and watching movies. We were also together to celebrate an important religious festival in Hindu culture Ganesh Charturthi.

. It is written in Hindu mythology and scripture that before beginning any important venture, either in business, education or extended travel, offering a prayer to the deity Ganesh brings good fortune and success in that venture. This festival has conveniently always fallen just before the start of the school year, and while I do not consider myself very religious, it has been a family tradition since before I can remember to celebrate and conduct a religious prayer ceremony known as a puja.

The puja consists of a lot of preparation – foods thought to be the favorite of the deity in question are prepared, a miniature abode is constructed and decorated with corn, fruits, and colored powders such as turmeric, flames are lit in small earthen pots, incense is burned, and flowers, leaves and rice are kept aside as ceremonial offerings. A puja consists of Sanskrit prayers, of which the most common component is a recitation of the many names of the deity.

It was nice to be able to partake in a family tradition just before I left Taking familiarity with me is undoubtedly a source of inspiration and strength to face the unknown.

That said, I feel at home in transit, as well. The travel bug bit me more than a decade ago, and ever since then, a part of me always longs to be going somewhere. On September 10th, I donned the garb of a traveler once again, flying to my first placement in Dehradun, India with the biodiversity conservation NGO <a href=” http://navdanya.org“>Navdanya</a>. I’ve included a short poem that I was inspired to write when I became mindful of that part of me that invariably seeks out adventure and the unfamiliar.

_Can I never leave this train?
Can the stations only pass me by?
Might I just remain en route, in transit
Going, but never gone?
Leaving to somewhere
But can somewhere be no place?
Can I focus on being without anything to be?
Every step I took, the road would follow-and not vice-versa.
Can a journey, just for today, be eternal?
With none to come after and none that came before?
For now, can I accept that I am not from any place, but of all places?
Can a smile be an adequate response to “where are you headed?”
Can trees and power lines green, redden, darken, blind, and freeze and melt out of the corner of my eyes?
Can the occasional stopover be someplace I never heard of before?
Can it be as close to home and as far from it too?
Can I forget where home is and still feel at it?
Can maps be dart boards?
Can I never know where the dagger lands and only string threads between each pin, sewing together
Some endless travel, connecting and re-connecting dots?
Is it so bad, to purposefully leave a puzzle unfinished? A story untold? Should I apologize to all potential destinations?
I am sorry, really, I am. It was never you, it is me. I do not know where I want to end up or how or when or why I want to end up at all. All I know is in transit there is tomorrow and in tomorrow I have infinite hope; I am infinitely better.
So I, as ever, am on some way, no way, any way, my way._

Always Make Good Travel Decisions

I just want to include a little tidbit here on making good travel decisions. A little bit of luck is always handy, especially if that luck means an empty seat next to you on two very busy flights (New York to London and London to Delhi). Aside from that, one must always use good judgment when travelling.

 Two excellent decisions, that I made on my first set of flights were:

  • Accepting a second dinner plate on a flight, because the airlines overestimated the number of passengers. I was more than happy to take this burden off their hands.
  • Spending my seven-hour layover in Delhi sleeping in the low-cost traveler’s lounge. Good-bye, jet lag.

_Incredible India!_

It has only been three days since I landed in India but I can already tell this will be a vastly different experience from my previous visits. After landing in Dehradun, I hired a car (the only way out of the airport since the tri-wheeler rickshaws are a rarity in Dehradun) to take me to Navdanya’s headquarters. The name of the village where Navdanya’s Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) is located is Ramgarh—tell anyone of Indian heritage this and you will most likely get them to grin or look at you with an incredulous expression. Ramgarh is the name of a fictional village where one of the most famous films in Indian history, <a href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073707/“>Sholay</a> is set. Knowing this, I had a hard time keeping a straight face with my driver—we had a few good laughs remembering dialogues from the movie.

Navdanya is located far from your common conveniences: there is no nearby corner store, no bank (except for a on-again, off-again ATM), and only one roadside café situated right next to a machine shop where there is incessant drilling. The campus is tucked away behind some fields and a mango orchard, and is built entirely of red stone.

While I marveled at the beautiful gardens and acreage of organic farmland, my driver cursed his fate at having come this far and driving on an uneven, rocky road. He tried his hand for the third time at convincing me to bring him to ‘America’ where he thought he would be able to set up his cab business. I told him I was hardly in a position to do so, but thanked him for the safe journey.

So far, I like the atmosphere here, I’ve arrived smack dab in the middle of the organic farming “A-Z” course, and there are a few dozen people that I’ve got to go and interact with. Until next time!