Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?

I have been to London to look at the f*cking Queen. And why the f*ck do you care anyway? Rude act for the day over, did you know that the Pussycat nursery rhyme has dirty connotations? Well, now you know and before you object/ support objections to sex education in schools, stop and think because EVERYONE has taught dirty things to their kids. (Neither did Jack and Jill go up the hill to just fetch water, ok?)

“I have traveled to a whole lot of places you know, but I’ve never felt the kind of pull I felt for this country… I have fallen in love,” said my friend as he grappled with a gruff Labrador with swollen testicles. There was a Lhasa Apso lying on the second table, wearing a depressed doggy-look that only dogs can have and with both its ears bandaged to its skull (friend’s not a perv, he’s a vet). Friend was speaking about Melbourne (Australia) and I don’t jest when I tell you his eyes misted over. I had felt something similar for Goa (south beaches, Palolem particularly) in November 2007 and would have chucked job and city to consider a little JB-shack-on-the-beach had I not been put off by syringes sticking out of the sands in the northern beaches. Some dudes also called me nangi-pangi – impolite Hindi word for nude, which I wasn’t – and that I greatly objected to. Not an ideal backyard and not the best of neighbours either.

On our weekend drive-down trip to Jaipur in early April this year, each time we passed a highway ‘resort’ – one of those fancy looking buildings with fancy names that stand in the middle of nowhere – Partner had regular fits at the idea of people spending money to get out of Delhi and then stay in bang-on-the-road resorts. “But WHY would anyone want to stay here? What kind of a holiday is that?” was his oft repeated, head-shaking refrain. Partner prefers gun-toting Pashtoons and eating rat-meat in Myanmar. For some, a holiday means a new visa stamp on their passports. For others it means documenting different landscapes, ethnic clothes and different cuisine on their cameras (and putting up on Facebook). For a majority it means going to your grandparents’ for summer or winter break (was so for a large part of my childhood).

Perhaps some prefer roadside resorts because not everyone can afford Rambargh Palace or a Neemrana or because some think a holiday is any place that isn’t home, even the neighbour’s house. Or when someone else serves you bed tea (meaning your wife gets to have her tea in bed too and not just bring you yours, ha-ha). For my mother a holiday meant when she didn’t have to wonder about daily menus. “It’s a holiday each time I don’t have to cook,” is what she said then. Now with kids and husband living away from her, she tries to usurp the kitchen wherever she goes, “But I miss feeding you all!” being her latest war cry. Mothers, I tell you and of course you can’t argue with them because all debates start and end with, “You will understand once you become a mother.” Whether it’s my mother, blogging-mother-of-two Mad Momma or society-mom-to-six, Shobhaa De; ALL mothers use that argument irrespective of the newness/oldness of their motherhood or their generation. I digress; we are talking travel today.

Travel for me has increasingly become an escape from ennui, from meeting the same people everyday (and on social networking sites), of doing the same things day in and day out (unless there’s a power failure when you don’t know what to do with your time) and a way to escape my regular self and make startling discoveries. And not all those will be nice ones…

Like I had not realized that I could look good smiling in pictures till I went to Goa and couldn’t stop grinning. Or that I could be a major whiner as I nearly killed our Jaipur trip by whining about everything from dog hair – Golu Dawg was with us and shedding kilos of hair – to no air-conditioner in the car. Or that I could relinquish control and NOT feel jealous when someone else did things better than me, Partner is a kickass photographer (and anyone else would have had me competing as well). Or that even when being an adventuress, I was bothered about how my hair looks (was in Leh in second week April and the wind there is SO dry, there is constant static in your hair, it fucking stands at ends at all times!).

Travel has constantly challenged and changed my perspective on a whole lot of things, inside and outside. Dad was in the Army and every two/ three years we changed cities. From the heart of India in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh, also my home town), to Agra the city of the Taj, to then-Calcutta now-Kolkata, Amritsar the abode of the Golden Temple and the beautiful state of camellias and gompas, Sikkim (rather Kalimpong, which is technically West Bengal); I don't think I’ve considered what it would mean to NOT travel, not change houses or not meet new people and new ways of life. Once settled in Delhi for education and subsequently profession – it’ll be a decade in June 2008 – I subconsciously replicated the house changing by moving homes within the city (16 homes in 10 years). Traveling and changing houses also taught me that it’s fucking hard surviving people and labels.

Some people and some places will welcome you. Everyone smiles in Leh-Ladakh when giving you directions and if you catch a stranger’s eye when walking down the road, you’ll be greeted with a hearty, “Juley!” (means Hello in Ladakhi) In the backyards of India, you’ll be met with curious stares. But if you can get over your skepticism and have a minute to talk, you will be offered chhaanch (butter milk) in the villages of Rajasthan. At times you will meet very proud people, some rightly so, some mistakenly so. Some might help push your car when the spark plug packs up while some will watch and jeer. You will also realize that the best food and service is not always at the most expensive place. A small bar on Colva beach (south Goa) will give you the best roasted fish and the most fun time of your life while a ludicrous hotel in ‘down town’ Ludhiana will charge extra for a 10 gram tube of toothpaste.

Some places will have nothing to boast of save friendly people. Others might have a fast paced life but not a single smile to spare. Some will give you two cups of tea free while another will overcharge for a bottle of cold water. Some places will have a unique way of dealing with traffic – people sharing autos – while others will have taxi drivers waiting to skin you. Delhi will always be labeled the aggression capital of India while Mumbai will always be the city of claustrophobic dreams. Or is it the claustrophobic city of dreams? Somehow I cannot shake this image: En-route to lower Parel from Mumbai airport, two towering, under-construction buildings, with two, towering powerful cranes on their under-construction terraces lifting concrete slabs and between the buildings, a double storeyed church with stained glasses and a crumbling crucifix. The church looked scared. The image is affixed in my head and bothers me, but I don’t know why…

City of Dreams, Mumbai like City of Joy, Kolkata? Labels that are smart marketing ploys or labels that are inescapable truths?

Speaking of surviving labels, I started writing this post from Mumbai – rather from our channel office at Lower Parel – I was there to participate in a show as a blogger and someone who "writes on sex". (smiles) (More details on the show once I get official clearance).

Somehow the word "orgasm" overpowers every other word and no matter that you might be writing other words like physical abuse, rape, child sexual abuse and even office politics or boob jobs, a sex writer is what you become. Why did I say yes to the show? Because strangely, after participating in Barkha Dutt's We the People episode on blogging, the nasty comments on this blog slowed down. The hit counts did not really change or not as much in comparison to the hits I get when say Mad Momma links to some posts of mine. But it's getting interesting… The more we talk about sex, the less difference it seems to be making. And yet apparently/ allegedly, I write about sex. Why? Simply put, because I love a good orgasm and because it shocks you.

PS: Check the slide show for some pics from Leh, point on pic with cursor for caption.

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