Saturday, July 27, 2013

The 26th Travel Thingy and How Change Happened - A Guest post

Bhavana is a passionate social worker. Read what changed her vacations into socially meaningful travel, in her guest post here, that am privileged to host. She blogs at Tilling the Earthwoman, a blog that should be on your reading list!

It was 26th January 2001. Pune. I had worked late into the night to bring out a special edition of my departmental newspaper. I was due to go for a vacation later that day. Around 10 a.m. my apartment shook. As a journalist-in-training I immediately called my contacts in the Met department and confirmed quake and its epicenter. Gujarat earthquake had happened.

But you see, I was supposed to leave that day for vacation with my family. I tried to pip about the earthquake and loss of lives. I wanted to tell them that my heart wanted to drop everything and go to Gujarat immediately. But I couldn’t. It was family vacation time.

So I sat in the train miserably, trying not to tell anyone how I felt. Grabbed every possible newspaper to stay updated. Once we reached our destination, I rushed for news. What I heard hurt bad. And yet, I was supposed to visit beaches and temples and museums and what not. I called friends and found that some of my classmates had gone to Gujarat for relief work. I longed to join but instead had to pretend-enjoy lavish dinners and laugh over God Knows What!

That was a travel that troubled me deeply.



The sea at Pondicherry taken on Dec 30, 2004--4 days after Tsunami

Some years later, by sheer accident, I travelled to India from USA and landed in Chennai on 26th December, 2004. Tsunami had struck few hours back. I had an American friend with whom I had planned a pan-India tour. My family also had planned a navagraha (nine planets) temple tour with me. Once again, I ached. I didn’t want to do any kind of vacationing or touring. I wanted to join in relief efforts. But how to explain that to my parents or my friend?

So, I spend the last days of that deadly December days touring temples in Tamil Nadu, some of which, were strangely in areas where the Tsunami had struck. I watched relief trucks pass by and rumours spread as our car turned and re-routed several times.

And then one evening we went through some villages where I watched relief workers collect grain. The poorest came out of their shanty huts to donate whatever rice/pulses they could part with. That sight broke me completely.  I started sending out emails to my friends working with AID India in USA and to my department colleagues and began reporting live from these areas. I was contacted by Albuquerque’s radio station KUNM and gave whatever inputs I could to the reporter out there.

When I was back in Chennai, my mind was made up. There was no way I could continue to vacation or go on that India tour. It was a hard decision that cost me my friendship. But I have not regretted it.
 I diverted the funds I had reserved for vacation into relief efforts and got into the field—collecting and sorting materials till I finally got the opportunity to go directly to site and participate in distributing relief materials.

That was a travel that changed me forever. I no longer hesitate to tell anyone where my priorities lie. And I live with myself more peacefully now.

This is my post written for “Travel that Moved Me” contest, in support of Rang De, conducted by Desi Traveler. For more info on the contest please click here 

24 comments:

  1. You go girl for following your heart. Gujarat earthquake brings some creepy memories for me. My entire family was there when the quake and later the riots happened. *Shiver* And how can one forget the tsunami and its destruction.

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    1. oh my!! In Gujarat during both the terrible moments? I have shivers reading it. And yes, one cannot forget Tsunami but which disaster can we really afford to forget? And how many lessons do we still have to learn?

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  2. Deepak ji, Nice to read Bhavana ji's post. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Some travel memories remain etched forever Bhavana.
    Deepak, how do you manage so many blogs? Amazing.

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    1. Yes, they are, Alka. And some become milestones in our life. And yes, Deepak--can you inject in me some of your discipline in maintaining and sustaining so many blogs so efficiently!

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    2. Alka and Bhavana I must confess that I have learnt multitasking by closely observing all the women I know! All women are masters of multitasking and amazing man managers!
      Hence my deep gratitude to all the women I have interacted with!

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    3. Hahaha..Deepak, I hereby knight you as "Gentleman of Blogger World"!

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  4. Food for thought for travelers like me. And thanks for taking all the fun out of letting-hair-down travel. :) This is what happens when you put three socially motivated people together. This is what writing is meant to do, I guess. Guilt you into change. :)

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    1. LOL!! I have over the years learnt to develop a balance. Previously I couldn't bear to go anywhere without some social aspect attached to it. Now I am learning to go without purpose :) Everything has its purpose I guess!

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  5. I liked Bhavana's response to Subho :) we need to strike a balance between what our heart tells us and what should be done. I can so imagine you pretending to enjoy the temples and museums even as your heart ached to be part of the relief work. Hugs, Bhavana.

    @Deepak: Great to see a guest post on your blog and that too by another favourite blogger of mine!

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    1. Zephyr!!!! Aah, it is so heartening to see your comment. It is a good day indeed, Yes, the balance is something that I had to learn--the family and loved ones have their own importance in the larger scheme of things. No social without this social.

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  6. An very Inspiring read...When It was Gujarat Earthquake in 2001 I was school maybe in class 7 i guess and I participated in relief fund programme to support the People of Bhuj...And I was so happy for the reason that I am doing something for those who suffered..

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    1. I feel glad that at such an young age you developed the joy of service...the memories will surely hold your spirit to stay path, even if you ever lose it. I had to learn it an older age.

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  7. Hari OM
    A wonderful post with a difference. Early in my life I opted to not 'play tourist' - yes places need to be visited, but I have always endeavoured to share as much as possible with the society of that place - and at times (in Nigeria), that involved getting down and dirty with helping out where trauma has hit. Thus I clearly understand the urge you felt, Bhavana-ji. It does often mean standing alone - until you find all the others who do also!!

    Thankyou to Deepak-ji for bringing in a 'guest'! YAM xx

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    1. Hari Om

      Is my pleasure Yamini ji!

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    2. Thank you for the solidarity, Yaminiji...while many of us outwardly like to serve, there are crucial moments when we are tested and those moments are very alone.

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  8. What a compassionate post - I'm sure what you did changed you and a little bit of your world for the better.

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  9. U truly rock bhavana
    One needs guts and strong determination to do this. Others just talk. U do and inspire us
    Hats off

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