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Before memories quickly fade, I wish to capture recent travel experiences in a scaffolding of words as people have veritably done down the generations I celebrate the three- day holiday for the Bhutanese Kings 32nd birthday, ensconced in a cozy Himalayan niche far from pollution, noise, vice and crime. My whirlwind tour of Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore last month reverberates in my constrained consciousness. From enigmatic Buddhist spirituality, non-killing and reverence for all sentient beings, I was in for the rudest of shocks during the winter vacation. I was lost amongst millions, a mere drop in the ocean, as compared to a few thousands that make up the Bhutanese district towns; you are monarch of the endless hills, valleys and greenery amidst gently wafting rivers. The fiercely materialistic culture in Indian cities, the homeless and the violent, struck me like a tight slap across innocent cheeks. Values hardly exist nowadays, lost amidst technology, street commerce, and educational and professional frenzies. Moreover, I dallied with innocence as a teacher for over three decades, a profound metaphor I cannot imagine life without. I donned my face mask to escape from crass pollution, wondering if the little black cloth really did the job! Some people stared respectfully, others showed contempt. The millions exposed themselves to pollution all day long, especially the cops, and never bothered. May be they didnt have to worry about childhood asthma Conversely, I wondered how little Himalayan societies prospered, sheltered from the evil world behind a wall of mountain ranges without a glimpse of the sea! I decided upon trains to get closer to the land and people as compared to the Airbus that whizzed through space, leaving no time to stare. Yet Garib Rath and Duranto disappointed because of the sheer length of the journeys, in spite of gentle companions and little friendships. Bargaining with porters at railway stations is a skill that is developing over time. Cabs have strange ways of charging extra fares for no visible reasons. The metro ride in Bangalore and the pearls at Charminar shops remain enduring memories. Family relationships strengthen over time as they must, yet complications must arise too. Children are growing up towards greener horizons and marrying into alien religions and cultures, strangely enough. One side must have lost its way.

Which is the reality? My evergreen oasis at 8000 ft or my native roots amidst the din of Kolkata? Ever changing reality, says common sense.

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