I had never stepped out of my house alone, and was raised in a constraining and non compromising big Indian family. I was 24 years old and devoid of any story I could call my own. I was tired of being sheltered. Of being told what to do, where to go, and especially so, where not to go. In India women don’t tread in their lives alone. They need to be taken care of and the time had come where my care-takers needed to change hands. So my overtly ‘caring’ family had decided that I needed to be married off.
More often than not, you travel to escape and that’s what I did. I escaped. I pooled together some savings and got a plane ticket to Bombay. And with a backpack of two books, tooth brush, a change of clothes and a notepad, left the only city I knew all my life. I shut my cell phone down and the aircraft window. I had never felt so immensely alone and so alive at the same time. It’s like a world full of endless possibilities and the excitement of carving a whole new identity on a blank slate. I was 24 and this day forth, I could be whoever I choose to be. That plane ride changed my life. What it means to travel, to leave something behind you and move away. You don’t touch the brim and leave.
Two hours later, I emerged in this city. No lover, no family, just self and a lot of dreams, I set out to find my destination. I like to believe I’m still traveling and all that I see, I must see before I get to where I need to be. Bombay opened its arms to me immediately. I travel from the most insane clubs in Bombay to the most dreadful slums of the world, with the same fervour, the same excitement in my eyes and no vision. After all, if we always know what our destination will look like, I reckon, we stop living each passing moment and sleep through it looking for that one perfect tick of the clock. So I look, with the same raw appeal to each block of the road, to each sign on a rickshaw, to every bite I take of the road-side food in Bombay and I smile at every new face. Bombay is the place to be if you’re not pacing to and fro and can come to terms with the reality that life, just like this breathtaking city, is messy and is chaotic, and that’s just where it finds its beauty.
On a map, I’ve traveled less than 500 kilometers, but its one full life away, and it made me the finest and the most spirited version of me, and I will forever look back to the courage it took for that 2-hour journey and overcoming the fear of stepping out alone and just be.