The Tale of my World Conquest




I have often envied people who have experience of global travel in their childhood. I for one had not even boarded a flight till the age of 24, when thanks to the IT revolution I set foot in an airplane for the first time to leave the shores of the country. But then reflecting I realized I did have quite some global exposure in my childhood.

My first exposure was to Russia. My Aunt’s office was close to the Russian embassy and she knew I was fond of books. So whenever my grandparents came visiting, she would send a few Russian story books. So I grew up developing familiarity with Ivans, Tsars, devil dragons and Baba Yaga. Then came Enid Blyton bringing England to my door step. I traversed across various parts of England along with Fatty, Snubby, Jack, Phillip and numerous other memorable Enid Blyton characters. Then there were school and farm stories that took me into English schools and right into the English countryside. I knew of voles, badgers, weasels, red squirrels, otters and shrews. I experienced the English breakfast of bacon, eggs, cake, marmalade, scones and other items that were just words to me but sounded delicious nevertheless. I was so surprised years later when I read English food was one of the worst in the world.

If England has come into your home, can USA be far behind. There was Tom Sawyer, Hardy Boys and Three Investigators who took me to America. Central Europe was represented by Asterix, Obelix and the rest of the gang. Arabian tales was my window to the Middle East as was another book – Haji Baba of Ispahan. Anime and Manga were my gateway to Japan. Age of Empires with Mayan and Aztec Empires and some of the Tintin stories exposed me to Latin America. Africa found representation through wild life movies and regular wildlife programs on Television. God must be Crazy was one movie that I remember that took me on a ride through Africa and in books, Gerald Durrell, Willard Price and King Solomon’s mines did the trick. 

Australia somehow seemed more a cricket team than a country as did West Indies. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia were all coins and stamps as were many other countries.

That is the story of the first quarter of my life. In the second quarter of my life, fate has been kind to me and my job has taken me to 16 countries so far spanning 3 continents. Africa, Australia and Latin America still remain unconquered. England and Russia still remain countries from my childhood tales. Sometimes I feel I have lost the fascination to travel to distant parts of the world. At other times, I feel more the countries I visit; the more my appetite for foreign travel will be stirred. Sometimes it all seems just a tick in the box to boast to people about the countries I have visited. After all one can learn about countries through books, television and internet. What does one accomplish by physically being present?


There is this talk of interacting with people and imbibing their culture. I did want to do that. I had a great fascination for interacting with foreigners. I remember I first acted on it when first exposed to Yahoo chat rooms. I used to spend hours chatting up foreigners. Ever since, I have worked for German clients. I also did a summer internship at Germany during my MBA. I did an exchange term at Japan where I had opportunity to have as class mates students from 52 nations. I was especially close with some Europeans. In fact I developed a close friendship with a German. I visited him once in Germany and once in Switzerland and he visited me twice at India. He got to visit my home and meet my family. I got to visit him and meet his family. Then there were people from across the world I interacted with during global training programs of my company of which I attended three. I worked with clients and colleagues from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Argentina, USA, France, Netherlands, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, Norway and China. But then my introvert nature often asserts itself and I find more comfort being by myself with just one or two close friends or a book or a Television Program. Too much people interaction seems to tire me. Also I have begun to feel fundamentally all people are the same. So do I still want to talk to foreigners or don’t I anymore?

Given my fascination for anything foreign, it is conceivable that I would have settled abroad. But paradoxically all my cousins to the last one is settled in USA and I am the one who has chosen to stay back in my homeland. That is the story of my tryst with the globe.

Picture Credit:  http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5049/5297415689_f597f8e7a7_o.jpg

20 comments:

Seeta said...

Interesting post this. I am completely with you on the way you visited foreign lands during your childhood. Same here and through those very books I would say. And its amazing how some of us who have a penchant for visiting and experiencing different lands (and not just the luxuries it brings with it) end up being here and not there :)

Rachna said...

A very interesting tale, Karthik! Like you my first plane travel was also in my early 20s. And you have traveled a lot, my friend. I have done some part of traveling myself and I completely love knowing new cultures and people. I can safely say that my stay in the US and Europe has made me a better, wiser and more mature person. I think exposure is needed for each person.

The Fool said...

True, Seeta.

I guess we already connected on our similarity of reading interests during our respective childhoods.

The Fool said...

That is true, Rachna. Staying in new places does broaden your thinking.

Pankti Mehta said...

I love reading as well as traveling. If you are comparing these two pleasures, it's like comparing your love for pani puri with chocolate if you know what I mean. Also, I too have experienced that humans are same everywhere, just color change.

Arti said...

Loved reading your tale, TF. Physically being present makes for experiences and gives us memories that we can take along and cherish as keepsakes - And, I am sure you have loads of them now as we can read in your story. Btw, I have a strange fascination for interacting with foreigners as well... I wonder if it's an inherent quality with all (or most of the) introverted people or what?

The Fool said...

I don't know Pankti - I often reflect if travel is overhyped and whether I really like travel or not and if so what I like and what I gain in travel that I don't gain in reading.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Arti. Good to see you here after such a long time.What you say is true about travel, Arti. Maybe that is what we should travel for that sake of those unique experiences. I did not know others also had fascination in interacting with foriegners. Not sure if it has anything to do with introverts.

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

You guys are a luckier lot. My first trip abroad was in my early thirties AND I was considered lucky since the others who came with me were on their first trip in their fifties :) Times change - IT comes in; FERA goes out and traveling abroad becomes easier both officially and personally.

I prefer my traveling from my couch too - particularly when it comes to other countries. Since my travel can no longer be official, any personal contacts will be as tourist to local and THAT gives no flavor of the local culture or whatever. AND, with a dicey digestion, local cuisine is normally a horror story for me and can end up killing whatever joy of traveling that I can otherwise get :)

Siddharth Muzumdar said...

I hope you've found your answer to the question - why be physically present in a country?

No amount of knowledge is complete without the physical experience there. And trust me, you SERIOUSLY HAVE to go to Australia. :)

themoonstone said...

Now that's so true isn't it. Books take you everywhere without you needing to step out :-) when I was staying in London , I too met so many people from different nationalities and reached the same conclusion... underneath all the things, we are fundamentally the same..

mahesh said...

I am 32 and yet to board a domestic aeroplane and travel within the country by aeroplane and have no passport either - so the train and the bus take me where I need to go :)

Nice reflective post and as always I travel the world through the books that I have read and the movies that I have seen :)

The Fool said...

That is true, Suresh. Being a tourist, you just run from monument to monument in a set without a sense of adventure. The problem on traveling on work however is that you are too busy to appreciate the locales.

The Fool said...

I am still trying to find the answer, Siddharth. Maybe you are right. Australia - I don't know - being a country with no past and a degraded environment - somehow the country fails to excite me.

The Fool said...

Good to see we have reached similar conclusions, Asha.

The Fool said...

I hope you get to travel sometime soon. Whether it is of value or not, it is worth it for the sheer excitement of the feeling of stepping out of the country for the first time.

Siddharth Muzumdar said...

Trust me, it will blow your mind away. Just go to Sydney and you'll see for yourself.
Coming to the moot question, there are a lot of innuendos in life that we can learn only when we are physically present at a place. Knowing the culture and picking up on the macroscopic tidbits of information is possible only when one is within the breathing space of an entirely new cultural environment. It might be difficult to put in words but I've just tried to put down my two cents based on my own experience of having read earlier about the places I wanted to go to and the places I actually went to later on...

Devika Fernando said...

That was fascinating to read. :-) And made me think of how living in one country also really influences how you see other countries. - For example, as a German I'd never have associated Australia with cricket, but now, living in Sri Lanka, I do. :D

T F Carthick said...

Thanks Devika. Yeah - true. Germans might be thinking of beaches and beer when they think of Australia.

Moupia Basu said...

Well written and interesting.

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