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.
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