I'll Endure Pain While Traveling, En Route to Pleasure

In a first-person reflection in the SF Chronicle Travel section, Sue Dickman misses India because there you never know what could be around the corner: "When turning a corner at home in the United States, I can be pretty certain that an elephant or a herd of water buffalo or a wedding procession led by a marching band will not be coming in the opposite direction, but there is no such certainty in India."

I see her point. The surprises and uncertainty of travel can make for some fun. But what I’ve learned in my extensive overseas travel is that I’m willing to tolerate cows wandering down the street, impoverished conditions, kooky toilets, and other odd surprises…assuming it’s a means to some other ends. That is, I have no interest in throwing myself into a shithole to "have an experience."

I’m willing to tolerate pain while traveling, assuming the pain isn’t supposed to be the pleasure, even if the pain provides a new perspective or a delightful surprise.

I was fine being stuffed in a smelly, rickety train leaving Bombay, because the pain of being in that train wasn’t the point. The point was to use the most efficient transportation possible to arrive at my next destination — which meant a smelly, rickety train.

3 Responses to I'll Endure Pain While Traveling, En Route to Pleasure

  1. krishna says:

    Ben, you make a good point here. It’s quite common in Bombay, for people to leave their cars behind and take the train – Smelly, rickety and stuffy during peak hours – for pure convenience sake. They all have better things to do once they get to their destination soon rather than wasting a couple of desperate hours caught in a road jam. After all not for nothing that all 14 million people live in this small island city…out of which a few even make the Forbes list and still refuse to call any place else their home.

    While one acknowledges the right of a few visiting tourists to cast an impulsive opinion, the collective wisdom of 14 million having chosen to stick around and put up with this state of affairs is not something to be swept away. Everyone of them have their own reason… valid ones at at that, you bet ! Try giving any of them an option to live in South of France, and none of them will ever.

    I often wonder how these snobs see the elephants, cows, dogs – they don’t even spare a marriage procession which is quite a cultural affair of which they know nothing ( it’s a bad tourist who doesn’t appreciate another culture, others’ right to be different ! ) and yet miss totally out on the rationale of 14 million people that still choose to call it their home…If one thinks they have no choice, just count the no. of non-resident Indians heading back to India…!!!

    We have all seen the recent catastrophic images of just one Katrina that swiftly ravaged the comfortable living in the first world. That’s all it took – one hurricane…just one hurricane and people in New Orleans were seen drinking water from the gutter. It took several hours / days for the government of a most developed nation, with the most advanced disaster management system ( and a very much manageable population much less than 14 million in just one city ) to reach out to stranded people on rooftops – many left to die a squaloros death.

    Just that others like us think it’s deplorable to make a story out of it even as we wax eloquently about the opportunities available in Silicon Valley and the high quality education available in the Ivy league corridors.

    Alright you are fortunate and we wish you all the very best.

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Krishna – You make good points. The author of the article I linked to was actually quite complimentary of India — she misses it when she returns to the States. For her, the glories of India lie in the surprises such as cows wandering down the street. That’s not what interests me. What interests me is the culture, the people, the business opportunities, and so forth. Everyone has different reasons for traveling and experiencing. I will certainly return to India — but not simply to ride the trains. Some people like to ride the trains to “feel what it’s like.” I will ride the train for the same reason you do — because it’s the most convenient form of public transit. What I tried to say in my quick post is, I don’t go to the third world just to “soak up all the chaos”. I go to the third world because there are interesting cultures — just as interesting as French culture, for example, in a different way.

    Home is home. Just like an Indian wouldn’t like the South of France, a Frenchman might not like India, and a Thai person might not like America. We all grow fond of where we live — or else we move….Although I would argue that it’s hard to say all 14 million people live in Bombay by choice. Some probably don’t have the financial capacity to move somewhere else. Just like there are people in America who can’t afford to pack up and move. But in general, I agree, people vote with their feet.

  3. krishna says:

    Thanks for getting back. I am a matter of fact guy and would never assume that all of them who visit India should like it. In fact, I welcome dissent as it would give us a different perspective and constructive insight. But where the sarcasm is laced with a tinge of savagery, I get provoked and I react.

    In this case I felt the lady was shamelessly comparing a first world country with an emerging, democratic third world country with its teeming population / related politics & problems and expecting its sidewalks to be paved with gold.

    In a military dictatorship like Pakistan or a communist hard regime like China, displacement of cattle and poverty stricken people from the cities ( who make a living out of selling milk in the city pockets where they can fetch a better price than in the villages ) would have been much more easier as they don’t have rehabilitation laws to obey. It’s a well chronicled fact that India lives in its villages and it’s when the city culture spreads to villages, the shepherds and their cattle flocks to cities.

    Next time when you come, I’ll take you to our glorious hinterlands for you to have a first hand touch and feel. If possible, try and get hold of a copy of “The Story of My Experiments With the Truth” by M.K.Gandhi ( the Father of our nation ) of which an English Translation by Mahadev Desai is available.

    Where it comes to the choice of 14 million, guess you are a bit presumptuous. You’ll soon grow up to learn what it means to be in one’s own home state. For that matter I love Bombay more than my own state of Kerala ( “God’s own country” – goes its tourism slogan ) Give even the affluent amongst the 14 million any day a place other than Bombay, ( leaving India for good – is inconceivable ) you would be in for a shock. They’ll never be comfortable with the glory associated with Sushi which is to eat raw uncooked fish or to eat bland vegetables or raw meat. Think of their teenage daughters going out on date and losing their virginity to someone who may or may not marry them or even giving a miss to their festivals which goes all year around, ah…not on your nellie…!

    Yet there are of course people overcoming all these issues and willing to migrate and they have their own reasons – better lifestyle, better earnings, better career ops…etc…but a few months down the line, they too pine for their chaos ridden motherland and most of them make their way back. Check it out at Fremont…!

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