By Aditi Yadav
We are but stardust, swirling and travelling eternally across the universe. The interweaving of matter and energy in the cosmic space-time tapestry has always struck us with wonder and curiosity. As the Japanese poet Basho resonates in his Narrow Road to the deep north, “The months and days are passing wayfarers through endless ages, and travelers too the years that come and go. Those who float their life away on boats or meet old age plodding before a horse- they spend their days in journeying and call the journey home.” Humans have marched on, often quite literally so, in the journey of life’s evolution.
To evolve one needs to survive despite all odds. It is an enterprise in desperation, driven by the basic instinct for survival. For several millennia, wandering to forage for food, moving on for a safe shelter and fleeing away from inclement weather or wild animals was the only way of life — on one’s toes, on the run, hanging on to dear life. Braving through raw and ruthless nature — the scorching sun, blistering winds, numbing snow, bone-chilling blizzards, tempests on seas, ravenous typhoons– what an extraordinarily heroic travelogue has been the journey of homo sapiens!
When the ‘wanderer-hunter’, settled as a farmer, the new sense of settlement brought in the novel element of ‘belongingness’ to a certain place, and the consciousness of possession or ownership. A brand-new idea of life bloomed. A settled and relaxed idea of ‘home’ now formed a part of new civilization. As a consequence, resource ownership in itself gave rise to trade, conflicts and wars. All of this entailed travel. The merchants traveled distances to barter and earn. Many religious leaders travelled around to propagate and preach faith and worship – perhaps, as service to humanity, or maybe, as an attempt to know human consciousness. In another dimension, the ambition to rule over land and capture resources drove people in leaps and bounds on land, and establish colonies across oceans. What was once a globe of free vagabonds turned into a battlefield of fragmented land, air and water masses with contest for boundaries. Most of it were accompanied by bloodshed and colossal loss of human life and bio-spheric devastation.
But there was a class of travellers of the other kind — the ones who travelled for the joy of travel, excitement of discovery, to pen a new story, or write a new song. Freebirds like Alberuni, Fa-Hsein, Hyecho, and their ilk left behind valuable records and are documented in history. I often wonder about the history of female travellers. Who was the first female who ventured forth all by herself? What became of her? Did she disguise herself as a male? There is no way of knowing. Maybe she could not document it due the lack of knowledge of the written word, or perhaps, she did not want to be discovered at all. Although in my heart, I do pray she had a safe and happy journey.
The eternal flame to travel has propelled us to reach escape velocity and launch travel into space. The space programs, the Mars rover, the moon missions are our most fascinating travel adventures. Sun light or star light that we bask in at any given time is a light from the past travelling toward us. The future light may be travelling too, waiting for us to reach out perhaps.
Even with such incredible progress, there is so much that suffocates us. What is home, when the soul does not feel at ease? The Vedic sages taught that for those with open hearts, the world is but one country — everywhere one goes is home. The earth we know, owes its existence to migrating populations. It’s ironic how immigrants are discriminated against in the modern times. May be the suffocation we often feel is only the pettiness that has crept in.
Travel to free yourself of these shackles, dear heart! Despite the constraints of finances, opportunities, fetters of the 9-5 schedule, travel – what are you living for, if not for the liberation of the self? My thoughts don’t wait for spring. They forever bloom and fall off like the petals of cherry blossoms. Yet, there is joy in visualizing how they blow with the wind, rest on someone’s shoulders or gently settle on the surface of river, drifting along without a thought about the destination. They die somewhere, without even knowing. To have blossomed and traveled is fulfilling enough.
The instinct to wander and travel, is as old as life itself — for that’s how life has propagated. The roots of life find nourishment through the peripatetics of body and mind. It is a malady that humans are born with; a melody in sync with one’s heartbeat. “Travel inside out and outside in. That’s the fate humans are born with”, sings the systole-diastole of the heart, resonating the cosmic big bang-big crunch. A whole world lies outside your window, and several worlds live inside you. Traverse the infiniteness of yourself, measure the earth in your stride while Keats sings on, “Let the winged Fancy roam, Pleasure never is at home.”
Aditi Yadav is a public servant from India. As and when time permits she engages in creative pursuits and catches up her never-ending to-read list. Her works appear in Rain Taxi Review of books, EKL review, Usawa Literary Review, Gulmohur Quarterly, Narrow Road Journal and the Remnant Archive.
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