xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xmlns:og="http://ogp.me/ns#" Goes the Distance: It's still Home....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's still Home....

Been a year since I last backpacked.
The last time was in Himachal with a few friends.
Had visted the Dalai Lama's Monastery and went mountain climbing near the BhagasuNag Village.
It was nothing like the India I've known.
This was'nt the first time I had been there.
My family had come here when I was three years old.
I was a restless little figit and my mom tells me that I ran upto the Dalai Lama's throne and squatted on it like it was a sofa at home.
We had to leave in a hurry but not before a few tourists got my picture.
So that's that.

I've travelled to quite a few places in the North and South of India.
Seen interesting things and met even more interesting people.
I've always been pretty interested in people's mindsets
and always jumped at a chance to strike up a conversation with locals and tourists alike.

My latest trip was a little different in that I had experienced things that altered my outlook on life a little bit.
I got on a bus for Pune on Sunday evening and reached the little city of Mapusa in 30 mins.
In comes this tall,slim but strong looking dude and takes the seat next to me.
Didn't say a word..just but his backpack in the loft and tucked himself in.
The bus wouldn't be leaving for another 15 mins.
I saw a store selling pistas and badams and thought I'd pick up some for home.
Got out,stretched...flexed,put on my haggler's face and headed for the store.
Ater 5 mins of hostage negotiations,the shopkeeper released two 1kg packs of Pista and Badam into my custody.
The terms of the surrender, I will not discuss.....they make me look really cheap !

Got back into the bus,put the stuff in bag.
"I see you signed you name as Menezes in the Roster" says my neighbour.
"Yah,Hi ! I'm Arthur...you are ?"
"Wasid,Hi !"
"You from Goa ?"
"No,I'm from Kabul...I'm an Afgan".
I think to myself,"this will be interesting..."
"I'm from Hyderabad,came to Goa for a vacation."
"By yourself ?"
"Yup ! My friends are in college attending classes.I have an exam the day after and here I am."
"Where were you staying ?"
"Rego's in Panjim."

Wasid had just finished his BBM in Goa and had been accepted for an MA at the University of Pune.
He had been in India for the past four years and had travelled quite a bit.
It surprised me that he was an engineering student in Kabul and had to drop it because of the instability.
"Governments and systems never last in Afghanistan.",he says.
I told him bout my course at Loyola and bout the places I visited.
He gave me a lot of useful info bout Goa that I will definitely use the next time I go there.

We discussed a lot of things.I didn't ask him bout the fighting although I wanted to.I felt it would be awkward.
"You know what's going on in Afganisthan don't you ?", he asks.
"I guess the whole world does.Tell me....how is it for you in Kabul?"
He says that his neighbourhood is one of the safer places but outside,people die every day.
Bombs,bullets and Jeeps are the order of the day.
I asked him if he was in support or against the fighting.
"I understand the fighting...but then here I am."

Wasid had a brother who worked with the WHO and his father was a well to do Horticulturist.
He told me that the fruits I just bought came from Kabul via Karachi.
"America can't win that easily and the fighters have a lot of local support."
"I'm sure",I said.
I said that the U.S can't enforce their system on a country that does'nt know it.
But then without them...a lot more kids would be dead.

Anyways,I asked him how he felt after four years in India.
"It's been amazing,The people have been very friendly and I plan to stay a lot longer."
"So you planning to work here or return to Kabul after this ?"
"I have some ideas that might click back home"
"Tell me"
"All the stuff in Afghanisthan comes from India via Pakistan....soaps,shampoos,matchboxes...you name it.
The middlemen take their cut and that makes the stuff pretty expensive.I'm gonna get a dealership and be a direct sole distributor in Kabul."
"That sounds like it might work."
"Just need to get some capital and need to pay off the officials."

We stop at a resthouse..grab a coffee and continue.
We spoke a bit about history,I can't remember why.
Discussed the Mughal invasion.
"We ruled your country for 350 years",he says jokingly.
"And then the British came and ended your line", I replied.
"In fact Bahadur Shah Zafar didn't even get a tomb.Too Bad !"

We dicussed the war and the Aryan settlements and how the Nazis used the "Aryan Superiority" ideal to screw the World.
"Funny thing actually.Afganisthan is the true home of the Aryans.The Nazi's got it all wrong."
"Really !"
"Our land was known as Aryana."
"That's something new to me"
"Believe it."

We spoke for another two hours and dozed off.
Reached Pune at bout 6.30 in the morning.
He asked if I wanted to go to the University with him and grab a bite later on.
I had to take a connecting bus back home.
Had an exam the next morning and could'nt stay.
Gave me his email ID,told me to contact him the next time I was in Pune.
Will do !

This journey and conversation is something that will stay with me for a while.
Because I learnt something that has altered my perspective on things.
The things he told bout his homeland and when I think of this intelligent and well mannered guy,I find it hard to believe he comes from such a place.
The fact that he chooses to go back and start over fills me with admiration for his spirit.
I also realized that you can't change poeple unless thay want to change.

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