‘Then an air-ticket to Port Blair used to cost 600 Rs, and If I am going with a close family member, more specifically someone of my bloodline, then there would have been a concession of 100 rs. on the fare.’
‘So you went by ship? How much did that cost?’
‘A ticket to the ship costed me only 100 rs. that too return. It took 3 days to reach then I stayed for another 2 nights 3 days in Port Blair and again another 3 days to come back to Kolkata by ship.’
‘Why did you have to go alone?’
‘That time I used to earn very little, so I saved some money and decided to go alone, I had a strict budget so couldn’t take ma with me, and among friends, I didn’t get anyone, who would wanted to go to Andaman.’
‘Where did you stay?’
‘There is a Gurudwara at Port Blair, who also had logistic facility at a very cheap rate, I stayed there for two nights. And that time number of hotels in Andaman was hardly any.’
‘Gurudwara? We haven’t seen any Gurudwara during our visits in Port Blair? Is it still there?’
‘It’s in the middle of the city, we hardly went to that side, mostly we stayed close to Celluar jail. We didn’t have to come to this part of the city, but when we go next time, I’ll show you.’
‘So which year was this?’ Finally I asked this question. These travel stories of my father and similar conversation takes place in our house irregularly often during any of the meal time (I don’t know the reason, but it happens like this only). Both my parents are itchy feet though by means of different definition. This was dinner time, and I was listening to them while filling my tummy with roti and paneer Sabji (curry). More involved we show to papa’s time travel, more interested he becomes to speak about them.
‘Year 1980.. I also went to Manali in 77 ans Kashmir in 78, once again, alone.’ No wonder that I have inherited this knack and I’m the improvised version of Papa Dutta!!
‘So Manali, why you went alone? same reason like Andaman?’ Could have joined the CID department but didn’t- my Maa inquired, she is good at it anyway.
‘Manali was actually not planned as a solo trip, Vikas (his that time office colleague) and I was supposed to go together. We had booked the train tickets and made reservation at hotels, but two weeks before trip Vikas started giving serious excuses and I understood our trip was gone. And I got a bit discouraged so decided to cancel my plan as well, but while cancelling the hotel reservation, I told the person, not to send the money back, next year I would come on the same date and we will adjust the money.’
‘Just like that? And they agreed??’ I couldn’t come in terms with this cancellation policy in the world of booking.com or airbnb.
‘Yes. See, how many people used to travel that time? There weren’t so many tour operators lined by the road like ants’ army! The roads didn’t have so much traffic, nature had all the freedom to mind her own business even. So the hotels agreed, we had booked rooms with Himachal tourism board, you know how much it costed?’ I know my imagination can’t go down there! so I looked at him like I don’t know this language!!
’10 rs per room per night.’ Somebody bring that time back to me and wait till I complete a full round of Earth! ‘So they had sent a letter confirming that the money was kept as deposit with them, and the same will be adjusted upon his stay next year, and they took the additional money I had spent staying there. So I went to Manali, Kulu, Shimla, Chandigarh and then 2 nights in train, total 12 nights.’ Man.. he is a collection of 80’s solo-traveller museum.
Now this gentleman went for solo trip which is being a brave heart, and if I want to go alone, then the entire world’s problem becomes theirs’ and followed by, I also have to adopt those problems!! Unofficially I have found myself “NOT GUILTY”. Actually I am following my respective father’s footsteps. Next time, let some deserted heart ask me ‘How you travel alone?’– My answer will be at the tip of my tongue, ‘Jaisa baap, waisi unki beti’ (like father like daddy’s princess!!)
And, How can I miss my mother here, whose life should have only been travelling with no house chores. My mother loves to stay out of the house and embrace travel. Though she doesn’t have such stories to share, we get to make her stories. She never remembers the name of a place except some fragments to describe it, or until that place has given her the feeling of being complete, that is, shopping. If any state in India and the cities within (keeping it till domestic, we are scared to take her to a foreign land and getting sent back, by the government for being bankrupt well before time) doesn’t have her choice of things on selling rack, then their names are not important to remember. And unfortunately (for us) if she gets her shopping spree well taken care off, she will even remember the name of the market, at which lane the shop resides and even the name of the shop.
Now I can wave Adios to all the cringing eye brows, non-political questions, inquisitive eyes .. Let’s just dream on…