Travelling is a true form of education where one experiences interaction with different cultures, people and situations. Since a very young age, I had many opportunities to travel around the world, but Routes2Roots gave me a totally new perspective to travel with an objective of connecting people through cultural programs and festivals. Being our neighbour, Pakistan has many misplaced perceptions about it and when we took a Rajasthan Food and Cultural Festival for a week to Karachi, followed by a week in Lahore, we were in for many pleasant surprises. Our group of 22 people landed at the Karachi airport with 1000 kg baggage loaded on 25 trolleys. The aghast custom officials stood in a row to interrogate us and were soon all sugar and sweet when they realised our purpose, and were completely enamoured by our group. All of them wanted to be photographed with us, and were eager to attend the festival which was the first-of-its-kind in Pakistan. The crowds at the festival were unprecedented.
Travelling with ‘Journey of Indian Cinema’ to Russia, China and South Africa had its own share of exciting experiences. It is a festival where we showcase the different eras of the Indian cinema by way of displaying panels, posters, collages, cut-outs, mannequins, audiovisuals, coffee table books accompanied by Bollywood dances. Bollywood being the face of popular Indian culture, this festival draws huge crowds, and each country we have travelled to, has left us with innumerable heartwarming experiences.
Russia, to begin with, is in itself a country rich in cultural heritage, with its architecture museums and beauty. We took Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor with us to inaugurate this festival and were amazed to see that even today the song Awara Hoon is on the lips of the old and young, such is the attraction and popularity of Bollywood.
China was an eye opener — the roads, the buildings, the modern supermarkets reminded me as though I was in a developed western country. My idea was that China would be similar to India owing to its large population, but it was amazing to see their reforms and management of the past few years.
Language was a barrier yet all the bargains in the market could be accomplished by a tiny calculator. There also, I felt the warmth towards India and Indians unprecedented and to my surprise on seeing me humming, my cab driver started singing Awara Hoon in perfect tune. In spite of a huge population, the systems are in place and the rules are meticulously followed. The closest encounter I had with lions, cheetahs and ostriches, apart from other animals and birds, was in South Africa. So much so, that I was sitting next to them and playing with cubs. We share the same history of being ruled by the British, hence the common bond of freedom was evident in the locals. Travel, with me, is a way of life now, and I’m sure I shall be witnessing many more experiences in newer lands.