There are several stories that we love to share with everyone. I have some such stories as well. And one of them is of Jim (name changed), my friend from the UK. We were in the same batch. Five of us would often hang out between classes for lunch and a coffee. While the four of us were always buying full meals, Jim would first look into his wallet. If he found enough money in there, he would order a coke and a burger else would go without lunch. Sometimes he would allow us to buy meal for him. But he would always repay it some other day by buying a meal for us when he had money. No, he wasn’t poor. In fact, he was amongst a select few from our batch who had a good part-time job to sustain him – he worked as a bartender and earned quite a bit. His parents were well-to-do as well. Then why did he give up on food so often? I was curious but was vary of intruding. British are private people. But I am an Indian and, true to my roots, my curiosity got better of me until one day I asked him. And to my surprise he was very forthcoming with the answer. I will share that with you too but before that there are some important announcements that I know you are all eagerly awaiting. So without any further delay, here they are, the awards of the month:
The Featured Author for the month of September 2012 is none other than our very own Mahesh Semwal, who has been with Ghumakkar for 3 years and has published 49 stories. He has been awarded the Ghumakkar of the Year 2 times. While he was missing from active writing scene for some time, he was always encouraging us with his comments and support. Now he is back in full force with his Johannesburg series and we couldn’t have asked for more.
The Featured Story for the month of August 2012 is Amitava Chatterjee’s “Summer Vacation” for his nostalgic account of the place of his childhood. With beautifully chosen words and heartfelt expressions, the story touches every reader, bringing forth those faint memories of childhood that we had buried deep inside under the weight of everyday issues. While the entire series was lovely, the last part takes the cake. Click here to read it.
Congratulations Mahesh and Amitava for the awards! We are proud to have you with us. Hope to read many more stories from you.
Coming back to Jim – I asked me why he was always so short of money. “I’m saving up for my trip,” he replied with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes. I wasn’t impressed. Not yet anyways. I had expected a much more dramatic reason. But this was frankly quite boring. Nevertheless, I asked him where he was off to. “The entire world!” “What?” I was surprised naturally. He was apparently saving for a year long trip that he had planned with his girlfriend at the end of our course. He wanted to wait for a while before he joined a serious job and wanted to fulfill his dream of travelling across the world before he got caught up in the mundane stuff. Now I was impressed. He was only 22, way younger than me and much surer of himself than I had ever been. He was ready to take the responsibility of saving up for his own trip when he could easily have borrowed money from his rich parents.
Today it has been exactly one year since I saw him and the last I heard was that he was somewhere in the wilderness of Australia, braving the harsh terrain but probably having the time of his life knowing that he was living his dreams. I salute his Ghumakkar spirit.
Jim chose to take a break from the routine life and spend it travelling. The concept is often called Gap Year where people take time off and chase their dreams, learn the skills they’ve always wanted to, or simply introspect. The options are limitless. The choice lies with the “Gapper”. There are some Gappers who visit other countries and try to experience their culture first hand. Many visit India and spend time with Indian families, getting involved in their day-to-day chores. I was particularly impressed by this particular Gapper, Lina, who not only lived with an Indian family in a village of Rajasthan but also helped around in the chores, including the construction of a building. Her tone is curious and non-judgmental. I enjoyed reading her blog, I’m sure you would too. Click here to read her blog.
The concept of a Gap Year is much more formal in the Amish, a traditional Christian community. The Amish are known for their simple living and traditional lifestyle. They shun all modern inventions and still ride horse-carts. They don’t use computers, television, radio, food processors, cameras, phones or any other machinery. They don’t believe in indulgence. Life in so many restrictions can be very difficult. So some communities of Amish allow their youngsters to go for rumspringa (“running around”) for one year. During this time, the youngsters (both boys and girls) stay away from home and are free to explore the world. And it is during this time that they need to decide whether they want to embrace the Amish way of life or to leave it forever. It is said that most Amish children choose to come back into their community after Rumspringa ends, committing themselves to the Amish way of life for the rest of their lives. There are very few who choose to stay away.
While the concept still sounds new to us, here in India, and many of us don’t think we can ever take the risk of losing one year of our lives, the acceptance has increased. Employers, today, are much more open to their employees taking a long sabbatical for no dire reason – the urge to write a novel or to travel around the world are considered good enough reasons.
The tolerance towards grown-up people trying to learn new skills even when they are older has increased. And there is some support in the country for such a desire, even though a lot more can be done. For example, the Centre for Holistic Learning, which was earlier called “Gap Year College”, is one such institute that originated from this concept. Vipul Rikhi, a writer and teacher who is closely associated with the Centre, was one of the people I sought advice from before I went back to studies. This centre perhaps is in line with an artists’ retreat where artists can stay and concentrate on their craft, far away from the world. Most of these institutes are tucked away in the pristine parts of the country so that artists can take inspiration from the surroundings. There is certain glamour in taking a break. And sometimes the results can be quite spectacular.
I think most of us like to imagine ourselves taking such breaks but very few of us manage to do it. But there’s no harm in dreaming. You never know your dream may just come true. If I am given a chance to go on a break for a year, I would probably choose to go to a place where I can read, write, grow plants, and pet a dog and live a life amidst Nature. The only problem would be to drag me out of it at the end of the year. What would you do if you are given such a chance? Which dream will you chase?