In continuing with our series of Interviews with ‘Featured Authors’, I had the privilege to speak to not one but two avid Ghumakkars in October, 2011. I am usually very ill prepared for one so when I was told at the 13th hour (that is when I was already in the call) that not only Auro but Sharmi would also be joining the conversation, I decided to give a go to my writing pen (I still use pen/note-book along with computer keyboarding while on phone) and chose to rather talk the talk. I have a life as well. And then ensued a high energy interaction, anecdotes, life experiences, general gyaan and how Sharmi and Auro are more of Sanki travelers hunting for special plants and scouring local stone shops for the special gems.
Thank you Auro and Sharmi for the lovable and warm conversation, your thoughtful insights and the frank admissions. With each such conversation, Ghumakkar benefits a lot and I am hoping that all of us are going to become better travelers and in turn better and more loving individuals in coming times.
Without further ado, now presenting the Ghumakkar couple Sharmi and Auro, in a tete-a-tete with Team Ghumakkar.
Aurojit: To begin with, I express my sincere gratitude to the Ghumakkar team for honouring me as the ‘featured author for the month’ and for this wonderful opportunity to interact with the team and through them with fellow Ghumakkars.
Ghumakkar: Tell us more about yourself apart from what we know through your profile and stories.
Auro: ‘Myself’ happens to be a unit of a three member family, other two being Sharmi the missus and Debosh, our adorable child. Employed in a public concern, I got a transfer to New Delhi some years back. Soon enough we became aware of the fantastic geographical setting of Delhi, which offers a wide range of touristy destinations all around. Simultaneously, ‘Outlook 52 weekend destinations’ happened, thanks to a Sunday visit to Dariyaganj. This resulted in our first trip; an extra-cautious, over-planned affair to Haridwar. For the same reason Haridwar remains a most favoured destination.
Sharmi : After some time and trips, we were ready to respond to that hallowed call of the hills, bestirring us somewhere deep inside. The first hill drive was to Mussorie (actually it was to Dehradun with a day trip to Mussorie) and we mustered last bit of our courage while suffering series of ‘what if’ pangs viz. would the car be able to go up the hilly road (what if it starts rolling back on a steep gradient), what if it starts snowing, what if a vehicle comes head-on and we are on the valley side of the road and so on. All our apprehensions and hesitations were soon to be replaced with a sense of awe and wonder, leaving us yearning for more of Himalayas. This also has been our advice to debutant drivers to the hills – choose Mussorie or Shimla because both the roads are generally well kept, broad, suitably attended making drive over them a pleasurable affair.
Ghummakkar: We know that you are “addicted to Himalayas”. What makes you head to the mountains?
Sharmi: “It is said that if the smell of the Himalayas creeps into a man’s blood he will return to the hills again and again and strive to live among them always……….” [An extract from back cover of a Ruskin Bond book, ‘A Season of Ghosts’ (Penguin, 2000)]. So you see, this addiction is a universal phenomenon.
IS it because of the serene, unadulterated environs which let us glimpse at nature in its purest form; or the rush of driving through Himalayan curves; or the bonhomous hill folks; or the wheezing deodars beseeching the passers-by; or the calm divinity of Devbhoomi; or some other cause beyond mortal comprehensions ?
If we knew the reason, we wouldn’t probably call it an ‘addiction’.
Ghumakkar: You have a natural way with words. Besides writing travelogues, do you indulge in any other creative hobby?
Auro: Thanks for those nice words, though I surely don’t deserve them. Writing travelogues started here, in Ghumakkar. Besides, I like reading (English/Hindi/Bangla) – both fiction and non-fiction, almost all genres. I owe this compulsive habit to my father, who had a personal collection of some thousand books. Collectively, my family happens to be a great fan of ghost stories, which are mostly enjoyed in read-aloud sessions. This is one more reason for our fondness for mountains, it provides nice backdrop for such sessions. My daughter’s collection boasts of sizeable number of such ghost-spooky-mystery books and by the same token Ruskin Bond finds a large space in her library.
Ghumakkar: What do you do when you are not travelling? Does your profession require you to travel?
Auro: I would like to hope that I dream about the next journey, when I am not travelling. However, it is not to be so. Earthly matters do matter a lot in this grimy journey across the earth. I am reminded of this Khushwant Singh humour (not sure whether it’s from him, about him or has nothing to do with him), going like this –
KS boasts that he does not have any spat with his wife – they share a most affable and peaceful relation and so on. Interviewer asks him the secret of this bliss. KS answers, “Oh that is easy. Between us we have divided all familial responsibilities and decision is taken by the one responsible for an issue”.
“Sounds great” continues the interviewer, “but whose responsibility is what?”
“That’s even easier. I have allowed my wife to take decision on all unimportant matters and I take decision on important matters”.
“And what, Sir, would be the unimportant issues?”
“ Well they are, like, how to do-up the house, what grocery to buy, what job the maid does, how a guest is to be treated, what dress to wear for an occasion, which movie/ mall should we go to, menu for the day and so on..”
“Then Sir, what are the important issues?”
“They are….” KS replies with an impatient wave, “….issues like what should be the Indian policy to tackle global warming, how the Republicans would fare in next elections, whether India deserves a permanent seat in the UN………”
In the same vain, I would say that I am busy doing important things while at home and my wife does the ‘unimportant’ chores.
Ghumakkar: Your family is with you during most of your travels. Do you think travelling with family is more fun than travelling solo? What are the advantages or risks when you are travelling with your family?
Auro: Yes, we travel family size and it is certainly tremendous fun. Advantages are far too many. For one, we all exactly know what we did last summer. Then, if ever we come across an impasse, one has other two to blame. We, as a family have varied tastes and interests, so it adds on to collective accruals. For instance, Sharmi has a keen interest in plants. So, after almost all our trips, we are home with some new plants/ shrubs/herbs which are carefully tended in pots and whose number is ever increasing, in proportion to the number of trips we make. Some of them grow, others wither away. Given my deficient knowledge about greenery, I prefer calling them by the place of their origin, like we have a Manali (frosty bulbous thing), a Tripura (a skinny, leafy variety), a Munsiyari (bead like longish stuff) and so on. These plants, growing with time, serve as living reminders of our visits. Well, if it appears that my wife is only interested in plants, then perhaps I need to do some more explaining. She also likes (what else?) jewellery and we often pay visit to local jeweller scouting around for traditional designs. A traditional set from Kalpa is one of her prized possessions. Similarly, we are not averse to exploring grocery shops for local spices/pickles/herbs, etc.
Risks ? All that I narrated hitherto does come with a risk quotient. Very often, our car can be seen estranged in a jungle because the missus wants to take a horrendous looking plant home, unmindful of all the dirt, slime and creepy things clinging on to it which for sure will beget our personnel items kept in the car. I, of course, scream and plead and cajole and nudge her against it. We loose some and win some.
SECTION – 2
Ghumakkar: You became a Ghumakkar in April 2010 and since then you’ve written 18 stories already and your fellow Ghumakkars have found them very useful. Do you think writing about your experiences helps you as a traveller too?
Auro: Writing for Ghumakkar is a unique experience. First, it helps preserving some parts of our memory (these hard days of digital technology have seen a large number of our pics collection simply vanishing from my PC). Second, writing about our visit recreates and re-establishes the fond memories. This entire process is quite enriching personally and I seriously bemoan the fact that I am unable to pen down all the trips that we make, constrained by time. Most importantly, I am thrilled by the fact that my articles benefit travellers seeking info about a place, in the same manner I have been benefited by others’ account.
Ghumakkar: How did you come across Ghumakkar and what motivated you to write your first story?
Auro: Ghumakkar appeared on the horizon while browsing for travelogues on a destination. I instantly liked this ides where visitors get an opportunity to put forth their experience unadulterated. It is quite evident that different visitor has different versions (of the same place) and since there is no ‘templated’ or ‘thread-like’ structure, accounts become more varied, vivid and colourful. Motivation for writing was provided by other Ghumakkars, whose articles guided our journey on many occasions.
Ghumakkar: You are the Featured Author for the month of October. How does it?
Auro: I feel honoured and inspired. Talking about inspiration, I would like to mention some members of Ghumakkar family who have inspired us (list is not complete by any mean). Firstly and squarely, I offer my gratitude to Mr Ram Dhall, who has been a flag-bearer of this site. His contributions, I am sure, has inspired many others like me. Then we have loved posts by Mahesh Semwal (for interestingly precise info), Sahil (for his vitality), Manish (travel poetries in Hindi), Manish Khamsera (for flowing prose), Devasmita (for view from across the ocean), Nikhil Chandra , Shalini Koli, Anjana Saha, and number of new members.
Nandan along with editorial team viz. Vibha need special mention because thanks to them we are here. Ghumakkar is certainly doing a commendable service to travel community and also larger society, which must be appreciated. Travel is a basic human instinct which is facing an onslaught from digital info media – an entire generation faces the risk of turning into self-centred couch potato. Here, platforms like Ghumakkar are like beacons in wilderness, encouraging and guiding people to interact, share and exchange travel notes/ ideas effectively. It is a noble service indeed.
Ghumakkar: You have had a long association with Ghumakkar. Do you think the site has changed since you first joined? Do you have any suggestions?
S and A: Our association with Ghumakkar for last one and half years has been quite rewarding. Ghumakkar, over the span has retained its essence which is heartening. Some changes, like interviews, featured author, newsletter etc have helped to bring the members closer to each other.
Ghumakkar: As a featured author and a senior Ghumakkar, what would you like to say to your fellow Ghumakkars?
Auro: ‘Dakghar’, a heart-rending play by Tagore is about a small boy ‘Amal’, who is eternally confined to his room due to an incurable disease. The room has a window, opening on the main street. Through the day, Amal sits on the window and chats up with passers-by. His talks to curd-seller, flower picking child, sundry vendors, etc. are reflective of his desire to move out form the prison-like room. His fantasies, however, are at their best during his discussion with the postman from Dakghar, where he says, ‘ … your job is amazing, postman uncle. Where all it takes you ! I envy you going to all those nooks and crannies, delivering your letters….. And you must also be going across that mountain which is visible on clear days from my window. Please tell me all about those faraway places… about the people there, who they are, what they do… could you also take me along with you to those unseen places someday……….’
I feel that we all have this little ‘Amal’ residing inside us, imploring us to go to those unseen places. And it may not be a bad idea, once a while, to let our Amal drive us to explore what lies yonder, beyond the confines of our daily drudgery….
Smarmi concludes: Bengalis have a custom of bidding goodbye by saying ‘aashchchi’ (meaning coming, Hindi equivalent of ‘aa raha/rahi hoo’). Though the word for ‘(I am) going’ exists, i.e. ‘(jaachchi)’, its usage is generally frowned upon. Not going into etymology, we find this custom fantastic. It is the utterance of an eternal traveller, who intends to come back and again; who does not really depart with finality ever…like a ghumakkar always hoping to return to a destination, howsoever improbable that be…that’s what hopes are for… to keeps us linked to the best of our dreams and inspirations….
Wishing further growth and fulfilment to
Ghumakkar and all the Ghumakkars –
Sharmi and Auro.
Congratulations Auro for being the ‘Featured Author’ for October, 2011.