Patriotism is one of the most debated and hot topic of our current times. By definition it means, the amount of love one has for it's country or native nation. Generally, most men and women love their own country, though the intensity and level of indulgence might vary from person to person. This difference also comes with our level of awareness and perception, from the region we find our affinity for.
In that context, I was wandering to myself , how much did traveling affect my love, for my country ? I certainly had my answer as I retrospect through my experiences from the different corners of the nation. My love is certainly shaped by the truth I was fortunate to see with my own eyes. But before, I share my opinion on how much traveling one country , shapes our love for it, I was also interested to know what other people thought about this.
I took to my Facebook and Instagram and asked for people to write their opinion on the following question
" Is it necessary to travel to Truly Love your own country ? ". What followed is interesting answers from both faces of the coin with some insightful explanations. Here is a try to sum it up in this blog , the views that shows correlation between travel and patriotism is at all necessary or not. More importantly , the reasons behind it.
I made a fascinating observation from the responses to my question. Most people who did not travel a lot, or those who generally are happy with vacations and two week long holidays, justified that it was not necessary to travel to love your country better. Obvious to say, the people who cannot think of their life without wandering aimlessly and perpetual travel, felt the opposite.
I am gonna uphold both their explanations, before putting in my opinion. But before you read the opinions, you must understand, to travel or not to , is but a human choice. There is no good or bad about it. Hence, you must keep a neutral mindset before understanding why the two groups think differently.
It is true that many a people did not necessarily see the length and breadth of their country, before contributing their whole lives in the service of the nation. People doing social work and helping the citizen of a nation for the love of their country are very devoted. Their actions speak for their patriotism, which might not be an effect of the travel they might have had.
A similar case study is of the people serving in our army and other defense forces. One cannot question their intent , who brave the rough conditions in protecting the people of the nation. Most of them are not wanderers or have not traveled a lot before fulfilling their duty in the love for their nation.
Love for one's country can come from the books one read or other mediums that might have interacted with us, to build a nation's image. It then serves to built a pride inside of us and make our identity as citizens of the nation, to find happiness in feeling belonged. So definitely, the explanation given here, that it is not necessary to travel to love your country better, is justified.
However, perspectives differ and both can be simultaneously on point.
Those who traveled far and wide, simply had a beautiful explanation why traveling is necessary to love your country. Most of them put forward the idea, that traveling in a country as diverse and beautiful as India, enriches your love for your nation, when you see, touch and smell them live. It is one thing to read about the Taj Mahal and know of its architecture and every mind blowing information, And another when your pupils get shocked to take the flash of white marble gigantic monument with your own eyes. It is one thing to know its history through movies and songs, and another to smell the marble or touch it's masterclass craftsmanship decorated in it's the wall.
Truly travel might forge experience that builds on the love, and truly cement your pride for your nation much better. Also when you travel the different parts of the country, you help them to grow financially. Your contribution in actions towards nation is much more worthy than words or slogans.
When you travel, you also inflate the bond between the different people from the different part of the country. Since, the people who host you in their home stay or hostel, or in their region also get to know about your diverse lifestyle in some distant land. So it is a national integration process, when people travel their own country.
It can be also pointed out, that army or people serving in defense are exposed to indirect traveling a lot. That also gives them a varied insight of their country which definitely adds up to their patriotism. With such strong reasons, it is justified why so many people who travel thinks, it is absolutely necessary to wander and see far lands of own country as a sign of patriotism.
Now, it is time for my opinion on this topic, and it is a bit complicated one.
Any form of love has no definition or criteria to go through or adhere to. Its personal choice how we love somebody or something. Similarly the love for one's country can be differently expressed and adhered to by different individual, and it's justification should be satisfactory to oneself only, and not to others. With such a view, I believe, it is necessary to travel if you want to love your country better. Here is my explanation to it.
When I started traveling, not all times, did I feel proud of everything my country has to offer. I could see the dark sides of my culture and society that I so openly felt pride in, until I visited different regions. It is often true, that unless you travel, your idea of any country, even your own, will be stereotypical and limited. Your ideas coming from anything but your own experience, will mostly be flawed. Such flawed reasons might be narrow minded justifications of loving your country. One might think all is good in their beautiful country when it is not. And another might think, nothing is right at all.
You might ask why your country does not take the necessary steps to right the wrongs, and might feel a less pleased for your nation.
Take the example of Kashmir. Some of us may be happy with how the government is dealing with it, and some of us are totally against it. However, unless you are someone who has lived in Kashmir for a little prolonged bit of time, you will not have actual insights, you truly need to understand the complications there. More often I see, people putting their opinions on Kashmir, either for the government or against. It does not matter much to me, since personal opinions like perspective can be different and yet to be respected.
What does matter to me is to know that those people have, either never visited Kashmir, or may have been there just for a vacation of maximum two weeks. Now I hope you understand how much of truth can someone dig up in such a less time, or just by sitting at home and collecting his or her facts through news and media, which is always a propaganda in play.
It is absolutely necessary to see everything about a country, the good , the bad and the ugly. Because my personal opinion is, only when you can accept all the faces, can you truly be able to love it in its wholesomeness. And that will be for me a full view of patriotism and not just the pride that an identity brings without justification or my own experience.
I am not saying, Travel is the "only thing" that brings about this learning experience, but surely travel is of all the most effective way, to participate and pamper your patriotism. Why else do you think , great citizens who pushed a nation through their patriotism had raw travel experience and wandered around the whole of country. You can take the examples of Gandhi , Bose or Swami Vivekanada, or the likes of such , and you will find one thing in common. They did travel through their beloved land to understand it better, which helped them to make an impact full change in long term.
Think about it.... !
THANK YOU ALL WHO PARTICIPATED IN GIVING THE RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION THROUGH FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM STORIES. PLEASE CONTINUE TO ENGAGE AND CONNECT, HOPE WE TRAVEL SOONEST ENOUGH.
Travelers from around the world who come to India, has always a fetish and fascination for Indian Hindu Gods. It is remarkable how every time, I might tell them a story about certain deity, and they listen to me like children adhered to fairy tales.
There's no doubt that Indian mythology is Rich with stories and fables which are metaphor to wisdom of life. And among such many a stories and Gods, certain ones enjoy much more favor in popularity among the outside countries and foreign Nationals than others.
Ganesha , among all makes a very popular notion among them as the famous elephant God from India.
With my experience of guiding and aiding so many travelers from around the world , here is a brief analysis of the secrets that make Ganesha so famous.
Ezra , a Dutch girl on a tour in India with me bought six pieces of Ganesha idols from the clay crafting markets of Kolkata we were hovering. She was to gift them to her different friends and families back in Netherlands, and took them as souvenirs from India.
I asked her , what compelled her to buy idols of Ganesha , out of other Indian Gods such as Krishna and Shiva in display. Her reply in brief was her affection to elephants ( the beast that wander in India free in wilds unlike caged in other south Asian countries) and the cuteness that Ganesha idols hold with a baby like portrayal.
It is true that among all God's , Ganesha looks different with a head of elephant and a body of a man. His image is a mix between animal and human. It's very essence is the coexistence and correlation among things in peace. With it's cute baby like demeanor, it puts out positive vibes throughout. Even though it looks like a kid , it is considered wisest among all Gods. The elephant as an animal is also known for it's adept memory, and the huge head is a symbol of brain amassed with loads of knowledge, which reflects in Ganesha too. So if wisdom attracts you, Ganesha is your Go To God.
Even though Ganesha is wise , but in no sense it is a hermit who has let go of worldly pleasures like a saint. Ganesha puts a coexistence between materialistic life and the spirituality. Ganesha is always in love of food and is adored by his mother Goddess Parvati in mythology. This reflects the essence that even if he is wise , he still relinquish being pampered by family and enjoys worldly hunger of a physical nature. Ganesha is associated with wealth too, as most people having a business in India surely worships Ganesha. With it's wisdom , it can attract fortune, and inspires people to use their wisdom to the same in healthy manner.
It can be told that Ganesha coexist with the polar opposite features in a nice balance. He has attained wealth and wisdom, something very difficult to balance in human life. It is this, that highlights his prowess. Even when you pay notice to the symbolism of his statue, you will find the existence of snake and rat together there. The predator and prey existing in perfect harmony just like other polar opposite thoughts. It is needless to say , that followers of elephant God , mostly would want to learn that art. To attain wealth without forsaking spirituality. Or to attain wisdom without forsaking the worldly pleasures. After all balance is the essence of life, which for some of us would make our life harmonious.
Indeed bringing in a Ganesha statue at home or surrounding brings a positive vibe, with it's happy halo that it spreads. Ganesha is wise enough to be not bothered by his very fat body. He has no issues of body image , for the huge belly or the non human head he carries. It is the symbolism of his wisdom , that what truly matters is our idea of ourselves and NOT how the world sees us. For many of my foreign clients this symbolism matters the most. Since most days , our world is changing into a platform , where external validation is given high importance. In a world , where everyone is trying to look good to others , Ganesha preaches to being happy about yourself and not be bothered. Eat what tastes good, enjoy being loved and keep attaining wealth without disregarding wisdom.
There are many more secrets related to the Elephant God. And I hope someday when we meet , may be we will uncover more of them. Till then , hope Lord Ganesha brings you wealth & wisdom , as much as you need , and not for your greed.
" Laila , Chado " Bashir motivated his mule to climb the Great Gadsar pass. It's been three days I have had the chance to be close with the community of mule men from interiors of Kashmir. They are our lifeline for logistics, to carry us through this range of Karakoram, as we trek.
In our journeys and travels we generally come across various people of different culture and habits , who makes us wander how different the world is than we actually perceive or knew, if we are sitting at home. This is the beauty of travel that we get to meet such souls and get to hear their stories. Of how they live , how they pray, and how they fight to survive with a smile. This piece is dedicated to one such community the horsemen of the North.
In my journey to kashmir great lakes, time and again, I have met the finest horsemen or rather mule owners. It is from one of them I have heard how mules came into India, and it is a fascinating story to share.
It is said that when Alexander the Great, came to Hindukush, with his mighty army and cavalry, he failed to cross the great mountain range. His finest Bacterian and Persian steeds could not climb the treacherous pass. And without them the army could not take their provision. It was a sucideal mission for Alxanderean Army , without their provision in the conquest that lay East of the Hindukush.
For six months , they tried but failed to cross over. At that moment of need. They observed certain mountain tribe's that lives high on the Hindukush. And they saw , their horses so small in sizes yet so sturdy and expert in climbing the vertical gradients.
On further enquiry , they found that this were a certain subspecies of horses created by the mating of a donkey to a horse. Alexander and his army took hold of this species, the Mules, and with the help of them , took their rations and all other necessities to cross over Hindukush and finally arrive in Indian subcontinent.
Since then in Himalayas , or Pamir , or Hindukush, or Karakoram. Everywhere mules are used for traveling through the high altitudes of mountains and climb the high trails. Regardless to say , I felt a lot like Alexander , when for the first time with a horde of mules , I crossed the Kashmir trail.
Why I think the Kashmiri mule men are finest, in my perspective is because their dependency on mules is far more than anywhere else in other parts of Himalayas, I have trekked. The situation is also because or the regular interval or interuption of normal civil life, that Kashmir faces from time to time. People here need to have mules in the countrysides for their rations being deported when a strike or curfew comes to place, and no public transportation is allowed. It is also true due to age old Amarnath Yatra , mules have played an important role since ages. Pilgrims are driven near to their God's with the help of this animal, and their drivers, the horsemen, are quiet efficient in it. As Bashir had informed me, he learnt it from his grandfather how to handle a mule. He was only six , when the lessons began. Now after four decades of existence, he has his expertise and he passes on to newer generation who are interested in the tricks.
This ancestral history of owning horses and mules, have played a very important role even in their culture and tradition. Mules and other livestock have been their primary assets and are very core to the lives and habits of livelihood. This men have a precious talent of managing 10 mules at a time , and that too without touching them. They roll their lips and whistle to direct the mules, and very rarely I have seen Bashir or such experts, have to cane their mules.
Bashir had told me " the leading mule is important. I keep Jaffa ( a white mule) in the beginning. She knows the trails and is disciplined well. The rest knows to follow her. I just stay mostly with Laila , since she is new on this trail, and hence I keep her in the middle, so that she doesn't get lost or out of party."
There is a science even in driving mules , and often in commonplace without observations , one might miss out such. It is important to learn the science, at least if you have in mind , a plan for solo expedition some day like Indiana Jones , leading your own group of mules through unmapped territory!
The mule owners are not only talented but most hard working too here. Generally , when we are done with a camp in the morning , we require to fold the tents back , organise the stuff and rations , and prepare it manually for being packed and transported on mule's back. This whole process requires time and attention by the cook and other helpers. For lest , you miss out on anything even a small peg or spoon, you might not find it in the next camp. Such trivial things matter a lot in treks and expeditions. Small items such as sugar and salt is of great essence , worth more than golds on treks and expeditions. Hence , the cook and other trek staff need to be on high alert while the folding of camp is done.
But in kashmir , mostly we do not worry. For the horsemen , takes care of everything here. They know how important packing up is and with great attention do it. Such care gives cook or trek guides like is , respite and enjoy the morning for a bit. Their expertise goes beyond at times, and horsemen like Bashir Bhaijaan with help of cook and helpers who reach next campsite long before the trekkers, usually set up camp and then sit around , joking and smoking up good Kashmiri Charas. That is their moment of delight.
In my journeys I have come across many mule owners and sometimes fortunately I have been invited to their homes. Once the trek ended I have attended their invites and have had a tummy full of splendid meals cooked with love and local delicacies. Some mule owners have other jobs while not walking the great trails. They work as high priests of the local mosque, some are teachers and mostly farmers. It is not only to earn extra that they work as mule porters or handle the mules. It is community service , for without the mules how would sometimes provisions reach their rightful places. How would villages and communities survive. As for the trek, the love for adventure also infects the heart of the mule owner as much as it does to any common man wanting to trek the grand mountains of Kashmir. To such, many a horsemen just come with their mules to satisfy their own wanderlust, even though they have enough in home to sit content. They also feel happy to walk the trails, to climb , to eat and to make merry in the paradise along with other visitors from far and wide. I have known horsemen who sang greatly of their folk songs and entertain us in the bonfires , at the cold chilling nights in depth of mountains.
In many emergency issues , trekkers are stranded on the high passes of kashmir , not feeling good and their health might deteriorate. Their is always high altitude mountain sicknesses or they might have a cramp, or twist or any medical issues. This horsemen act as saviours then. I have seen them walk ten kilometres transporting the luggage, and then again comming back, to fetch the trekkers on the mules to safely cross them over. That is the kind of intensity and value of the life they lived. And regretfully I have seen , trekkers not even tipping them anything even after so much they have done for them. Quite a funny world we live in, the more we eat , the more we want to keep eating. Yet , the horsemen live in peace and smile, far from this selfish social world from where most of us come to trek and climb. They continue to serve us to the best of their abilities as they have done for centuries before and shall do for years after. For this high mountains , no human innovation might be sacred enough to pass the test of times. They will fail, but the horsemen of the North will continue their traditions.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"