From the pine trees — 31st Meetup on Travel

By Pramanshu

Looking at the map

“Shades of tangerine, were dispersed through the vividness of olive trees…”

On the hazy Sunday morning of June 26, clouds were scattered all over the city of Jaipur, giving their own shade to the existing palettes of the pink structures and walls of the city. In the laziness, an extravagant festival of rejoice took place, the Jaipur Book Lovers club 31st Meetup.

Travel, a topic that has been obscured in the past and traumatized in the present but still holds much potential. Celebrated by those who hold the sheer joys of discovering and venturing into the unknown through the gateway of books and travelogues.The ideas were freshly pressed and served with a tinge of honesty. I observed that, many new faces joined us for this fascinating discussion.

So the journey begins

Conversations began with the “Walks in the woods” by Bill Bryon. Swatii, a regular member and book lover, described her experiences in a very subtle and beautiful tone, correlating the leaping dreams of traveling to far away places with the pieces of reality. “Intriguing, Adventurous conjoined with mystery and some horror as well, but also beautiful ” She added. I was fascinated by her account and found myself thinking of reading some of the Bill Bryon’s work.

As the discussion proceeded and all the book lovers adapted to the environment, the general informality of the atmosphere sparked some interesting accounts and experiences.

“Rings of Saturn” by W. G. Sebald. A genius book, as said by another regular member, Varsha. She explained how the title of the book itself was correlated with the structure and tale narrated in the book. A fictitious account of a journey which from my perspective has no issues, as far as the reality of this universe is maintained. After all, travels and pursuits of the mind have no boundaries, we would delve into this topic after examining more observations and perceptions. Either way, this fascinating account has made it’s way in my reading list.

Ankit and Navin – Two new book lovers shared their experience about travel. Navin quoted the book “Stay hungry and Stay foolish” and correlated it with how the particular book inspired him to travel and seek out new places. That one external force of wind, that destroys the harmony of consciousness sometimes.

Going through the woods of enchanted forest

Another fellow club member and author, Rahul Hemraj, described various works of travel literature in Hindi travel writings. “Ghumakkad Jivan”. And how the famous hindi travelogue author, Rahul Sampradyan, affected and influenced his life. Such connections with authors and their writings on a personal level is what I quench for in readers and that’s what makes my ears hum, such connections remind of a certain audacity and persistence of life.

Dr Sonal Kalia, elaborated her experiences of reading about Irish and Scottish cultures and literature. Which I found intriguing, because in the shade of English culture those two cultures get assimilated and it was interesting to note the variety and distinct flavours in the Scottish and Irish societies. Perhaps they become more beautiful when such differences are elaborated. Sandy beaches and cold climate, a gift packed with melancholic sweetness, resonated with the mood of the discussion and added to its subtleties.

Another new member Kapil, hailing from our neighboring country Pakistan, gave his views on travel. Thereby imparting a completely new dimension to the whole setting.

Mrs. Lata, an experienced traveler was another new addition to our book lovers pack. She described the amazing yet wonderful experiences of travels to the Island of Andaman, Ross Island. In the elaboration she added, how a native “local” introduced her to the place, which I think is one of the most reasonable approach to understand and journey into a new place.

Another consistent member, Aditya Jain, added a very crucial note which I think has been underrated in many aspects. “Reading and traveling are two different part of one process, that is experiencing and comprehending” A very valid, yet controversial point in travel literature. I for one think, that both hold their own meaning. Although they can be mixed together, but on a very personal level, they don’t go along that well. Multitasking may lead to increased productivity, but also has disadvantages of decreased efficiency.

Passing through remnants of bridges very old

OP Joshi sir, our most experienced and senior member, added that he has traveled, most of the countries in the world. I was perplexed by that notion alone, scouting almost the entire world and the sheer amount of experiences that await a traveller. Joshi sir is also an author, who has composed pocket literature on Pushkar. And a very peculiar tiny pocket book on Prague.

Dhivesh, forwarded a very interesting point. How can one actually experience something like, travel, by reading about it, alone? In which he added a proverb.
“Swarg jhane kai liye, khud ko hii marna padega”

He himself has traveled almost half of the Indian subcontinent via backpack traveling, which is one the most down to earth ways to travel anywhere in the world. Also talking about life as a journey. In that context, we all are travelers, striving for places, we may or may not be aware of .

Jaishant Khothari – another new face to join us on that morning. He talked about the pre-modernist sense of travel. How the early ancestors relied on traveling as a tool for survival. Because moving from one place to another was considered, progress with danger, a wish for a better tomorrow, or plenty of food in that context. Using traveling as tool of entertainment alone, has been a new trend in the steps of human evolution. I discovered this train of thought as amazingly mind boggling. Although survival and entertainment can coexist together.

“The Motorcycle diaries” by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. A memoir that traces the early travels of this revolutionist and former medical student. Prashant, a regular book club attendee, vivified the discussion as he discussed this book . Books can also exist together in the coming- of-age story which makes it highly approachable for teenagers as well. Prashant recommended the particular book as a true masterpiece which projects the transformation of the author, after seeing the exploitations of workers and the malaise in society.


Going against the compass and streams of wind

Shubham – A full time-traveler and blogger, described his traveling experiences with all of us. What I really found fascinating, was the fact that he has been to Ladakh five times, and each time, it has been a different experience for him. Also, mentioned “ShantaRam” by Gregory David Roberts, and his favorite book, “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen. He also added that books have the aura to transform lives.

Dr Manu Saini, our most regular members, spoke about “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Hilbert. She described very eloquently, how the book has affected her, which brought music to the ears of those who also loved that book, another member Prakhar, also read and cherished the same book.

“In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travels Through Indian Medicine” by Arathi Prasad, another interesting book, which was discussed by Neha. She described the essence of the book in detail. I found this book’s setting, weird yet fascinating. A Story of alternative medicines that shaped the varied yet composite culture and exploring India from a fresh perspective and a new viewpoint. Highly recommended by Neha, do check it out.

Abhishek, another regular member and the coordinator for this discussion, quoted an online blog on travel curated by a Stacey, a travel writer. And a fiction book, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. A contemporary classic, which leads us into the heart of Africa itself, Congo. “I loved this book, it was really a joy to read this, although it is fiction, but I found it really amusing.” added Abhishek.


Finding the what was lost, in the heart of forest

Our Guest of Honour, renowned personality and travel writer, Mrs. Dharmender Kanwar gave insights into the art of travel writing. She has authored many travelogues and has worked in collaboration with Rajasthan tourism to promote the varied culture of the state. She is also the official biographer for the Raj Mata Gayatri Devi.

She described in much detail, what it is to be a travel writer in early 80’s, working as a women in those times, which was also a battle in itself. A passion of writing and the love of traveling, pushed her forward, in those times of duress.

Her presence sparked many philosophical question about travel and travel writing. The thoughts and experiences of reading and writing about travels, inspires people to explore the place, rather than venturing without any idea about the place. Mrs. Kanwar also gave some thought provoking insights of how our cultural heritages must be preserved and personal experiences of traveling far and wide in Rajasthan.

And we see the river

With this enthralling session the 31st meetup of Jaipur Book Lovers concluded. All the attendees were left spell bounded and the various insights on books on travel left us all with a verve and excitement for reading travelogues. The book lovers gathering resolved to return to another scintillating discussion on horror fiction and non fiction as the topic for our next meetup. So we invite all book lovers to attend yet another fascinating discussion on the second sunday of July. We hope, you join us.

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