Not all who wander are lost..

All of us travel. And for most us travel is something joyous, something fulfilling, something to look forward to. But can we say the same thing when we travel for work ? If you are not sure then read on..

I for one, used to hate traveling for work. I used to balk at every opportunity that demanded me to pack my bags and be off to a foreign land. Then slowly I realized that it was not really the journey that tired or irritated me but it was my attitude. I had this notion that I must feel uncomfortable – long flights in coach class, stale airport food, no “Indian Vegetarian” meals, jet lag for days on end and so on.

As time elapsed, it became clear that there was no escaping this reality of my corporate existence so I decided to make peace with the situation. It did not come in a day and I had to train my mind to focus more on the positive aspects of travel than the ones that bothered me. I now enjoy my business day out and travel for me is a chore no more but a great friend, philosopher and guide. I have learnt that what travel can teach us in few days and sometimes in a few hours, it may take a whole lifetime to learn, to imbibe. Let me list few of the lessons I have learnt from my journeys. I will start from the physical and move towards the meta physical. 

1. Fear of the unknown – This is one of the most common impediments for anyone who wants to enjoy discovering new places and meeting new people. We are so used to our comfort zones that to step out is a challenge. Somehow our minds have been trained to the concept of “aliens” who are to be feared no matter how good or friendly they may turn out to be. We assume a lot of stuff and keep asking questions to which there can be no answers unless they actually happen. These are questions like – what will happen at the immigration? will I get a cab at the airport? will my baggage arrive safely? hope the hotel is good, I don’t even know the language and so on. I have figured out that the probability of everything working out just fine is quite high as things have been structured not to fail and even if they do there are mechanisms to take care of the eventuality. And just by the way, I am not the first traveler who arrived in a country. What ever happened to everyone else would happen to me as well as long as its not North Korea ! The joy comes when we decide to turn our anxiety into an adventure. That is what it makes it all so exciting. Isn’t it ?

2. Your body can endure much more than you can ever imagine – While this may be true for the mind it’s absolutely misleading for the body. One thing that all of us who are on the wrong side of 40 believe is that we are old now and our bodies are no more fit enough for 30 hour journeys. Not true at all. It’s all in the mind. Once you put your body to the endurance test you will realize that it has an amazing capacity to come back to its normal form in a short time. In fact if you practice Yoga or Meditation, Travel can be a very good time to relax. While on the plane you can perfect the Art of stillness, watch your breadth for hours, sit straight or practice Yoga postures while no one is looking. Once your meetings are done, you can go for long walks to explore the new environs, a different culture and even shop (something I never do willingly in India). I have walked for 15-20 Kms in a day on weekends and not felt tired at all ! No road is long enough if you can stop by to smell the flowers.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking newlandscapes, 
but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust, French novelist

3. People everywhere are all the same – Trust me on this one. Folks in Japan & Saudi Arabia are the same as those in Europe and America. They have their quirks but apart from looking different they feel, think, communicate from the same level of human intellect and understanding. Once you start getting the hang of it you will actually start enjoying the differences. Through years of experience for example I can tell from just the way a person is speaking English from which part of the world she belongs to. I may be wrong sometimes but then it’s like a quiz in which my chances of winning far outweigh my chance of losing. When I meet someone from another part of the world I try to guess their origin and if I am wrong I promptly offer an apology in their native language and they are so pleased to know that I tried. As long as you know how to say “I cant speak xyz. English please”, you will be able to make friends. Cab drivers can be your best buddies in case you are looking for unobtrusive company. My phone has numbers of cab drivers from all parts of the world 😉

4.At the end of it there are rich rewards – No matter which airport you transit from the duty free stores have the best collection of Whiskey, Wines and Chocolates. I usually transit through either Dubai or Doha and both airports have a great selection to offer. And the price they are available when compared to India, you really don’t have to think much before you swipe your credit card. Now, some may argue if these qualify for the meta physical as promised earlier in the article but for me they do. Single Malts, Wines and Chocolates represent the finest that the world has to offer to the human mind and palate. All the culture that you soak in on your trips to foreign lands can be distilled and made part of your eternal being once you are back home as you sit quietly nursing your drink and nibbling on the coco from Ivory Coast that traveled to Belgium or Switzerland just for you.

After all, ours are not the only journeys that there are and some business traveler like me would have made it possible through his own share of exploration, discovery and adventure…

What it means to be living…

I was watching a documentary on creation of synthetic life on discovery channel and at the end of the film they put a very pertinent question : from time memorial we have believed that life is something special and mysterious but if it can be created within a lab we may have to rethink our theories on existence, life, nature and God.

Sometime back I had read a book called the Web of life in which the author had pointed out that while we think of ourselves as central to the world around us , we are in fact an accident in the nature’s scheme of things. It is the atoms within us which have decided for some unknown reason to arrange themselves in a certain manner that gives us our shape, form, color, emotions,skills and intellect. If they decide to rearrange themselves in a different way there is jolly little we can do about it except get mad or sick or even perish and become non existent giving back to the elements what we took from them.To that extent our intelligence, beauty(handsomeness), morality, emotions are all governed by the arrangement of atoms and molecules within us. As we grow older this arrangement perhaps changes in more ways than one and we become different not only by getting old by by having more wisdom from the experiences stored in our data warehouse.The quality of analytics depends upon the quality of data and the richness of data points and so is the case with our mind.

Before I digress from the original thought let us turn to the interesting bit – if what is being proposed in Paragraph1 is possible even to a small degree then what I have quoted in para 2 doesn’t entirely hold true. Which is to say that if the atoms within me start arranging themselves which causes me pain from arthritis I could seek a remedy or even a cure from the artificial life cells and atoms within them. So on one side there is an attacking army which I do not own and has decided to fight against me but on the other side I have an army of my own that can be trained and programmed to do as I please,wish or command.This is different from antibiotics which are temporarily hired mercenaries who will cause more harm than good if not ousted from the system in time. And when your heart breaks you can go to the ‘love doctor’ and he will fix up the atoms so that you become completely oblivious to the person whom you once thought be the most important in life. Alcohol is currently used for this but again it has a transitory effect and is not free from side effects.

It might seem to be like a simple story of good vs. bad or love vs. hate but it is anything but that. It is really the theory of our existence and the very meaning of it. If we can always be happy and healthy then why go to the mosques, the temples and the churches ? Who will bother about God and seek his Blessing ? Death and decay cause fear and fear gives rise to ideas of another life, another time , another place that is accessible through the idea of a supreme being who created everything and can therefore control it whether it is on the earth or in heaven. Religion and morality which occupy a large share of our consciousness and mind space will be gone as now there will be no need for a means to attain bliss or God. You can see this now if you compare the importance of religion in the developed,the developing world and the tribals who have nothing to bank upon but the Sky and earth.

When You are always happy and healthy and you have what it takes to enjoy life to the fullest. Feeling stupid get your brain scanned and go for some Brainy cells, Feeling weak go and get some Sporty cells, Got a disease get it flushed and replace the diseased cells with good ones and so on.

But one problem will still remain – if no one dies then where will all of us live. And if we stop reproducing where will the newness in our lives come from ? and even if we suppose that we will keep rotating the same people in different parts of the world for a change who will look after such a complex system of transfers ? Also what will it mean to love if You cannot start a family or live with the same person till the end of your days as there are no end of the days anymore ? In suspended time where all people are always there humans may become like mountains seas and rivers till one day someone says enough I want to die so I can give my life a meaning. And then more and more may follow so that they can laugh and cry and strive and achieve and love and hate and live and die.

The one who preaches death as a means of salvation – finding meaning will probably become Deepak Chopra in the new world and you will have a number of Nityanands cropping up to give solution to the ever living souls trying to find some meaning in continuing to live forever without death and disease.

So what am I trying to say here….nothing great really perhaps Craig Venter should put me on a panel that advises him on how to use this new technology so it makes sense for the people and profits for him.

And then the same can be passed on to the Angels who I am sure have started to feel bored sitting and smiling there in heaven for centuries now….

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Born in Persia in the 11th century Omar Khayyam was better known as an astronomer and a mathematician than as a poet. Being a master of Algebra,Geometry,Astronomy and Physics he revised the Persian calendar for  Sultan Malik Shah and named it the Jalali Calendar.

While mathematics was his occupation his heart’s wanderings took him to the realm of verse where his free spirit wondered in the company of wine. Before he passed away in 1123 AD he had composed an enormous body of work in the form of Rubais peculiar of their rhyme and striking content. While most of the ideas were self contained they were unified by a central philosophy of enjoying life while it lasted.

The Rubaiyat was unknown to the western world for the next 600 years,till Edward FitzGerald published a translation around 1860.

There have been many translations since but the one by Fitzgerald is still the most popular.

I am presenting here a few of his rubais that I like more than the others :

Tis all a chequered board of Nights and Days   khayamportraitsm1

Where destiny with men of pieces plays

Hither and thither moves,and mates and slays,

And one by one back in the closet Lays


The moving finger writes and having writ,

Moves on : Nor all thy piety nor wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.


And that inverted bowl we call the sky,

whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,

Lift not thy hands to it for help – for it

Rolls impotently on ….as thou or I.


With Earth’s first clay they did the last man’s knead,

And then of the last harvest sowed the seed.

Yea,the first morning of creation wrote,

What the Last dawn of  reckoning shall read.

Me thinks this Wheel at which we gape and stare,
Is Chinese lantern  – like we buy at fair;
The lamp is Sun and paper shade the world,
And we the pictures whirling unaware. .

The Skies rotate, I cannot guess the cause;
And all I feel is grief, which in me gnaws;
Surveying all my life, I find myself
The same unknowing dunce that once I was!