Traveling gives you stories and experience, and those travel stories and experiences teach you and help you grow as a human being more than any level of education can. India, if you happen to be in India, is the best place to travel, explore, experience because of the enormous diversity India has on geographical and cultural level. I started solo traveling around India on bicycle in the summer 2019 and since then it has been a fascinating journey full of characters, stories and experiences from all corners and spheres of this incredible country. I’ve had some really wonderful experiences and some very heart touching encounters with some real characters on the stage of life.
One of the very few stories that I will never forget is about a deeply broken and unfortunate man I met in Orissa. It was just a couple of days before the first Covid lockdown was declared on 24th March 2020, I was in a dhaba near Orissa-Bengal border and was staying there for last two days because Bengal had declared state lockdown from 22-27 March. On the first day of my stay at that dhaba I saw a man in the evening drinking and eating alone in the evening. I had my dinner and went to sit on a wooden bench behind the dhaba. On the third day, almost the same time in the evening, when I was sitting behind the dhaba after dinner that man came with his drink and food and sat on the other edge of the bench.
He asked me, “Would you mind if I drink here?”, I said that it’s alright.
“I saw you here a couple of days before too, are you the one traveling on bicycle?” he initiated a conversation.
I replied, “Yes, you’re right, I am the one.”
“You have been traveling for how many days or months?”
“I’ve been traveling for 7-8 months”
“You’re traveling happily by choice or have left home due to some issues?”
“No, everything is alright and I am traveling by my choice and I am in touch with my people, so nothing like that.”
He finished another drink, put a couple of onion slices on his tongue, and asked me chewing them, “How many brothers/sisters are you?”
“We’re two brothers, I’m the elder one”
He became a bit serious and said, “When there are two children, there’s always a possibility that mother is fond of one child and the father loves the other child more, don’t you think so.”
I agreed to a great extent. “Who’s fond of you or who’s close to you from your parents?”, he asked me.
“Well, in our society the father is a patriarch and quite dominant a figure so we don’t really have a friendly relationship, we only communicate whenever there’s some urgent work or something like that, otherwise both of us brothers try to avoid any encounter with our father, so I would say I am quite good with my mother. But I have always felt that I have always received better treatment from both my parents than my younger brother which I don’t feel good about.” I responded knowing we were going into a deep conversation.
He started narrating his (sad) story, “Sir honestly I don’t really talk to or open up to anyone but when I came to know that you have been traveling and away from home for many months, initially I thought you must be a damaged soul wandering around, and since you have been away from home for this long then I hope you will understand what I am going to share with you. I am the younger of two sons of my parents, and as I said my elder brother was favorite of my mother while I felt happy and comfortable with my father, he used to love me but when I was five years old he passed away and soon after that my mother and my brother started beating me regularly. They would make me do most of the daily chores and always find an excuse to beat and abuse me, I couldn’t tolerate their constant torture and I ran away when I was eight. I started washing utensils at a dhaba to survive, and that’s where I got in touch with the truckers. One fine day, a kind hearted truck driver who regularly used to stop at that dhaba asked me to leave that work and join him as his helper. I was some ten years old and I said yes to him without a second thought, the work at the dhaba was no different and I didn’t like it there so I wanted to get out of there and the trucker gave me that chance. He was a nice man, he had been kind to me and slowly he taught me truck driving but I couldn’t drive before turning 18 so I kept learning more about truck driving and transportation, but I always missed my father and my home, and to get over the loneliness I took up to drinking at an early age and it became a habit. I spent some more years as a truck driver, saved some money and bought an old truck. I also got married after that and I felt life was going good, over the next few years I was blessed with two sons but that happy phase was so short that I can’t even remember if I was ever happy in my life. I really don’t understand it, why God chose me only for this kind of life. Earlier my mother and brother would beat me from where I ran away, survived and made myself a life worth living, but soon after my marriage my wife started abusing and beating me and when my children grew up they also take my wife’s side and beat me with her. You saw me here two days ago, right ? I ate food here two days ago and went home, there I didn’t eat anything in two days, my wife and children abused and beaten me, today I ate here at the dhaba, sir I have never raised my voice to anyone, never misbehaved with my family people, I know I drink because it helps me forget my traumatic past and gives me a few hours of sleep in the hectic schedule of driving truck for long distances day and night, it’s not that I am irresponsible or something, today I have four trucks running under me and I send most of my earnings to my wife and children yet I receive abuse and beating in return, my whole life has been like this sir, you tell me please what is my fault or is there fault in my stars?”, he had tears in his eyes and I could feel his pain and grief. I was totally speechless and couldn’t figure out how to take it and console him, and what consolation can we give to such a deeply damaged soul that has seen and gone through so much mental and physical pain all through his life and yet managed to keep his sanity and resistance against all odds.