A solo traveller (Vinay Bharadwaj) sitting at a cafe]

Sole-Tales from the Himalayas: Day 1 – Conversations and Contemplations

10th May 2022

As I sit at Morgan Cafe at Dharamkot in McLeod Ganj, I see the lights twinkling from the mountains far away. I start my first solo trip, hoping it will change my life. How long will it take? But I’m sure that it will make me a different person. Before starting, I was excited and nervous at the same time. I’ve never done this before, but always wanted to do it. It was on my bucket list, and I am actually ticking it off before I die!

‘What is a solo trip?’ I asked myself. I have travelled solo many times to many cities across the world. It is for work, meetings or shoots. I had never travelled to a place without an agenda with a one-way ticket. So here I define MY solo trip – Travelling to a place without knowing what I would do, whom I would meet, and how long I would be here.

I met a guy who runs this Morgan cafe where I’m sitting and having Maggie and “doodh wali chai”. He left his IT job in Mumbai and settled at McLeod Ganj to open a cafe. He came here as a traveller and decided to settle here. And guess what? They sell dosas and idlis too. He said he loved South Indian food and missed it when he was here as a traveller. So he started it! Can you believe it? Something like this can happen. It fascinated me.
Chinmaya Mission Ashram, Tapovan
I stayed at Chinmaya Mission Ashram at Tapovan for three days before coming here and starting my solo trip. That was altogether a divine and incredible experience. I shared the house with a 20-year-old engineering student who seemed to have more clarity of life than me. As I was thinking about life, he gave me a perspective that intrigued me. Destiny sends people into your life for a reason. Everyone comes, and everything happens for a reason. I met another lady who is 45 and single. She desperately wanted to marry but did not find a partner to share life. She was on a quest to learn acceptance and move on. Dealing with inner struggles with her parents and trying to fit into society’s definition of success, she was lost. Or rather, she was finding herself in the Himalayas.

Before I left Tapovan, I visited villages in Himachal where Chinmaya’s NGO CORD does a lot of work. I spent time with a 5-year-old girl who is 50% intellectually disabled. She is ‘not normal’ as per society. But you know what, when I was communicating with her, I realised that she could be inclusive with support. She had emotions, held my hand, and even learned to give a high-five. Her innocence was unique. The NGO was trying to train her to join regular schools. They believe in letting disabled people come into the ordinary world instead of sending them to special schools. Because after she completes her schooling, she’ll eventually have to live in the real world.

A solo traveller (Vinay), walking

That made me think – ‘what is the normal world?’. All kinds of people – running in the rat race, living up to the definition of success set by others, feeling insecure, fearing death, and just breathing. And the 5-year-old girl will never be able to fit in. What was her fault for being born this way? Is it karma? Is it her actions from previous birth? I don’t know. I feel terrible and helpless. But again, that’s life—survival of the fittest.

While I question many things in life that probably do not have answers or would be unable to find them in this birth, I still continue the quest and my solo trip. ‘Cos tomorrow is a new day, a new exploration, and I don’t know what unfolds! That’s the beauty of life. Keep walking, and the path will unfold.

Vinay Bharadwaj

Vinay Bharadwaj

Filmmaker I Talk Show Host I Ex-Banker

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