As a babe in my mother’s arms, her warm embrace was my world. As I grew, my world expanded to include my home and the neighbourhood. Slowly, it accommodated my school, college, friends, and family. As an adult, it extended to work, colleagues, and a family of my own. My world, as I knew it, kept changing at every stage of my life but all through there was one constant – the people. I realized every memory was associated with someone, somewhere. Our world is never in isolation, so essentially, each one of us is a world traveller. We #SayYesToTheWorld in our unique way and that becomes the story of our life. And this is mine.

#SayYesToTheWorld

#SayYesToTheWorld

My first memorable destination was France at the tender age of 10. As a representative at the Indian Film Festival in Corbeil Essonnes, it was a trip of a lifetime and one of many firsts, right from a plane ride to seeing snow. Friendships that I made back then, I am happy to state, 30 years on, are still thriving. In fact, just two years ago, I made my second trip to Paris, along with my family. Standing in front of the Eiffel Tower with my daughter, almost the same age as me when I first saw it, was indescribable. And just like that, I knew, no matter what, we’ll always have Paris.

That first trip opened the doors of my mind. I loved meeting new people and listening to their stories. And the more I interacted, the more I believed that we were all the same at the core. Sunsets in Bali were as beautiful as the ones in Goa and folks in Singapore were as helpful as the ones in Himachal. Dubai is as cosmopolitan as Mumbai, and London’s architecture could have competition with that of rustic Delhi. There was so much to see and experience, that I’d buy a stock of reincarnation if it were available.

My travel experiences have been happy, till date. Mostly. Like I said, people made the places memorable. Strangers stepped in to help and make my stay that much more comfortable. That is when I decided that irrespective of how much I travel, I was going to reciprocate that warmth to travellers to my city. And I have a few stories with happy endings.

Sometime last year on the eve of Dusherra, I was picking my daughter from a birthday party. While we were trying to hail an auto, we saw a Caucasian lady looking helpless. I approached her and asked if I could help. She was so grateful and asked for directions to the nearest Indian clothing store. She knew it was the festive season and wanted to wear ethnic clothes to a party that evening. I told her I could drop her to one such store in the vicinity. She thought it would be trouble, but my daughter and I would hear nothing of it. We got into an auto, got chatting and realized she was from the USA. It was her third professional trip to India as she was in the aviation industry and she could not get enough of the country. When we dropped her at the store, she gave us the warmest hug and said, Indians are so welcoming. I think that Diwali, my daughter and I were shining brighter than the sparklers around.

Another time, I was returning from a work trip and was at the baggage counter at the domestic terminal. A couple was waiting ahead of me. We got chatting, and I got to know that it was their first trip to India from Switzerland and they were looking forward to doing all the touristy things in Mumbai after having visited Delhi. I asked them to visit Gilbert Hill, a 200 ft monolith column of black basalt salt formed during the Mesozoic era around 66 million years ago and added that only three such formations exist in the whole world. They were so happy to do something other than the usual and thanked me profusely. I helped them get a cab, directed them on where all to go on their itinerary and send them with good wishes.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and it’s true. On our last trip to Goa, the daughter was to get some groceries. She came back with a big smile. Apparently, there was a French lady with a baby looking for cottage cheese and was having a hard time at the convenience store. The daughter learns French in school, so I am glad that bit worked out. She helped her shop and was generously gifted with a ‘Merci beaucoup, tu es très belle.’

So, why do you love the world?

What’s not to love? It’s the only one that we have and know, and there is so much to explore in one lifetime. My travel inspiration is my desire for newer experiences. As on date, I have ticked off two continents, eight countries and around forty cities including home territory. That’s pretty much one place for every year of my life. And to say that my horizons have broadened would be an understatement. The truth is, we are cut from the same fabric; only the patterns differ.

And that is why I love the world because, basically, we are the world.

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