A very close friend once sadly mentioned that her husband is suffering from depression, and that she is trying to help him out. I suggested that she give him some travel books to read. Books have always had a healing effect on me whether I am recovering from a mental trauma or a physical injury. Of late, I have limited mobility due to some issues with my left foot and I feel terrible when I realize that I haven’t had a ride since Diwali.
When I can’t ride, the next best thing I do is to pick up a book and read. Books have always healed my wounds – both internal and external. So, when I picked up a copy of P.G. Tenzing’s “Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke For Directions,” I was quite sure I am going to recover soon. This doesn’t qualify to be a travelogue under my standards, but it is an interesting read. Tenzing had served as an IAS officer under the Kerala cadre and has a pretty good understanding of the Malayali lifestyle, culture and language.
The book is an interesting mixture of anecdotes from the road based on multiple trips that PG and his bike had endured within the first decade of his retirement. One would find helpful and harmful people on the road. Many a time he had to pull rank and tell officials, especially policemen, that he is an IAS officer, in order to get through peacefully. Well, most of us can’t be that lucky always.
About 15 years ago, I was undergoing treatment in a hospital in north Delhi. It was the first night of my admission and there wasn’t anyone to stay with me. Through my half-sleep I could hear conversations in Malayalam. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t do so for long. But I understood, there were two nurses doing the night rounds, and the senior is cracking bad jokes and passing comments with the junior. When they reached my bed, the junior read out my name in full and asked the senior if I could be a Malayali. The senior dismissed with a scoff and replied that I couldn’t be, because I didn’t look like one. It woke me up and I couldn’t hold it any longer. I snapped back that I’m as Malayali as they are, and they shouldn’t hesitate to speak to me in our native tongue. That stunned them both.
PG also faces similar situations on the road. There was this incident in a dhaba somewhere in Uttaranchal, where two waiters cracking abusive jokes to each other in Nepali about the customers present there, standing just behind PG’s back. Smilingly PG turns to the waiters and comments in Nepali to shut up and do their work, after which the waiters didn’t open their mouths till the time he was there. Such incidents just stay in your head for long.
But let me put in a word of caution – if you are a travel addict, or a travelogue-addict (like I am) – this book might not feel engaging to you, because the narrations are so simple that you don’t feel the magic in his words. I’m sure that PG has had great experiences on the road, and I could relate to several situations that he had gone through, traveling. But yes, he has inspired me to take up my own journey. I’m getting LittleRide ready for that ride someday. Well, let me get healed myself, first 😊