Often I wonder, but today after reading this post by Mitchell on tourism, I felt like voicing few of my thoughts on this matter. One of my very first encounters with concerns of daily livelihood was outside the Railway Station of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh. The station was good 4 kms away from the town and we were looking for transport to reach Jagdalpur. An old man with more wrinkles on his face than his age, shiny eyes and a wishful demeanor approached us asking if we would like to take a ride in his man-pulled rickshaw. He said the charge was 10 Rs.
I was wondering, in this hot summer heat of Jagdalpur, this old man would drag his rickshaw to earn a few pennies. While we as tourists/ travelers revel in the fact that we visited some rare remote places, how does it really look to an unbiased observer? Don’t I risk looking like a psycho taking pleasure in witnessing the remoteness and unbelievably low or non-existent living conditions?
Travel, while being an eye-opener to some of the most amazing landscapes, it also opens our eyes to some of the harsh realities of life. While one can always choose to ignore the hard hitting facts, sometimes it just cannot be ignored. For instance, while I was traveling close to Indo-Sino border in Ladakh, we drove past a small village of not more than 10 houses set in another world or so it seemed due to its relative isolation and distance from anything that can be remotely called as civilization. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere live few families doing what for their livelihood, I don’t know. It is at times like this I feel a pinch on my conscience.
Earlier this year, I was at a small village where a school was being built 10kms away from the main settlement. The village was on a cliff edge and the school was being built somewhere way down by the river side and it would suffice to say the walk to school would be an equivalent of a day hike. Far in the remote valley of Suru, Ladakh, a kid was asking me a pen and looked at it with such wonderment; it seemed like even a pen was a rare commodity. Let alone quality education then! Such are the living conditions in mountains and probably worse elsewhere in India. Living with fear or probably living without fear has become a way of life for people in Chhattisgarh and Kashmir as I saw.
I have chosen to be a silent observer so far but the thought surfaces every now and then.
Could I have done something?
Seeing the strange desolateness of remote villages perched on plateaus amidst formidable mountains, I wish for them to be just as remote as they are now. I wish for them to preserve their culture however good or bad it is. I seek to see no winds of change here and how insanely selfish is that? Sometimes I do wonder, writing about unknown places will help bring in more tourist traffic thereby generating more revenue and job opportunities finally improving the standard of living. But all of this is a hopeful thought. Who knows how the development will affect the place and if the changes are conducive to preserving the culture and ecology?
And who is to decide what is good and what is bad development?
To the one who is reading this, it might seem like the post and thought are disjointed and I am just jotting down writings from stream of consciousness. Maybe it is.
On an ending note, how does travel affect you and how do you cope with the realities of travel?