A Vagabondage

‘We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves’, wrote Pico Iyer in his blog.

On certain nights when the world has slept, or early in morning when not many are awake, standing alone on the balcony, staring at the distant sky, we may contemplate a journey into the unknown or to a less known life ; not that the present life is necessarily troubled - it can be, though - but for the sake of the thought.

Pico Iyer said in an interview, “Anybody who travels knows that you are not doing so in order to move around, you are doing so to be moved”. The new sights that we see outside reintroduce us to some inner terrains which were forgotten in the monotony of the modern planned life.

Many have gone beyond the thought and walked into the shadows - some are known, few get reported and most remain unknown. The most famous vagabond was Siddhartha, the 'Buddha'.What pushes people into a life of a vagabond is less understood and to the best experienced by them. These vagabonds do not have any specific economic, cultural or spiritual origin.They are born out of a pregnancy, caused aversion , lack desire or boredom from what exists ,or mesmerized by an inner calling.

We hear of such people who were known to friends of friends. I heard of one too - a senior executive with a blue-chip and doing extremely well in career quits one morning and reveals his plans go on a journey to the Himalayas and spend rest of his life there.The rest of his was more than half the lifespan of an average person considering he was very young - early 30s maybe. It came as a surprise to many in the organization but later they learned that he had been planning it for years.
Some decide after years of deliberation - with acquired knowledge of the inner world , there sometimes comes an immense desire to experience it. You lose yourself in the view of a distant cloud and then you want to experience the other side. There are also others who decide in a moment’s consideration pressed by anger, frustration or hopelessness. These journeys have different beginnings like the streams to great rivers which eventually get on the course to find their source.

Shiv is a young man in his early 20’s, unsure about what to do with his life. He whiles away time with friends and leads a carefree life. One day his parents confront him and ask him to be more responsible about his life. He is offended and says things that he later regrets. Unsure about his behavior, he barges out of the house. He walks into a street celebration, disinterested. There he meets an old man, a wanderer and engages with him in a conversation. The idea of leaving home, and traveling suddenly strikes him – a fascinating escape from everything ; something closer to death, with the finality removed - everyone mourns your absence and yet, the possibility of a reunion is left for everyone. Shiv soon leaves on a purposeless journey, with no answers to seek, but more importantly, with no questions to answer – neither on his actions nor on his stillness ; surely not on the consequence of either.

This is the premise of the movie ‘The Bright Day’ directed by Mohit Takalkar and written by Varun Narvekar.

Shiv meets an American tourist on his journey, with whom he spends his initially day in travelling, drinking, and merriment. As he starts to get attached to her, she informs him one day that she has decided to go back and that they will have to part ways. Shiv feels abandoned and pleads her to take him along with her to America. She tries to reason and then leaves. Heartbroken and lost, he calls up home. His mother receives the call and from the prolonged silence on the other end, realizes that it is her son. She tries to make him speak but fails. Shiv breaks into tears when his mother asks him if he is alright and whether he is left with any sustenance.He disconnects the call without saying anything. He continues the journey and reaches Benaras, where he meets Golu, a young boy who lives on the banks of the Ganges with an old man, he calls ‘Baba’. The old man has a contemptuous view of Shiv as another escapist from the city. As days pass Shiv succeeds to lenify the him.

One day the old man playfully asks all the children, to scream to the Ganges their aspiration. Every child does and so does Shiv; he screams out loud his desire to become a ‘Sadhu’ (an acetic). Hearing this, to Shiv's embarrassment, all the children present there and the old man, laugh out loud. 

The next day the old man informs Shiv that the next morning he will be leaving the ghats and continue his journey. He narrates Shiv how he owned a small store with his father. After his father’s sudden death, he found himself lost. One morning, he left his home for the store but on reaching the store did not feel like stopping, and continued to walk. He never returned home since and choose the life of a vagabond which he continues to live.Then shares with Shiv something that he learned from his life – to become a Sadhu you have to renounce everything and to renounce you have to attain them first.

In a boat ride, along the Ghats, Shiv engages in a beautiful conversation with the Golu and the old man. Shiv observes stark contrast between the two banks of Ganga and asks the old man about it. The old man thinks for a while and explains, “One bank of the Ganga is full of life- there is a whole city here. For centuries it has been like this. But still, there is nothing on the opposite bank. A full world lies on this side – mansions, money and relationships. But, on the other side lies an unknown void. Just like the opposite haves in our hearts. And the life flows between these two banks. Ganga is life. You have everything always on this side, but the opposite bank too stares at us every day. You see it every day. A vast emptiness stretching out before you”.Then the young boy drops the wisdom, “besides if there was a city on the opposite bank too, we wouldn’t see the sun god rise every morning.”

The movie passes through Shiv’s journey and it closes with his journey inward. His travels take him to different places, people, and experiences – from attachment and love that he finds in an American explorer to lessons on life from a young boy and an old man.

"I want to find my note", says Shiv when Rukmini, his girlfriend, asks him why he wants to leave everyone and set out on a pointless journey. This is an interesting conversation where Rukmini tries to dissuade him and says the 'note' he looks for is within him and not somewhere out. The observer will agree with the lady but Shiv doesn't respond. Shiv didn't have answers to her questions but he knew that it didn't really matter if the answers were within, what he needed to find was the way in.


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