Kenya

This trip was not on my agenda at all. If you gave me an option to take a retreat, never in my wildest dreams would I mark out Kenya as a place to visit. In hindsight, I think that reflects my general inertia toward trips in general.

I really wanted to take a holiday at some point this semester, because I knew post February second week, I would be very exhausted, and needed a breather. Naturally, University has attempted to throw up certain hurdles such as a revised attendance policy. My parents were undeterred, and my mother planned out a seven-day vacation for the family all the way in Nairobi.

This was no easy task. It’s the middle of the year, so taking annual leave is difficult for the adults in the family. Plus, she had to cope with a child reluctant to participate in planning out the entire holiday, but with his own set of demands (wanted to see the cities I was visiting and/or bagpack/walk around places). It was a hectic time. Some verbal spats were involved. But she persevered.

My oh my, was it worth it.

I spent two days in the Maasai Mara, surrounded by wildlife and nature. A day in Lake Nakuru, with more wildlife and nature. And then two days at Mombasa on the beach.

In the middle, I met the Maara tribesmen, entered a village, partook in some dancing, and lost my luggage.

I also learnt that I enjoy photography. A lot. I have a really strange tremor that affects my hands, and usually end up taking very shaky photographs when given a phone camera. With a DSLR in my hands, that did not seem to be a problem. I think I’m going to try taking more photographs in my free time. Just walk around Ahmedabad also a little more and get some good clicks. It’s something I believe I can really enjoy.

The hospitality in Kenya was incredible and is possibly one of the things I loved about the trip. Caring comes very naturally to people. Our tour guide, James, was fabulous – in terms of understanding limitations we had as a group of vegetarians, or with my grandmother’s arthritis. Remember how I said we lost our luggage? A female taxi driver volunteered herself to go collect our luggage from the Mombasa airstrip and bring it to us at the Ukunda airstrip where we were at – which is a distance of 3 hours one-way, including a trip on a ferry.

It was incredibly heartwarming.

On the trip, apart from seeing some incredible things, I got a lot of time to reflect on things, and I’m hoping to really get into the flow of some lifestyle changes again. Especially doing charity work. I forgot how nice the art of giving makes you feel. Or generally, working toward putting a smile on someone’s face. I think I’m going to be more active about that. My aunt and mother, through their NGO donated some clothes and other material to the Maasai children, as well as children affected by HIV in Nairobi. That really touched me – I didn’t know it was an agenda on our trip at all.

All in all, a 10/10 recommendation to go to Kenya and spend time in the middle of the jungle.

I think seeing vast expanses of arid, dry land (somewhat like a scene from Lion King), makes you realize how insignificant we are. Seeing animals up close and personal – including some very natural interactions like feeding, was very, very heartwarming. It made me realize how much we sacrifice for urban development, for example, or commercialization. That’s given me a lot to think about – stuff I can’t really put into words just yet.

I’ll probably go back to work on some animal conservation project I think. Even if its just for a short time.

All this stuff was great, honestly. But what I’m most grateful for is that I got 10 uninterrupted days with my family. It’s something I cherish the most – even though I don’t quite show it as much when I am with them, I don’t think. I’ve missed out on a host of things since Grade 10 – because of exams and some academic commitment or the other. I also have workaholic genes, which provide convenient excuses to miss out on stuff. Throughout this, my family has been supportive and understanding, so to be able to go on a holiday with them was fantastic.

My last takeaway was that I got to think about my relationship with my parents a lot. There are a couple of experiences I’d like to financially be able to provide for them once I start earning, so let’s see if that plays out. They’ve managed to give me some experiences that literally make up who I am as a person, so giving that back will feel wonderful, methinks.

That’s all for today.

Finally writing again. I think I’ll start to do this more often. I missed it.

Curd rice out.

Barbershop

One of the things I really admire about my father is his ability to connect to people across social strata. It’s one of the things he made me very conscious about as a young kid, and it’s something that we don’t do regularly enough in India. My barber and I have a sacred relationship – in whichever city I spend time in, I make friends with a barber who I entrust with my hair, for life. He’s the only one allowed to cut it and shape it and leave his mark on it. He is the artist and my hair is his paint.

I’m usually very picky about when I have a haircut – I hate going to the barbershop close to some important date, some time where it’s necessary and beneficial to look presentable, because I’m worried that the haircut will make me look terrible. As a result, haircuts are meticulously planned out in my head. I go for one pretty much every month on the same date and end up looking pretty consistent across photographs. In fact, I think I’ve looked the same since Age 5 (minus the acne).

But I took a bold risk.┬áToday, I went for a haircut. This, despite the fact that I really need to look good for a few days in the upcoming week. I prayed to God when I sat on the chair, and communicated exactly what I wanted to Picasso, hoping he’d work another masterpiece.

However I decided today would be a great day to take my mind off my nervousness by actually talking to my barber and understanding how he ended up where he is. I’ve not done this before because his shop’s always been awfully crowded, and he’s usually focusing on the Taarak Mehta playing in the background. In the past, I’ve convinced myself that my broken Hindi is only sufficient to ensure that my hair isn’t ruined. Today, I ventured into the unknown.

And I learnt so much about the barber. And strangely, about the Law.

Curiously enough, people who don’t study it, don’t trust it. (This isn’t something new, but the gravity of things only strikes you when it’s contextualized.) Land matters take far too along, fraud in daily life is a regularity, losses keep coming and the Law just seems unable to protect people in time. After 10 years of cutting the hair of Law students, my barber had become more aware of current issues. Apparently, one of my seniors had told my barber to send his kids to school and just ensure they complete Class 10 in English medium. Because that would ensure employability of some kind.

Since that day, my barber’s been studying himself. Through the newspapers he has spread out for his customers. Through his customers himself. And apparently, he watches the News in the afternoon when no one is around – because Taarak Mehta is on hold for a bit apparently.

I know this shouldn’t, and it probably doesn’t sound like much. But this evening, my barber took off some of my hair and replaced it with a bunch of perspective.