Travels, especially solo ones, are no less an experiment than they are an experience. Well, I was quite a scientist myself; perhaps I still am one. Now that I am close to graduating from boarding school and will have to shuttle to and fro quite frequently, I recollect how I once wanted to visit a park alone. Little as I was, I was determined to do so without paying any heed to the misery I would cause at home with my brief disappearing act.
Planning ‘mission day’
This narration will attempt to take you back to 2013, when I was in class 5, aged 10 years. Now being the younger child, I was often comparing my elder brother’s abilities and freedoms with mine. The thought that I’d often entertain was, “If my elder brother could travel to town alone, then so could I.”
And this thought became all the more stronger considering there was a place I’d been raring to visit. It was a quiet park some distance away from home. I initially began by treading the ‘legal’ route – of asking parents for permission to venture out alone. However, when my pleas fell on deaf ears, I began to chalk out my elaborate plan to accomplish my little odyssey I’d planned for so long.
In hindsight, the realisation dawned on me that one’s craftiness is best realised when laying the groundwork for mischief; you never run out of ideas. This belief has been all the more reinforced following my stay in boarding school.
Back in 2013, however, I attended a day school. We were permitted to carry a small sum of money that could be used to make purchases at the school cafeteria. Now with my meticulous planning on overdrive, I wanted to act on it.
Therefore, on ‘mission day’, I decided to save my little cafeteria allowance. Thanks to the boring series of lessons at school, most of which I never quite understood, I was awaiting to execute my plan in earnest. On that afternoon, hardly had the final bell rung than I bolted for the school bus that plied a different route – one that would take me towards the park I’d so longed to visit.
The long awaited moment
I was able to go undetected on this other bus. Not too long after, I reached the park, but the sense of accomplishment I was hoping to experience, was instead replaced with displeasure. Much to my disappointment, I found it rather gloomy. Almost immediately, I regretted being there. Without getting onto any swings or slides, I simply sat in contemplation and realised that parks weren’t meant for solo visits.
Looking back, they were not the ideal locations for ones who cannot enjoy the all-pervasive happiness – the kind that Keats or Wordsworth found in Nature and her elements.
I have possibly discovered my connect with Nature now but not when I was younger for sure. Therefore, almost as suddenly as I reached the place, I decided to also make my exit. In the scorching heat, and with my heavy bag, I began walking towards the bus stop which was some 500m from there.
The consequences, luckily, were not severe
Recollecting previous visits, I knew that if I continued ahead, I would reach another bus stop. I started off without a second thought. I wasn’t, however, fully sure of the distance; it always seemed close by when we’d travel by car.
I asked shopkeepers along the way about how far it was. Soon, the bus stop came into view and a fleet of blue buses there, both young and old, read ‘Raiganj’ in Bengali. And then the next predicament was staring at me; I could not find a bus that would ply the route towards home. But I’d shown foresight on one front though; I had money to cover my bus fare at least.
When I finally boarded a bus, I requested a fellow passenger if I could borrow his phone. Meanwhile, the tension at home was escalating as I would later find out. Ideally, I should have had reached home long ago.
As the bus came to a halt, I caught a glimpse of my Uncle waiting along the side of the road. He looked tense initially but when he saw me, I noticed his frown change into a smile. I knew a grand welcome awaited me. Fortunately, the ladies at home took kindly to my little adventure and I was, therefore, lucky to have missed a serious dressing down.
Nostalgic or ‘nostalgically embarrassing’
I am not sure if I somehow manage to find a positive aspect to all the ‘wrongs’ and actually learn from this incident. However, I do feel this episode instilled great confidence within me; a confidence that still makes my parents count on me when I say “I will travel alone”.
It is the same confidence that, possibly, made me find my way on several occasions when I’ve been lost in unfamiliar places. However, the little scientist is now more cautious, responsible and rational with his decision making.