Kapuscinski’s encounter with India

Ruchira Paul in The Accidental Blogger:

21184Came across this charming little travel tale (via Amardeep) in the New Yorker.  Polish travel writer Ryszard Kapuscinski reminisces about the first time he stepped out of his homeland and landed in … India (via a short stop in Rome).  The India he describes is of another era – from the 1950s.  Much has changed since then but a lot remains the same. What some of us can identify with in the essay is the author’s keen wander lust, tempered by caution. He just wanted to cross the border from Poland … and return home the same day! Not for him the distant and the unknown, not even Paris or London.

“I rattled along from village to village, from town to town, in a hay cart or on a rickety bus—private cars were a rarity, and even a bicycle wasn’t easy to come by. My route sometimes took me to a village along the border. But it happened infrequently, for the closer one got to the border the emptier the land became, and the fewer people one encountered. The emptiness only increased the mystery of those regions, a mystery that attracted and fascinated me. I wondered what one might experience upon crossing the border. What would one feel? What would one think? Would it be a moment of great emotion, agitation, tension? What was it like, on the other side? It would, of course, be . . . different. But what did “different” mean? What did the other side look like? Did it resemble anything I knew? Was it inconceivable, unimaginable? My greatest desire, which gave me no peace, which tormented and tantalized me, was actually quite modest: I wanted only one thing—to cross the border. To cross it and then to come right back—that would be entirely sufficient, would satisfy my inexplicable yet acute hunger.

But how to do this? None of my friends from school or university had ever been abroad. Anyone with a contact in another country generally preferred not to advertise it. I was sometimes angry with myself for my bizarre longing; still, it didn’t abate for a moment.

More here.