Indians are travelling as never before. All stations and airports are clogged. Highways are teeming with cars aplenty. Travel agents have never had it as good. Websites which facilitate bookings of all sorts are making a killing.
At the drop of a hat, there is a tendency to leave for other towns, cities and locales. People are making the effort to get out of their comfort zones and seek out newer pastures. Some youngsters who work for top companies, as well as their senior compatriots, seem to be living out of a suitcase these days. Hardly a week goes by without the familiar process of booking flights, checking in online, printing out a boarding pass and scrambling to board a flight.
Recently while on a flight I met a young professional who confessed to waking up in unfamiliar cities on some mornings, unsure of where he was! So excruciating is his travel cycle that he goes through the motions like a zombie. The laptop, the smart phone, and an overnighter, are his constant companions. He prepares one Power Point Presentation, after another, and attends a series of meetings, the outcome of which is unknown. But he has to zip around all the time, monitored carefully, no doubt, by his immediate superior, who examines his travel and achievement reports meticulously, eager to find a loophole if he can! Immense is the pressure of expectation that the corporate world levies upon each individual. The boss and those whom he is bossing around need to be on the ball, at the ready, and ever on the move. Travel is a part of life, and embedded into the psyche of the professional of today.
Even travelling along the streets of a busy city is an onerous task nowadays. With traffic moving at a snail’s pace in most urban areas, despite the existence of underground trains and the like, the commute from home to work and vice versa has become an expedition in itself.
Vacationers are the other kinds of travelers. Some travel to far off places and are so eager to leave no significant attraction unvisited that they simply do not pause at all. They maintain a frenetic schedule and have hardly a moment to spare. Battered, bruised, tanned and exhausted that they are, these are the ones who need a much needed holiday after they return from a vacation!
In holiday season, Indian railway stations present an amazing sight to the discerning onlooker. When extended families and their neighbours decide to travel to far off lands since the kids have a few weeks off from schools, all hell breaks loose! Tickets are rarely available, except those which are long listed in the waiting category. Vacationing groups jostle with daily passengers for breathing space and seats, on the platform as well as on the train. Huge haversacks and suitcases of many hues are in evidence all over the place. No one can imagine how so many of them can be accommodated in so little space, along with their even more colourful owners.
The ubiquitous cell phone adds to the general confusion and cacophony. People are heard screaming loudly at the top of their voices as if the other person is not using a phone but his own hearing faculties to try and comprehend what is being said!
Petty arguments break out at times between harried passengers who do not see eye to eye for some reason. Boorish behavior is unfortunately a common phenomenon especially when the heat is on and the Indian summer is at its peak. People trying to throw one’s weight by posing to be VIPs or attempting to pull strings is really a put off. Cutting corners and, worse, cutting queues is really the pits.
A society’s general conduct is reflected in many ways, and the traveler avatar is one of them. Future generations need to be better groomed to become well behaved travellers. Learning to respect others is one important aspect that needs to be ingrained in them. The increasingly travel hungry Indian will be known by the way he conducts himself on the move. He will have to brush up his manners more than just a tad!