A teenage dream?
When I was just 13 years old, I was busy burying myself in novels after novels. My friends and fellow classmates had started scribbling the names of their crushes to play FLAMES or take out love percentages. Chill chill I’m not going to pretend that I was all cool and above all this. In fact, I was actually quite far behind. The nerdy girl in me was still going “ew” at boys and stayed rather smitten by the written word instead.
Around that time, one evening in the garden with my dog (read, brother), Aster, I was flipping through the pages of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. What? You’re shocked? But hey, I did establish that I’m not the storyteller who comes out seeming suave. So, as you giggle over my book choices, let me tell you that I stumbled upon a term called the “bucket list”. Today, we all use it ever so often and cling onto a dream through this list. In fact, just earlier this year, Neeraj, Sakshi and I had all respectively shared our travel bucket lists. The present ones. But back then, when during a summer in Hyderabad I learnt about this much chased after belle called the bucket list, the very first thing to make an entry onto mine was, “A trip to Maldives!”. The letter “i” had been penned with tiny hearts to then explain my teenager like crush, unaware that exactly 10 years later this would be a reality and this time, I would feel my whole heart fall for Maldives.
How did an adolescent child experience this love at first sight moment? I mean, we’re talking about the year 2007, so, this did not happen over Instagram posts which I bookmarked into my phone to stare at it whenever I pleased. Actually, Mother and Father Saxena had flown off to the island country for an official tour and returned with the quintessential videos on a camcorder. So, as the curved TV displayed shaky clips from Maldives before my eyes, I felt my mouth form the O shape for I had not expected to see what I did. Up until then I had been to the beaches in Goa and near Mumbai, thus, I was not prepared for the shade of blue that I saw riding upon the waves of this country that seemed unreal to me. Thus, this newly learnt terminology came into action and the beachy country was written as the first thing on my bucket list.
The Flight You’ll Never Forget
Now, let’s hit the fast forward button and come to 2017. I was visiting Maldives after spending a decade stalking it like a persistent lover! This time Mother and Father Saxena had decided to revisit the country for leisure and their two daughters were coming along. Passport covers, beach dresses, flip flops, sunscreens and less cheesy books were packed eagerly. I think the air hostess must have been weary of me as she saw me jump on my seat with my face pressed against the window, like a kid in a bouncy house!
The journey is as beautiful as the destination itself because when the plane starts to circle the island nation, trust me, you wouldn’t want to land just yet. Remember geography class in school and all the maps that popped up in tests? Well, I think that in Maldives they’d look much different from ours because the top view of this country had the most delicious shades of blue ever imaginable! The flight is like the trailer to your favourite movie because you see the blues dancing with the specs of sandy white beaches in between and you start to romanticize about what the story holds.
Shark It Off?!
One morning we woke up so enthusiastically all set to try out snorkelling and scuba diving. And, while like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara we didn’t have a week of training, our session too was a long and detailed one. At that moment I felt like the kid who just wanted class to get over so that I could run to the playground or in this case the water! And, oh did we do so. I’m not going to tell you how amazing the experience was because I’m sure you have heard plenty of that. I’m here to tell you that our experience was funny! Yep, no typos here, it was and till this date is funny.
The stingray, the clown fish and a gazillion other fishes laying amidst stunningly bright corals are what essentially draws folks into trying out these water sports, right? One such fish is the baby shark. No, we weren’t on Khatro Ke Khiladi and doing shark diving. This was the regular kind just that the baby shark in that area doesn’t eat human flesh and is not a threat to those gallivanting in the waters. A fact that my dear old sister seemed to forget. And, when I say elder sister, I mean, “Didi”, I idolize her, she terrorises yet protects me, you know how it is. However, what sort of a sibling wouldn’t relish the others stupidity? Am I right or am I right?
So, we were busy exploring the waters with some leisurely snorkelling when a baby shark happened to swim right from beneath us. Almost touching our bellies. It was unbothered and disinterested in us but this is not something that didi noticed. Because the moment she saw the shark, she with her full might swam back to the shore, pulling both me and the instructor along. She channelled a motorboat of sorts because of the power with which she lugged us right back! Now no matter where I snorkel in whichever country, this incident always comes back to me making me giggle at the instructor’s astonishment.
For The Love Of Slow Travel
Have you ever travelled with me? Was it on a group trip that I led? Even if you haven’t, the thing is that when you’re a trip leader you’re just so energetic all the time! One moment you’re heading towards an exciting adventure sport, another moment you’re huddling around a bonfire to hear someone’s life story, one moment you’re waking someone who slept in the bus by having the whole group sing (actually scream) into their ear and another moment you’re running to start a whole new game. You cover all of the spots, some of the top loved ones, some offbeat ones that we’ve carefully found. The point is that you’re always up to something. And, the more trips I’ve led, I’ve realized that that’s the different from my personal travels. I’m the opposite. Of whom? Me itself apparently.
It was an evening in Maldives and the good people of Bandos Resort had fed us yet another scrumptious meal. After that my sister and I decided to take a stroll on the beach and somehow, we didn’t spot anyone there. Except for the palm trees who I must say are rather keen listeners. We walked for a long time and at some point, even sat down on the sand, not caring that those carefully packed dresses would be soaked in sand. We didn’t say anything. We just observed. The trees, the sand, the waves, all of it. And, the content I felt in that moment is the sorts that you feel on rare instances in life.
While we did the thrilling sports, the elaborate excursions, what Maldives taught me is the joy of slow travel. From the mornings where I’d just wake up early to plonk on a beach bed and read my novel or the ones where my father and I walked the entire circumference of the island with me begging for photoshoots on artistic trees, from the swims that my sister and I took together remembering our swimming lessons as kids and laughing or the ones where I found myself floating into a state of bliss by letting the waters create a vacuum with no sound, no thoughts, no questions and just the satisfaction of being as I surrendered to the waters, sigh.
So, when someone asks me what all they should cover when they go to Maldives, I smile. Because here is a place that doesn’t need you to seek out top spots or go sightseeing, here is a place where you needn’t hop from one location to the other to see more. You know why? Because every glimpse of it is beautiful and you just find that beauty spreading through the entire 360 degrees, you can do nothing and yet do everything. It’s the sort of place that tells you that you needn’t race, you needn’t rush, you needn’t do. You are only there to take lazy strolls, lay on the sand to count stars, observe the leaves as they seem to dance and to swim and have the waves wash away all your worries.
“Seek and you shall find?”
But what if you don’t seek? You shall find satisfaction. Without reason, without cause. But the purest form of satisfaction.