It feels great to be back home in Shillong after nearly 2 months on the road. I have literally criss-crossed the country and would have reached all four corners in the last month had our trip to Jalna (where my brother and his wife work at the Jalna mission hospital) not been cancelled at the last moment!! Travelling is not one of my favourite activities, although I seem to do a lot of it! And in the last month I have run the gamut of travelling options - from the second-class compartment of a train to the comfort of a plane, from a Volvo overnight bus to the local Tamil Nadu rust-buckets that masquerade as public transport, from the hair-raising auto-rickshaw rides on Vellore's death traps (read roads!) to the peaceful scooter rides along the beautiful beaches of Goa. And of course, the memorable 5 hours of bone-shaking on a truck that was bearing some of my parent's possessions to their new home in Pondicherry. It still amazes me how the driver managed to hit the bulls-eye of nearly every pothole on the way! And any of you who have travelled from Arni to Villipuram will know that in some parts, it is 80% pothole and 20% road!!
There have been some scary moments. Being dragged out of an auto and shoved around by a driver who towered high above me and probably weighed twice as much as me, asking the unkempt gentleman who was occupying my berth in the train (which had 18 people in a coupe meant for 8) if he would kindly allow me to get up there as well, waking up from sound slumber to see smoke billowing out of the hood of the taxi we were travelling in as our Khasi friend had forgotten to pour water in the radiator and stopping in the heart of Naxal territory in Jharkhand when we saw a man lying on the side of the road beside his overturned motorbike, not knowing if it was really an accident or just a trap were all occassions when fervent prayers went up and happy results ensued. Praise be to God!
But this time, unlike my usual solo travels, I have had some great company. My precious family were with me on many of the trips and the drive to Pondicherry where (probably for the first time), 6 people packed into my dad's car (that is meant for 4 and can take 5 at a squeeze) will remain one of the memorable events of these 2 months. The trip to Nav Jeevan Hospital was also memorable, for the intellectual conversations on the forward journey and the uplifting interaction with children on the way back (from Ranchi). And the train journey back from Ranchi, when my neighbour told me the story of his life that had started in the jungles of Jharkhand and had already reached a corporate guest house in Moonar, where he was the cook - all in the space of 26 years.
But from the comfort of my bedroom in Shillong, looking back at all the wonderful experiences I have had and the beautiful places I have seen over the last 2 months, I can truly say, that there's no place like home... And thank God that wherever I may roam, I have somewhere and someone to come back to, unlike many of my brothers and sisters who walk this planet. Thank You for all Your blessings Lord. May I never take them for granted.