Sunday, November 23, 2003

Living life adventurously
Taru Bahl

Milind's father was an IAF pilot who was adventurous and daring and often planned unconventional holidays with the family. Bundling up his twin daughters and elder son, he would plan cost-effective vacations. Bird sanctuaries, game parks, hill resorts, camping sites and quaint villages were a part of their once-a-month sojourns. He had used his engineering skills to modify his second-hand Ambassador car to ensure more leg space and storage. It had fancy improvised gadgetry which Milind loved pottering around with. Both father and son loved collecting and using high-range binoculars, assembled music systems, folding tents, compasses and other navigation equipment, tracking devices and cameras.

The amateur films which they put on camera were a delight to watch. The entire family collectively worked towards planning their holidays. They saved their pennies, took up part-time assignments and Milind while in school managed to earn good pocket money with stray articles published in magazines. They used this to further their common shared interest of travelling. Tourist books were devoured, discount packages worked out and maps scouted as they used their car to take them to far-flung places. They pitched up tents on the roadside, saved on hotel accommodation and had a whale of a time.

Milind recalled how young pilots and officers would come and excitedly share the excitement as they saw photographs of animals and other exotic places. Magazines, video films, rare postcards and shared experiences did the rounds at a time when television and information was not so easily accessible.. Their home reverberated with enthusiasm, a sharing of ideas and a youthful ambience which was a far cry from the dull monotonous parties where other than a free flow of drink and food, little else was on display.

Milind's teachers could see that he was a product of his environment. Extremely well adjusted, he had an innocent freshness combined with a maturity way beyond his years. This got reflected in everything he did. His essays had rare insights. His style of writing was eloquent and his choice of words a gracious blend of knowledge and sensitivity. His imagination was vivid without being unrealistic. He may not have been an ace sportsperson but he was a delight to be with.In many ways he was like his father. When he went in for his engineering, choosing to do things which his dad did in much the same manner, it flattered the elder gentleman though he knew that he had exerted no pressure on moulding his son in any particular manner. He had only given his children inputs he believed in and allowed them to find their own feet, form their own opinions and most importantly take stock of their lives. He wanted them to experience the beauty of life, see the wonders of nature and be in a position to receive all the strength, comfort and joy that could come out of the simple pleasures of life. Without drilling it into them he had nurtured his children in a manner which had kept them safe and protected from the winds of commericalisation which were swallowing their contemporaries,creating zombie-like humans who could think only in a limited fashion, slaves to technology, distanced from the realities of life and untouched by the natural beauty around them.

When Milind, after pursuing a degree in engineering, chose to turn into a knapsack traveller who was a photographer, script and travel writer, sketching artist and part-time model all rolled into one, he did not launch into a tirade of how unconventional his profession was or how unstable the income would be or how difficult it would be for them to find a suitable bride. He just continued to believe in his son and feel proud of his unique talents. Milind's creative outpouring found expression in the many exhibitions he held nationally and internationally. Not always were they financially rewarding but the returns in terms of personal growth and fulfillment were immeasurable.

The family did find Milind's nomadic style of living unconventional but they never intruded and imposed their diktat on him. They knew that he did not fit into the preconceived norms which society laid down for most young men and to force him to do so would crush his spirit and soul which they could never dream of doing. As a family they stood by him even when they felt that he was not using his professional degree to do what he truly deserved. When he turned 30 they got worried since he was still not ready to settle down.

Rumours began floating around of his wild affairs and bohemian ways. There was also talk of his being a closet homosexual. Some of the elders did talk to him but beyond a point they learned to trust their instinct. He was one boy in the family who was always there for them. He found the time to visit ailing relatives, run odd errands for them and use his wide range of contacts and friends to help out anyone in distress. That he was a universal favourite with all age groups was evident.

Milind's decision not to marry only added to his glamorous appeal. With time, interesting stories began doing the rounds and he came to acquire a larger-than-life image. His antics and adventures were recounted with animated zeal and many youngsters in the family and neighbourhood looked upon him as they role model. In this environment which only fostered creativity, imagination, free thinking and experimentation he went onto win prestigious awards at various forums. He became quite a celebrity and he had only his family to thank. He knew that they had stood by him, had been progressive and had faith in him.

His creative juices were flowing, he seemed so content with himself and one could see that his communion with nature was responsible for keeping him grounded in the midst of all the success and adulation he was receiving. Though corporate houses were ready to sponsor his excursions and trips he still loved taking the unbeaten path, going through dusty trails in the interiors by bus or hitch-hiking on transport trucks, experiencing life in its simplest form. Maybe the idea of marriage was something he felt would tie him down and curb his creativity. He was not averse to the idea and was hopeful of meeting that perfectly right person even if he had to wait till he was 50. Till then, his knapsack bonding took care of all his emotional, physical and spiritual needs.