Friday, June 12, 2015

Why I hate road trips

Road trips don't make me happy! (Photo Courtesy)
Road trips have a connotation of being romantic, bohemian and what not. Pack your bags, dump it in the boot (or strap it to your bike), enjoy the scenery and drive into the horizon! Ah! Lovely picture! But now coming to reality. Ask me and I’ll say road trips are over rated and I hate them. And before I hear a chorus of dissenting voices, hear me out! I am entitled to my opinion, right? :) So here’s what I think. 

Let’s start with advantages of traveling by road:

1. No schedules to adhere to. The biggest advantage of traveling on your own by road is you can start or stop when you like. There are only self-made schedules - no reporting 60 minutes prior to departure time. 

2. There is no weight limit for the luggage. You can carry as much as your car boot has space in it. And can be unplanned too. I have dumped stuff in shopping bags and thrown inside the car. It’s my car, who cares! 

3. You don’t need a local taxi. Your site seeing transport is taken care of in your own vehicle. You don’t have a driver waiting for you with his meter on. If you wish to take it easy, saunter out of your room at 6pm for all your care. My vacation, who cares! 

Okay! I can’t think of any more reasons why road travel is good. So, I am moving on to the actual idea of why I am writing this post. 

Why I hate road travel?

1. I can’t drive: Driving for hours is for people who love driving or companions of drivers who love, well, just sitting there. I am of neither category. So my only choice to sit for hours strapped to my seat. This is exactly what I am not good at - sitting in one place and not being able to move around. I could look out of the window and enjoy nature! Since some places are accessible only by road, I have seen the hills, the meadows, the sunset and sunshine and the rest of it in between. So there isn’t much entertainment in doing that too. I could read in the car (yess!) at one time and that kept me going. But I get motion sickness just sitting in the moving car now, so that’s not possible. I can listen to music but for how long? Most importantly, I am a destination person than a journey person. So it isn’t fun for me to be going through a journey for hours.  So, yeah! It’s boring to travel by road.

2. No schedules to adhere to: In our case, this is also a disadvantage. We are bad at making self made schedules and usually end up driving after dark which pisses me off. And since I am not in control of the steering wheel (You just read why), it irks me. It’s always harder to sit next to the driver and watch him negotiate dangerous turns on the dark or drive through heavy rain than actually doing it. It just adds to me stress levels. And let's agree, it's plain dangerous!

3. Loo problem: This is probably my biggest issue with road travel. Women don’t have the anatomical advantage that men do and hence one has to just wait till the next decent place where you hope you will find a decent loo! I stop having liquids hours before travel. I still have to go on the way. And I am dehydrated by the time I get to the destination.

4. Why drive, if you can fly: Most people don’t agree with this concept, but I don’t see why would you want to drive for 10 hrs to say, Goa when you can fly in an hour! And party the rest of the time in Goa! You may party on the way but only when you have a group (which I don’t). Maybe one time to enjoy the view but then why do that every time? And to every other place that can be reached through other modes of transport that have a loo built into them?

I think my views are valid because I have traveled quite a bit and haven’t based my views on trips few and far between. Drop me a line and tell me what you think about road travel. You can also tweet to me on @Suman_Kher. I’d love to hear from you! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

TEDxGatewayWomen: A day with inspiring women

Writing about TEDxGatewayWomen is a great way to relive the awesome albeit very humid afternoon in Mumbai. When I first ran into a tweet about the event, I booked my seat right away in the early bird slot. I have always wanted to attend a TED event and TEDx is a great start to begin with. And there is something about the phrase "all women" which has even more women throng to such an event. I guess even when we believe the world has become more liberal with women, the opportunities we get are still less compared to the number of men around. And this being no less than the first TEDx event with only women speakers made it more momentous and I wanted to be a part of it.

So once I had my ticket, the only thing left to do is wait for the day with excitement. And gloat to others about what I was going to witness. I also planned to drape a saree to add to the celebration of the event for women. And I deserve no less than a President's medal for the feat in the humid, sultry weather of Mumbai on a May mid morning. It's not as much a pain to drape it but as the drill of figuring out the combination that still fits and ironing the 5 yard fabric to ensure that perfect drape. (And doing it last minute due to busy schedules adds to the stress) But I had planned to do it and I just had to go through with it. And it was worth it when I found so many other women turning up in a saree! Small victory!

As I reached the NCPA entrance, I could see the registration desks lined in the order of our registration numbers. I got in line only to realise when I reached the front that I wasn't carrying a photo id, which I thought I was. But much to my relief, the lady said I could also show her an online version from an email or Google Drive. And that saved my day! Phew! :)

There was also one more reason why I was looking forward to the event. This was a chance to reunite with my friends from Social Media Week held in Bangalore earlier this year. Even though I wasn't officially on the social media team for this event, I did assist during chats and promotions. And all of us getting together is no less than a celebration by itself since we all get along like a house on fire! After catching up with them at the social media desk, I grabbed a bite and proceeded to the auditorium. And it was a packed house!

A full house Photo Courtesy: Sandeep Ohri
Even though the majority were women, it was heartening to see that men also had turned up for the event. The host was Sonam Kalra and it was a goosebumpy moment when she introduced the first speaker - the first woman Chief Justice of the country - Leila Seth! I think she is awe inspiring for many reasons. She broke the mould in a male bastion when no one spoke of women's liberation. The extent of determination and power she has packed in her diminutive frame is incredible! And she just seems to have refused to give in to age, leading an active life, writing books and speaking at events just like it was normal thing to do at her age.

Each talk was moving, every story full of passion, each woman having gone through struggle and emerged triumphant. Each story was eye opening to an aspect one did not know. While Ms. Seth set the tone of the event talking about the right of women in the ancestral property, Deepika Bhardwaj chose to speak up for the rights of men! Ananda advised us to try and successfully straddle the two worlds of work and passion and urged women to follow our passion and not letting mundane duties of life pull us down. Chetna Gala Sinha's Cattle camp where life is born and preserved was an eye opening, inspiring talk. So passionate was she about her cause that she had tears in her eyes by the time she finished! Natalie took the audience by pleasant surprise with her mellifluous voice and her track record in Bollywood which most of us were unaware of. Upasana Makati set us all thinking about how life must be for the visually challenged since most of our systems don't support braille. And I think it is a pretty path breaking idea to have a magazine for them. They showed a video about the power of being able to read stories written in braille for blind children who are otherwise bereaved of the joy normal children have everyday.

The inspirational speakers, each with her unique story!

And there was also the talk I waited for - By Aditi Gupta of Menstrupedia. Also got a selfie with her and her mother!

Aditi Gupta, with her mother at TEDxGateway Women
And after such an inspiring day, the bonus was to spend the rest of the evening with friends.

The Social Media team for TEDXGateway Women in Mumbai
The best thing about TED is the beauty of its concept - ideas worth spreading. By having others share the unique ideas they have explored and experiences that have helped them become who they are, it encourages all of us to break our barriers and go a bit further in exploring our ideas and make them worth sharing someday. It's hard to pick the best talk since each one was one of its own kind. Looking forward to many more such events that add a new meaning to our lives.