In these days of jet travel, it’s easy to lose sight of the time when we used to have to swim and walk to the United States.
I smile gently when I see how people are now quite fussy about aisle seats or special meals or frequent flier numbers. They have become so spoilt they can no longer enjoy travel itself. It’s all about rushing from place to place for business meetings and what have you.
I brush aside the webs in my memory and go back to a simpler time, with a lump in my throat and a bump on my head.
That’s me there, putting on my Hawaii chappals, kurta pyjama and my foldable spinning chakra and saying goodbye to my family as I begin the trek from India to America – with a hand-wound iPod, the only luxury I allowed myself.
I plunged into the Arabian Sea near the Gateway of India in Mumbai and swam slowly across to Oman. I deftly dodged sharks, electric eels and octopi (I was young then and could do such things). I reached Muscat in about a month. From there, I went on a four-month camel ride to Istanbul, playing the rebab for entertainment and feeding off figs.
From Istanbul, I took the Orient Express, third class. I reached London starving, as they did not serve food on the train. I was briefly engaged on the trip, but it fell through by journey's end. I think I solved a murder mystery but now, being old, I can't honestly say if it was one or three murders.
Then by boat via Iceland, where I purchased some ice as souvenirs (I still have some ice cubes, so many years after). They were fascinated by my yogasanas. Today, Yoga thrives in Iceland because of my pioneering efforts, lost in the mists of time. I managed on a diet of bananas and dosas, which the Icelanders are famous for.
The boat reached New York after several weeks. I had to intervene once when the currents were very strong. I jumped off and pushed the boat while swimming, simultaneously blowing on the sails. In that way, I saved the lives of thousands of people. Today, a statue of me can be seen next to the Statue of Liberty. At the time, I declined to be publicly honoured, as I was (and am) shy and retiring. I must say that I was happy my primitive iPod survived.
I took a hot air balloon to Los Angeles, fuelled entirely by hot air generated by captive corporate executives having endless meetings. Quite ingenious, these Americans, I recall thinking. I attached wings to my shoulder blades, like Icarus, and swept down. Hollywood feted me, but I shall be modest and avoid further comment, except to say that I was awarded the Emmy and the Oscar immediately. If you look at the old websites of that age, you will see what I mean. Those were black and white website days, with images having to be downloaded by hand, a tedious process. How times have changed.