Pratik a fellow solo-traveler I met in Udaipur
I met Pratik Sanghavi, a fellow solo-traveler in Udaipur. A well-groomed, soft-spoken gujju writer with mild-manners from Bengaluru. He has a day job but hey – we all have one. But what defines us is the song within. We were on a double-decker bus with an open rooftop and were both seated on either sides near the railings. I think it was our plight that brought us together. As the tree branches banged against the sides of the bus, I ducked for cover and looked back at the other passengers – A woman in her forties, a man in his early fifties, a little girl in her tens – all talking at the same time – ecstatic – and Pratik – sitting there quietly, trying to save his head, without much ruckus. I should have known Pratik was travelling alone – because he could not have belonged to that noisy family. It was when our stop arrived – that we first got to talk.
Hi, I’m Nawal. I said extending my hand to shake his.
Hi. I’m Pratik. Are you travelling solo?
Me too. Then.. Let’s tag along. He said.
And tagged we along, spending the rest of the day together. Our tour buswallah left us at Sajjangarh fort as we were late by more than two hours. We walked up and down the bazaars around city palace where I bought a card reader to copy images to my laptop – the best forty rupees I spent that day. We talked mostly about solo travel. And he advised try and get back to living with your family. In the end that is all that matters. And travel. Travel as much as you can. For if not now – then maybe never. We strolled around lake Pichola – the most glamorous lake in Udaipur. We had chai at lake Fatehsagar as I tested Pratik’s patience by frequently disappearing on photography-trips and he would sit there quietly with his jholafull of prashad and listen to the yodeling lake. Later he tried his luck at bargaining with the autowallahs as we hired one for Udaipole, the place where I was staying. He helped me fight with the tour operator in my unsuccessful attempt at getting a refund. Just Kidding. We went there to talk – I was losing my cool but that is about it. Pratik introduced me to the most amazing food I tasted in Rajasthan – daal-baati-choorma. And for sixty rupees! I later helped Pratik board a bus to Pushkar and Ajmer. Pratik (one of the rare people I’ve met) always offered to take my pictures and in return I took his – and thankfully we have ended-up having just enough pictures of ourselves of our day together – but almost none of us both.
We met again in Delhi. And I took him around CP and we had chocolate paan at Odeon Social – although locating the shop was quite a task. We talked about women and marriage but soon jumped back to travel. We both agreed how difficult it gets to explain this compulsive need to travel alone. Talking about my beloved Delhi he once said I find Delhi to be very in-your-face. Like Pretentious? Don’t say that!!! I wanted to scream. But everybody is entitled to an opinion. And as people we can’t see our own flaws unless – people point them out for us. If there’s room for improvement – why not? We went to Citywalk where he bought a Seiko cream for someone for three-thousand-rupees! How many trips to Haridwar for three-thousand he later asked me – and we both laughed.
Pratik has taught me a lot about solo-traveling. Particularly about the virtues of traveling light – knowing what to carry and what to leave behind. He looked at my backpack and said – ah, that’s a nice gear you have. But about the sunscreen – get a smaller one. On one occasion he said I’ve lost pretty cool stuff traveling alone. In my initial years I would just carry a bag and forget it. Like that. Pretty cool stuff man.
Cool stuff like what? I asked.
Whoa! A DSLR? I gasped. I gulped. And then I blinked. Mortified.
He narrated the travel tales of his mother and sibling who once traveled for about a month – continuously. He confessed that he has never traveled on that scale before. I would not either – I thought to myself – wouldn’t that eventually get – tedious? He shared travel tricks like – travel by the night and sightsee by the day. You don’t have to book a hotel that way. Or he would chirp-in – keep your calm. Use tact. But no matter what – he always encouraged me to travel. And travel alone.
I draw courage from him – from his tales – from his advices. When I meet a solo-traveler I know I can find inspiration. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book he’s writing. And spoiler alert – it’s not just about travel (although I hope a part of it is). I hope to see him soon – and travel again!