Looking through Forbes’s elaborate list of “Five Reasons Why Travel Is Good For Your Mental Health”, my eyes waited to come across the words ‘It helps you forget your pain’, but sadly, amongst the many notions of why one should travel, my reasons never quite topped the charts.
“Take me somewhere with no network or internet” are words that may seem quite unusual coming from a 20-year-old, who, on textbook, only bears the responsibility of studying and building a life for themselves. Looking past the generational gap can be tricky, but understanding the complexities and rush of emotions that are part of the everyday lives of the so-called “Gen-Z” somehow is left as the only solution to the parent-child paradigm.
There for me
For me, my solution came in the form of a 5-foot-8-inch man with dark curly hair, my inspiration, my father. My mind always found peace in the beauty of the never-ending colourful mountains and the absolute solace of distant roads. The seven-seater car, full of bags and snacks, had not one but two minds searching for content and stability.
It’s almost ironic how easily pain hides behind pretty smiles, joyful eyes and the notions of “strong men”. Birthed in a society where one learns “boys don’t cry” much before they know what emotions really mean, my father, too, has a certified degree in never letting his vulnerabilities meet the eye. The bread earner, the man of the house, the protector, the hero, and the pillar of undying strength – how can a person do it all effortlessly and with much grace is a question I pondered about as a child. In all fairness, I have still made no headway in coming up with a rational justification.
Holding each other up
Driven with the desire to offer the world to his daughter and take away all her struggles and pain, little did he know it’s a twos game. So we set out on an adventure, not just to explore India’s heaven named Ladakh, but rather to reinvent and ground ourselves with our father-daughter bond.
With shoes often dipped in mud and fresh, dense air surrounding us each morning, tales were told, jokes were cracked, yet with each dawn came a sense of gloom and sadness. Growing up, I could have never imagined that the hands that pushed the back of my tricycle, cheering me on as I learnt how to ride, would one day need a push to open up to their pains and sorrows inside. That, however, felt like a moment of pride. Why? Some may ask. At this moment, I realised that being lost in myself, I failed to look beyond myself and notice the behind-the-curtain struggles my father was so confidently handling. To pull the man who has never failed to put a smile across my face out of his misery seemed like the most fulfilling feeling to me.
It’s all right
One night, along a river, my father and I stood on a rock looking up at the sky, reminiscing the beautiful nights we spent star gazing on the roof of our old house when I was younger. Oblivious to the challenges and struggles of his life on the outside, he never failed to make me feel loved and protected. With age came sense and the desire to be able to offer him the same comfort.
Never having believed in the notions that men should not be emotional and overwhelmed with the need to see him as calm and composed as the slow- moving river before us, I knew it was my time to reassure him. So I held his hand and reminded him of words he made sure I grew up believing. “It’s all going to work out, and even if it doesn’t, I have got your back.” The words ‘I love you, beta’ and a tight hug fixed not one but two hurting and anxious souls.
It’s always said that mountains are mankind’s most significant teachers and eye- openers. They teach us how to stand tall and sturdy, irrespective of how strong the winds may be. They are, in all honesty, the best example of unshaken spirits.
My biggest lesson coming back from this road trip?
1. No amount of mountains and vacations will ever amount to the strength and
peace that comes with family.
2. No amount of ‘pahad wali Maggi’ is just about enough.
3. Most importantly, being kinder in a world full of negativity, while making a solid Instagram caption makes a stronger man, in a society so deeply rooted in fear of being labelled sensitive.