Born and brought up in Bombay, I've rarely travelled out of this island city. By the time I turned twenty, I'd been to Goa twice; once when I was four years old and the second time when I was ten. I'd been to a few places within Maharashtra as part of school or college trips but those were one day outings spent in the confines of the resort we went to.
Any other town, city or country was pictured in my mind according to the descriptions in books, how it was visualised in films or how it played out in stories told to me by people who were lucky enough to have visited these places.
Thus I had built in my mind certain images of places. Everyone does it, right? For me, Delhi was the political hub. So people would be in safari suits, travel in Ambassadors. I remember Nestle was situated near Connaught Circus. I used to think it was an actual circus with trapeze artists and animals but topped with the essence of coffee and the gooeyness of noodles.
Pune was Poona; I knew the British called it that and they used to go there for their holidays. So I always thought Poona was full of Brit-era bungalows. I somehow also knew it was colder there.
That's the thing if you don't travel much; you have a certain picture of places in your head. We thrive on our imagination and if we come to know a certain place's actuality is different from what we thought it would be, we're disappointed, even living in denial to some extent. People like me, after all, who do not get the chance to travel much have to live it through other means.
Since I've turned twenty, I've travelled quite a bit. I've been to Goa, eleven years after the previous visit (and I'm a Goan. Beat that!) I've been to Lonavala and Nasik. I've been to Pune too. I couldn't situate any of the British bungalows, but I was right about the cold. Also found Pune to be similar to Bombay. MG Road was like South Bombay. Fergusson College seemed as if it was built alongside Xavier's, Wilson and Elphinstone. Pune even had Irani restaurants!
I've yet not been to Delhi though. But when I do, I hope I find the circus with the trapeze artists and animals with the aroma of Nescafe and the slippery Maggi sauntering around it.
Or the child in me will be disappointed that he did not imagine well enough.