I too set out on a journey though the world…
As I refresh my memory of my maiden journey, the image that springs up is that of an overflowing river with a fleet of boats floating on it. I was on my way to a pilgrim centre with my family. I was three or four years old. Yet that first journey still lingers in my memory.
Somehow, from early childhood, the urge to travel seems to be dissolved in the very blood that runs through my veins. Perhaps my home and the environs where I grew up might have triggered the travel instinct in me. None at home and especially my father did not frown upon my love of travel. He was of the opinion that visiting unseen places would expand and enrich my world view. There was also high domestic pressure that I should necessarily take part in every study tour of my school.
I have very pleasant memories of my childhood journeys. At that time my father V.J. George was running a parallel education centre called the Arts College. My village was then a tiny hamlet. At the end of the year a board would appear with perfunctory frequency in front of the Arts College. It would read something like this. “Book your seat instantly. Excursion to a hill station will leave on 20th of this month under the care of Principal V.J. George.”
The most delighted to notice that board would be my two sisters and I for we were assured of our seats in that trip. The tourist group would include students of the Arts College and some local dignitaries. We children would be seated above the battery box in the bus to the left of the driver. Wearing uniforms of the same hue, we would sit proudly on the battery top seat as if we were on a mission of the conquest of the world.
Those were truly study tours in every sense of the word. More often than not, some former students of my father might be staying at various such locations. My father would have already alerted them about our arrival by advance intimation. As the group reaches the town, they would be waiting for our bus. Then they take over as guides. They would describe sights and scenes of the place as best as they could. Buses with the cloth banners of Arts college stretched across their bodies have logged long distances through the roads and streets of many tourist hotspots. The sweet forward journey turns sour on return. My father will shoot question after question about all that we have seen. We need give right answers. What was more, we were required to submit a travelogue.
It was then that the matter assumed gravity of recollecting and documenting the sights beyond the simple pleasure of enjoying them momentarily. Although it was a painful procedure at that point of time, that training later it stood me in good stead. It was this experience that helped me to nurture my style of taking and keeping notes of all the places I had visited.
All through fifth standard, the annual Arts College tour was a regular event for me. One or two interstate travels in a year. During November-December period, we, children would expectantly look out if the tour board had appeared in front of the Arts College.
The last tour program operated by the Arts College was an eight day excursion to a well-known beach destination and other places. My father had purchased a printing press and got himself immersed into business associated with that. As the new enterprise led to severe economic stress and great debt traps, our study tour took a long holiday.
The pleasure of travel was later presented to me by my maternal uncle who was a priest. He was engaged in missionary activities in Brazil. Those were the days when priests were not inclined to go to distant places like Brazil. Being adventurous, he chose Brazil itself where he was greeted with warmth. My uncle was entrusted with the charge of about ten parishes. He had to visit each parish church every alternate Sunday.
Uncle’s arrival at the distant parish churches of Brazil was like a celebration for the congregation. He used to reach a church almost once in two months. The believers received him with festivities and feast in great jubilation.
My priest-uncle had remarkable mastery over language and was a great writer. Back at home after a visit to a church, he would prepare a vivid account of his experience. He created graphic account of all events and places including the rural folk whom he came across.
Every fortnight with unbroken continuity we used to receive his mail from Brazil. There will be three or four thin sheets of written matter, each one addressing a member of the family
The first one would be addressed to my father. Its contents would include advice on business matters and how to manage the press.
The second one would be for my mother with advice on family matters, marriages, health, farm and so on.
The third sheet would be for us, the children. It would be a detailed travelogue. He used to describe his adventures in Brazil with a spice of hype. Occasionally he would send some photographs too.
As an Upper Primary student, I was excited with his accounts, My dream was to travel through lands like Brazil as a missionary following his footprints.
As I reached High School, I was attracted by travel literature. In those days, I could get only a few books. My main activity was to read and reread those books and enjoy the exotic pleasure of imaginary journeys.
It was impossible to engage in travel while studying in tenth and pre-degree classes. My father’s printing press and publishing company was in growing phase. Back from the school I had to rush to the press as a much-needed helping hand. Tied to the printing job that took me into the late hours I could not even think of going home for the night.
An irresistible fascination for the audiovisual media overtook me while I was in Pre-degree class. My dream was to present a telefilm in a Television channel. For a short spell, the jouney-lover in me remained dormant.
I spent several hours on many days at the doorsteps of a state-owned TV channel holding in my hand a telescirpt. Will any one ever care to look at a script from a “raw boy whose mustache is yet to grow.”
Television continued to be deeply embedded in my mind while I was doing my degree and post graduation. I could get the best in class training from the top studios of South India. I could also interact with the supreme technical maestros of South Indian Cinema.
To secure hands-on experience I made a telefilm. Although it was a piece of good work, I could not recover the capital invested on it. But I learned the sober lesson that I should tread my way in the field of television with great caution.
An intense desire to make a memorable documentary was brewing within me. Documentary needs money to make it. Money is hard to come by. What to do? I fell into a reverie.
I discovered an innovative route to scoop up capital for the documentary. Take up contract printing of magazines for major colleges near to my locality. That trade yielded profit far beyond my estimates. I directed a documentary on the Seer of Kurisumala of Vagamon with that income. It was a soul satisfying endeavor.
Later I directed a telefilm. Which was much appreciated. It was followed by a string of productions. The audiovisual medium was witnessing a deluge of serials with a large number of directors. Tele-serial production was everywhere. Massive proposals queued up before channels.
I made up my mind to withdraw from telefilm field. I must make a mark with my work of art that reflected my identity and that must remain in the memory store of the audience. It must also have a place of pride in the history of the Media.
The travel lover in me woke up. The irresistible urge for journey was surging forth.
I decided to make the travelogue series even without any prior consent form channel. I also decided to set apart a part of my earnings from my job for traveling.
I saw a striking advertisement for A Nepal tour at a very low rate given by a travel agency. I was in instant touch with them. Its MD was very kind and he made all arrangements for the tour including hotel bookings.
I boarded the train from the nearest railway station. Thus I started the history of my journey to the world. I crossed the India-Nepal border on foot from the border village of Sunoli.
Then journeys galore. First to countries like the Maldives. Every journey multiplied my excitement. I traveled through the seven continents of Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia and Europe and Antarctica. I have ticked off 74 countries and Antarctica from my checklist.
It was full four years after my first travel, that TV telecast of my travel show started. Finance for every visit of mine was generated by my toiling day and night. My journey continues in that tradition.
As I look back at my program of showing the common people the lands I visited, I am contented. As you see the world, your perception expands.
Even if I could minutely sensitize the consciousness of the viewers, My Journey Through the World has been amply rewarded.
Santhosh George Kulangara