Why carry gifts for complete strangers? Why send postcards when you have gmail & whatsapp? Am sure these thoughts flashed by when you read the title and I think the beauty of both of them lies in just one thing. Sharing a bit of you by adding that personal touch.

Am sure you’d agree the best part of being in unfamiliar lands is the possibility of meeting new people. In fact I’d go further to say, it doesn’t matter if you are with your better half or family. Being able to make new friends is one of most refreshing bits about travel. And I don’t know why, almost without any logic to it often, I take a small gift or two before I leave my city.

Perhaps part of me always hopes to meet someone interesting, who like me has the desire to start a friendship that outlives the trip. Besides in that child corner of us, haven’t we all felt that birthday feeling every time someone brings something for us? Especially when it’s out of the blue. I just totally love it.

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WHEN THE GIFTS FOUND ME

Who ever said impulse is the carelessness of youth? Some pretty cool ideas are an outcome of it. Am grateful for these sudden bursts really.

So on a combined work-holiday trip to Scotland about 7-8 years back I decided to carry a gift on whim. It was a conference that I was attending for 5 days and then I was to move on to other parts of the country. In those few days by chance, I met a fascinating person who was a theater actor, writer & director all rolled in one. She was from Reykjavik and clearly very very far away from Mumbai. I had really little or no idea about Iceland but she knew much about India. So she did take it upon herself to share with me stories of her land. Like for starters, the fact that Iceland is lots of green & Greenland is lots of ice was a revelation. Of course it must seem pretty obvious to many and no I didn’t learn that in geography. I had traveled as far as Scandinavia in my travel wish list but my dear super woman friend told me beautiful tales that made her & her country unforgettable.

I reached out on the last morning to my carefully wrapped gift, that I’d hand picked before I left. It was a silk scarf with beautiful Indian prints. I was so grateful I’d even thought of it. She of course decided to shop that very day in the market nearby to give me a small, cute return gift. I know she felt nice. So did I. We’ve stayed in touch of course, but we both know that the gift just made it all personal & brought us closer in an instant. It’s a habit I still cherish and love surprising people with.

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Recently on a trip to Kalpa in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh (India) we’d booked this ethereal homestay like hotel and I had a vague idea about the origins of the owner. I remember being told he was part Tibetan. Well it’s a fact that many 1st generation Tibetans living outside their homeland have never visited Tibet & perhaps never will. Since I’d traveled to that beautiful land just a few months before and was a slave to my lens, I put together a photo album of the journey. It was peppered with pictures of the gorgeous scenery and people, with tiny stories of what I’d experienced. I remember the absolute glee on his face. He was so thrilled that he could show it to his father who had come to India about 50 years back and never returned. It was the WOW bit of my life.

LETTER WRITING THE OLD FASHIONED WAY

Likewise the other joy bit of my life is for a few of my dearest buddies and family. So they don’t miss me much when am out of sight. Or rather, vicariously travel with me too. Especially when they are neck deep in work, going nuts & getting all stressed. The thing about postcards is that they are hand written but never out of fashion. I know an email sounds sensible. But those lovely pictures on hard glazed paper, with words from a person you truly care about in his/her familiar scrawl, feels so good no? More so when it brings alive the country they are in. So what if it reaches 10 days later!

I saw the delight in my 6 yr. old nephew, when I sent him his 1st postcard from London…he has treasured it though it’s a few years old now. And yes,  he is totally unfamiliar with the concept of a postman! Of course I can’t say the same for my friends. But at that moment when they received it, I know they loved it even more than the WhatsApp pictures I’d send every day.

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Postcards are just long distance gifts in words. But they are goodies all the same. Of the emotional kind.  Some even become collectibles worth framing on the wall. It’s old fashioned, but a habit that’s amazing to keep alive.

Gifts there & Postcards here, really carry stories of the land you come from & the places you’ve gone visiting. A great way you’d agree, to bring people closer to the cultures & experiences so different from the ones they already know.

So what would you love to take along on your next trip?

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(Next: Magic of Cappadocia in a Balloon ride)

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