A Friend in Far Places

May 23, 2006
My backpack of eight years has been a most loyal companion on many, many, many travels. It has been with me to places Amit hasn’t; and with Amit to places I haven’t. It has, in fact, seen as much of the world as we both have – and we have seen a fair bit of it, altogether.

Many memories are associated with that pack. Leaning against it and falling asleep in a deserted railway station in Pisa because we couldn’t be bothered to pay 80,000 lire for a bed for three hours… sitting with it in my lap for hours on end as we jolted along in a bus over the worst roads in Kerala. Feeling its comforting bulk and weight on my shoulders as I walked up hillsides in Karnataka, Kerala, Uttaranchal, Himachal… seeing it bobbing along ahead of me when a total rogue of a “porter” carried it for me in Ladakh… trussing it up in a thoroughly disreputable blue plastic sack to keep it clean and dry in the dusty, wet and dirty bus ride down from the hills last year… we’ve had a long, exciting time together, that trusty pack and I. And even now, every time I wear it I feel the warmth of a long, comfortable friendship and the promise of exciting new adventures together.

No, I’m not writing its obituary – at least, not yet. Its water-proofing came off some time ago, but it still has some life left in it… and it’s such a comfortable pack to carry that I won’t let go of it a day before it’s absolutely necessary.

And yet… it’s developing a few of those cracks and tears that indicate that the end is not far away.

Another of my worldly possessions that I love beyond reason is my camera. It has not been with me for anything like as long as my faithful backpack has, but it has been my means of recording visually all that was wonderful in my travels. My camera is to me an instrument the way my violin is… valuable for what it makes possible, and as such of a value far, far exceeding its monetary worth.

These few possessions are my friends – friends of the sort that you can be away from for months at a stretch and then, when you meet them again, find that nothing has changed. That, to me, is the hallmark of the very best of friends.

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