Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Less travel. Less waste.

I cannot believe it. I was born in a family that used to migrate every summer either to Matheran or Mahabaleshwar and, besides, travelled at least once a year to Pune as well. This was while I was very young. In fact, probably in 1944 or 45, I even attended with my family MK Gandhi’s prayer meeting in Panchagani, where he was summering. (This is the hill station that has quite a few residential schools and is quite close to Mahabaleshwar.) Later on, too, I travelled far and wide on work. In spite of all this travelling background, I have come to believe of late that travel is a waste of time, effort and money and certainly not all that it’s cracked up to be. In the olden days, they used to say that travel broadened one’s outlook. You met new people, made new friends, learned about new customs different from what you were used to, saw new places and added to your knowledge. When I travelled on work, people envied my lot. Well, in those days, travel was probably necessary to deal with distant clients and suppliers. You could not really do it on telephone. Today, with the Internet and teleconferencing, frequent business travel has become unnecessary in quite a few instances. A few months back, I took a taxi to go for a meeting in Dadar and was caught at the Walkeshwar traffic signal in a traffic snarl because the Prime Minister or, maybe, the President was going in a long cavalcade to Governor’s House. He had come to inaugurate something or the other. Sitting in the taxi twiddling my thumbs for half an hour, I wondered why they couldn’t get him to inaugurate whatever he was supposed to via teleconferencing and spare us all the traffic jams and the delays. Think of the time and energy and inconvenience it would have saved, apart from exposing the VVIP to risk in transit. My opposition to travel also extends to holidays. I’ve come to believe that holiday travel doesn’t really help you to relax. The unearthly check-in timings, the delays en route, the ever-worsening terrorism scenario and the rest have added too much stress to holiday travel. I know a lot of people continue to go on holidays. My theory is, they do so because everyone else does. Also, they want to boast that they’ve been to such-and-such a destination and stayed at such-and-such fancy resort and so forth – and bask in the green glow of envy. Furthermore, they want to bore us with their out-of-focus holiday videos. If you want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you can do so peacefully and leisurely in the privacy of your own living room by logging on to one of the several websites that has its pictures. In the process, you will have saved yourself so much bother and money and stress. You can eat your fill of pasta at the nearest five-star restaurant at a fancy price, if you are so inclined. Few of us can tell real pasta from fake, in any case. Teleconferencing can easily take the place of transnational meetings. All this is not such a bad idea because we will be conserving precious fuel, reducing pollution and the risk of exposure to terrorist threats as well as the peril of flying aircraft well past their prime staffed by underexperienced and unfit crew. I know everybody and his uncle and aunt will call my thinking goofy. I’m sure to be hugely unpopular with the travel and tourism lobby. I still feel, travel if you absolutely must is a good rule of thumb as of today.