Vilas Kale, 66, leads an active life as a social worker and businessman in Nagpur (Maharashtra), India, where he was born, brought up, educated and is settled. He has been able to successfully balance his business with his social work and activism and also pursue his many hobbies including a passion for travelling. It Was A Happy Trusting World, Then – a book written by Kale chronicles his hitchhiking trip with his cousins Kumar and Vidula 46 years back. The book, which Kale wrote with the help of scribbles in his diary, is a delight in true sense. In addition to being a interesting and detailed travelogue, the book is very well written with pictures from 46 years back. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
The Genesis: How the Travel Bug Bit
In 1968, when I was just seventeen years of age I got a chance to visit Kabul and stay for a minth with my aunt, Nalini Verma whose husband, AK Verma was with the Indian Embassy. My younger cousins Kumar and Vidula, all of fifteen and fourteen were also with me.
The trip left lasting impressions on my young mind – the beautiful landscapes of Afghanistan, the rugged, somewhat dusty people, the juicy fruits and addictive dry fruits in the bazaars, the Afghan’s craze for Bollywood films and music. Kabul was a lovely city with its rustic hills, cool breeze, the tall poplar trees, neat roads, gardens and imposing buildings. We were warmly greeted by people as we walked and explored the city – its avenues, bazaars and gardens.
A lunch with the legendary Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan at the Indian Ambassador’s residence was a high point of visit and so was my first overseas on-the-sight landscape, an oil painting.
However, what really intrigued me and left a deep impact was seeing European youth on the highway with backpacks thumbing a lift from passing vehicles. I enquired and learnt that these hitchhikers were not necessarily hippies. Anand Kaka said, “you should do it”…the bug caught on; I was fascinated with the idea of picking up a backpack and going off into the wide world and it became my abiding dream.
Two years hence. I distinctly remember – It was the month of February 1971. I was turning twenty in March and was due to appear for my M.Com examinations towards a post-graduate degree in commerce. I discussed the idea of a hitchhiking trip to the Middle East and Europe in the summer holidays with Kumar and Vidula, now eighteen and seventeen. We had got along pretty well during the 1968 Afghanistan trip and they jumped at my suggestion.
We had many questions. How much money would we need? Would we manage to get it together? None of us were earning. Would our parents allow us to go off for a trip in this fashion? After all, I, the team leader was just twenty years of age.
When an action is in your destiny, everything falls in place to make it happen and so it did. My uncle, Appa Kaka who led our family-run business then, said yes and did not further enquire about our plans…we may call this lack of interest or faith in our doings.
So, without much ado, I checked my examination time-tables to find out the earliest dates we could travel. My tests were to finish by 1 May, so we decided to take the first sailing after that date. We would sail on 10 May by the British-India Steam Navigation Company’s streamer, SS Dumra.
I wrote to Asiatic Travel Sciences confirming the booking of three passages to the Iranian port city of Khorramshahr by the deck class and sent them the passage charge, inclusive of the return journey.