Sakie Ariyawansa , a well known traveler and writer from Srilanka in an exclusive interview with news Kashmir talks to Rameez Makhdoomi .She also describes her wonderful experiences as traveler in kashmir.
She is also founder, writer http://www.thetravellore.com/
.Tell us a bit about your childhood?
My childhood was a pretty calm one. My parents were both Arts graduates and the environment at my home was always filled with talk about history, politics, and geography. My father had an excellent collection of books on Soviet Russia, Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi and other inspirational characters and places. The news was not only watched at home but also discussed. This developed a hardcore reading habit in me, and interest to know about other countries, cultures, and people who lived in them. I always dreamt about traveling to those and seeing in real every scene I had imagined while reading.
How was it growing when the conflict was on in Sri Lanka?
Well, the conflict was taking place in the North East provinces of the country, but surely was a wound for all of us. (Sri Lanka is very small in area) I was born and brought up in Colombo, and it was a matter of life and death and not a single family member in any household was sure of being able to return home from work or school. Suicide bombers and explosions targeting public gatherings had become so common that one would easily suspect almost anyone in public transport. People had lost trust. Fear was everywhere. Every day, someone known was dead. Breaking News was always on TV. Colombo was a grey city to me back then. Looking at it now, I am truly happy and proud as a Sri Lankan to have overcome the menace of terrorism. I am thankful that one day my children will not see such cruelty that I did.
A bit about your travel experiences?
A bit is too less! I believe, traveling is what made me who I am today. I feel I saw almost a world within India, with so many religions, traditions, languages, and dressing styles. It definitely taught me to become flexible, confident and adjust according to the situation. Ability to speak Hindi and some Indian regional languages came in handy majorly. I realized that what media feeds to us is sometimes completely against to what it really is. This made me a very liberated person, I would not believe anything for the sake of it. I came back home as a very different person from my childhood. Ever since I could not be stopped. I am intoxicated by different landscapes I think!
My concept of “Inspire Traveling” is based upon how best it is to learn things yourself, rather than depending or being influenced by external opinions. We get misled because we don’t make an effort to find the truth ourselves or don’t have the time for it. Traveling is not visiting a place and taking photographs of it, but to acknowledge oneself of the lives, friends, and simplicity behind it, which is what enlightens the mind. Traveling is the key to a free mind and productive traveling can be a cure for racism and hatred too. It is the best teacher, and lessons that never bore!
. How was experience in Kashmir like?
Kashmir is no more a traveling destination to me, it is like home. I had grown up knowing of Kashmir through Bollywood movies. The Roja movie of Mani Ratnam was a great inspiration. As a child, I wanted to climb those mountains, and see the snow-covered trees. I remember my mother telling me about how far away it is (she has never been there, but she is a fan of old Bollywood movies-70% of them were shot there) We all knew it for the conflict, so traveling to Kashmir was considered totally unsafe and hectic. The first time I went to Kashmir, my mother was shocked, happy and worried at the same time! I extended my two weeks stay to 1.5 months as I fell in love with it. My mind grew to overlook the violence and to see the warmth of the people and the mesmerizing sceneries of it from my mother’s tales. The Internet is quite poor in Kashmir so I can never Skype to show my life in Kashmir to my folks in Sri Lanka. I discovered a different beauty about it that is unknown to the outside world, so started writing on it. My trips kept on increasing and I am glad my stories and findings have been able to create a positive mindset in many Sri Lankans on Kashmir and Kashmiris.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
Definitely not. Speaking for women’s rights would not make me a feminist. I think it will only make me human. Rights should be given to all men and women equally. Just that I see certain topics are considered taboo for women, and surprisingly are created and enforced by women at certain instances. Therefore, it sometimes comes to it that to save women, one needs to fight some women itself. Aspire a career they dream, acceptance and respect to all occupations, and not just doctors, engineers and teachers should become more ordinary. One such concept I have seen is that “teaching” is considered the best job for a girl. Or girls are forced to take science subjects only to become a teacher, ultimately. The unsystematic plan of education shuts the doors to wisdom and an open mind. And the circle will continue. They should be encouraged to reach out to opportunities, and witness what the outside world is like. They should also have their own findings, stories to tell others than the vice versa all the time. An educated acknowledged force of women can prosper a nation.
Advice for solo travelers?
A.) Be interactive. You have no idea what stories could come your way and how life-changing they can be only if you become a little open. Sometimes its therapy that you could not find in an expensive hospital. You learn to realize how small your problems are sometimes.
- B) Be confident. You could be freaking out within, but never show that so much that you could be a target! Always act as if you have been in that place for 100 times already especially with auto drivers. The trick is to build a conversation with them and become a not-a-total stranger. Point A could probably resolve this situation.
- C) Enjoy your one-ness.
Traveling alone does not only reveal the outside world to you but makes you discover your own self. Sometimes our greatest fears or strengths are revealed to us when we are by ourselves.