Sunday, March 6, 2011


Backpacking is an activity that marks no prejudice. I say prejudice because I had thought the backpack fit only for the backs of men. I'm always amazed at the sight of female backpackers. Their backpacks so huge they appear almost mule-like carrying them. So when a female backpacker crosses my line of sight I would usually watch her a little longer. Totally in awe of her male-like virility and wishing that I had some of it. Just in case.

But I fathom the sense of adventure that these backpackers yearn for. Driven by the thirst of curiosity and the hunger to experience the authentic. Without a doubt it is exciting. An escapade for exhilaration if not weariness. If I were twenty five, twenty six - seven or simply young, unmarried, unattached and hyperactive I imagine backpacking would be something I would live for. So when our daughter N announced that she was going a-backpacking in India I didn't collapse. After ten days she returned home from her trip. Thank god. She looked tanned, toned, trimmer and tired. She slumped into her bed and awoke only for dinner. Listening to her saying how tired she was I, being mother, joked that she needed a holiday to get over her holiday. Then I giggled at my own clever joke. Only to hear Miss N announce adamantly that it wasn't a holiday that she had had... but backpacking, italicized and bold.

For curiosity...or was it for authencity... and guided by the Lonely Planet guide book her backpacker friends and she took the local bus in India, the local train at rush hour, ate at roadside stalls, suffered Delhi belly, visited the Taj, rented a van with driver to Jaipur, Goa, et cetera, scoured Mumbai's art galleries with a local who had kindly offered N the tour, interacted and exchanged emails with fellow backpackers from across the globe, stayed at rest houses and budget hotels but the climax of her journey, to me at least, was ...she had had her hand henna-ed.  Although not necessarily all in that order of course. But it was beautiful. The henna I mean. (I'm sure the Taj Mahal was too. But since I wasn't there.........). It was a Rajastan's bride's wedding henna. It started from the tip of her fingers to about three inches beyond her wrist. I admired it. The curlicues. Then my eyes moved further up and I noticed a darker design on her upper arm just below her shoulder line about four inches long and one half inches wide. I felt a small shudder of alarm breaking through my belly. 

Aloud I wondered if it was a tattoo while  silently I was praying that it wasn't. Of course, Miss N proclaimed that she wasn't that crazy. I looked at her. Of course not. Just a hard nut to crack. Resolute. Untameable. I looked at the creature I had created. In sync with H. (Hey, I'm not taking all the blame). But on the other hand she is also determined, hardworking, loyal and kind. Well... perhaps I will.

So what did this stay at home mother learn for the day? Rush hour in India is just that. RUSH. Spelt S.T.A.M.P.E.D.E. Instead of getting off the train when it stopped N and friend were warned by a lady passenger to stay on it, to stand back and to allow passengers to embark before attempting to get off. Of course I imagined the girls had their puzzled eyebrows busy at work as well because they did think it was silly to exit after new passengers embarked. In a minute they learnt why. A stampede swarmed into the carriages. Much like swarming bees into a hive I imagine. It was a good thing there are seperate carriages for men and women in India. When the stampede had settled down to a buzz and to relative stand still they then proceeded to squeeze themselves out of the carriage. Like toothpaste, I am imagining. I'm glad she survived that. But what if the train had left before they got off? What if they had gotten crushed? What if they had never found the exit amoung all those bodies? What if.....???? But these are what ifs potential-for-breakdown mothers should never dream of. Ever.

Invested with more foolhardy motherliness I then proceeded to ask N how had she gotten her clothes washed while she backpacked. I looked at her and waited for an answer expecting something along the lines of "Oh I sent it to the laundry." Nope. Silence. A mumble. Then I heard the word backpacking, italicized and bold.

Come April N the girl/woman will be going off again on a short trip. Come May N the boy/man will be trekking miles through the jungles of Pahang, crossing rivers, befriending leeches, slapping mosquitoes, sleeping in tents and climbing Gunung Tahan, the highest point in Peninsula Malaysia.

Come tomorrow I the mom/woman/wife/daughter/cook/human receptacle of woes and experience-r of second hand adventures would still be mulling over the fascinating fact that a backpack isn't a burden after all. It rests on your hips, N the man told me, not on your back. backpacking a feminal thing after all? We so have hips.

PS : For all her scruffy adventures in India Miss N did not come home with mere dirt and dust on her hands. She bought me this. Oh so girly! Me love. 

1 comment:

  1. salam zurin...cantiknya beg tu...ingatkan hasil kerjatangan zurin....