The comfort zone is like a circle around a person. If one stays in the same place, like a frog in a well, the circle shrinks. If one traels, gets on the road and goes to places unknown, the circle gets larger.
‘Have you ever travelled out of your comfort zone?’
Most seasoned travellers would find it hard to answer that question. The diameter of their comfort zones are so large that hardly anything seems ‘out of the comfort zone’ for them.
I was wondering which incident to describe as ‘travelling out of my comfort zone’. Should I mention the story of my first flight, during which the airplane got caught in a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal, leaving me with permanent phobia of air travel? Should I mention the incident when our train broke down in the middle of the night and I did a rail rokko along with the other passengers of the train? We sat on the tracks, stopped the next train and got into it.
I guess I will tell you about my trip to the Tripura.
The cold air made me shiver. There was faint hint of drizzle in the air. The tiny droplets stung my face but I was enjoyed it.
We were in Southeast Assam for a couple of weeks. We were in the second year of college and had gone there for a hospital posting. The hospital we went to, had a peripheral clinic in Tripura. We decided to go there on a side trip.
The scenery was beautiful. We passed by lush green fields of paddy. The wind made them ripple and it looked like waves on a green sea. We through a thick and dark bamboo jungle. The roads cut into the hillside. The forest floor was covered with the brightest ferns. We crossed innumerable forest streams and rivers. The witty roadside signs by the Border Roads Organisation also kept us entertained. We even saw an elephant pass by.
In the middle of the forest, our vehicle suddenly stopped. We saw a long line of cars and other vehicles in front of us.
Joel, who was sitting in the front of the vehicle, asked, “Driver, what is happening?”
The driver spat out the pan he was chewing and said, “Sirji, the roads beyond here to Tripura are very dangerous because of the militants. Twice a day, a military convoy passes by here. All the vehicles have to go with them.”
We got out of the car and looked around. Joel pointed at a tree-top. On the top of the tree there was a wooden platform with a gun pointing in our direction. We hurriedly got back inside our vehicle. The driver told us that they were army jawans sitting on the tree-top and keeping an eye on the road.
After a while the military convoy came. A couple of military vehicles went to the front of the line. A patrol jeep with a mounted gun went up and down the road.
The convoy then started moving slowly through the dark forest. We then played a weird travel-game of spotting tree-top gunmen. I was scanning the top of the trees for more gunmen when I heard someone say, “Maccha, I want to take a photo of the patrol car”
I looked around. I saw Shaji with his camera ready and the window rolled down.
“No!”, I tried to warn. But it was too late. The patrol car sped past us. I heard a click.
Immediately the convoy stopped. We knew we were in trouble. The next thing I know, our vehicle was surrounded by army men with guns pointed towards us. I didn’t want to die so far away from home.
“Sirji, put on your stethescopes”, whispered the driver from the front.
We all quickly put on out stethescopes. One of the jawans walked up to our vehicle and told us to step outside. We slowly got out.
“Who took the photograph?”
We all looked at Shaji. He slowly extended arm and gave his camera to the jawan. He opened the camera, took out film, stamped on it and returned the camera.
“If you take any more photographs in this place, we will have to arrest you”, he warned.
“We are sorry, we won’t do it again”, said Joel. He told us to get back in our vehicle. The convoy started moving again.
We didn’t move a muscle for the rest of the trip.