My Flight To Freedom

Join Preeti Monga as she pulls a page out of her diary narrates one of her best childhood memories. Hint: It’s all about travel!

I always seem to find my peace in mountains, it feels like home every time

I always seem to find my peace in mountains, it feels like home every time

Hello there! Hope my last post got you to fall in love with travelling and holidays!

Well, my love for travel was born right after I tumbled into this beautiful world! I was 21 days old when I was taken on my very first journey by train, from my birthplace Amritsar to Kalka in the foothills of the lofty Himalayas. Then by taxi up the winding road through pine forests up to Shimla and into the loving arms of my beloved Daddy! Even today, the moment I get on my way, I feel like I have been set free. Free from the cage of my blindness. I automatically begin to breathe freely, and my heart and soul seem to dance and sing, like an eagle taking flight!

A Great Summer Away

Today I am going to share with you cherished memories of my childhood summer holiday journey that took me from the lush forest lands of Tripura on India’s eastern border into the magnificent mountains of Kashmir up in the far north-west! This was a very special journey, because I was just about ten years old and going through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life; rapidly losing my eyesight. This wonderful trip gave me the strength to pull myself through the initial unbearable pain of discovering my enormously serious disability! The idea of this holiday was so thrilling, no books for one month and the chance to travel by air, train and road. The awesome opportunity of spending time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins along the way!

The First Leg: Air Travel

At last, the start of my holiday was here. Off we went, on the first leg of our journey, jostling along the bumpy roads of Agartala, bundled in my father’s jeep. We were heading to the tiny airport of Agartala to fly to Calcutta (Kolkata) aboard the Fokker Friendship aircraft. I was already imagining the fun that awaited me on the train from Calcutta to Delhi and then from Delhi to Pathankot. I dreamt about the amazing ride in a huge BSF truck to the lovely city of Srinagar that was to follow. My mouth was watering as I thought of all the goodies mummy had packed for the trip and of eating the usually forbidden street food. I couldn’t wait to be rocked to sleep and then waking up on the Kalka Mail train in Delhi. And more than anything, I couldn’t wait for the taxi ride to my paternal grandparents’ quaint little home!

Suddenly the happy sound of rustling toffee wrappers from the seats ahead jolted me out of my daydreams and I was back to reality! I quickly sat up, put out my hand and modestly picked a few sweets from the air hostesses’ tray! My sweets were barely gobbled up, when we landed at the Calcutta airport; and my favourite German aunt, Frauke, was there to receive us and take us to her beautiful home where we were to spend a few days before we boarded the Kalka Mail train to Delhi.

Eats and Treats in Calcutta

In my aunt’s house, we spent our time listening to her enchanting stories and enjoying her excellent German cooking, especially her chicken in white sauce and mash potatoes with a sweet and sour carrot salad! It was soon time to go, but I was too excited about the boundless adventures ahead to regret the short stay with my aunt. And so, we were soon driving through the jam-packed narrow streets of Calcutta towards Habra Station to catch our train to Delhi. My heart skipped happily, as I thought of the yummy cheese sandwiches and boiled eggs I would get to eat once on the train, not to forget the chocolates and cakes that my aunt Frauke had tucked away in our picnic hamper!

Days with the Grandparents

Well, my eagerly awaited, twenty-four hour train journey was over too soon and I found myself firmly held by my mother as we pushed our way through the crowded New Delhi railway station. From there it was into a yellow and black taxi, which swiftly raced through the traffic-free wide Delhi streets to my grandparents’ place. The next few days flew by as we lapped up the wonderful cooking of my paternal grandmother and enjoyed listening to her cute squabbling with my grandfather. Soon it was time to embark on the third leg of our journey!

On the Road Magic

I still vividly remember the discomfort of the piercing heat on my skin as we stepped off the overnight deluxe train journey, at the Pathankot railway station. A discomfort that quickly dissolved into wonder, as I was lifted up into the back of a huge police truck, and put down onto soft mattresses covered with crisp bed sheets and cuddly blankets. I realised that this would be our adventurous make-shift home for the next 24 hours! I later found out that, this truck was actually carrying cargo, and that the cargo had been covered with the mattresses upon which we had most comfortably settled in! Our temporary mobile home was most enchanting, and to my fading eyesight it was even more adventurous because I could not see the cabin of the truck up ahead. I felt like a princess who was being magically cocooned in a tarpaulin-covered, cosy cabin, with the cool fragrant breeze tingling my cheeks and playfully tossing my ponytail – all while I was being majestically driven to my dearest maternal grandfather’s palace!

Soon, night descended upon us, and it was now time to step off our cosy mobile truck home, to eat the famous Kashmiri dinner of rajma and rice, and spend the night at a roadside inn. I remember the dinner being amazing, but the little inn looked so dingy and scary to me that I wished I could have slept in our snug truck-home. To my delight my parents too decided they’d rather spend the night sleeping in our truck because they also felt the same way!At Journey’s End

At Journey’s End

The next thing that I remember is waking up in a gently rocking bed; and I sort of sadly realised that I had slept in the truck, which was now climbing uphill through the winding mountain road. Soon I was to be at my destination!

The next thing that I remember is waking up in a gently rocking bed; and I sort of sadly realised that I had slept in the truck, which was now climbing uphill through the winding mountain road. Soon I was to be at my destination! And here, friends, my magnificent dream journey came to an exalting end and I was all set to rule my grandfather’s kingdom for the rest of my summer holiday!

If just like Preeti, you love travelling, then choose Enable Travel (India’s first Accessible Holiday Specialist) for all your holiday needs. To book a package, visit enabletravel.com or call 1800 266 8002

Preeti Monga

Preeti Monga is Founder & CEO of the Silver Linings Trust & Silver Linings Services, and, Director Project, of Project Jyoti of the Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital! Blind since childhood, she has made it her mission to empower people with disabilities and inspire everyone to live with dignity. Preeti focuses on the education of blind children, the inclusion of disabled people in mainstream society and the restoration of eyesight through cornea retrieval. She has won several prestigious awards, including The National Award, 2013, and the Exceptional Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award, 2015, among others!

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Leave a response comment1 Response
  1. Andy
    June 06, 16:53 Andy

    More power to your pen &thoughts/ideas!
    I’ve been to Goa Darjeeling Calcutta Delhi Jammu Srinagar Simla Madras Ooty Kanyakumari Konark Guhagar in Ratnagiri-Maharashtra! Saare jahan see achha yeh Hindostan hamara!
    Really OUR INDIA IS GREAT!
    Anand A cop IPS. &Fmr SBI P.O

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