* July 19:
I did not brush my teeth this morning. My toothpaste ran out. I have been squeezing the tube for last four days. Normally, a tube of toothpaste lasts me for two months. I checked the date on my mobilephone and it was July 19. This evening, at 6.30pm, I would complete fourth month of travelling.
During the past two weeks in China, I have felt alienated as all channels of communication are shut for me. I have no access to Facebook, Gmail, Google or Yahoo. Sometimes, friends send me some screenshots of my Facebook timeline.
Even worse is the fact that two of my three friends, who are in constant touch with me, have taken ill. They have contracted viral fever and have been advised complete rest. They are not even permitted to use their mobilephones. There had been no communication with India, as a result.
Last evening, I was nervous. Do you ever feel nervous? If not, you are probably protected and comfortable with your routine. My story is different. I feel unprotected, insecure, uncertain, unassertive, unsafe, vulnerable, unstable and much more.
I had only Rs 3,000 (300 Yuan) in my pocket and an equal amount loaded on a travelling card. This is insignificant when one is abroad, particularly in a rich country (1 Yuan = Rs 10). Naturally, I was not feeling too good. To add to my misery, the climate in China was bad yesterday. Clouds had engulfed the sky. I had a sudden thought of getting into train to Nepal and then head to India though I do not have enough money for the journey.
Before I came to China, I was sure of surviving without money. But in China, it is difficult. I put more than 100 requests on couchsurfing websites for accommodation. But I did not get a single reply. I cannot forget to mention two Chinese journalists who helped me a lot. One of them wanted to host me but his girlfriend was scheduled to visit him in Beijing. So, he put me up in a hotel and paid my bills amounting to Rs 10,000 (1,000 Yuan).
Last morning, I had sent a text to my friends, but there was no reply. The thought to return to India was getting stronger. I was making plans, but how was I to cross Tibet__ foreigners need special permission. The biggest hurdle is to cross the Himalayas. I was in deep thought when I received a message from Nitasha Natu, a journalist with the Times of India, asking about the progress made in my communication with the Mumbai Dabbawalas association. It diverted my mind from thoughts of returning to India.
Nitasha has been helping me from last month. In Vietnam, my visa was about to expire and I could not get a visa for any other country. She was the first to tweet to the Ministry of External Affairs. Several friends re-tweeted thereafter and as a result, the Indian Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam called me. They gave suggestions on how to solve the problem.
Nitasha has been in touch ever since. She voluntarily took an initiative of bringing in donors to help me financially. She put up my requests on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp. I could travel a few more days.
During my seven years’ stay in Mumbai, I had never met Nitasha. I do not know how she looks like. Her Whatsapp profile does not have her picture. At one point, I thought I would Google her picture but I cannot access Google in China. I gave up the idea.
Due to mobile data charges, I have reduced using Whatsapp groups from 38 to just three. One of the groups I still use is ‘Railway News Reporting.’ It is a disciplined group strictly for news. The group admin, Kailash Korde, gave me the liberty to post stuff which has nothing to do with railway news. I write about my problems here and members pool their resources and contacts to help me.
My nervousness has vanished. This morning, my Guru and the first Indian who complete a circumnavigation trip by sea, Cdr Dilip Donde, boosted my confidence saying, “You have proved that you are extremely adaptable and (I) will be happy wherever you go.”