I'm reading the BBC website this morning about the 'invasion of Mumbai', as one author called it. I haven't seen any news of this as yet - too busy with Thanksgiving and football to even watch the news, and what I've seen has been mostly focused on Black Friday and Thanksgiving.
The front page of the BBC website shows a slideshow of images from the attacks in Mumbai, followed by several articles discussing what's happened/happening. As I looked at the photos, a strange feeling overcame me, a feeling of sadness for what's happened, but in an interesting way. I couldn't quite pinpoint it at first; I kept going back to the photo of the Taj Mahal Hotel billowing smoke from it's top. The Hotel presented a gorgeous site, unmistakeably mid-eastern and exotic, and was framed by a crystal blue sky, not a cloud in site, save for the black smoke pouring from it's windows. And if you covered your thumb over a small fraction of the photo, the Hotel looked perfect, almost inviting.
The feeling that I got was one of loss, almost akin to losing a family member that died when you were too young to appreciate their company, like my grandfather who I never got to meet as an adult. The middle-east is high on the list of places I'd like to visit, maybe even teach in someday, to really experience. And those images of the Hotel intact are the sort of images that draw me into a place like that, with romantic notions of traveling inside a culture, experiencing it from the inside out.
Mia bought me the Lonely Planet Travel Book last year for my birthday, which lists every country in the world, and includes some incredible photos accompanied by small facts about each place. We look at this book quite often, opening it randomly and reading about a country we may have never thought about. And we plan our travels this way.
Today, when the images of the Taj Mahal Hotel included black smoke and open flames, I felt profound sadness. Sadness for India, sadness for her peoples dreams and expectations, and, selfishly, sadness that I will never be able to visit the India of last week.
Just like I selfishly wish I could bring back my grandfather to meet him as an adult, listen to his stories, learn about a man I never got to know, I now wish that these terrible things had never happened for the sake of myself as a traveler, and for the other travelers out there who may have lost their dream. The world is no longer an explorers playground; wars are not confined to the military anymore; increased technology and increased security fueled by increased paranoia, real and imagined, has simultaneously created a world in which it's easier than ever to travel, yet nearly impossible to find innocent authenticity once you arrive.