Keshav Chaturvedi is a communications professional and a writer. He is also an environment enthusiast and a photographer. But more than that, he is an avid traveller, who has been exploring places within India and abroad for the last 25 years. He has recently launched an audio travel show called “Tedhe Medhe Raaste” with a podcast major – IVM Podcast, where he narrates his travel experiences in India and abroad.
In an interview, he talks about more than two decades of his travel and how it changed him as a person.
In the crowded space of travel shows, what is the unique selling proposition of your travel podcast?
Most of the travel shows are about a destination and they are geared to deal with the query of a prospective traveler or a tourist. But since I don’t have the luxury of visuals I have to paint a picture with my words. It presents a challenge as most of the stories happened over a period of 25 years. So it’s a unique blend of personal journeys that documents changes and also helps me to share my personal experiences. What also makes my travel show different from the rest of the travel shows is that it strives to celebrate the journey and not the destination. Secondly, it is more about the impact of the travel, the place and the experience on the narrator, which makes it a blend of a travel show and a storytelling session.
You have been travelling for 25 odd years. What in your opinion has changed across India or has it remained the same?
A lot has changed and yet a lot remains the same. If you travel during the day you realise that the rural areas along the road in most parts don’t have thatched roofs and mud houses anymore. They are being replaced by brick houses at a quick pace. Cycles and bullock carts are being replaced by motorbikes and tractors. If you travel by night you see light bulbs lit up even in remote corners. The most important thing is, if you are travelling by train the sight of people defecating in the open along the railway lines has reduced. In places like Ladakh you will find telephone lines reaching up to Pangong Lake. So that’s a welcome change.
What has not changed mercifully is the basic goodness of people. You visit any part of India and people still come forward to help you from nowhere. I have travelled to Bihar during the dead of the night in 1990s and yet people came out to help and offer accommodation. Once In Kolkata, I happened to stand looking at a building, wondering what it was when a gentleman stopped by and not only told me everything about it but also helped me get into it.
Why do you think Indian youths do not travel as much as those in Europe?
Traditionally, Indians were not known to be avid travellers. But now things are changing at a very fast pace. If you notice, in the last 30 years a new breed of Indians have started taking to travelling in a big way. Many of them have grown up in relative economic comfort and have the benefit of good education, which allows them the space and resources to explore the world. So yes, your question would have been true till about a decade ago, but now many Indians are indulging their adventurous streak. They are the ones you find sharing their experience on YouTube in large numbers.
You are also an environment writer. Do you think in the age of growing environmental degradation and extreme pressure exerted on the local environment, millions of travellers will add to the problem?
That’s surely a challenge. But it’s these millions of travellers/tourists who keep the travel and tourism industry alive and kicking, keep the cash register ringing and also feed millions of people whose livelihood depends upon this industry. So the best way forward can be eco-tourism where the vast majority of them are incorporated in parallel activities of plantation, plogging or ensuring that a part of the earning from them can be ploughed back into saving the local environment. In some cases, permits can be introduced to restrict the flow of tourist traffic and a higher fee can be incorporated. This way the number of people will decrease but the earning from their arrival will remain unaffected. This will help in maintaining the ecosystem as well as the livelihood of the people.