Yesterday afternoon, I was trying to get some work done at this coffeeshop that I usually go to, when I got distracted by the sight of a couple of young people playing chess at a nearby table (this has happened before; see this post). I quickly convinced myself (rightly or wrongly) that I needed to take a break from work, and went over to them and asked if they wouldn't mind me watching their game. They did not mind, and I ended up watching the game, and then playing a couple of very good games with them.
During and after the games, we got into a conversation about traveling around the world. It turns out that one of my companions, a young woman who is probably in her mid-twenties, has traveled quite a bit; she regaled us with stories of her travels in Prague, Paris, and a few other cities in Europe whose names I do not remember now. We then got into an interesting comparison of different attitudes that Europeans and Americans have towards such social "evils" as drugs and alcohol consumption.
Not to be outdone, I decided to draw from my own store of stories about the world to add to the conversation. Somehow, without realizing it, I found myself relating the stories about Mysore that I had heard and read from people like Claudia and Kino. In particular, I noticed my companions' eyes lighting up when I related stories about brownouts and water outages in Mysore, and about how one needs to really plan one's water usage when in India. I suppose my companions must have found these stories compelling because they offer a valuable glimpse into a world that is so unlike the sort of relative affluence that I imagine they must have been accustomed to, both at home and in their own travels.
Which is all well and good, except that none of these India stories with which I was regaling my friends were my own; as you probably know, I have yet to make it to Mysore. Of course, being the, ahem, yogic person that I am, I was quick to own up to this fact. Immediately after telling these stories, I also told my friends that these stories were passed on to me from friends and teachers who have been to India, and that none of these stories are my own ("I am full of India stories, none of which are my own!" was what I said; which drew a chuckle.).
Well, now you know what a popular and highly-sought-after conversation partner I am in these parts :-) But this episode also led me to realize that a significant part of my life is made up of vicarious memories taken from the lives of others. I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I suppose many people would say that it is not good to live vicariously through the memories of others. But on the other hand, in light of the fact that my present career and immigration circumstances do not allow me to travel as broadly across the world as I would like, living vicariously through others' stories and memories may well be the next best thing, or, in the words of Twain, it may be the next best way to counteract prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.
But of course, I will make it to Mysore one day. And then all of this will simply become a nice little story. Well, actually, I like to think it is already a nice little story. But I think you know what I'm getting at...