Christopher Columbus was born in the Italian city of Genoa. He belonged to the family of weavers but he didn’t want to be a weaver. He loved the sea and wanted to be a good sailor. Later, he decided to find a sea route to Asia. For this, he asked the people of Genoa city, he tried the king of Portugal, England, France, and Spain. But for a long time, nobody listened to such a dangerous plan. Eventually, he convinced the Monarchs of Spain to sponsor his trip.
Despite facing hardships, and the unknown vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus persisted in his wandering. In 1492, he reached the islands of the Caribbean, not Asia as he wanted. His discovery opened up a new chapter in history, connecting two previously isolated worlds i.e., Europe and America. What did we infer from this? Columbus’s story shows that not all who wander are lost. Sometimes, some people end up with ground-breaking discoveries.
Now the question is what does the wanderer mean here? – Conventionally, wanderers are often associated with a lack of purpose. However, this can’t be always true. For some, wandering can be of deliberate choice to explore new dimensions in one’s life. Also, it can be a way to break monotony. For instance, some people take a break from regular work and wander to tourist places to break monotony. Therefore, wandering can have a purpose as well as a lack of purpose. We can find its traces throughout the spectrum.
If we go back to the ancient world, we have come across the personality of Gautam Buddha. He was born into a royal family. Still, he embarked on a spiritual journey driven by the concerns related to human suffering. His wandering was not aimless but purposeful, as he sought to answer profound questions about the existence of human beings. Through his journey, Buddha came to know that desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. He also gave the ‘Noble Eightfold Path’ to come out from suffering.
Subsequently, down the line, Medieval Europe witnessed renaissance. During those days, scientists like Galileo Galilei and Copernicus challenged existing scientific beliefs, paving the way for the Scientific Revolution. Against this wandering, Galileo was sentenced to jail. It was so because his wandering challenged the convention where the Church believed that the earth is at the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it. However, his observation found that heliocentrism is not possible and thus the sun is at the center and the earth revolves around it. Therefore, his wandering ended with a scientific discovery.
Afterward, if we look at political developments in the modern world, then we will find the wandering of Indian saint, Mahatma Gandhi. During his wandering, he experimented with his means to fight against the British Empire. For instance, During his time in South Africa wandering, Mahatma Gandhi developed the Satyagraha technique. It was based on the truth and nonviolence. He also tested this instrument in Africa. Later, he used the same means to fight against British colonial power in India as well. Thus, his wandering was fruitful in finding innovative means to fight against imperial power.
Moreover, we see its reflection in the post-modern world as well. At the individual level, people are trying to find the purpose of life amid the race of technological advancement. Some problems have no name. These problems are being found through wandering and experiments by the individuals. For example, in his book “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari“, Robin Sharma explains how he experimented with his life while wandering in his mind in the dilemma between materialism and spirituality.
Eventually, he came to know out of his wandering that simplicity in life gives long-lasting happiness. It enlightens you that focusing on building your inner life is more important than building your outer life. That’s why gave up materialism by selling his Ferrari. Thus, his wandering was fruitful in the sense that it provided simplicity in life by reducing reliance on materialism that shows merely outer life.
Similarly, Rahul Yadav, CEO of housing.com, was struggling to find a flat on rent while studying. Later, this idea became the sole purpose of his wandering. He started finding solutions for this problem in his journey. Eventually, he founded the first online real estate business in India. Now, many of the similar online real estate businesses exist in India. It has made it easy for people to find rented houses in cities. Thus, his wandering against the problem faced provided the solution to the problem that many people used to face in cities.
On the same line, we talk about the field of Sports, M.S. Dhoni experimented with his life through wandering. He wandered on the path of his career. He had a job in his hand in Indian Railways. Still, he tried to explore his inner manifestations through cricket. Consequently, he left the journey of ticket collector behind and started finding himself in the cricket domain. So far, he has been one of the most successful Indian captains in Indian cricket whose leadership has won all world tournaments. Thus, his journey motivates other people in society to self-discovery.
Thus, Wandering is also a kind of metaphor for resilience and adaptability. For instance, if we look at the national level, we will find India’s wandering in world politics. After independence, when India chose to have a third pole in the face of NAM against stuck in bipolar rivalries. The first world criticized India for “sitting on the fence” and acting like a “swing state”. However, we India built its capability, it has transformed itself from NAM to “Strategic Autonomy” in his wandering. Today, India has become a “rule shaper” in the world politics. Thus, India’s wandering in geopolitics was fruitful in serving its national interests.
However, there is another side to this coin. We can’t always claim that wandering always ends with a fruitful journey. Some wanderers are not purposeful in their wandering. For example, people do not choose to go wandering during a refugee crisis or civil war in African countries like Sudan. In fact, the situation forces them to wander. They are genuinely lost in their wandering and trying to get places by becoming refugees in other countries for survival. Thus, they lack purpose as well as are lost in the wandering.
Sometimes, even though there is a purpose, the can also be bad. For example, in the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, one plane flew directly into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. It had hit its target and was not lost in the literal sense but metaphorically, it could not have been more lost. But the very purpose was not ethically sound enough. Thus, even though one has a purpose, it doesn’t mean that his/her journey would be fruitful.
Along with this, there are other challenges as well. Wandering has not always been welcoming in our society. It is generally recognized after the success of wandering. For instance, we have seen the clashes between parents and ISKCON concerning their children. Parents accused ISKON of “distracting” them. Parents are also concerned about his old age time. It is sometimes criticized who would take care of the parents in old age because it demands the services of children.
Therefore, to make wandering purpose, the person should have a proper moral basis. It means one must have a purpose as well and that purpose must sound ethically well. For this, there is a need for social skills so that one can understand the emotions of his own as well as of others. A person wandering must have empathy towards others suffering as Rahul Yadav has while searching for homes in cities as we discussed above. His empathy for finding solutions for others made his wandering purposeful.
Similarly, there will be a need for integrity in the path of wandering. Integrity would make people come out of their comfort zones and try to find the solution to suffering. As we have seen above Budha, despite being from the elite class, came out of his comfort zone to find reasons and solutions to human suffering. Thus, integrity combined with compassion can make the wandering fruitful and successful.
In conclusion, I would like to quote Mirza Ghalib who rightly said – “Manzil milegi, bhatak kar hi sahi Gumrah to wo hai jo ghar se nikle hi nahin”. It means wandering helps one to achieve a destination. Those who wander are not lost but those who didn’t come up from their comfort zone and confined themselves in the four walls of the house are lost in real sense.
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