Chintu used to live in Punjab and like every Punjabi, he harbored the dream of going to Canada (or Kanaeda) one day. He wasn’t educated much but he knew one thing because of which everyone in his townvalued him. He had a map of Punjab and he knew how to read it. That was not any mean thing. People across age groups and economic strata used to visit him before going outside the town. He would guide them on the best possible paths.
Chintu carried a special affection for the map. After all, a lot of things he had in life were because of the map. He would always keep the map in his possession. Even when he slept, he would keep the map under his pillow lest someone may steal it.
A day finally came when his biggest dream was to be fulfilled. He got an opportunity to go to Canada. He packed his bags, slipped his beloved map into his pant pocket and off he went on his flight to Canada. After a few hours of sleep- and day-dreaming, he landed at Vancouver, Canada.
This is where it got interesting. Landed he had but he didn’t have a clue about the way to his destination – the destination, he defined, as the best hotel in the city. He was also not in the habit of asking anyone for directions. After all, he had been the one telling everyone the directions for his entire life, how could he accept that he didn’t know the way? So what if it’s a new place, he had a map. His beloved map.
He gently took out the map from his pocket and first of all, felt very relieved and happy to see it again after a day or so of journey. Though uneducated, intelligent he was. He understood thatthe names of the places would not be same in Canada as in Punjab. But he knew the directions to the best hotel in Punjab and since the earth and the humans are same everywhere, he reasoned, the same directions should guide him to the best hotel in Vancouver.
Confident of his reasoning and proud of his intelligence, he took off on the journey. After a couple of hours of journey on cab and on feet, he reached his destination. As he went inside the door, he was perplexed – instead of a tall building surrounded by a garden and with a security guard at the gate, he saw a large tract of barren land and two piles of wood burning in two different parts of the area. The piles of burning wood were surrounded by several men and women who all looked gloomy. As he tried to make sense of his expected hotel place, a word zoomed on in his mind “SHAMSHAAN!” (Cremation ground). “OMG”, he thought, “where have I landed?”. He ran away from the place as if he had seen some horror dream.
After running for a good 400 meters, he stopped and took some breaths. “Wrong place! I must have made some mistake”, he thought, “in following the map”.
But No. He was where was supposed to be, per the map. Then, what went wrong? He thought hard about it and then in a flow of insight, he realised, “This is Canada. That is India. The best hotels in India are equivalent to the cremation grounds here.” As he thought about it, he dreamt of heavenly, never-before-seen hotels. If their crematoriums are equivalent to our best hotels, what would their best hotels look like, he wondered in amazement.
Then he applied a different kind of logic on the map to figure out thedirections to his destination. But he didn’t reach his destination. Then, again, he tried a different logic but again, not even a hotel, let alone a heavenly hotel. He was getting tired of this journey and had already begun doubting the accuracy of his map. It was then, against his ego, he asked a guy on the road about the directions. The guy was also going to the best hotel and he knew about the directions to the best hotel. Actually, he had figured out the directions only the day before.
Chintu wasn’t impressed to know that the guy had never been to the hotel before and figured out the directions only a day before. He asked the guy to show his map. The guy showed his map and it was exactly the same as Chintu’s. Chintu was relieved. “I have the correct map. With some more diligence and patience, I’ll get to my destination”, Chintu thought. He bid the stranger good bye with a smile, thanking him for restoring his faith back in the map.
The more he tried, the more he saw failure again. The dream of a heavenly hotel remained a dream. All he came across as he kept travelling was shabby hotel-like places where he could stay for no more than a day. Each of those places would become unbearable after a day of stay. There were times he doubted the map but each of those times, he saw other people carrying the same map.
After several years of experience on the road and having set several hundreds of people, Chintu ultimately concluded that Canada was supposed to be a perennial struggle in search of a dreamy hotel with only occasional rests at dingy hotels.
The problem was that Chintu never met Mintu. Unlike Chintu and others, Mintu, upon landing in Canada, immediately bought the correct map, which had a correct picture of the territory and headed straight to the heavenly hotel, a place that remained illusive to intelligent people like Chintu.
Now, the questions remain:
Does Mintu exist in reality? Would Chintu ever meet him?
More importantly, do we care about these questions?