This 4th of July, history was created again, when the first session of Itchy Tales took off with Meher Moos in the irrepressible city of Mumbai. The post-lunch hours were robbed of their usual lethargy and complacent souls were pricked to see more & do more. The guests started rolling in as the clock struck three, and just fifteen minutes in, there was a bustling crowd, itching to be inspired. Not ones to stand between people and their itches, we ushered them into the hall and got the show going. It started with Smriti, Father-Mother of The Itch List, introducing it to all the eager faces in the audience. Those who were already on board, nodded knowingly; those who were new to The Itch List, beamed at the discovery. And then she unveiled the Scratcher Extraordinaire, the woman who’s actually seen it all (almost!)- Meher Moos.
For those not in the know, Ms. Meher Moos is living proof of the saying ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. She remembers getting the itch to travel the world when she was still in school, and longed to experience the places she read about for herself. Eager to start scratching this itch, she joined Air India in 1965, when she was only 20 years old. Since then, she has been to 180 countries, and is still adding to her 18 passports! The audience had barely wrapped their heads around this awe-inspiring introduction, when Meher began sharing tales of her travels.
She spoke of living with the pygmies in equatorial Africa, drinking kumiss amongst two-humped camels in Mongolia, eating wasps and bees with the tribes of Nagaland and many other stories that had the guests hypnotised. When they came to, they were full of wonder and questions. How easy is it to get visas? Where did she eat the best food? What travel essentials would she recommend? Meher’s answers were as entertaining as her travels. She’s barged into ambassador’s homes to get the coveted stamp, licked her fingers clean (while eating!) in Poland and parts of Russia, and always carried her wits wherever she went.
Her talk was full of inspiration and advice for aspiring travellers. “Eyes and hands suffice”, she vouched when asked if language is a barrier while travelling. Her experience claims that you can find “insaniyat” everywhere. “By giving him trust, I got back trust”, she said of a driver in Africa, who was twice her size and drove her overnight to meet the pygmies. Her itch to explore and her treasure trove of adventures are clearly endless, and the time we had was limited, but still she left us full of itches and dreams.
Meher Moos is a tough act to follow but a couple of travellers in the audience were ready to try. Medhavi of Ravenous Legs blog, is an avid trekker who was still tanned from her strenuous Garhwal trek and full of excitement about it. An Itch List kind of woman, Medhavi has scratched ‘learn every dance form you can’, ‘play badminton for the state’ and ‘inspire strangers to leave their comfort zones behind’. She deserved to win the coveted ‘Scratch Map’ and she did.
There was also Ruchi, the Greed Goddess, who had everyone itching with her story of how she quit her job and travelled across India for 8 months, in search of great food.
With all the inspiration in the air, people were itching to get on with their own dreams as well. And we had posters at hand for them to put down their itches and hold them up for all the world to witness. Travel was of course, the theme of the hour, and people put up itches like ‘backpack across North East India’ and ‘visit an international vineyard’. But there were also many other interesting itches, like ‘lose 10% body fat’ and ‘write a book’. The cheers that went up at these suggest that they are going to turn up on a lot more Itch Lists.
The afternoon ended with Itchy-iced cupcakes (who doesn’t love chocolate?) and colourful travel diaries from The Itch List (who doesn’t love free stuff?). As people indulged in sugary treats and chose their diary colours, lots of pictures were clicked and numbers exchanged with promises of buddying up when the itch permitted. There were smiles of contentment and a buzz of excitement as they left Itchy Tales, ready to add more to their Itch Lists. And they weren’t the only ones. With all the fun we had at our first session, we are itching to do another in a new city, with more motivating Itchers and Scratchers to keep people inspired.
Till then, we’ll let Meher’s words do the trick:
“Get out of your shell, you dreamers and seekers and Reach for the Sky!”