You know how people have a hit list. I have one too! Not people I want to hit, but the contrary. People whose courage inspires me, people whose travel adds to my own and those who have a candid confidence, that could rub off on me.
That is how I met Zia Mody in April 2017.
Stats have proven that India has the world’s largest number of geeks. I am one of them! After years of befriending books, travel opened up a more real way to befriend the real world and its people.
On a shiny summer day, I met Zia Mody. She is Managing Partner, AZB & Partners, one of India’s largest law firms. The walls of her office have carefully selected art pieces and their colours overflow into the greens beyond.
I was delighted when the conversation started with her trips to the mountains. She shared her childhood memories about holidays in the Himalayas. Her father had a home in Shimla and they would spend 2 months of the summer vacations in the mountain town. She fondly remembers trips to Mahabaleshwar, a hill station close to Bombay. As children, they would ride horses on the Polo grounds and have a magician show them tricks on the patio.
As our conversation progressed towards more candid family moments, Zia spoke about her father reciting poetry. When the kids were busy in play, she remembers him walking to the woods with a smile on his face and Shakespeare’s book in his hand.
From travels in India to studying in Cambridge and Howard in the 1980s, how has travel changed then and now, I asked her. To which she said, “It is the times of all things instant. There is a need to arrive at a place faster. She remembers taking road trips, spending the night at a hotel and resuming the journey the next morning. “Now we prefer taking a helicopter after the flight to get to our destination. There is this mental impatience to get to where we are going,” she wistfully says.
Zia also shares that holidays have become shorter. She remembers times when her parents spent the entire summer holidays with them. “It is not common to see working parents take so much time off from work these days,” she says.
I highlight the fact that immersive travel is coming back. Travellers want to do more than just tick touristy sights off their bucket list. There are travellers who want to soak in the culture of the place, make friends with the locals and generally travel slow. It is fascinating to see that trends can be cyclical not just in Economics and Fashion, but in travel as well.
Another difference that Zia finds in travel then and now, is the increasing trend towards travelling abroad. Her first trip outside India was when she was 14. Zia says,”Kids nowadays start travelling abroad since the age of 3. Indians have lost out on discovering India. The country has to improve the way it markets its sights and sounds. The country must also improve access to reach places eg: Hampi is 6 to 8 hours away from Bombay. The infrastructure with respect to 3 star and 4 star hotels must improve to encourage Indians to travel within the country.”
On Zia’s travel wishlist is Cambodia and New Zealand. She may go to Masai Mara in Kenya or Mahabaleshwar next. September is a popular time to visit Kenya as it is the migration season for the animals. Therefore, one gets to see groups of the species moving in harmony, I share with her.
From travelling with family in school to friends in college, Zia has also travelled solo on a trip to Scotland. This was when she studying in Cambridge. She would also go on drives with friends to explore the neighbouring areas of Cornwall, Lake District without an agenda.
Just the way we can explore states within a country, I ask Zia about a world where we don’t need a visa to explore other countries. Thoughtfully she shares that seamless travel will take a while. Having an alternative to national security may help. But that is sometime away.
This is the first in the series of candid travel conversations with travelling Titans. Stay tuned for more.