We were in Madagascar. Tony and I.
He was long-limbed and tattooed and had a slightly rumpled look about him. We were walking along the narrow streets of Tana and like all other men walking under the unremitting African sun, his shirt too was dappled with sweat and I instantly liked him for that.
But what I liked even more about him were his words -uttered in his gruff, bruised voice and reflected the duality and absurdity of that most peculiar of islands so eloquently that it made me want to stick with him.
And so I did; South Africa, Sao Paulo, Spain. And the further we went, the more I saw how his deep empathy for the people of the world and his willingness to share a meal with them, regardless of how it was prepared or served, drew out stories which would have otherwise gone unheard. It was like intoxicating; his love of the world. It was like looking at the world through a new window. A window which led to beers and laughter and good, hot food.
Of course, Tony wasn’t perfect. He appreciated the fact that one’s views, regardless of how well-traveled or open-minded, were tainted by his beliefs and assumptions and consequently, he was not afraid to ask us to question and challenge even his own take on things.
“The camera is a liar,” He was happy to confess. “It shows everything. It shows nothing. It reveals only what we want. Often what we see, is only seen through a window… My window! If you were here, chances are, you’d have seen things differently.”
But even then, his window was still more authentic and accurate than most.
His window opened into a sweaty, chaotic and at times unfair world which depicted the realities of travel better than any deceptively glossy feed of Insta travel gurus and travel magazines.
And if I were to be as honest as him, I would have to say that I don’t quite know how to finish this piece.
I guess I miss him. And I want to binge-watch all his shows. But that won’t do, because his shows, his windows, were not made only to be peeked through. They pulled you in, soul and all, and as much as they answered our questions, they posed us with difficult questions too.
To not take what the internet, or the books – or even others, for that matter- told us about a place without questioning it first. He wanted us to go to new places and new states of mind, — or even back to places we had already been to — and see them, really see them for what they were.