3×3 interview: Al-Drubi – Travelogues from India and what we go back to

India as a destination—what did it mean to you and how did this change of scenery affect you?

At first, I wasn’t aware what India really was, nor what it could mean for me personally, or to me as an artist. People are always affected by a change of scenery, the only question is how much we are aware of it. Then again, the environment itself, unless it is really extreme, cannot truly change us without our own involvement. India is a vast, colourful country of a rich and diverse culture and nearly 1.4 billion people. Each part of India, or better say each state, is a story in itself and if we tried to fully explore it, we would come to realize how many remarkable and peculiar things there are to hear, see, taste, and experience. Personally speaking, it has broadened my perception on so many levels: first of all, I’ve learned that there is more than one answer to any question and realized how little I had known about this world. It has also made me understand that people living on different continents share both similarities and differences. There is no such country as India, and the list of things it has given to the world is rather lengthy: from rich cultural heritage, to great leaders such as Gandhi, to poets such as Tagore, to spiritual teachings, and of course Yoga, which is still changing lives of millions of people. What I find particularly interesting is that no one who has ever visited India stayed indifferent: some like it at first glance, while some don’t, but no matter whether you like it or not, the influence it has on each and every individual who treads on its ground is simply inescapable. The change of our surroundings inevitably broadens perception, but if we look for some genuine new knowledge and experience, we need to go some place else, but not as tourists. We need to infiltrate into the social system and see how people there really live, how the system functions and how people get by, and India, which can offer so many things, is a perfect place for exploration and learning

What is actually so different there?

Everything is different, and still the basic principles of existence are the same everywhere: wherever they may be, people have to eat and drink, they need a roof over their heads, and they also need to have some fun from time to time. These are the essentials; now, how we provide those, and in which quantity and quality, that depends on a person. I, for example, was born to a worker-class family in Novi Sad and spent my childhood during the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia, so I couldn’t have all the things I wanted— for example, I couldn’t afford famous brands like Nike shoes, or iPhone 12, but I had to do with some cheaper sneakers and a Samsung. So, before coming to India I felt like I didn’t have everything I wanted. But then, in 2010, I came to Kolkata, which was my first destination in India, and saw for the first time in my life, thousands of homeless people who live in the streets and who literally have nothing except their will to survive that day, to get some rice and have enough water to drink and wash themselves, and who, in spite of all this, still manage to smile. After that experience, I completely changed my perception of what I have or don’t have. Naturally, it doesn’t mean we all have to live on bare necessities, but it is good to realize that the world can be seen through some other stories and in a quite different way. And of course, it is not only about this social aspect. India impacted me in so many other ways: from the choice of food, to how I communicate with people, to how I approach theatre and acting, to ways of getting by in an environment where everything functions differently, within a completely different social structure with different rules of behaviour, where people rarely shake hands or hug, and where certain things we consider normal are still taboo.

Travels are special, they bring changes, an adrenaline rush, displacing oneself…But what about returns? What does coming back home mean to you and how does it feel like?

Return is the same as coming to a city. This feeling when I am entering Novi Sad on a bus is indescribable: I can feel the rush of pleasant energy and am reminded of all the nice things I have been missing while I was away. Sometimes it happens that I get bored after a couple of days already, and feel like travelling again. When I come back, first thing I usually do is go and have some grilled meat for lunch or I ask my aunt to make me stuffed peppers which I always miss a lot. It may seem like a triviality, but to someone who misses something it makes no difference whether it is a triviality or not—the only thing that matters is to fulfil this desire. Return is like coming to a place, because when you are away and then come back, in the meantime the place has changed and it is no longer the same as when you left it: something new has been built, somebody has gone for good, someone’s got married, someone’s grown up. When I come back from my travels and observe people, I always notice new wrinkles on their faces, as well as the changes that the city has gone through. This makes me think about transience and the flow of time, which is something we are often unaware of, but either way—the time passes. However, as we humans are creatures of habit, soon I get used to it and it becomes an everyday thing to me. After a while, I start thinking about where I could go next, and when I finally decide, I try to indulge as much as possible, in the things I know I will miss the most: burek, nice beer, grilled meat and hanging out with good people—things which are not so easy to find in every corner of the world.

YouTube channel: Kristian, Via Nomadia 

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