The Wonder of Sonder

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It

I found myself reveling in this quote as I traveled recently to the opposite side of the globe.  I had been to Jaipur, India. It was a part of India that we normally do not visit on our little family trips, and was thus a novel, beautiful experience for me. Truly, Incredible India has many surprises up its sleeve. UNESCO sites dotted the place, the vibrant active city co-mingling easily amidst centuries of history was more heartwarming than ever. 

We had visited the Amer Fort near Jaipur and our guide’s narrative views on the socio-economic views of those who had lived in the fort were well worth mulling over.

It was while we were discussing the flow of information that I got to musing on the nature of truth. There was a version of events presented to us over time. There was a version of these events that people lived through. The victors and the vanquished of all those battles, I am sure there were spies, untruths, noise, and chatter back in the days of royalty as well. Human beings have always been a complicated species, and the abilities to sort through what is right, what is factual and what needs benefit-of-doubt and so on have been questions that have wracked generations. More so, in ours, thanks to the speed and efficiency of information spread. 

To have a conversation about Twitter in the palace of the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh, was both amusing and exotic.

While, ancient ruins do have an appeal of its own, a thriving populace right alongside all of these historical sights makes for an even more interesting narrative in our heads. Just imagine the number of people who’d walked past this very strip of land: kings, queens, princesses, princes, soldiers, charioteers, jutka-pullers, robe-makers, royal jewelers, sculptors, artists, musicians, dancers, ministers, priests, philosophers, poets, maids, chefs, dhobis, plumbers, architects, animal trainers, army generals, court jesters, astrologers, astronomers, physicians, scientists, software engineers, surgeons, guides, shopkeepers, memorabilia makers and sellers, mobile phone operators, tuk-tuk drivers, bus drivers, journalists, advertisers, local influencers, and social media influencers.

How many more new professions would get to traipse along these very sands as they try to take in the long and incredibly short history of homosapiens? It is all highly fascinating when we stop to think of these things amidst all the noise and chaos that surrounds us. That is what I did that day:  imagined one of those fast-forward sequences with all the different folks who make up our society as they navigated life in this city over the past 295 years. 

Not unlike one of those sudden disorienting sensations that the persons we see going past us are just the same as we are: All people with bursts and spurts of emotions surging, thoughts swirling, ambitions burning, life calling, livelihood beckoning, creativity surging, peace loving, adventure liking, love yearning souls straddling the demands of life on the sands of time. 

There is a word for that.

Sonder — noun. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”

So, there you have it. I had a moment of sonder on the other side of the globe that really we are one, and the wonder of that unifying feeling was one of the many many revelations of travel.

One thought on “The Wonder of Sonder”

  1. This is such a beautiful revelation. I have come across the ‘sonder’ term before and was enthralled by it- I truly feel it has changed the way I connect with others. I tend to spend just a moment longer acknowledging strangers that I pass on the street, as I wonder what is going in their world that day 🙂

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