When I was in my early twenties, I turned down a free trip to England. Several factors played into this now incomprehensible decision, but the main one was the simple and silly fact that I did not know most of the other people who were planning to go.
What was I thinking?
Since then, a more mature and — I hope — wiser Margaret has taken to travel with a vengeance, not only willing but eager to visit places I have never been and to check back in on some I have. I have travelled with people I know and love and with some I met at the airport gate. Some trips were more enjoyable and/or enlightening than others, of course, but I have learned something from all of them and do not regret any.
Travel, like education, is something no one can take away from you.
Two notches on my travel belt are trips to India. The ﬁ rst was to the wedding of a young man I have known since the day he arrived on earth to a lovely young woman from northern India. The second was earlier this year “just because.”
India is everything you have ever heard about it and more. It is a riot of color, sounds, and scents and a mass of humanity so thick it is virtually impossible to ﬁ nd yourself alone. Its culture, among the most ancient on earth with layers few Westerners will ever really take in, intrigues at every turn and lingers when one is safely back at home.
A sense of beckoning is no doubt one of the reasons I have been waiting for months to see the newly-released movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I saw with two fellow India travelers recently in Knoxville, Tennessee.
It was a treat.
The movie is the tale of a group of British retirees, thrown together in a run-down hotel for senior citizens in Jaipur because for various reasons — widowhood and poor investments among them — they cannot afford to stay in England. The young and charming proprietor of the hotel tries hard but has no idea how to run a business, and adventures and misadventures unfold from there. The superb cast, including Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, make Marigold Hotel a big screen pleasure to savor.
That, though, is not what I will remember most about this movie.
What I will remember is who was there.
My friends and I arrived at what they said is the local art house ﬁ lm theater — think the Cameo but bigger — to ﬁnd a line worthy of a Harry Potter opening snaking around the side of the building. My Knoxville resident friends insisted they had never seen anything like it, and neither had I.
If there was a single human being in that line under 60, I will eat my hat.
Waiting to buy a movie ticket on a hot Memorial Day afternoon were not adolescents wearing round black glasses and with books in hand but — shall we say mature — Tennesseans wearing baggy shorts and tees and sensible shoes of all stripes — Birkenstocks and Crocs with socks, lace up athletic versions in both white and black, and the occasional orthopedic model. Several moviegoers negotiated the line with the aid of a cane, and I think I noted a walker or two. Everyone seemed in ﬁne humor, and there was much chatting while we waited whether we knew our neighbors in line or not.
As we stood there, an earlier showing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel let out, and more folks just like the ones waiting to go in poured out. More comfy weekend clothes and more sensible shoes. The only people I saw under 60 were two sleepy-looking teenage girls who had clearly been taken to this movie by their accompanying grandparents.
Clearly, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel appeals to a speciﬁc demographic and well it should.
This movie is a tale of remaining open to life and to new experiences no matter what one’s age or situation. It is about making lemonade out of life’s lemons and keeping on keeping on until our ﬁ nal breath, as one character memorably does. Its loose ends may be tied up a little too neatly before the closing credits roll, but no one, including sleepy teenagers, can miss the lesson that life is a gift to be explored — and enjoyed every step — all the way to its inevitable conclusion.
As for me, this Baby Boomer is planning and looking forward to two trips later this year with several people I know well and hold dear and some I count as acquaintances
.I will ﬂy off into the sky having been reminded and grateful that life is indeed a journey, not a destination.
Photo: The Best Marigold Hotel is a tale of remaining open to life and to new experiences.