"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Q&A: In conversation with Sukumaran Menon

December 2018

Sukumaran Menon is an engineer and an independent foundry consultant by profession. He has been in the die-casting industry for over forty years, with an end-application focus that addresses the needs of automotive, electric, consumer and machining industries.

Based in Bangalore, Sukumaran is a seasoned travel enthusiast and a hobby-photographer. He started off using a point & shoot camera and moved up the value chain to professional gear. As his work involves travel - both within and outside the country, he manages to find the time to give his passion for photography newer and more exciting frames of reference.

Sukumaran refers to the black & white medium as a distinctly unique form of expression, and often takes this visual route in his explorations of period architecture, and the great outdoors. He is particularly fascinated with “trees” as a subject, and how he can capture nature’s works of art from a whole new viewpoint.

Now, in conversation with Sukumaran Menon.

What does travel mean to you? Vacations? Seeing new places? Discovering the world? Could mean all of this, but let’s have your version of it?

Travel is about the path you will take that will ultimately define your journey - whether it’s going somewhere that is only two-hours away, or a destination halfway across the world. Travel is also about trying something new – especially if you can manage to escape from the predictable routines of everyday life. Traveling therefore gives you something different to experience, and can be like a breath of fresh air.

To me, travel also means spending the day in a new city and exploring all of its history, its museums and parks. It brings in the magic of spontaneous adventure and participation in activities that you normally would not have the time for.

Does work enable travel? Do you add on a travel segment when you travel within the country, or on visits abroad?

As an engineering consultant my work entails a fair bit of travel – both within the country and outside. On work, my travel schedule is invariably packed to the gills – not allowing time for any kind of detour. The only other option would be a planned photography excursion to a place I always wanted to visit – one example here is my week long trip to Kenya, to capture the annual migration of animals in the Maasai Mara.

Having said that, work related travel sometimes presented opportunities to explore cities and places of interest that I had only heard of before – this was indeed a big blessing. I am thankful that I have got to see some amazing places both in India and overseas. Being able to take pictures “in transit” is the proverbial icing on the cake!



Sukumaran Menon with a Maasai tribal, in Maasai Mara, Kenya


What does your wish list look like? Meaning, how far have you gone down that bucket list?

I’ve done quite well so far, I must say - but there are many wonderful places both within our country and outside that are waiting to be explored. Once a year, I plan to travel exclusively on my own to see, explore and experience new places on my map.

My bucket list is long, but I have already gained a fair bit of ground. I’ve done Varanasi, Jaipur, Mysore, Chennai and Goa in India; in Europe, I’ve covered Amsterdam, Venice and Rome. I’ve now set my sights on South East Asia – with Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar on the horizon. A visit to Brazil is also on the cards, and I hope that happens soon.


Picture Credit: Sukumaran Menon


Do you enjoy travelling alone, or do you prefer to travel in a group? How do you see both aspects, in terms of privacy and comfort levels?

I want to answer this question in two parts.

  1. If the brief is to travel as a tourist (visiting new places and exploring tourist spots) I would prefer to do it with a group of family and friends. There is nothing better than the company of family and friends to keep your spirits high, share views and discover new places. Conversations can be never ending with non-stop excitement, and you can really enjoy yourself during the journey.
  2. If I am travelling with only photography in mind, I would prefer to be a solo-traveler. I like being my own master, making travel plans according to MY convenience. This makes sense when you’re actually concentrating on the photography aspect and don’t want to be disturbed by group chatter, or the urgency of rushing through all the stopovers. Solitude enhances my creativity and allows me to absorb the sights and sounds far better.

What are your thoughts on a nice vacation with the family? A really large extended family?

A long overdue vacation with your family is a readymade prescription for happiness. And doing it together by road is especially more gratifying and a great learning experience. Handling the occasional wrong turn (in the days before Google Maps) or car breakdowns, were all-important learnings. In addition to the fun and enjoyment of traveling together, being with the family greatly enhances the bond between each individual family member – especially if you’re catching up with someone in the extended family circle.

Life is so wonderful, when you are together as a family. Seeing and discovering places together, leaves you with many, many years of fond memories. As a family, we were always in love with driving and we have done several long drives in our car. Both my children still remember the wonderful times we had, each trip being an adventure for their travel diaries.


Picture Credit: Sukumaran Menon

What do you think of timeshare vacations? What are your takeaways from this format in terms of benefits and plus points?

I have heard of timeshare vacations – some of my friends have vacation ownership plans – and I do see the benefit of planned holidays that come into your calendar, every single year. In this format the place you go to is your holiday destination, unlike a hotel which could be a transit point. And being a “destination” a timeshare resort will offer a wide range of activities, F&B formats, and experiences. You’re going to be their guests for a week, so they will engage you in some very interesting ways.

Even the concept of long-term holidays is an interesting proposition – you pick up a plan when you’re young and enjoy your vacation year after year after year.


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