RIP, beloved ‘vacation’

| Updated on August 21, 2020

Lying in wait: One day, we will once again surf the Net for a resort with green lawns bordered by hydrangeas, book our sunlit rooms, get our train tickets, pack our bags with woollens and hot water bottles   -  ISTOCK.COM

A reader unburdens her emotional baggage as the word and its little joys disappear from our lexicon

Dear Editor,

An old photograph — of two grown-up men dancing on a table — uncorked such a cocktail of emotions that I felt I had to put fingertip to keypad. The picture was from another age, dear Editor, and evoked the image of a vacation — a word that’s fast vanishing from our lexicon.

Images are now jumping out of my album of memories. Every year, we — a group of old friends — would take short breaks, usually to the hills. The table dancing, for instance, occurred in a quaint little — thankfully soundproof — place in the Kumaon hills. For all of us living in nuclear family units, these holidays were the modern version of the grand old family vacations when cousins far and wide gathered at the grandparents’ home. The breaks helped us unwind as we watched the children — over the years — grow from rolling mud pies to their eyes.

Just when, dear Editor, can we plan a holiday again? People are holidaying, but no longer with gay abandon because that one essential ingredient of a good vacation — peace of mind — is missing. Trains and planes are all no-nos, and road trips are not safe either. Some of the little joys — stopping at a railway crossing, for instance, and eating sliced cucumbers\ dripping with juicy masala while waiting for the train to pass — seem not just fantastical but sinful as well.

How nice it was to be able to talk to — and bond with — strangers. In Landour, we once met a part-time market gardener who spent the winter in India, and the summer planting vegetable gardens for plush hotels back home in Ireland. Another time, in the same Uttarakhand hill station, we came across a young couple with their schoolgoing son, and got along famously with them as we bonded on books and politics. In Lansdowne, also in Uttarakhand, a veteran photographer, travelling with his daughter and her family, had his sundowners with us, regaled us with stories, and shot some memorable pictures.

Sometimes, though, we didn’t make friends. Once, we were a group of 20-odd friends on the Shatabdi, on our way to a little known place called Dagshai in Himachal Pradesh. There was another group — of people who seemed like us, with just a bit more silver in their hair — in the same compartment, travelling to Kalka on their way to Shimla. We chatted with them, and chuckled as they teased one of their friends who was bragging about having packed just a tuxedo and a bottle of whisky. Towards the end of our journey, there was a sudden commotion on the train, and we found the elderly group walking up and down the coach, looking at everybody’s baggage. Apparently, the one carrying his tux and whisky couldn’t find his suitcase. We helped them look for it, too — but it was a fruitless search. Ha, ha, the cynics in our group sniggered. Bet he’d forgotten the liquor, and had spun a tale.

Hours later, when we were in our resort and taking our luggage to our rooms, we spotted a small, unclaimed suitcase looking suitably orphaned. It belonged to no one among us. We opened it and found a bottle of Black Label strapped to a three-piece suit. We recalled the name of the hotel the Shimla group was staying in, found the phone number on the Net, got in touch with them and told them that somehow their suitcase had come along with our baggage. Someone came later, picked up the case, tersely turned down our apologetic offers for a drink, and left without a hi or a bye. I wonder if they are still telling their friends about a noisy group that had done away with their baggage. One day, perhaps, we will meet them again on the Shatabdi to Kalka, and make up.

One day, then, we will once again surf the Net for a resort with green lawns bordered by hydrangeas, book our sunlit rooms, get our train tickets, pack our bags with woollens and hot water bottles — and head for the hills. Meanwhile, dear Editor, I am looking morosely at a post that’s been drawing chuckles on WhatsApp. “I just told my suitcases that we aren’t going on vacation this year,” it says. “Now I am dealing with emotional baggage.”


Home-sick vacationer

Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader

Published on August 21, 2020

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