Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Vacation Ritual


picture courtesy -  kulverablog.net

We all need a break from being busy. So, we take vacations. Where we get even busier and return exhausted. If I have travelled thousands of miles, braved airline food, wailing babies and co-passengers with smelly feet, I might as well squeeze in as many activities as I can till I am ready to drop dead. Your vacation is futile till you can’t tell Babli – your neighbour who bragged non-stop about her heavenly stay in a 5-star resort in Krabi – that you also did paragliding, swam with dolphins, fought off a shark and discovered a hidden island. That should see her turn green as fungus.

A vacation has four stages – when, where, I can’t believe I am here, and phew I’m so glad to be home.

When

Deciding when to take a break is governed by a lot of factors. If you have school and college going kids who are still not embarrassed to be seen with their parents, you plan your getaway to coincide with their holidays. But only after they have attended summer camps designed to turn them into moon-walking, karate-chopping Einsteins and coaching classes for entrance exams to courses they have no interest in.

But if you are foot-loose and fancy-free, you wait for the symptoms to show up. These include restlessness, driving your colleagues insane with ‘I could so do with a break’ whining and extreme envy as you browse through the 692 pics that your ‘just-returned-from-Leh’ friend has posted on Facebook.

Where

This is usually dictated by ‘10 places you must visit before you die of boredom’ listicles that you love reading while pretending to work at office. Alongside vacation pictures shared on FB or Instagram by friends you’ve never met. And a long hard look at your bank balance and all the outstanding bills you have piled on your table. Gone are those days when people could throw darts on the world atlas to decide their next holiday. The passionately patriotic Indian these days keenly follows prime ministerial itineraries to draw inspiration for new destinations.

And nations oblige. Mongolia, flummoxed by the influx of eager Indian tourists, is all set to start a chain of Jain vegetarian restaurants in their country. A Swiss escape to Mount Titlis with pics of Sonali Bendre and Aishwarya Rai in their restaurants is so out of date.

The preparation phase of a vacation is exciting. It takes considerable creativity to imagine everything that might go wrong while travelling (snowfall in summer, loosies on board, sudden craving for theplas in Heidelberg) before deciding what to stuff in your suitcases. Many women spend days cleaning and polishing windowpanes and scrubbing their bathrooms clean before she heads out, so that she can come back to a considerably less dirty house after her sojourn in distant lands.


The day of departure is the most hectic. Emptying the fridge, stuffing door-gaps with newspapers to keep the dust out of the house, making frantic calls to newspaper and milk delivery guys, triple checking if all the doors and windows are locked before rushing off to the airport or station. When you are roughly halfway to your destination, nodding your head to Honey Singh getting drunk again, you are suddenly seized with the nagging feeling that you might have forgotten to turn the gas cylinder off. You spend the remaining journey imagining a charred house that will greet you when you are back and a life thereafter spent in penury.

I can’t believe I am finally here

You congratulated yourself on booking the ‘romantique suite’ at the ‘heritage’ hotel after weeks of shortlisting through Expedia and Hotels.com and then burning midnight oil extracting the essence from conflicting reviews on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet. And it turns out to be a match box in a rundown building with a sewer-side view (why the hell did you ask for a ‘window’ room??). Not the type to waste time on heartbreaks, a DSLR slung around your neck, you set out immediately clutching maps and lists of must do’s (usually in multiples of 10) that you downloaded,.

You risk being disowned by the ‘worldwide association of hyper tourist’ till you manage to record the most ‘out of the world experiences’ in a day and get herded around like cattle in tour buses. When you get time from watching the sunrise from the top of a volcano and sunset from behind the bushes infested with rattlesnakes, you pose and preen in front of monuments, fountains and the Armani store, hoping one of them turns out to be a kickass profile pic that fetches you hundreds of likes.

It’s not a vacation well-spent, till you exclaim ‘Oh god, I’ve put on so much weight’ every few hours. It’s not fun till you feel guilty of having too much fun. Within a few days of hectic vacationing and plying yourself with meals so exotic that you can’t even pronounce their names, you start craving ghar ka khaana and the comfort of your own bed.

Phew I’m so glad to be home

Vacations may be cruel reminders of how boring our regular life is. But when you finally walk in to your house nursing bunions, lower back pain from too much walking and a tan that makes you look like a roasted aubergine, you inhale its stale air and exclaim – it’s so good to be home!

That’s the cruel irony of our lives – we long to escape our mundane lives and when we finally do, we start missing our boring yet comforting routine.

Then you commit the biggest mistake of weighing yourself. After you’ve managed to scream the daylights out of the pigeons who’d been shitting blissfully for weeks on your balcony, you google ‘how to lose weight in 10 days’ and put yourself on a punishing diet. Within days of washing kilos of unwashed laundry, restoring the house back to its shining glory, eating 20 grams of carrots and 6 raisins for all your meals, going through zillions of unread spam and emails and putting extra hours at the office to finish all your pending work, your vacation euphoria becomes a distant memory.

You are completely drained. You flop on your chair and exclaim, ‘damn, I am so tired, I could certainly do with a vacation!’



47 comments:

  1. We long for vacations, cribbing about the stress and drudgery of city life but as you say, there is no place like home. The hotel beds can be as comfy as they come but nothing like your own bed. I prefer frequent two night escapes over one long vacation.

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    1. The longer the vacation, the more stressful it is to get back to normal life :/

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  2. H aha ha a vacation from a Vacation.. now that is what we need... and I am heading to Mongolia now they have Jain restaurants..as that is most important to a desi Traveler

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    1. I can't wait to read about it!

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  3. Hahaha ! This happens to me too..! I really miss home when I am on vacation and taking scores of pictures ! I thought it was just me..:D

    I prefer short vacations like Alka said ... Long vacations make me go so mad with all that luggage and stuff and fresh clothes, used ones, and others that look neither fresh nor used...it is such a mess !

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    1. It is!
      I spend the first week washing kilos and kilos of laundry and running around buying groceries..at the end of the week I am so stressed that I start wishing we'd never left.

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  4. haha, I can so relate to this one as I am one of those crazy people who want to get maximum out of a trip and return home super tired. It's not a vacation, it's an exploration for me :) Loved this post! There is no joy bigger than the joy of visiting new places and seeing new things!

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    1. Travelling helps you grow as a person. You learn to appreciate the new and come back wiser.

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  5. Haha beautiful writing!You have described today's holidays just perfectly.A vacation these days is not for relaxing--those who want to relax should stay at home.
    And by the way where are your profile pics?I want to like them :)

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    Replies
    1. You have to be my FB friend to like them :p

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  6. Unfortunately, travel has also become more of a fashion than love to see and explore new places! Most people indulge to impress more the FB and real life friends than to actually experience something new! Love your take on travel and to read more wit suggest read ' Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome K Jerome , which I am certain you would have , Purba:)

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    Replies
    1. No, I haven't. But thank you for the suggestion. I'm always looking for new books to read.

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  7. Funny and self-effacing... as always!

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  8. Haha every word of it is so true :) How we long for those vacations (mostly due to the super duper holiday pics of that beautiful girl you envy on facebook) and what finally happens after having a great vacation. Another phase for me other than these 4 is "convincing hubby on spending the hard earned money for that vacation" ;)

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    1. Always makes sense to spend money on experiences than material possessions :-)

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  9. Hello Purba! I'm a newbie to your blog...and loving every post (I'm actually going back in your post timeline to read them all!) This post about the vicious circle of work-vacation-work-repeat is truly on point. My husband is dreading the 'planned-down-to-the-last-hour' itinerary of our upcoming vacation. But I cant help it; you can take the employee out of the office, but not the office Excel sheet out of the employee, can you? So glad to know that I'm not the only itinerary-Nazi around here ;)

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    1. Flattered that you took out time to read so many of my posts :-)
      That's me a few years back. These days I just walk into the hotel, pickup a handful of leaflets that list out the attractions and then start preparing the itinerary.

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  10. Amen! I've always felt the need for another vacation, after taking one. Now, with a threenager in tow, even more so!

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  11. Those days are gone when we used to get 'guaranteed' summer holidays for full 2 months and whole family used to enjoy travelling places or to native places where all children used to have blast of time. Now, its a dream for present day children!

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    Replies
    1. Blame summer courses, tuition classes and working parents :/

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  12. Did you leave the plants in the lobby, assigning neighbours with responsibility to water the pots before going on vacation?

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    Replies
    1. Sigh..I am about to leave for a long vacation and am still undecided.

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  13. Haha the after vacation laundry part is the most boring thing. Maybe that's a good reason to take short vacations here and there..and stretch it to the minutest details for bragging to Babli. :-)

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    Replies
    1. I feel short breaks are more rejuvenating.

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  14. I wrote a comment earlier which seems to be missing. Indeed that thing about leaving the gas on is so common with me that no one seems to take me seriously. :-) Aaj kal toh I've stopped most sightseeing. Lazing around and not do anything is so exciting.

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    Replies
    1. Few days of lazing and I start tearing my hair in frustration. And I love discovering cities on foot.

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  15. I wrote a comment earlier which seems to be missing. Indeed that thing about leaving the gas on is so common with me that no one seems to take me seriously. :-) Aaj kal toh I've stopped most sightseeing. Lazing around and not do anything is so exciting.

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  16. You know, the last phase doesn't hold completely true for me. Something must be wrong with me! Or my house o.O
    Or maybe I just need to take vacations more frequently!!

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  17. I start making the To-do and To-see lists... and my husband starts to worry... what if we don't complete all those in the list...

    First time I went to Goa.. I had an excel sheet with all the stuff.. we couldn't do most of it.. But we still returned content.. From then on.. I have stopped making the list.. and try to enjoy.. howmuch ever we see...

    Infact before our Rajasthan trip.. my husband warned me.. Don't feel depressed that we haven't seen everything.. we will try to cover as much as we can... Atleast now, I am content with whatever we manage to see... You never know there is always a next time..

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    Replies
    1. Always makes sense to have a mix of lazy and activity packed days. And a day dedicated to just shopping :D

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  18. Aha.. coming back and getting drained again is right on dot. especially with catching up on unread mails and stuff ! I think that way its better to travel with your laptop , so that you dont have so much catching up to do :)

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    Replies
    1. Learnt it the hard way. These days I prefer travelling with my laptop especially when I'm going for a long vacation.

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  19. Going through zillions of unread spams and mails--yes, yes...so true.... :-(

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  20. Loved it! Well written! :)

    The wandering monk inside me feels suffocated in my cubicle-world if I don't break the monotony for more than four months. And yes I sometimes badly need a break from my neighbors in the office who are also part-time philosophers-stock market gurus-policymakers and advisers for Indian cricket team!

    Purba, I too love discovering a new city on foot.

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    1. I feel it's the best way to discover its hidden gems. Plus a little exercise after all those gastronomic experiences is always welcome :-)

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  21. I could relate a lot to this :-) The hectic days of packing (extra clothes, coz what if something goes wrong) extra of everything, and checking the house to see if things are ok would then turn to I love taking half an hour to finish my coffee looking at this view to I want to go home and relax :-) Loved it :-)

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    1. It's also the most exciting part of the vacation.

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  22. Haha wonderful post ! :D i relate to this totally!

    I always need a day or two off from work, extra, to recover from my vacation!

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    1. And I start waiting for the weekend 😂

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  23. hence my argument at work .. that we shud have a 4 day working week. and when an employee goes on a holiday it should not be compulsory for him to return to work the next day .. the company should give TWO days in LIEU because the employee has been on a holiday :)

    Bikram's

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  24. Been dying for a break since ages to explore and be on chutti like Mr Bhatti!! I am so jealous of our PM who is forever on vacation, mixing work with pleasure.
    Love the post:)

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