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.
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.
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 A Swiss escape to Mount Titlis with pics of Sonali Bendre and Aishwarya Rai in their restaurants is so out of date.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!’