|Courtesy - all-vacation-ideas.com|
It’s that time of the year again. The air feels like a blow-dryer, the sun becomes your number 1 enemy and you look and feel blazing hot. And like any mere mortal, you start making plans to flee the city. You can’t help it, can you? The newspapers seduce you with travel tales in far off lands. You devour each line, caress the scenic captures with your eyes and end up wondering why you can’t be that correspondent who travels free, binges on roasted duck, sips Chianti Classico and gets paid to gush about it. But you console yourself with the thought that at least your Geography is far better than it was in school. Thanks to the many magazines, you know where Hersonissos is and can even spell Reykjavik. Your friend on FB makes it worse by uploading photos of her recent trip to Istanbul. You ooh and aah at the pics and cast meaningful glances at your husband, hoping that he is finally taking the hint.
He finally does even though it takes weeks. And then you look deep into each other’s eyes and ask - so where shall we go this time, your choice or mine? You feel terrible that there are so many exotic locales and one measly life but still manage to make up your mind.
Things are not that smooth sailing. You realize one of the passports needs to be renewed. You don’t mind the long queues, the stuffy sarkari afsaar’s interrogation at the passport office. Why, you are even willing to smile coyly at sub inspector Rathore. The husband spends days coaching you for the visa interview (he expects you to crack jokes rather than answer the questions seriously). You miraculously sail through the visa interview and collapse with joy when it is finally issued.
Yessss, we are finally travelling to the East Coast. Err dahling is it the west or the east? He gives you the “I am so disappointed in you look” while you mumble “Geography was never my strong point”! The gargantuan Atlas that he had picked up from the last Word Book Fair is fished out and he patiently traces out the coast on the map for you.
Now starts the real work. Hotels are to be booked, the itinerary to be planned. You might think, so what’s the big deal, you just have to decide and click! Just sign in for a sightseeing tour and relax. You see, for the Rays it’s never than simple. And before I proceed, let me tell demystify the Legendary Mr Ray (LMR) for you. For Mr Ray perfection is not a choice but a compulsion. And whoever said “let good not be the enemy of perfect” was the biggest fool. And since people always fall short of his expected standards, Mr Ray ends up doing all the work himself. His quest for perfection doesn’t stop at his office; it extends even to his home. Yes he has fixed up the geyser with the plumber looking on helplessly. I dare not ask him to buy veggies because he ends up spending hours looking for perfect specimens. When we were younger he would refuse to sell junk to raddiwallas who didn’t meet his exact specifications. Now where on Earth does one find a kabadiwalla who looks honest and has a smile that reaches up to his eyes! I would spend hours in the balcony scanning the horizon for the elusive specimen. Now do you get the picture?
While I am content to book rooms that have exotic names, good views, comfy beds and a big bathroom (yes that’s a fetish I have). The LMR will insist on going through 250 user feedbacks on virtual tourist.com before he makes up his mind. Unfortunately, by that time I have already booked and console him with a But sweets, it’s only disgruntled people with an axe to grind who write feedbacks! And it doesn’t stop at that, maps are downloaded, plans are painstakingly chalked out and before we reach the destination we know it like the back of our hand. Like the time the two of us trundled off to Europe and moi carting my fashionista wardrobe, with a plan to stun the Europeans with my sartorial tastes. At the Copenhagen station Mr Ray fishes out his mobile and sombrely announces that the hotel is just walking distance away. I silently curse technology as I painfully totter on my heels, dragging my 40 kilo suitcase. Or the time when the newlyweds arrived goggle-eyed at Panchmarhi, only to discover that the LMR had forgotten to include the hotel charges in our cash stash (those were the pre credit card days). We managed without having to beg or steal and strangely it was one the best vacations we had. But our trip to Manali was memorable for all the wrong reasons. First our flight to Kullu got cancelled. When we finally managed to reach the Manali way past midnight, our hotel smugly informed us that they had no information of our bookings. One look at our bloodshot eyes with appropriate expressions and we were promptly given a room permanently reserved for a local MLA. For our trip to Paris, LMR mastered the language in 4 weeks flat and managed to win the heart of the locals with his French. But when he tried speaking in Thai to a local shopkeeper in Bangkok, all he got was a cold uncomprehending look...Tch...tch..
Even though we may claim to be master planners, our trips don’t always go according to plans. Like someone wise said (was it me?) - Plans have a mind of their own and desert you when you need them the most.
The last few days we have been planning furiously. I have been making notes in my writing pad in a handwriting that only I can understand. The LMR has downloaded maps of almost all the states in Obama’s land. All this is making my heart beat a lil faster and I can’t stop humming John Denver’s ...All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.... For us the best part of the vacation is the excitement of making plans - imagining the cities and its people with our mind’s eye, only to be taken completely by surprise when we actually land there. Like the girl in Brussels who couldn’t stop gushing about John Abraham in her broken English.... Or taken aback by the hostility of Tibetians at McLeodganj....
I wonder what treasure trove of anecdotes I will come back with this time, to store away in my armoire of memories.