A HOL­I­DAY FOR THE SOUL

The very first va­ca­tion one needs to par­take in is the flight in­side one’s own heart

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - FRONT PAGE - BY TANUJA CHAN­DRA

It’s a mat­ter of won­der­ment to me how the Bri­tish sur­vived our sum­mers. In the early colo­nial years it­self, they should’ve wilted like lilies un­der a mer­ci­less sun. In­stead, they grew like re­silient marigolds, forc­ing our in­de­pen­dence strug­gle to drag on much longer than it should have. Com­merce and power can be solid mo­ti­va­tors, yes, but the Bri­tish had some prac­ti­cal ideas: they cre­ated re­treats in the moun­tains. What started as sana­to­rium for sick sol­diers to con­va­lesce in de­vel­oped as des­ti­na­tions for English fam­i­lies to with­draw to and save them­selves from death by de­hy­dra­tion. And though they wanted to keep these se­cluded havens ex­clu­sive to them­selves, soon, the ‘na­tives’ be­gan va­ca­tion­ing there, and in in­de­pen­dent In­dia I dare­say, the tra­di­tion has only grown. Come May-June, big cities seem to thin out as peo­ple from all back­grounds go off on hol­i­day.

Shimla, Naini­tal, Devlali, Dar­jeel­ing, Mus­soorie – so quaint these rem­nants of the Raj ap­pear now – vin­tage and cute; per­fect for the mid­dle-class to en­joy their few days of paid leave. From the domestic help in our homes to teach­ers and gym in­struc­tors; for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, ex­ec­u­tives of tele­vi­sion chan­nels, bankers, celebri­ties and other un­fath­omably rich; sum­mer breaks have be­come a must-do.

HOME­WARD BOUND

My cou­turier friend starts fret­ting in Fe­bru­ary about the an­nual leave her tai­lor will take in May. ‘What will you do in this heat in your gaon?’ she asks him as if she’s the only one who de­serves a va­cay. ‘Noth­ing,’ he replies pro­saically, ‘My chil­dren will play in the fields. Bas.’ Another vexed friend’s cook has gone off to his re­mote vil­lage in Nepal to see his new wife, who is ut­terly beau­ti­ful and ut­terly missed by him. It won’t be the hon­ey­moon his boss imag­ines be­cause he will re­turn sun­burnt and sub­stan­tially thin­ner from work­ing in the outdoors, but not with­out a bag­ful of con­tent­ment slung on his shoul­ders from which he’ll re­trieve bits of warm mem­ory, one hand­ful at a time.

The watch­man from my own build­ing has left to see his par­ents in Jhark­hand – noth­ing less than be­ing in the vor­tex of the sum­mer to my mind, but then I’ve no­ticed that the ma­jor­ity of low-in­come In­di­ans have a more prac­ti­cal view of hol­i­day sea­son; they don’t look for com­fort or ad­ven­ture. They want to re­turn home, that’s all.

The rich folks, well, the world’s pretty much their oys­ter, isn’t it? Sa­faris in far-flung jun­gles of Africa where wild an­i­mals roam a few yards out­side lux­ury tents, in­sanely priced vil­las (48,000 USD per night for the most ex­pen­sive in the world), pri­vate planes, yachts, lim­ited edi­tion clothes and cui­sine – there’s never a short­age of un­tasted fun to be had in the sum­mer. Back-pack­ing stu­dents and in­trepid trekkers eat bread and cheese, hitch rides with strangers, bring just two T-shirts and jeans in their sleep­ing bags, and ex­plore the un­known, the un­seen.

One should never un­der­es­ti­mate the long­ing in one’s soul or the stamina in one’s soles! These pull us from the mun­dane com­fort of our set­tled lives just so we can carry with us for the rest of the year those bursts of dopamine that rose in our blood when we saw mind-numb­ing sights of grand beauty.

INTO THE HEART

How­ever, I’m not averse to the stay­ca­tion. A break with­out step­ping out­side my city. It may sound unimag­i­na­tive and full of the blues, but I wouldn’t ad­vise cry­ing for me yet. To meet friends (re­ally meet them), to watch films, to read, to learn a new skill, to eat some­thing sim­ple cooked by some­one’s mother (does any­one go to a friend’s home any­more, we al­ways go out to eat!), to spend time in one’s own com­pany for a change – what’s so bad about all this? It too may lower your choles­terol or re­duce your risk of heart dis­ease as much as a ‘real’ va­ca­tion will. It too will bring some pause into your mad­den­ing and noisy life.

You see, many of us are more im­pressed with the idea of a hol­i­day than the event it­self. A trip away from home isn’t with­out ex­haus­tion. There is al­ways a sub­con­scious pres­sure that ne­go­ti­at­ing new cul­tures brings about. Won’t an an­gry per­son carry their anger wher­ever he or she goes, and a sad per­son their sad­ness? A sur­vey has pointed out that tourists con­sider the Mona Lisa to be the num­ber 1 most dis­ap­point­ing sight in Europe. Now, that may be the wan pudgi­ness of her face, or it well may be the modern trav­eller’s jaded, cyn­i­cal heart, but I dare­say, the very first va­ca­tion one needs to par­take in is the flight in­side one’s own heart.

Never un­der­es­ti­mate the long­ing in one’s soul or the stamina in one’s soles!

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