A HOLIDAY FOR THE SOUL
The very first vacation one needs to partake in is the flight inside one’s own heart
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.
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!