Mr Grumps goes wild over a 72-hour hol­i­day that con­sisted mainly of sit­ting in the car.

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

I took a short fam­ily hol­i­day last week. No, I don’t mean a fam­ily with height-chal­lenged rel­a­tives; it was a break from what some of those same fam­ily laugh­ingly re­fer to as my ‘work’. It was meant to re­fresh, rest and recre­ate, and I am re­li­ably in­formed that in a few weeks I will prob­a­bly feel that I have re­freshed, rested and recre­ated. But I have to re­cover first.

The plan was to bid good­bye to civil­i­sa­tion for 72 hours, go where no in­ter­net had gone be­fore and avoid tele­vi­sion and speed break­ers. Ah! You know what hap­pens to the best-laid plans. They gang aft agley – or, to shake off the ver­nac­u­lar and put it in English, they of­ten go awry. I think poet Robert Burns said that, al­though he can­not be blamed for the var­i­ous aches and pains that driv­ing away from civil­i­sa­tion can lead to. For one, there is no such place. You can­not, it seems, get away from the in­ter­net, tele­vi­sion and speed break­ers. They greet you at your des­ti­na­tion with wicked smiles and expressions of both tri­umph and pity.

As chil­dren we were told that there is some­one who sees ev­ery­thing (to dis­cour­age us from telling lies or dip­ping into the cookie jar); the in­ter­net is prob­a­bly the mod­ern ver­sion of the all-see­ing, om­nipresent rule-en­forcer. You can’t run away from it. So why don’t you ig­nore your mes­sages, you ask. But is that pos­si­ble? When the phone in­forms you that a mes­sage has just landed, only those with the fore­sight of Odysseus, who tied him­self to the ship with ropes to hear the sirens without re­act­ing to them, can even hope to ig­nore it. And I had for­got­ten to carry the nec­es­sary rope. Or the ship, for that mat­ter.

But that was not the worst of it. If you are tak­ing a 72-hour hol­i­day, there is one thing you must not do. And that is travel for 36 hours. Twelve hours up on day one, 12 hours down on day three, and 12 hours ex­plor­ing in-be­tween, look­ing for wild an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat. Per­haps all the an­i­mals are such masters of cam­ou­flage that the promised tigers and ele­phants stood around dis­guised as trees and tall grass. We did see a but­ter­fly – but I can’t con­firm that it was wild.

If years from now, my grand­child asks me, “What did you do on your 72-hour hol­i­day, Grandpa?” I can only an­swer: “I sat in a car and sat and sat and sat.”

Next time the tiger can be the one to visit. I’ll ask the an­i­mal to first make an ap­point­ment and call on me at home any week that has noWed­nes­day in it.

Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is.

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