Nikesh Shukla

How our fam­ily found hell on a heav­enly hol­i­day

The Observer Magazine - - NEWS - @nikeshshukla

How a Ca­sio key­board turned a heav­enly hol­i­day slightly hellish

Stop. Be­fore you read this, be aware that there are spoil­ers for sea­son one of The Good Place . I know what my ver­sion of the bad place would be. Specif­i­cally, the seem­ingly per­fectly cu­rated “good place” where the demon Ted Dan­son makes us face our worst fears in what ap­pears to be heaven. My bad place would be in a lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel re­sort, with all my fam­ily around me, lis­ten­ing to a man on a crap Ca­sio key­board play the Birdy Song re­peat­edly un­til 11pm at night.

I’ve been to my bad place. And it was lux­u­ri­ous. But ev­ery night I found my­self singing “and shake your bum, just like your mum,” be­cause it was the only thing stop­ping me from a pri­mor­dial scream that might rup­ture through the ho­tel com­plex and cause a tear in the hell­mouth it sat on.

It was all in­no­cent enough. My dad wanted to take me and my sis­ter and our fam­i­lies away. He in­sisted on pay­ing, say­ing: “I’m spend­ing any in­her­i­tance you have now,” and we thought, fair enough. I was ten­ta­tive be­cause I hadn’t been on a proper hol­i­day with my dad and sis­ter since Mum was alive, and I was wor­ried, would it be all the ten­sions of a claus­tro­pho­bic Christ­mas, trans­ported to some­where hot?

We’d never been to a ho­tel re­sort be­fore so I had no idea what to ex­pect. Dur­ing the day, it was lovely enough. The beach wasn’t too crowded and my chil­dren had the best time ever. My el­dest daugh­ter was a-m-a-z-e-d that you could ask for ice cream at any time of the day, and be given ice cream. And I was a-m-a-z-e-d that my el­dest daugh­ter could en­ter­tain her­self for a good two hours jump­ing into the pool, again and again, squeal­ing with de­light. The days were lazy, hot, glo­ri­ous and joy­ful as our kids played with aban­don. Only oc­ca­sion­ally were we in­ter­rupted by the en­forced fun com­mit­tee from the ho­tel, never tak­ing “the Shuk­las are not a join­ing type” as an an­swer. And the reg­i­mented food times didn’t mat­ter be­cause… we’re Gu­jarati. We travel with pack­ets of the­p­las, chakris, masala crisps and ga­jar pickle.

The nights? Boy oh boy. No one warned us about the en­forced fun. As din­ner time ap­proached, so did the en­ter­tain­ment. On the first night, like a shot out of the blue, we were sub­jected to a two-hour kids’ disco out­side our win­dow. My el­dest daugh­ter sleep­ily wanted to know why there was some­one shout­ing loudly. I lis­tened. It was Crazy Frog. At full blast. She cried. “I’m tired,” she moaned. “I know, dar­ling, it’ll stop soon,” I re­as­sured her.

I watched from the bal­cony as chil­dren ran around danc­ing, while their par­ents sat and en­joyed their evenings. It made me feel like the up­tight one try­ing to stick to a rou­tine, on hol­i­day no less. Even my dad, when I com­plained about it the next day, bleary eyed, hav­ing not got enough sleep be­fore the 4am wak­ing of my youngest, said: “You’re too tense. You need to re­lax.”

“I equate sleep with re­lax­ation,” I hissed, and in the mo­ment, I found my shoul­ders tens­ing and my mouth clamped shut. It was like ev­ery fam­ily oc­ca­sion. Just the in­ter­na­tional edi­tion.

And while the days were lazy, hot, glo­ri­ous and joy­ful, we got more and more tired. It was only on evening four that I re­alised the mu­si­cian played the same set ev­ery sin­gle night. I knew that at nine, he would play Rock Around the Clock and he would end with Green Green Grass of Home and that the Birdy Song, played early, was the switchover from child-friendly to adult en­ter­tainer.

God, I sound un­grate­ful. My dad takes me on a free hol­i­day and… I’m in the bad place, a lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel, where ev­ery day is per­fect, and ev­ery night is a karaoke set of your least favourite songs, at full blast, and you can’t even go down to the bar to lis­ten prop­erly, be­cause your kids are try­ing to sleep in the next room.

We had a nice time. My el­dest had in­fi­nite en­ergy for jump­ing in pools, and each time she did it, she was hav­ing the time of her life. That was enough for me. ■

‘It was Crazy Frog. At full blast. Right out­side the win­dow’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.