Father’s Day shout out to all the papas who plan family trips

Years of chasing wildlife together has created a different love language of sorts between a baby boomer and his two millennials. This Father’s Day, a tribute

“I’m going to Kenya.”

Kenya? The country?

“Yes, to see the wildebeest migration.”

The one on TV? Where they cross national borders? In herds of millions?

“Do you want to come along? Ask your brother if he’s interested.”


As far as daily phone calls with Baba go, this one is the usual amount of curt and caring. But a tad more surprising. My father — who once refused to send me books from home, because buying in Chennai might be cheaper than couriering from Kolkata — had just decided to up his trip’s budget by 200%. His usual solo, but first foreign trip. And here I am, living under the impression that we are all too middle class to travel abroad. Are we not? Are we rich? Are we really flying to another continent?

Father’s Day shout out to all the papas who plan family trips

My head begins to spin, so I do what I do when I need that rare, heavy dose of common sense rapped into me. I call the brother. Instantly, I am hit by another bit of uncharacteristic behaviour: he picks up my call. In nine years of living in different cities, pursuing separate courses and career paths, this has happened about thrice.

“What?” he says. His disgruntlement is reassuringly familiar (don’t get him wrong, I’m told he is a very caring and helpful person. But I am the sister he grew up squabbling with, so I wouldn’t know that side of him).

Soon enough, it is established that this family of three will really be going to Kenya. For 10 days. Taking with us our disparate sleep schedules, clashing opinions on health and diet, and varying expectations of what bonding time should comprise. Fun.

There are two months to go, so naturally, instant panic ensues, as instruction after instruction is rained down upon two hapless (professional, adult) siblings by the planned and ready pater.

Father’s Day shout out to all the papas who plan family trips

Three different sets of office leaves are sorted out, after an episode of the usual father-son lock of horns. After that, Yellow Fever vaccinations need to be looked into. In the blink of an eye, Baba sends across a list of vaccination centres for each of our cities, as well as a list of national parks, lakes, accommodations and the itinerary. I am reminded of the days when we were children, and our parents would take care of everything: we just skipped school when told to, and found ourselves in one of the many wildlife sanctuaries around central India, waiting with bated breath inside jeeps for a tigress (in Tadoba-Andhari, Pench, Nagzira and Kanha) or a bison (during one fateful trip to Chikhaldhara) to cross our paths. A childhood’s worth of memories comes rushing back, as it does every time a family adventure is in the offing.

Today, travelling anywhere involves managing a host of friends’ different dates, budgets and bucket lists; looking at hotels, flights and buses; bringing order to the chaos that is any WhatsApp group; and giving up more often than not. Except when Baba takes the reigns, and the two of us know enough to leave all the planning to him. Not only because counter-arguments are futile, but because, in this case, we know that this experience has been his wish for a long time. And things really should go just the way he wants them to.

But the wildebeest don’t know that. Such a phenomenon is their migration — along with thousands of zebra and gazelles, across Tanzania and Kenya every year — that conservationists, wildlife guides and enthusiasts use both physical sightings and satellite images to trace their progression month by month. This month, it seems, they are ahead of schedule. Our schedule, not theirs. “They are moving much faster than expected. They’ll probably cross our point of meeting well before we land,” I am informed over the daily phone call (which has more than doubled in length, from two minutes each to four-and-a-half, since the planning began).

Father’s Day shout out to all the papas who plan family trips

“We will still get to see a whole new country. A beautiful landscape, people, food...” I offer.

“And we will probably get to see lions in the wild,” he muses.

“And giraffes. For the first time,” I add, pushing aside memories of the brother bragging about giraffes he had seen in Kolkata zoo.

“That’s true,” his voice is matter-of-fact again, and the following barrage of instructions is proof enough that he has cheered up. I take it in, like I have the short, sharp flows of advice, encouragement, reassurances and worries all these years, and reply with the one phrase that I always use. The one every roommate has heard often enough to learn by heart.

Thik ache (all right).” Because what else do you say to Father?

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:52:55 PM |

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