Suket Dhir’s itinerary for kids

Delhi-based designer Suket Dhir makes a case for unplanned holidays. Befriending roosters and studying in village schools are pluses

April 12, 2024 11:35 am | Updated 05:19 pm IST

Suket Dhir with his son Zoraveur

Suket Dhir with his son Zoraveur | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

My travels have always been spontaneous. We [wife Svetlana, and kids Zoraveur, 10, and Beyla, 5] don’t need an excuse to pile into my Ford EcoSport and head out. I often go to the mountains with the children because it’s accessible, I love driving in the hills, and they get to experience life that is far removed from their daily normal.

There’s something about spontaneous travel that a planned vacation can never compete with. Things are more likely to go wrong, but those make the best memories. In the villages in Himachal and Uttarakhand, my children befriend the locals, and play with roosters, goats and cows. On one of our trips, we stopped at Dharamkot. Zoraveur, who was three-and-a-half then, made friends with a local boy named Shivansh. And because we were there for a week, he started going to Shivansh’s village school. That’s the kind of agility and flexibility of mind that I love, and that I want to share with my children.

Zoraveur making friends

Zoraveur making friends | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

Interacting with people from all walks of life, exposure to different languages, communication skills — it’s much more than you would find in school. It is important to break our children’s bus-school-bus-home routine.

I don’t use any fancy apps while travelling, just Google. We also keep physical maps on hand for when there’s no network.

Outside the classroom

I got my love of spontaneity from my dad. I grew up in a small town called Banga in Punjab, and when my sister and I were kids, I remember packing up to go visit relatives overnight or living with my aunt for a few months at a stretch. That flexibility was possible because my dad was a businessman — as such, your work is either ‘on or off’ 24/7, 365 days, depending on how you want to look at it. It’s similar to being a fashion designer. I think it’s a side effect of this that, when I’m on holiday, I’m 24/7 into it too.

I remember two weeks after I met Svetlana, we went on a trip to Goa. This free-spirited approach hasn’t changed since. Two years ago, we did a road trip from Delhi to Mizoram without the kids and without making any prior bookings. We just put Aizawl on Google Maps and set out. Depending on our location every day around 3 p.m.-4 p.m., we would start looking for places to stay — anything from an Airbnb, to a local hotel, PWD guest house, and if nothing else was available, then our car. We were on the road for 32 days.

Dhir off road

Dhir off road | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

That sense of adventure, problem solving skills, flexibility of mind and body, are all things that I want to gift my children. These are difficult to attain when you are immersed in the daily work grind. So, it’s important to head to places with no network, where the children are forced to interact with nature — something we took for granted growing up.

Beyla helping change a tyre

Beyla helping change a tyre | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

Last year, we went to Ladakh and Pangi Valley with Zoraveur and Beyla. I remember my dad asking me to wait for the school holidays, but I insisted on taking them. Since the kids are young now, it’s okay to miss school sometimes. I believe these experiences will help them develop a unique outlook on life.

Svetlana with Zoraveur and Beyla

Svetlana with Zoraveur and Beyla | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir


Zoraveur | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

Think local 
We make it a point that our children eat and drink what the villagers consume. Thus, their palate is broadened and they have better immunity. If you eat the food and drink the water in whatever geography you are in, it will help combat whatever ailments you get from there. It’s like what I learnt while going for treks at my boarding school in Uttarakhand. Wherever there is bichu bhutti (stinging nettle), next to it there will always be the plant that counters its effect.  

Lost in Narnia

In the last few years, we’ve travelled to places such as Kargil-Leh, Dharamshala, Manali, Lahaul and Spiti Valley, and a few trips through Punjab with the kids. During the Himachal trip, a landslide forced us to stop midway. We travelled back a few kilometres and stayed in a village called Bhandal for a week. It was somewhere in the middle of Chamba and Kishtwar.

The place looks like how Gulmarg did 30 years ago. Still virgin, with dense deodar forests. It was drizzling, there was mist and fog; it felt like we were in Narnia. The kids had fun playing with us. It was all about Uno and bonfires, running in the rain and jumping into streams.

Spotting mountain goats on the drive

Spotting mountain goats on the drive | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

Suket Dhir with Zoraveur and Beyla

Suket Dhir with Zoraveur and Beyla | Photo Credit: Courtesy Suket Dhir

On a recent trip to Dalhousie, we were staying in huts. My aunt and uncle’s home was about 400 meters away. We were okay with the children strolling around, walking to their house. That’s something they can’t do back home. But they do come back very confident and want to step out alone in Delhi, too!

A couple of times a year, I also bring them along on my trips to my weaving clusters in West Bengal, Varanasi, Sanganer in Jaipur, Dharwad in Karnataka, and Puttapaka in Telangana. They love it there; they love village life in general. Also, they get the things that they aren’t allowed at home, like Thums Up, Fruit-tella, candies and chips. Why won’t they look forward to travelling?

As told to Surya Praphulla Kumar

The writer is a New-Delhi based fashion designer and an International Woolmark Prize winner.

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