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Journey is the destination

Train rides can bring great pleasure.

Train rides can bring great pleasure. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

All the great persons that we know of, strongly felt that travel enriches our knowledge and experience. Though all of us cannot become Marco Polo or Columbus or Jawaharlal Nehru (who discovered India by travelling), we do love to travel at least for a break from our routine, mundane life. I have lots and lots of good memories of our various travels.

During our growing up years, we could not afford too many travels and travel as such was not so common and popular as it is today. But in my middle age, the travel business started booming. Many middle-class families started travelling on conducted tours. One of my colleagues would, as soon as we received our holiday list in the end of December, start planning for his leave for the New Year — ‘one short holiday and one long holiday’ was his norm! I too got tempted by such colleagues and though my family could not plan that many holidays regularly, we managed to go on quite a few short holidays and a couple of long ones during that golden age, when our children were in school and we had some control over their time!

Our travel was always on our own terms — no conducted tours. However, every holiday would materialise only after a lot of arguments about the time, the finances, the domestic duties, the weddings in the family, the health of elders in the family and so many more things. Of course, the trip had to be during summer vacation only, especially if it was to be a long holiday. Everybody in the office too would plan their holidays during that time! Thus, early birds always got the grain! I would start the discussion right in February but my husband would say, “I can say nothing so early. How do I know what would be my work pressure in May or June?” If I brought up the subject in April, he’d say, “We cannot suddenly travel to such new places without proper planning, with kids and with old people.” After such haggling for three or four years, I decided to find a better way. I would make a rough plan and book the onward and return journeys by train to the farthest point I could think of. Then as the time neared and we would be sure that both of us could get our leave sanctioned and all other conditions were conducive, we would start planning the places to be covered.

No online bookings, no Airbnb! Our tours were like Christopher Columbus’ exploration! Except in a couple of instances, when my husband booked the accommodation over phone, at all other places we waited for surprises and shocks! Wherever, we found the board ‘Canara Bank’, we would go there. I would introduce myself as an employee of the bank from Bangalore and the officials would only be too happy to help us with information about good hotels, lodges and places to see. I would contact my friends on arrival in some places and they would go all out to help. This way, our tours would all be fun-filled and comfortable. Thankfully, we had no problems anywhere, even when we took our elders along. All we packed were a few sets of clothes (sweaters for cold places), some snacks, emergency medicines for cold, fever, stomach upsets, some ready-to-eat food items, toiletries and my children’s books. We never bothered about what kind of places we were going to stay, what food we ate, the water we drank and how beautiful we looked in the few pictures we took on our box camera (which too was impulsively bought in the first leg of our tour; we had to ration the pictures we clicked because of the cost of buying film, developing them and getting them printed).

Off we left with great dreams and expectations, packing our lunch, dinner and breakfast for the journey! Those holidays were the most enjoyable ones of my life, as we had not much to worry. We could sleep on the floor, we could stay healthy eating simple dhaaba food and drinking any water (as long as it was called drinking water), we could tolerate harsh weather (though we did complain now and then), we could use Indian toilets (as long as they were clean) and stay with relatives and friends without any hesitation or formalities.

Things started changing gradually as we aged and got used to certain comforts in our daily lives. Today, even to go on a two-day trip, I can venture out only if I am sure that I can have access to clean western toilets, I get a proper bed to spend the night, arrangements are made to suit the weather and there’s healthy food available. Packing even for short trips is painful, as we have so many things to take care of — I have to check whether I fit into my older outfits before I pack and I have to take along so many medicines (allopathy, ayurvedic and homeopathy). Who knows when my digestive system may give away or when my troublesome limbs, back and hips can start aching?

We would rather go on planned, conducted tours or with my son and daughter-in-law or daughter and son-in-law, when all my special needs would be taken care of by them. They would be better equipped to handle shocks like bad hotels, cancelled flights, delayed flights or trains and any such eventualities when we have to turn to our dear friend ‘Google’. We can neither handle shocks nor handle Google, what with age-related issues like poor eyesight, bad memory, shaky hands, slow reflexes and, above all, IMPATIENCE! Who says ‘age is only a number’? That may be true for a few fortunate people but for the majority of us, age does have its impact on our lifestyle!

wordsofsudha@gmail.com


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Printable version | May 29, 2022 1:29:28 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/journey-is-the-destination/article65458289.ece