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A holiday from that holiday

By Gouri Dange in Rib Tickling
Updated 06:03 IST May 24, 2017

Views » 315 | 5 min read

 ..."but you just came from a holiday!"

- Gouri Dange

“I need a holiday,” my neighbour said, as she put her bags down and opened her front door after cutting a path through 10 days of newspapers and milk packets that had accumulated outside. Something had gone wrong with the system; her message ‘Milk and newspaper only on 1 Jan’ had got ripped off her door. We noticed that they were piling up, but then being city-dwellers, we thought it was none of our business and maybe she wants to read them all later and maybe she plans to make a lot of paneer when she gets back.

“But you just came from a holiday,” I said, observing the dark circles under her eyes. There were two stress-lines running along the sides of her mouth too. The kids were not with her. “I told the driver to drive them round and round the city for a while…anywhere, but not home,” she said, by way of explanation. She set her bags down and suddenly did a twirl around her tiny front room, sending sundry feng shui items flying hither and thither. “Home!” she shouted, and twirled some more. And then after running wildly through her other two rooms, she said: “Home alone!” More twirling. The creases on her face suddenly changed direction and became laugh lines.

 “Should I make you some tea? food?” I asked anxiously. “Naah, forget it,” she said. I’m going to have pickle and bread, have a bath, and go to bed.

 “Was the resort not good?” I asked. “Was there a mix up with the tickets? Was the food bad? Were the airports overflowing?”

 The hunted look came back on her face. “Don’t say tickets, resort, food again till…well till next May I suppose,” she said with a resigned look. Then she sunk deep into her sholapuri-bedsheet and mumbled something which sounded like “I want my mummy,” and fell into a deep exhausted sleep.

All round the city, there are people resting and recuperating from their holidays. The onset of the disease begins in and around winter and summer vacations, or even earlier, when the “where to go?” question is lobbed. This is followed by the how, how much, when, how long questions. Banks statements are consulted; the fever rises. Kids are consulted; there are huge arguments; several sulks and tantrums are thrown from one or more kid (“I’m not coming, I’ll stay with the watchman”); there are reports of dizziness and black-outs. Finally one parent announces “We are going to Slippery Slopes (or Queasy Mountain, or Overflowing Beaches) and that’s that.” Tickets are booked. Now oxygen has to be administered, while the family waits to know whether and how fast they’re moving up from 799, 800, 801 and 802 on the waiting list. At the workplace, things have to be wound up and arranged for when you’re away; you experience a slight rise in blood pressure at the resentment and “lucky you, some people always get leave” kind of remarks from colleagues. About three days before leaving, veggies, milk, butter, mithais and other perishables have to be neatly used and consumed so that nothing spoils while you’re away; some increase in cholestrol is reported. Two days before leaving, packing ensues. Sometimes this involves hitting the market for new suitcases – in itself a stressful and expensive activity. Packing also involves waiting anxiously for the istri-wallah to appear on the right day, and making sure that your adolescent children are carrying enough underclothes, without letting them know that you’re checking. It also involves endless decisions about the kind and quantity of footwear to be taken along. At this stage, the holiday-maker begins to wonder if it’s all worth it, but does not dare to voice this.

On the last day, a few hours before you have to leave for the station, you have to catch hold of the maid to wash vessels and clothes, pin up notes for the newspaper and milk chaps, close every window and bolt every door, lock up the house; you have to get the kids to get ready in time to get to the station/airport or to get into the car at the time that you’ve decided.  Minor palpitations are reported. Once on your way, you have several small, silent cardiac incidents, suddenly wondering if you’ve put on that last lock, trying to recall if your kids switched off their water heater, wondering if you should call your neighbour to go check it.

The journey is fraught with fights for the window seat, mixed up seat numbers, taking of wrong turns (women can’t read maps and men don’t ask for directions – there’s a whole book written about it), scheduled and unscheduled pit stops, and the constant whine of “are we there yet?” “when will we reach?” “when can we go home?” and other such bright and observant remarks by your offspring, whether it is in a car, a plane, a cruise ship, or a train, or in a bus.

This is only a very rough outline of the holiday epidemic and its various symptoms. The common complaint: resorts that don’t deliver what they promise; too much money spent; too much crowding; too many bored kids; awful greasy food with words like bhuna, makhani, tava in their names (even if you travel in the deep south); husbands who watch too much ESPN and refuse to step out, wives who shop too much; the stress of getting a little something back for the maid, the teacher, the neighbour, the friend, the colleague…A general overdose of each other’s company, the fatigue of living out of a suitcase, and then repacking that same suitcase with fluffy, used-up clothes.

No wonder we all return with such relief to our homes and even our offices…all worn out, but now sure to recuperate from our holiday.

Gouri Dange

(The writer has become a great believer in staycations!)

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