Then & Now: Indian Summer Vacations

Flight tickets refunded. Check. Hotel stays refunded. Check. Bus tickets refunded. Check. Sightseeing tickets refunded. Checking.

We had planned a holiday to East Europe which clearly evaporated in the summer heat. I was following up on the refund status of our tickets when I slipped into a contemplative mood.

Heat. Mosquitoes. Power cuts. Sunburn. Sweat. Water cuts. A typical Indian summer but who cares! Summer vacations have eternally been a source of everything good and exciting regardless of age, gender or strata of society.

Back in the 80s & 90s, summer vacations for most meant visiting one’s native place, which in most cases was a village/town. To be frank, there wasn’t much choice. The middle class then didn’t have the disposal income or credit like today’s generation. I was no different. Most of my childhood summer vacations were spent in Dapoli climbing trees, chasing away stray bulls and occasionally troops of monkeys, long walks, days out at the beach, guzzling mangoes, jackfruits and cashew apples. It also encompassed at least one visit to the doctor with a vow to be more careful.

Gradually, however, in the past couple of decades, the whole ethos of summer vacation has been upgraded. Overnight bus and train journeys replaced by short/long haul flights, suitcases by strollers, tiffin boxes by pre-booked meals, card and board games by in-flight entertainment. Economic boom made what was once considered luxury affordable and aggrandised every aspect of our vacation travel. The monotony of the destination was no longer limited to the boundaries of our country. Swiss even credit the Indian film industry for the exodus of Indian tourists with life size cutouts of Bollywood movie stars at key locations. The onset of any holiday season is announced with full page ads of package tours to destinations across the globe by tour operators. Ladies special, senior citizens exclusive, ethnic tours, you name the classification, there is a unique group tour available for you in the product line of most agents making you feel at home with ‘Ghar ka Khanna’ regardless of the country you are visiting. Some operators take it to the extreme when the photo of the bavarchee (Indian chef who travels with the group) is taller than the image of Eiffel Tower or Tower of Pisa in the ads. Long queues, fanny packs, overloaded trolleys with kids on top, groups wearing caps revealing the tour operators, tour managers with company flags are all warm reminders for other travellers at airports that summer holidays have started.

My vacations are a stark contrast to the ones I promote and sell. For one, I prefer to take the off beaten path. I enjoy looking for hidden gems. I also like to take things slow, spending enough time in each place to take in the sights and sounds. Favourite destination? It’s hard to compare as each city / country has its own quirks and charm. Usually the unique experiences are most memorable like hiking at Verdon Gorge, cooking lunch on a catamaran in the Mediterranean Sea, staying and helping out in a French vineyard, spending a birthday drifting around Tioman Island, a farm stay in Ratnagiri and descending the nine circles of hell in the Initiation Well of Quinta da Regaleira. Regardless of the location, serve me a sumptuous local dish and an indigenous beverage and I am sorted. I am happy to park all my thoughts, reservations and mild aversion to meat in order to soak up the local culture one morsel at a time.

This article was originally posted on Linkedin Pulse

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