There is nothing like a long vacation to put a marriage to the test, the ultimate survival test that makes all those people on LOST look like amateurs in a school fun fete. The husband and I are usually in alignment that we need a holiday, but that is about all we manage to agree on. During the early years, circa 1-5 B.C (Before Child), we could come to some consensus on our destination. Then the tests begin.
When it comes to packing, I believe in the just in case principle while he opts for a one jeans fits all approach. We are also temperature incompatible. He insists that a light jacket is enough but I need to be fitted for snowstorms. I remember heeding his advice during one of our mountain holidays. Soon, the hills were alive with the sound of my teeth chattering in the cold. I couldn’t hear any of the sweet nothings he may have whispered through the blanket, razai and muffler I’d wrapped around me. It was only after I suggested that he leave his laptop and camera behind to reduce the load that he agreed on separate suitcases for all our trips.
I like a bit of spontaneity in our vacations. Not reckless spontaneity like, ‘Let’s land there and see if they give us a visa and a hotel room’ but the ‘Why don’t we figure out what we want to do when we get there?’ kind. The husband likes to prepare an Excel spreadsheet with dates, times, important places to visit, duration of each visit, activities to do and people to meet. Every minute is accounted for, everything is neatly planned, every day is crammed full of things to do. When we are abroad, say Madrid/Rome/London/New York, our days look similar. We get up early in the morning and head to the nearest Hop-On-Hop-Off bus stop. We spend the rest of the day hopping on and off from one attraction to another, grabbing a packet of chips or a sandwich in between. In the evening, we stagger back to the hotel and fall asleep. Wake up, rinse, repeat.
The time spent at each attraction or tourist spot depends on how it ranks on the photogenic scale. The husband is a keen photographer who believes that holidays are actually great photo opportunities in disguise. I like gazing at historical monuments, lingering in museums and taking in the surroundings slowly, while he stays hidden behind a huge lens lurking in some nook trying to get that perfect shot. The perfect shots are usually of pigeons in various stages of flight, flowers in various stages of growth, surly wrinkled old people in various stages of chewing food, the sun in various stages of rising and setting, insects, windows, doors, and abstract patterns made by light and shade on walls.
He believes that spectacles of natural beauty or art are spoiled by the addition of family members in the frame. I have to beg for a picture just so that I can recall that I had been to the Leaning Tower/ Buckingham Palace/Taj Mahal/ Khajuraho temples. The memories of the holiday are a vague, dim blur.
Holidays, I believe, are occasions to pamper the body and soul. My idea of a good time is to relax in a luxurious resort. I like lounging on a hammock with a book, without worrying about the lunch menu and the cleanliness of the rooms. The husband is more adventurous. If we are not spending most of the day on a Hop-Off-Hop-On bus, we must stay at off-beat, interesting places. Once he was enamoured by the promise of a picturesque cottage in the forest that would take us back to the lap of Mother Nature. At the wildlife sanctuary, we were definitely taken back to Mother Nature – about a million years back. At night, strange noises straight out of Jurassic Park echoed through the darkness and mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls attacked us from all sides. We were unable to sleep and the next morning, we dozed our way through the safari, missing all the animal sightings.
I was feeling exhausted after our last holiday. “I need a break,” I moaned to my friend. “You are lucky you had a vacation,” she grumbled. “My husband either wants to go to his parents’ house or stay at home.” “That must be relaxing as well,” I offered. “Relaxing? He demands food at odd hours, makes a mess of the house, monopolises the TV and invites relatives who need to be fed and entertained. I wish we could go somewhere, anywhere and see something apart from the walls of our house. I am running away to my parents’ house for the next holiday. You are lucky that your husband is so enthusiastic.” She looked enviously at me. I figured that I at least get to see new places, meet some interesting people and even lose weight after our holidays. Now, our daughter is training him to find photo opportunities in amusement parks and zoos while I lounge in the hotel, reading a book by the pool. We are slowly getting the hang of having a great family holiday.
Subramanian is the author of Keep The Change and Intermission and a professional facilitator in the area of leadership, change management and communication. After 17 years of marriage, she has realised that her efforts to change and coach her husband have had little effect.
From HT Brunch, December 16
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