The many flavours of the break

So it's nearly upon us, the final term-ending school break of the year, and our nine-year-old girl, my wife and I are looking forward to it with a sense of keen anticipation.

I wonder what it is like for you, but school holidays seem half like holidays for the two adults in our family. While our girl takes slothfulness to new extremes during each break, we feel its contagious effect colour and relax our days. No early bedtime, no outrageously early getting up and setting off, no hurrying, a diminished sense of being on a daily treadmill in which we are running, running, merely to stay still.

Each term-break is infused with its unique flavour and texture; each comes with its set of expectations, demands, and sense of fulfillment.

The cornerstone of the summer holidays is the summer holiday. The promise of different skies, parks and mountains and museums and beaches, junk food and food she enjoys, much-visited places seen in a new manner as she grows older (and becomes a more curious, mature traveller every year), new places visited and explored and derived delight from. The pleasurable anticipation of that trip infuses the period leading up to it; the despondence of returning from it to the daily routine is alleviated by its memory.

The Diwali break arrives with the theme of returning to roots, of discovering, and rediscovering, and trying to understand – it always goes on (to borrow from TS Eliot) – how the pastness of the past informs the present.

Kolkata in the autumn for a week every year is in that phase of things being held in abeyance: the manic period of Pujo has gone; the skies are clear; the weather is turning; and winter — for what it is worth over there — and the compulsive joymaking of the final week of the year still far enough away to be not obtrusive.

And then comes this break towards the end of the year… It's a break during which — unlike some of my lucky colleagues — I am at work. But, as I've said before, being at work gets easier because there is no school.

This break is defined by her grandparents' visit. Muggy and smoggy, Mumbai has no clear skies or cold. But Oishi likes shop windows strung out with lights, the illusion of snow caused by cotton wool.

All this is translated into a celebration of Christmas at home. It involves presents, a lot of eating and drinking, and — for her — having her way with the adults. Having indulgent grandparents helps.

It's been like this so far. And every time a break comes along, I tightly hold to myself the sense of its preciousness.

I wonder…

Even now, her holidays revolve around her parents. How much longer do we have? When will it change? And how? Bit by bit? Or, all of a sudden, without our knowing, despite our being prepared for it?

She spends less time with her parents now than she did, say, two years ago. Which is how it ought to be.

What the holidays are predicated on even now will change, too. We are waiting for it. Waiting for its inevitability.

Tell me, how was it for you? How is it for you? How do you think it will be for you?


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