Calling out to anyone who understands the true meaning of a holiday
Chalo ji I am back. And here’s a big shout out to all you good people, especially the angry ones. Kitna daanta mujhe for not writing these past two weeks. Arrey insaan hoon, pak gayi thi, badly needed a break, so packed my bags and took off intentionally for the land Columbus unintentionally discovered. Ab how would I know that even during the ‘break’, I would be left crying ‘gimme a break’, like a million times. But wohi hua ji... kya karein. Our scientists have eradicated small pox and polio but no one seems to be working on eradicating stupidity from our travel tales. Let me recall three kinds of people I met during this vacation that have prompted me to will all my money, after I die, to research on idiot-proofing vacations.
1. Sightseeing Maniacs: Haan, haan I know. Holiday trips are meant for seeing new places and that’s why you spend so much money. But the zeal with which some idiots try to wasool every penny of that money by getting obsessed with sightseeing, is amazing. So there was this big group on my flight, families with crying children et al, who were on this ‘packaged tour’ to the US organised by a travel agency. To maximise the worth of their money, the travel agent had packed in a visit to seven cities in ten days. So just before the hapless airhostess got ready to demonstrate the flight safety guidelines that no one ever listens to, Jignesh Bhai got up, menacingly looked around his group and said, ‘Don’t forget to assemble at six every morning in the hotel lobby, okay? The bus won’t wait for anyone. Saare tourist spots cover karne hain before the sunset. We don’t have much time. Has everyone understood?’ He looked like the Gujarati version of Shah Rukh Khan giving the ‘sattar minute hain tumhaare paas’ speech in Chak De. I so wanted to get up, salute and say ‘Yes sir’ in full army style, but the loyalty and namak from the khaakra they had just shared with me, stopped me. ‘Waking up at 5.30 every morning on a holiday? Won’t you want to relax?,’ I asked Jignesh when he was literally pushed back on his seat by the airhostess. ‘Relax ghar jaake kar lenge. Itna kharcha kyun kiya on a foreign holiday agar rest hi karna hai toh?’ he asked? ‘So true,’ I replied and told him that if he can convince his group to wake up one hour earlier and leave the hotel by 5am, I can tell him about some not-to-be missed amazing sunrise spots in New York. ‘Really? Behn aap list de do please,’ he said, and I devilishly smiled. I know, I know, I’m very mean but look at how much fun it is.
2. Photographer on Duty: The second category of idiots belong to a human species that evolved after the discovery of a gadget called ‘camera’ in English language. Some idiots blessed with artificial intelligence also placed that camera into a communication device called cellphone in English language. Bas ji, ho gaya kaam. Bhoot aa jaata hai aise logon ke andar, they are possessed by occult forces the moment the camera gets into their hands. Upar neeche, aage peechhe, har angle se photo. Photos of the tourist spot, photos of the sunrise, sunset, sun in the sky, sun behind the clouds. Bechare sun bach ke toh dikhaaye. And then photos of themselves, with the rising sun, the setting sun, the running away sun, the disgusted sun in the background ... you do get the point, don’t you? When do these people see the place with their own eyes and not through a camera lens is something I can never fathom. I’m waiting for some electronic company to come up with a camera fitted into their eyes, so that a pic gets taken every time they blink, and gets shared on Facebook every time they slap themselves hard on the right cheek. Dekho yaar, do take pics for memories etc, but don’t be stressed all the time about getting the right click. You are missing the moment, missing internalising the beauty of the place you’ve travelled so far away to. In Jignesh Bhai’s words, ‘kharcha kiya, mazaa lene ka’. By the way, I have also put up my vacation pics on Facebook. My right cheek is hurting so bad.
3. Manners? What's That?: Sorry dearies, but this is my pet peeve and I can’t do without cribbing. By the time I reached the Brussels airport on my way back, I was feeling so homesick, having seen mostly expressionless firangs for two weeks. Went to the restroom and suddenly a desi voice ringed in my ears in a very Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge way. “Potty aayi hai?” a woman loudly asked. Err.. Curious about who that very fundamental humanitarian query was being directed towards, I came out and was horrified to see a boy, at least eight years old, in the ladies’ rest room, being subjected to questioning by his mom. “Potty aayi hai toh yehin kar le. Baad mein plane mein tang hoga,” she repeated, even more loudly. My patriotic pleasure at hearing my national language in a foreign land was fast dissipating, so I rushed out.
When it was announced that the flight was ready to board, some people rushed so fast to huddle up near the counter that I wondered if the airlines has introduced some ‘We’ll fly off without you if you don’t jump up on the plane in 37 seconds’ or ‘The first five passengers get to sit in the pilot’s lap and learn flying’ kind of rules. Later, waiting endlessly in the aisle while some people took twenty years to adjust their luggage in the overhead bins, I had barely decided to maaro style with a fake firang accent, when I was tapped on the shoulder, by the potty woman. “Aap India se ho?” she asked so earnestly that I was worried she might now ask me if I’d duly been to the toilet. I nodded, meekly. “I'm Naseeb Kaur, coming from Toronto. Where in India do you live?” she asked, followed by “Why are you travelling alone? Family nahi aayi?” I silently thanked my mom for taking me to the temple every Tuesday when my prayers were answered and her seat was two rows away from me. But my happiness was short-lived when, even over the headphone max volume, I could hear her asking non-stop questions to her neighbour. “Married for five years? Why no baby yet? Aajkal toh test tube se ho jaata hai”. I’d never waited more desperately for the drinks trolley. Anyway, landed back home and had barely hugged seven relatives when I got a call from the airlines. “Ma’am, sorry to inform you that your bag got swapped with a Mrs Naseeb Kaur. You’d both have to come, show your IDs and exchange.” I fainted.
Sonal Kalra has vowed to travel only to places where there are no tourist spots, nothing to photograph and no general unrest about bowel moments. Do you have suggestions? Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/sonalkalra13.
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