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Calling NRIs: Come home for the monsoon

Instead of sending children to summer camps, some brave NRIs come to India for vacations to discover their roots.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 13:23 IST

Instead of sending their children to summer camps and adventure holidays, some brave NRIs come to India for their summer vacations to discover their 'roots'.

The India trip can become a non-stop sauna and a washout since India is scorched with unrelenting sun and deluged with the monsoon from May to August.

But with a little planning, NRIs can make the most of their summer break.

For Indians abroad, this is the right time to plan a vacation. The Memorial Day weekend in late May marks the unofficial start of the US summer holiday season starting every June.

In England and Europe, the summer holidays start a month later and peak in August.

However, the Indian summer can be daunting. Temperatures hover around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the plains in India.

So visits to Rajasthan or the Taj Mahal in Agra are ruled out. The hill stations in the Himalayas or South India are the best option for cool escapades; for seaside holidays go to Goa or Kerala.

Since this is also the time for summer holidays for schools in India, the hill stations, pilgrimages and tourist sites have millions of Indian holiday makers flocking by buses, trains and planes with hotels chock-a-block.

With the full force of the monsoon, the Arabian Sea is very choppy, right up to the beaches. So the chances of bathing and surfing are negligible and dangerous.

Ten days earlier than its normal arrival, Mumbai fought the first onslaught of the monsoon this year and the nightmare of July 26, 2005, 'Terrible Tuesday' was revisited.

In 2005 the deluge drowned, submerged and destroyed life and property with unaccountable losses and nightmarish memories. So Mumbai and Maharashtra will be soaking wet during the monsoon.

Goa has been marketing round-the-year holidays for some time and now Kerala has joined in this year with a new campaign. In addition to the normal houseboat cruises, Kerala offers medical benefits as its famous herbal massage is said to work best during the rainy season.

Most NRIs and tourists from the West come to Kerala for their physical rejuvenation with the massage and Kerala is promoting this as the ideal season for it.

The domestic airlines have introduced rock bottom fares to start a big boom in domestic air travel if you book well in advance or bid for seats on the Internet.

Then come hotels. During the peak summer season most hotels are fully booked.

As it is, India has very few hotels to cater for its visitors. It's claimed that entire India has fewer five-star rooms than Bangkok city has.

With top business executives visiting even during the searing summer, five-star hotel rates are very high. No wonder the five-star hotels charge $200-250 a night while in Bangkok you can get a similar room for $50-60.

To escape the heat and the monsoon, more Indians opt for overseas holidays. India attracted almost four million visitors last year but about six million Indians went abroad for business and holidays.

It makes sense for them because the airfare and hotel packages to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai are cheaper than domestic destinations, making all major airports overcrowded.

Still, NRIs trickle to India during summer. Loaded with mineral water bottles, wearing baseball caps, sporting Bermuda shorts and T-shirts, they sweat it out.

With huge medicine chests to take care of any minor health upset, their 'discovery of India' for the new generation sometimes rumbles with stomach upsets.

But with adequate precautions, monsoon holidays can be memorable.

Cooling off in India during summer sounds paradoxical but true. NRIs can rent a chauffer-driven vehicle waiting for them at Delhi airport and drive off straight to the mountains. Within 10 hours, they can reach the Himalayas.

There one can go camping, golfing, skiing, hiking, trekking, climbing, river rafting, angling, mountain cycling or paragliding. Talk to god on pilgrimage or learn yoga or meditate in an ashram beside a gurgling river. Give your mind, body and soul a vacation.

Monsoon really charms you in the villages and the hills. When the dark clouds gather over the burning plains, Indians look heavenwards in May and June for the first cool drops to wash away the heat and dust of the simmering summer.

As the clouds clash in the sky with earth shattering thunder, monsoon showers soothe and refresh the dry fields and thirsty earth.

An intoxicating aroma arises from the parched earth mingled with the call of the cuckoo from mango trees.

Ah, this is the season of romance celebrated in Indian poetry, song, dance and other fine arts. If you can tear away from the towns and cities, heed the call and "come soon for the monsoon".

First Published: Jun 13, 2006 13:23 IST