Small breaks, Big fun.

I have been so busy over the last three weekends that I had no time whatsoever to sit down and write. The great thing is that this time, I feel I have been busy doing things which make me really happy! Sunday afternoons of mine are generally spent moping about the loss of a promising weekend which turned out be finally the same combination of grocery shopping, spring cleaning (eternally through spring, summer and winter!) cooking and keeping things ready for the next long week, all done in different order every week to allay boredom! The last few weekends have effectively changed that!

My perception of a holiday was to go to on a long vacation. Small breaks used to put me off, because the time taken to prepare for a holiday would seem to be too much in comparison to the holiday I actually took. This, keeping in mind packing extensively and intensively for my kids, especially my younger one, who is quite finicky about her food! (that, with me being extremely finicky that she eats well!).

As a kid,I used to read and fantasize about picnics on river banks with a variety of fancy sounding food (courtesy Enid Blyton), trekking and exploring unknown places, not knowing that I would get to realize this dream close to my middle age! I have always found rivers and mountains fascinating. Images of misty mountains, sparkling streams, gurgling brooks, a house in the middle of long pine trees and forests make me go into a state of dreamy stupor. Therefore it was great to discover many such places so close to my home town which I had not explored.

The first experimental weekend started with a long drive on the banks of River Tunga on to a small hamlet called Keregade about 70 kms from home. The riverside was clean, unpolluted and had a makeshift, scary but surprisingly steady launch boat to take us to the other side of the river. The afternoon was sunny, bright and perfectly picnicky. We walked along the banks of the river, explored, went on a trek, listened to forest sounds and found footprint fossils of unknown animals. I had almost forgotten how good silence felt and how soothing was the sound of water, gently lapping the bank. The picnic we had was the icing on the cake! Home made bhel, cakes, juice, fruits and chips never tasted so good. We came back super charged and raring to go back to work.

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So great was this euphoria, that we ventured a little further out and reached Chikmagalur, for the next weekend. Chikmagalur is a town famous for its coffee and natural beauty and is situated about 250 Kms away from Bangalore and hardly a two hour drive from Shimoga. Thanks to techies from Bangalore who visit for short weekends, a whole lot of homestays have mushroomed all over the place. The weather is awesome, the route is scenic and green, the air smells of the mountains and to top it all we found a charming little cafe on the way where we ate what seemed like the tastiest noodles ever(I strongly believe that Maggie tastes better when eaten in out of the way places!) and drank yummy smelling coffee. The highlight of our trip was our trek to Mullayanagiri, the highest peak of the Sahyadri range. The mountaintop has a small temple and the view from the top is amazing!

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In the aftermath, a dull, delicious sort of calf pain(from the trek) which persisted the whole week kept reminding me of the weekend. By the time it subsided, we whisked ourselves away to Dandeli in the district of Uttara kannada. We got together with some of our friends to stay in a jungle lodge on the banks of River Kali. Dandeli is famous for river rafting on the rapids. It is also known for its almost untouched forests and its hornbills. The resort is right on the banks of the river and bang in the middle of the forest. For the first time, I realized that doing nothing also takes some effort. In the beginning, there was this unconscious urge to finish some task, call someone, check on something and so on. Gradually, I settled down into a lazy routine of enjoying nature, taking long walks and cool swims, listening to the sway of the trees, watching an early bird get a fish, just looking at the mist raising from the calm river, watching the water glide smoothly over a rock, wondering about how birds maintain an exact formation while flying and basically just BEING.

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Today, I am a super happy soul. Just the memory of these sweet short weekends puts a big smile on my face. They gave me a chance to connect with myself and my kids full time. When we enjoy our work, we forget that, how much ever we do like what we do, our body and our soul need some time to recharge. And that we need to make memories for later. And that we need a change in perspective to start working all over again. So, people, get up, get going. Take a break, have fun and relive!

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Hustling bustling vacations

vacation

Post the holiday season and resolution making, life has got back to normal. Just a few days into this year, I am already craving and nostalgic for a holiday.

Travel has always been on my ‘most favorite to do’ lists. I have never been a victim of the horrible nausea that  people experience in the name of travel sickness, no queasiness over different kinds of food, ability to tolerate extended durations of ghaas phoos(raw or boiled veggies and greens- the only option available for vegetarians in a lot of countries abroad),no tiredness post travel and an ability to walk miles(a slight exaggeration) if something appeared interesting enough.  And a lot of my growing up years have been spent poring over magazines like National Geographic,Outlook Traveler etc. The most recent additions to the list have been blogs related to travelling ( the Wanderer, Laxmi Sharat’s blog) and various Instagram accounts. Luckily, my family is equally crazy about travelling, though their concept of the whole thing slightly (and I use the word with care)varied from what is shown in TLC and Nat Geo Life Style channels on TV.

Being a part of a large extended joint family,our travel plans almost always involved about a bus load of people of all ages, sizes, shapes and mindsets. The first hurdle was choosing  the place. It needed to be somewhere close but not too much, have something to interest everyone, include a few Indian meals at least and something which would suit everyone’s time frame.

Therefore, all trips involve a hectic pre trip workup, involving last minute renewal of passports, cancellations and additions in the number of passengers,continuous maddening calls to the travel agent to ask about inane things like how many extra beds would go in whose hotel rooms, to herding people together into the bus at the right time so we reach the airport before the plane flies. Somewhat akin to the first scene in the movie ‘Home Alone’. In all seriousness, I think our travel agent takes a break as soon as we board the flight!

This is followed by an activity filled, rushed “been there, done that” kind of a trip where we see everything at break neck speed (because we have to cater to tastes of everyone ranging from age three to seventy five!).

I have been a part of holidays like this since my childhood, so the concept of lazy,ambiance soaking vacations, where you stroll along the ocean hand in hand with your spouse, watch the sunset, go for a long swim impromptu, drink coffee from quaint little coffee shops over a book, discovering hole in the wall shops selling antiques and basically getting the flavor of the place, as is described in travel magazines, were concepts alien to me.

If at all, our holidays were like work outs- in one word, strenuous! You had to be up by six coz you had to share a bathroom and get ready by seven, so that you could stuff yourself up to your nostrils at the breakfast buffet (you see, most foreign tours would give you bed, breakfast and dinner as part of the tour, and you had to rely on yourself for lunch. Well, stuffing yourself was one way of making sure you stay full longer!) In the late 80s and early 90s, you were only allowed to take a limited number of dollars out of the country, and so these had to be stretched to accommodate our food and loads of shopping for all the people we left back home).

Once into the bus, we had the smaller kids often dozing off on long drives(thanks to waking earlier than during school times), to be woken up umpteen number of times whenever we landed at any given photo point.All the couples, bleary eyed kids and the group had to be photographed religiously in front of every monument, as if to assert to the whole wide world that we had been there(and done that)!

Afternoons were spent in the park or in the van, eating bread with a variety of assorted pickles and jams which would appear like magic from huge handbags of mothers and aunts. The drivers and our tour conductors would be our aunties and uncles for the duration of the trip. After visiting every single tourist point and museum, we would crash into bed late at night only to repeat the same next morning!

When I am writing this, the whole thing sounds so exhausting. Growing up, I used to vow to myself that when I plan, things would be different. We would go on trips where we could explore one small nook at a time, at leisure, taste the local cuisine, get to know every small alley of the place that we decided to visit. Somewhat like in ‘Eat, Pray and Love’.

But when when I did grow up and took over the planning, as though genetically, I migrated towards going with huge groups of people, and planned equally hectic trips, alternately whining about the rush and enjoying myself all at once.

Thinking back, travelling in a group was the most fun thing that has happened to me. There are always shared memories and jokes to remember, weird things that happened that would be included as family legends, and a sense of bonding which is difficult to disentangle. We learned to tolerate shortcomings and quirks with grace and grew up with the idea of sharing and caring. When we would go on trips, we would regularly see other groups like the Chinese, Japanese and Gujratis traveling like we did and feel normal.

Though I would not recommend such vacations for the faint hearted, writing this has made me itch for a busy, bustling, frantic vacation all over again!