Travel date with Mom

This year I planned a long standing solo travel and a hard earned break to celebrate my birthday with myself. When my father and brother came to know of my plan, their first reaction was – take Aai along. For a while, I was that grumpy child not wanting to share my toys with anyone. And she would be the other child waiting to put her shoes finding the smallest opportunity to go out.

Few days later Aai & I boarded an early morning bus to Nashik. My solo holiday break was now going to be shared with her, and my dream of going on a solo trip continues. We enjoyed wine tasting & tour, a lazy lunch, bought some farm fresh vegetables and most importantly relaxed!

This was probably our 4th or 5th holiday together, just me and her. The first time we travelled alone was to Nainital, almost 10 years ago. Remembering all our holidays, I realized we both have agreed or are comfortable on a certain pattern and enjoy it:

  • Non-touristy holiday – Either travel off-season or visit a place that is not very crowded
  • Homestay over hotel – I introduced her to homestays, and now she prefers it over hotel. A good farmhouse / nature stay and home cooked food!
  • Local food – At restaurant I was thinking of ordering some Paneer starter. She quickly said order Misal, eat local food we keep eating Paneer all the time.  My memory jogged to our Coorg holiday where I took her to a Tibetian restaurant, a first for me too
  • Comfortable travel – Bus, train, flight, car; mode of transport does not matter. It has to be comfortable and flexible to travel
  • Relax or enjoy some activity – While I was busy acknowledging birthday wishes, she enters the room and says “they have so many books. I picked up books on travel, philosophy and wildlife”. The wintry mornings meant we woke up late, bathed in the morning sun followed by a hearty breakfast. Realized it was a luxury for both of us

On our way back home she mentioned she trip has given her the confidence of travelling again, eyes have regained some strengthen to look far, sun is not hurting much.. She was finding a new ray of hope amidst her journey of recovering from a major illness.

A different birthday present I gifted myself…

When a rainy day meant happy memories

Sitting in office I was yet again seeing social media feeds of Mumbai’s flooded roads. Uprooted trees, railway tracks flowing with water, cars submerged, colleagues and friends struggling to reach to work. Helpless citizens monitoring the rain situation on social media and WhatsApp groups.

I thought to myself. These are not the memories of a rainy day I had as a kid growing up in this city known for its monsoon. The month of June meant reopening of school, classrooms and corridors filled with the smell of new raincoats and gumboots. We use to look forward to the month of July, a chance to get that one mandatory rainy day holiday.

Staying at Dadar West, travelling to my school in Hindu Colony, Dadar East use to be fun during monsoons. Then too, the low lying areas of Dadar TT, Hindu Colony, Matunga were prone to water logging. On the days it rained heavily and school bus service was suspended, we use to eagerly wade through the water and walk home. Crossing the famous Tilak Bridge, connecting Dadar East and West, on a rainy day with friends is my everlasting school memory. Enjoying corn on cob, tamarind and other roadside picks was our feast.

At home the rainy day meant pampering and playing with friends. Grandmother’s nudge was all it required to bunk school and tuitions. Listening to pitter patter of the rain against our roof, watching the rains lashing against the window was my favourite timepass. Some days we use to venture outside to get wet or watch local boys play football at a garden nearby.

This badaas attitude continued during college as I joined Ruia. Later a long drive to Marine Drive, Worli Seaface was added to the rainy day plan. Then I started working and 26th July happened. The deluge that gripped Mumbai has completely changed what monsoon meant for this city.

Memories since then are flooded with instances of severe water logging, loss of property and lives. While the popular ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ is high, every monsoon has increasingly started affecting the mobility – bringing the city to a standstill. More so, the earlier badass attitude is now clouded and I have to think twice before travelling to my office on a rainy day, which is barely 10 minutes away from my house.

Ladakh – The land of grit and determination

Over the last few years Ladakh has become the biking capital of India. Come June, social media timelines are buzzing with people going for their Ladakh adventure – exploring the hilly terrain and getting mesmerised by its natural beauty. So did I – but by chance.

I was planning a trip with a friend when I read an advertisement of a Ladakh tour package. From that moment I decided Ladakh it is. I started planning a family trip to Ladakh – not a group package but an individual itinerary. The first pit stop was to understand if my parents can manage – most importantly when we are not opting for a group tour. My mother had completed Chardham Yatra many years back, but father had never travelled to the hills. Preparations were in full swing of finding the relevant information, medical precautions to be taken, knowing Dos and Don’ts, etc. My brother was so inspired that he planned his long cherished dream of a bike tour the following year. Hence my second chance of visiting Ladakh came exactly a year later – this time accompanying my brother in a support car.

While we city dwellers are awed by the chilly hill tops, gigantic passes, changing nature, for me the visit to Ladakh is that of grit and determination. Completing the journey requires psychological and physical good health. My parents enjoyed the trip, but I took a little time to acclimatise to the climate. Travelling through the narrow passes, seeing army posts, workers paving the roads, observing the local life gives you a glimpse of what grit must be required to survive in this region. More so, during the winter.

This belief was more strengthened during our second trip. Another lesson on how weather gods are so crucial in the region. Once we crossed Jispa, one of the last points in Himachal, it was rainy and weather started changing fast. As if we were trying to race with the nature to reach Leh in time. Indeed we were lucky. Another group reserved at the same hotel did not reach Leh and returned to Manali. Seeing my brother and his friends cross the icy streams on the bike, sometimes dodging the fiery winds was another proof of strong determination required to navigate through.

This essence was visible in many subtle ways like listening to the tales of our driver, understanding how they cope with the harsh climate and circumstances, striving to protecting the topography and witnessing many labourers working along the way to keep the roads in good condition. What I took back from Ladakh was the people’s will and determination to withstand natural and other calamities and forge ahead steadfastly in their lives.

 

New Age Consumer: Caged in Convenience

Cambridge dictionary describes ‘bad hair day’ as a day on which everything goes wrong. Contextually it could mean skipping an assignment deadline, running late for an important meeting, no electricity at home or anything else that interrupts our daily lives. But on thinking about this blog topic, I thought for today’s consumer a bad hair day is symbolic to lack of convenience. We, new age consumers are caged in convenience.

The month of May was a bad hair month for many of us. Our house helps were on their annual village trips. Couldn’t give clothes for ironing as the boy who collects clothes was enjoying summer vacations and his phone was switched off. While one house help came back, another help went on leave the following day. Travelling to work was little easy with less traffic. But the biggest pain was surge price of Ola and Uber. While some drivers were off-road due to holidays, others were vocal about their issues on incentives and payments. My conversations with friends and acquaintances revealed the same story.

Why we were so affected by helpers, iron man, watchman, driver, etc going on leave? Why not travel by public transport if Ola and Uber were unavailable or too expensive. On thinking it occurred to me – we have become caged to convenience.

Traditionally Indian society is known to have used the services of servants and cooks. As a girl growing up in a metropolis like Mumbai I was witness to this underbelly who keeps our lives going. But something else happened over last 4-5 years. Technology became such an integral part of our everyday life that we forgot our old habits and got comfortable with this new convenience.

For a working professional in Mumbai travelling meant hailing Ola or Uber. The carpooling was much convenient than struggling to get inside the train or waiting for a BEST bus. Ordering food on Swiggy or Zomato is much easier than calling the restaurant. Our medicines, vegetables, groceries, ironing, tailoring, paying utility bills, almost everything is just a swipe or a click away. It’s our bad hair day when we are robbed of this convenience even for few hours. We are ready to pay extra if it means saving time or easy delivery, in spite of several issues. It’s a circle of access, service, price, delivery and ease. What will it mean even 2-3 years down the line? It makes me wonder…