All right tourists of this world, from Uzbekistan to Udaipur, let me give you some insight into the no-go territory for your forth-coming vacation. If you truly wish to enjoy holidays, stay away from – fussy toddlers, honeymooners and flatulent jerks. Don’t tell me that you weren’t warned. The intention is not to hurt any community but to state the facts. Honest, hand on my heart!
Go to any destination and the first thing that strikes you is that the resurgent-middle-class is on a vacation spree. Do not be surprised to find fellow Indians experiencing a National geographic moment in a Zambian bush lost in a herd of hippos, or clicking pictures in a meditative pose at Po Lin monastery on far-off Lantau Island.
Ever since tour operators like the Thomas Crooks, Dupe Pauls and Con and Kings are competing, tourists are going places. And in hordes! I have had nasty experiences with Thomas Crook and accordingly I warn all travelers to be prepared for last minute itinerary changes, hotels in red light areas and cheap connecting flights. What is assured is a vegetarian meal. So I suggest that you trawl the internet, plan your own itinerary, select your flights and pick your hotels. This way you have only yourself to blame for surprises if any!
Since I wanted to get away from the concrete jungles of Gurgaon, I opted for a cruise holiday. As luck would have it, the ship was invaded by several families in group tours. Given that meals are included and people have paid for it, meal time is full paisa vasool time. Its good fun to sit and observe dispassionately. Some pile their plates to last for days, and wolf it down in two minutes flat. Appears as if it was their last meal on earth! Children amazed by the assortment of juices available, mix liquids and swirl glasses, spilling it on others. The mothers meanwhile strategize new ways of procuring beagles for the kid who overslept and couldn’t make it for the breakfast.
While traveling in a coach to a distant island, I had no choice but to sit next to not one, but two, honeymooning couples. Double the fun! Now, I had two options. One was to enjoy the live action and meander back to my hey-days decades ago. The other was to resign to my fate, close my eyes and doze off. I chose the second one.
When you are desperately trying to sleep during a long journey unruly kids are the last thing you want. One family had two really boisterous ones, Jignes(h) and Somes(h). By the grace of God both were blessed with shrill voices. And to my delight they were playing antakshari. Honestly my head is still buzzing with a raucous, “Mein Tees Markhan che… Mein Tees Markhan.” And with the amount of snacks being shared in the family, I was ready for a Khakhra to fly over my head.Good fun if you are in a good mood.
Ahead in the coach was a cute little chap who just had to go every two hours. The mother was baffled, “Why does he have to go so often?” Well dear, if he is shoving cookies from one end something has to emerge from the other end. Right?
In our eagerness to rush we have forgotten to wait. Most will rush for front-seats, rest rooms and elevators. In fact we rush for everything. But the moment we have to wait, we become uneasy and start shuffling our feet. Why? In the elevator, my foot was stomped twice. When I had had enough I pleaded, “Maam your kid is standing on my feet.” Instead of reprimanding the child, the lady gave me a quelling look and stomped my son’s foot while on her way out.
And then on the return flight there was this mysterious flatulent jerk that kept purifying the coach with his Axe Effect. Towards the end I kind of guessed the culprit but couldn’t muster enough courage to ask the chap, “Hello, why are producing so much stink?”
It’s a free world after all.
Surprisingly the cruise was more of a peek into the human psyche than any island or its culture. With due respect to everyone, I hope we appreciate finer aspects of respecting fellow travelers. The ‘I, me, myself’ and ‘I got it first’ attitude holds a threat of sullying reputations.