Sampath G

Archive for the ‘Wife’ Category

When it comes to vacations, the departure is the destination

In Lifestyle, Relationships, Uncategorized, Wife on March 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

G Sampath | Saturday, September 17, 2011

First published in DNA
Every time I am on holiday, I am faced with a dilemma: should I spend my time reading, or ‘exploring’ the place I happen to be visiting? This question becomes more complicated if I’m travelling with someone inherently restless, someone who finds it hard work to remain immobile in one place with a book. Someone like my wife.
And it becomes even more complicated if you’ve spent good money to travel to the holiday destination. “How do you get ‘paisa vasool’ on the travel expenses if all you want to do is sit in a room and read a book?” is a question I’m faced with time and again.
My own counter to this is: “What’s the point of being on holiday if I can’t read the books that I don’t get the time to read when I am not on holiday?” Or, what is the point of a holiday if it has to be spent in activities that stress you out — such as stepping out of the hotel, or shopping, or being in a vertical position? Pushed to a corner, I play my trump card: “What’s the point of being on holiday if I can’t do whatever I want?”
To which, my wife’s response is: “Why travel thousands of kilometres, to a place full of natural beauty, only to shut yourself up in a room with a book?” Yes, I say, we could have stayed at home for the duration of the holiday. Apparently, there is even a term for it: ‘staycation’.
Indeed, a ‘staycation’ has many advantages over a conventional vacation. Its chief merit is that it’s the cheapest vacation anyone can have: no expenditure on plane or train tickets, no getting ripped off by taxi drivers, food is home-cooked, and accommodation is ‘free’. You also save yourself from the economic obligation to ‘go out and explore’ the place you’re holidaying in, since you’ve spent nothing to arrive at your holiday destination.
So I try to convince my wife that the ultimate holiday destination is home — which, I am told, is also the profound truth discovered by Santiago, the hero of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. But while Santiago realises it only after many years of travelling, I was born with that insight.
But alas, my insight, like that of other thinkers who are ahead of their times, is wasted on minds whose conception of ‘travel’ involves boring tasks like packing suitcases, waiting in queue to be publicly groped (not that private groping would be an improvement), and taking pictures of oneself in different surroundings. Not to forget shopping, for things that are ‘local’. If I happen to be in Mexico, I cannot not buy some native Indian artefacts — even if all of them come with a label that says ‘Made in China’, which is where all ‘indigenous’ crafts are manufactured these days.
But despite these irrefutable arguments about the existential futility of being a tourist, we never take a ‘staycation’. My wife, as usual, comes up with a Brahmastra that burns my objections to cinders — the need to get away. There is no getting away from the need to get away.
Daily life in a city is so stressful that it wears us down, psychologically as much as physically. And travelling on holiday is nothing but an escape — not an escape to, as much as an escape from. What is important is not the destination, not even the journey, but the departure. Go elsewhere, anywhere, as long as it is not within walking distance from this wonderful but terrible city where we live and work and commute and buy groceries.
I suspect this is the reason why most otherwise sensible people who have no interest in travelling become tourists. I am not talking here of people who travel because they love travelling — a lot of people think they love travelling but they don’t. They just want to ‘have travelled’. Or get away. They are the ones targeted, and rightly so, by the tourism industry, whose ‘packages’ convert entire nations and cities and landscapes into conveniently consumable morsels known as ‘destinations’.
So, confronted with this indisputable need to ‘get away’, I give in. We pack our suitcases and get out of Mumbai. But after checking into the hotel, when faced with the prospect of having to trudge out to some lake/monastery/market/garden/cave, I prefer to escape into my own private holiday destination: an 800-page novel by an author I love.