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Vacations Redefined

A few days ago, as part of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, Sharmila Kulkarni had written a thought-provoking post about her Nana (maternal grandfather). But what struck a chord was the reference to the her annual vacation, when she was growing up.

Long, long ago, before globalization, going on vacations in India was a fairly simple business. There were only two choices for the average middle class family; you either went to your hometown, or you stayed where you lived. Of course, if you lived in the hometown ( or ‘native place’ as many Indians call it), then all your uncles, aunts and assorted cousins descended on you. Sometimes, but not too frequently, the ‘native’ cousins traveled in the other direction.

Joy Ride

Photo Credit: Apratim Saha via Compfight cc

But wherever you went, there were certain common threads that ran through the mandatory essay that you were assigned when you returned to school, viz. ‘How I spent my vacations’. I am sure that the teachers must have been bored reading these essays, if they did at all, but for some reason they seemed to enjoy handing out this assignment, without fail.

I have fond memories of traveling from Mumbai to spend days in Goa, soon after the liberation of Goa. Which is why I could identify so closely with the characters in the ‘Ferry Crossing’.

In Goa, where public transport was and continues to be expensive and unreliable, my parents would hire a taxi for a day at a prohibitive price and go around visiting assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. In fact, going on a holiday was all about connecting with the immediate and wider family. Some were from other parts of the country and some even from your own city, but whom you hardly met.

The other notable feature was the benign indifference of your hosts, who were most likely your grand parents. They welcomed you warmly, made something special for you but generally ignored you and went about their daily routine or grind. And you can’t blame them.

My grandparents, for example, had their paddy fields to be tended to and workers to be supervised. They woke early and went to bed early. In addition, during the summer, they were quite busy getting ready for the torrential monsoons when they would be house bound for days.

So they prepared pickles, made sausages (chouriço) and dried fish. Minding the sausages, whilst they were put out to dry was a job I loved, as I could nibble at the meat with its distinctive flavor and blame it on the crows. I guess nobody believed me!

What I always looked forward to, but never quite achieved, was to go fishing in the river in the middle of the night with my grandfather. He and his neighbor would go to the river, set their nets and then wade in waist-deep and beat the water to drive the fish into the net. Each time he promised to wake me up and I too resolved to stay up, but it never happened. He probably didn’t want a nuisance of a grandson along, whilst he fished.

When Corinne and I reminisce about childhood vacations, we talk of two different places. (Corinne went for her holidays to Hyderabad). But she quite identifies with what I have said earlier. I am sure that many other Indians of our generation will share these views.

A great joy is coming soon in Monterosso al MareToday, the concept of vacations has changed for many Indians. Instead of visiting hometowns, which themselves have changed so much, there is a whole plethora of dream vacations offered with a click of the mouse. Travel agents and online portals offer customized holidays to suit various budgets and to exotic locations that once we learned about only by reading National Geographic.

In fact, even if you do visit your hometown, there is every likelihood that you will rent a hotel room rather than intrude on your relatives. And as for the benign indifference of grandparents, the latest trend for Indian grandparents is to travel to visit their children – usually abroad. This is with the express purpose of looking after the grandchildren during vacations so that day-care costs can be saved. Hail the rise of the Economic Man!

I don’t know if these changes are for the better, but vacationing has changed beyond recognition.It would be nice if you were to share your experiences and views on the changing trends in vacationing.


Today we’re on V of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.



  1. Meera Meera April 29, 2013

    Jose, your prose is evocative and crisp at the same time, love your writing! Well, summers meant my dad hosted his 3 sisters (as the grandparents lived with us). But in a tiny hamlet in South India, I ate many ‘vadams’ (a dried small papad made mostly of sabudana) and blamed them on the crows too. Now that I have 2 kids, I want to give them warm memories of childhood. I guess they’ll have their own, but some of the things like the ‘ritual of visits’? Well, lets say those days are now only in history books!

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 29, 2013

      Meera, thanks for gracious comments. I guess crows have such a bad reputation primarily because of kids left to mind food, kept in the sun. 😉 Yes, I guess every child will have warm memories of childhood. But the memories that many of us share though we belong to different generations, like the rituals of visits, are for the history books.

      Liked the philosophy of the old lady who gave you a sweet made of yak milk, to ward off the cold.

  2. Akhil Kalsh Akhil Kalsh April 25, 2013

    I fondly remember my summer vacations, those were some magical times, which now have changed, sadly.

    Akhil Kalsh.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 26, 2013

      Sadly, they have changed. Even when I spent my summer holidays in Mumbai, we were always running around robbing mangoes from the big bungalows on Pali Hill and trying to catch squirrels or trap birds.

  3. sharmila sharmila April 25, 2013

    Jose,loved reading this nostalgic post.I can relate to the love you have for Goa ,your ‘gao ‘ 🙂
    The word Rajasthan does that to me.If only i had the talent,I can write volumes based on my childhood memories with grandparents,cousins and relatives.You nibbled on juicy meat left to dry under the Sun and we ate papads and mungowdis..Poor crows took the blame for us too 😉
    Thanks for the mention Jose…

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 26, 2013

      Sharmila, you have loads of talent. I read your post about Raju driver. It was hilarious. If you write I am sure you can get it edited before publishing. Big audience for stories about India that no longer exists.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 26, 2013

      Sharmila, you have loads of talent. I read your post about Raju driver. It was hilarious. If you write a book, you can get it edited before publishing. Big audience for stories about India that no longer exists.

  4. sridevi sridevi April 25, 2013

    Goa is one of my favorite places and summer vacations (in Andhra) would always be my favorite memory . Even my job during the holidays was to keep eye on the sun dried mangoes which would be pickled later . That gave me an opportunity to gobble up as many dried mango pieces as my tummy could take 🙂

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 26, 2013

      Never realised that it was a summer job. No pay, but like politicians, who serve the people, you could dip your hand in the till.

  5. Talya Tate Boerner Talya Tate Boerner April 25, 2013

    Since I was a little girl, my family vacationed at Lake Norfork in Mountain Home, Arkansas. We still return each year. Not much has changed there which is nice in this busy world. I think it keeps my own children grounded.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      You are indeed lucky that not much has changed. Where I went as a child has become one big beach resort. Some parts of the place have been taken over by the Israelis and Russians. Menus are in Hebrew and Russian. Sad.

  6. Kama Kama April 25, 2013

    Thank you for this lovely insight in to your young vacations. I felt like I was watching a little video, it was written so beautifully 🙂

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Thanks for your kind comments. I am really flattered.

  7. Francene Stanley Francene Stanley April 25, 2013

    I used to love visiting relatives in Australia or USA from my home in England. With free lodging, my husband and I could wander around and explore the area.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      What about all those relatives visiting you in England?

  8. Mystic Comfort Mystic Comfort April 25, 2013

    Those sound like great memories! Though I’m not sure about the one where all the relatives come to visit you. We often went to visit the aunts and uncles after Christmas, and I was always grateful it wasn’t the other way around, because we could go back home without them. 🙂

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      You bet. Its certainly not exciting. But in India, once upon a time, this was the norm.

  9. Bhavya Bhavya April 25, 2013

    Vacations used to be so much fun for us kids. Since both our parents were working they would drop us off at grandparents’ place one weekend and then come back to fetch us after a month or so. During that one month we used to turn our ancestral home upside down and climb trees and chase after the hens and chickens in the courtyard.

    Just Another Blog

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      I can assure you, chasing hens, pigs and goats was always great fun. Wonder why my grandparents didn’t have a dog. It would have increased my fun. And I am sure it would have done my grandparents a world of good.

  10. Diana Pinto Diana Pinto April 25, 2013

    Vacations meant travelling to Vizag in most occasions, as most of our relatives stay here. We made it a point to visit other places as well. I agree now the concept of vacations has changed a lot

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      But the change has happened so quickly. I remember my mother telling me that as a schoolgirl she used to go to Goa for holidays, twice every year. Cynthia also remembers going to Goa, when she was in school. Now, very suddenly, the concept of holidays has undergone a transformation.

  11. Afshan Afshan April 25, 2013

    Hello Jose
    good to read a post again from U!
    My vacations used to be simple – always to granny’s place. Ocassionally out of andhra to aunts and uncles places. Vacations were long simple and we always used to look forward . Now travelling has become easy but we rarely gather or meet relatives during a fixed period of the year 🙂

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Yes, I was given an opportunity to do a post. Yes, in the good (or Bad) old days, going on a vacation was simple.

  12. Sheethal Sheethal April 25, 2013

    Can relate to this. Part of the vacation for me was going to both grandparents houses(both in same district in Kerala) and all other relatives in a week. But it was fun to get to meet so many of your distant relatives which I never even know existed. Even now we actually follow almost the same routine.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Visiting was compulsory. And the welcomes were so warm and genuine.

  13. Ruchira Ruchira April 25, 2013

    I have spent all my summer vacations in Chandigarh – visiting my grandparents ! The were fun filled sunny days 😛

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Somehow, in your mind, you thought that grandparents lived in a big house with land around it. Today grandparents live in cities in apartments. Half the fun is lost going from one apartment to another apartment.

  14. Shail Shail April 25, 2013

    A post with which I could connect!I remember the taxis too hired for the purpose of visiting all the extended family. 🙂 We so looked forward to the vacations. Those sort of holidays are slowly disappearing.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      The vacations we had are disappearing. But so are the hometowns. Villages are being reclassified as census towns, whatever that means.

  15. Suzy Suzy April 25, 2013

    Until a few years ago, vacations meant visiting new and wonderful places. Now I love visiting my hometown of Mumbai and connecting up with my dear relatives and friends. In the past, vacations meant travelling with extended family to different parts of India – as all of us lived in Mumbai or visits to Singapore to visit my maternal grandparents – both vacations were greatly enjoyed.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Guess you are doing things in reverse. First the exotic, now the ole hometown.

  16. Joyce Joyce April 25, 2013

    Last year, an Indian grandfather came to spend several months with his grandchild in Memphis. He would walk his grandchild to school every morning and pick her up in the afternoon. For some reason, comment luv isn’t picking up my most current post tonight.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      This year it must be turn of the other grandfather. I believe the schedule is prepared months if not years in advance.

  17. hitchy hitchy April 25, 2013

    I simply loved my holidays as a kid to my mom’s parents and though now we cousins rarely meet or even talk I don’t really miss those holidays… I am infact loving exploring so many new places in this world… so I guess I was happy then and am happy now 😀

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      I guess we just move on. Only the memories remain.

  18. janu janu April 25, 2013

    Hello Jose.
    Could not agree with you more. Can see myself go back in time. Today, it is still the same for us, going back to our home town. Now that the kids are grown up, they want to see the world. World has shrunk and everything has become accessible. For me it is not just visiting places (though I have never been anywhere abroad) it is more about learning the way the people live, their culture, traditions and their history. It has to be a journey of the soul and experience of a life time.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Janaki, like I said in the post, the old home town no longer looks the same. Like Bangalore, for example. I first visited Bangalore in 1982. I was really a garden city. Thereafter, I have visited the city several times and have seen it being transformed. And yes, the world has certainly shrunk. Plus there is a lot more money in circulation.

  19. Hey Jose, what a coincidence. Corinne and I were chatting, among other things, about Goa and summer vacations just last evening. All through school, we used to head to Goa for our vacations. In fact, we would leave Bombay the day after our exams ended, and not return until just the day before our schools re-opened. Dad, of course, would return to Bombay much sooner, but Mum, my brothers and I would stay on, even as our other cousins from Bombay descended on the place. And since we all lived very close to one another in the same village, the fun quotient was multiplied. I have had some beautiful times during those vacations. Sigh! How I miss those days.
    I love your Goa posts. They always take me back.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Hi Cynthia, I was telling Corinne that we must add the word ‘nostalgia’ to our tag line. When I write or speak about Goa, I tend to reminisce. Maybe because the Goa of my memories no longer exist. Can’t believe how we Goans have managed to bugger up the place.

  20. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg April 25, 2013

    Can relate to everything you mentioned in this post. For us vacations meant travelling to Chandigarh and Ludhiana where the maternal and paternal grand parents lived. All the cousins would also join us there. But now all that has changed and it is all about vacationing at exotic locales and visiting relatives for a vacation is NEVER a plan.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Yes, for some unfathomable reason, visiting relatives is almost never a plan. Maybe the ties that bound us together were much stronger. Now we live in the same city, but we are so distant.

  21. Nandana Nandana April 25, 2013

    Lovely,nostalgia-inducing post 🙂
    My summers were spent at my Grandma’s (Guntur) and occasionally distant relatives in Ahmedabad. These days, kids even travel abroad for vacations. Big bucks, easy options.

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      Told Corinne that we must add nostalgia to our tag line. But I can’t help but get nostalgic when I remember the ‘good ole days’.

  22. Meena menon Meena menon April 25, 2013

    I so v resonate with this post. Summer hols always meant a visit to my hometown in Kerala … N today they form my best childhood memories

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      I guess for most of us, summer holidays meant visiting your hometown. And in Goa, it would be eating mangoes, jack fruit and cashews, straight from the trees.

  23. Pheno Menon Pheno Menon April 25, 2013

    Lovely post José. I have lost track how many times I have been to Goa.. For obvious reasons 🙂 I love the foreigner community there and their interaction.


    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      I am pained that unlike Kerala, tourism has overwhelmed Goa. The local culture and traditions are disappearing.

  24. Roshni Roshni April 25, 2013

    Our summer vacations used to be devoted to visiting my mausi in Delhi or having my mausi and cousins come over to Kolkata! We also used to add trips to Darjeeling or Shimla or Puri to the list but we always traveled with the cousins! Such fun times!
    I didn’t know Corinne is from Hyderabad; my husband is from there too (Chikkadpally)!

    • José Rodrigues José Rodrigues Post author | April 25, 2013

      When you are young, being with cousins is such fun. You quite look forward to an opportunity to meet. As you grow up, it no longer seems such fun.

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