Pune Journal: Summer Caper

June 2020: ‘If spring is birth and summer is youth, fall is the full bloom of middle age (and winter is death)’. 

I wonder where the seasons have gone or have they morphed into man made disasters? Fall and winter 2019 got hijacked by Covid-19 and summer is now muddled up with Black Lives Matter. India has its own share of colour co-ordinated xenophobic problems…fair skin versus dark skin, religious differences, rich versus poor, caste and creed, border skirmishes of yellow versus brown…… A full catalogue of idiosyncrasies. One would think the younger generations will shirk the baggage propagated by their parents, but, no they continue being connectors. There are exceptions and hopefully this number of nay-sayers will increase with time and look for ways to change the world to public specifications.

A feeling of déjà vu is setting in. Been there..done that and what’s new. The month of May was sagging under questions about Lockdown extension, Containment zones, opening facilities, domestic and international travel, medical facilities, local transport, education, entertainment….. Few queries were answered and few are still in the queue. I suppose the remaining months will provide the much awaited clarifications as India ladders up to No 4 position on Covid chart of worst affected countries. Sceptics are waiting for it to be the topper thanks to negligible social distancing, burdened medical facilities, financial losses as we move onto to, according to latest WhatsApp jab, the ‘Bhagwan Bharose stage..(waiting for God to take care of us).

Another grouse, for me, is that Covid infotainment, political clashes and protests and axe-to-grind bites of .news’ analysts have negated the entertainment value of print and visual media . ‘Switch to Netflix’ suggested a friend. Advice taken and South Korean family dramas and Australian ‘Home and Away’ are the newest lullabys.

On a serious note people are loosing patience to stay indoors thereby compelling nations across the globe to unseal borders and facilities. Some are persnickety on entry visas (No Covid Top Four on EU soil) while Maldives and other tourist dependent nations are welcoming visiors. But is it so simple? Leisure travel is different from Necessity travel and extreme caution is required whenever we decide to sprint onto the aisle. Check requirements and protocols issued by airports, airlines and travel agents. Domestic flights in most countries, including India, are operational, but International is still a big risk factor. 

The German word Fernweh or “far-sickness” or “longing for far-off places,” best describes the desperation to travel beyond horizons. (THE TRAVEL ‘ACHE’ YOU CAN’T TRANSLATE’ By David Farley (BBC Essential List-March 2020.) To translate this ache into action travel writers and bloggers, associations, businesses have vaulted into action planing itineraries for 2021 for journeyers to board flights, trains or personal transport. Abigail of https://www.insidethetravellab.com writes ‘Travel is not just about “holidays.” It is about connecting with different cultures, seeing other perspectives and learning more about the world in the ultimate outdoor classroom. It helps us to feel inspired, informed and part of something bigger than ourselves’. 

Adventure travel by its very nature has the makings of a post-pandemic antidote. Hikes and camping thrills in known and unknown places with minimum human interaction and adhering to rules can help clear cobwebs of inactivity. We can start with less touristy destinations, nearby villages and their environs for a more hands down travel experience. I remember as children (sometime in the 1970s) we would go for family picnics to surrounding areas of our home town Allahabad (Prayagraj) and one top favourite was Chachai Falls, Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh. In those days of narrow roads it would take about two hours from Allahabad to cover 117 kms. 

Preparations would begin a day before so as to leave early morning the next day. Each family, usually 4, would be assigned their food list, snacks and tea paraphernalia. The idea was to have maximum time and return before dusk. The day would dissolve in laughter and squeals of us kids frolicking in the waters oblivious of elders playing cards, listening to music or just plain gossiping. Two helpers, including drivers, would be taken along as occasionally food would be prepared on site. As we grew up these outings moved closer home to friend’s farms with pools on outskirts of city. Marriage (in New Delhi) and children (1980s) meant picnics and visits to gardens and fancy resorts in nearby Haryana State and neighbouring hill stations for weekly stays amidst luxury. 

With time the socially dictated travel pattern was getting visible and it was fashionable to say that you were flying to Europe, North America or Australia…depending wherever there was family. Short breaks would be, without hesitation, 4 night stay in one of the exotic island resorts of Maldives instead of Lonavala (near Mumbai), sassier Thailand instead of Mussoorie or Amsterdam flipped for Kashmir. The social media world stoked the desire for more exotic and fashionable and as soon as you returned from one trip plans would be afoot for the next Instagramming trip. Never mind the long queues at historical monuments, over crowding at natural wonders, the tabs of responsible and sustainable tourism…. Who listens? ‘Not me’ was the collective answer.

For crying out aloud the ‘Rona’ or ‘Ca-rona’ has hijacked our 2020 collective plans. Nature, in its own inimitable way is making us explore destinations closer home… places where one does not have to keep glancing back, continuous washing hands, a distant-cough insinuating hibernation, infections and crowds. Places could be near our cities, our states or neighbouring states….the jungle safaris, untrampled beaches, historical ruins, temples and churches, places we read and heard about but never got around to exploring. 

Instead of feeling sequestered, waiting for something to happen, as we move into the Seventh month of the calendar…… We can either wait for the unbiddable dream to pass or Think of it as the fine-tuning experience of 2020. 

A blessing: the big fat Indian wedding has been downsized to ‘handful’ wedding. The host can now literally count his guests.

13 thoughts on “Pune Journal: Summer Caper”

  1. As the months drag on we wonder if international travel will ever be safe. For now it is close to home that we are wandering.

  2. “Think of it as the fine-tuning experience of 2020′ Well said. A true adventurer is able to rally that spirit wherever they find themselves. Some of my grandest expeditions were undertaken in my own back yard. I am drawing on that spirit again as we find ourselves in a holding pattern in La Paz.

  3. I definitely am smitten with Fernweh or “far-sickness” or “longing for far-off places,” Indra! And Abigail of Inside the Travel Lab certainly has it right in her definition of travel. I think we will all have to be satisfied with staying closer to home, and getting out in remote nature is always a solution to social distancing. You’re so right that our plans have been hijacked in 2020. I just hope it doesn’t extend too far into 2021. If it does, I fear the world will be irreversibly changed, with businesses we loved no longer in existence. We may have to reinvent our lives; let’s just hope they will improve rather than destruct.

    My husband and I were just talking about smaller weddings. I’m sure, like us, India celebrates weddings in a big, and very expensive way. My daughter went to a wedding yesterday in someone’s backyard. The reception was small and the whole thing was held outdoors and socially distanced. Maybe this is a good thing, as weddings have become exorbitantly expensive for no good reason. I would rather give my child $30,000 dollars as a down payment on a house than to spend that much on a one day celebration. Maybe some things will change for the better, fewer tour groups ruining every destination, fewer cruise ships, etc. Let’s hope for the best. 🙂

    1. It’s the same for American parents. None of my adult children are married yet, but if they do get married, I hope we can encourage them not to waste money on a wedding!

  4. “But is it so simple?” No. It never is. I fear that too many are too quickly eager to “get back to the way things were,” without having reflected upon the heavy cost of doing such business. I love your advice at the end to consider all these ‘burdens put upon us’ “as the fine-tuning experience of 2020.” These seasons fraught with death and inequality all around should be when we finally contemplate how we got here and ways to not keep going in the same direction. Hoping this finds you safe where you are!

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