Holiday season is upon us. Yes it is, atleast I would like to believe so coz let’s be honest , Diwali and Dussera are as close to any amount of action that the average Indian male will be exposed to, what with all the Durga Pooja and Dandiya night mating ground behavior and all. Besides don’t even bring up Christmas and New Year’s coz hardly any of you losers get kissed at midnight anyway, so there’s nothing very celebratory about that.
Which brings me to the cheap semblance of a weekend getaway I went on recently with the Pariwaar.
FAMILY HOLIDAYS ... Love them or hate them, you HAVE to go along. There’s just no choice, no escape route, nothing. There are families who have boring holidays, there are those who have noisy, fight-filled holidays and there are those like mine, who have demented holidays. The ones where you get embarrassed, the ones where you don’t know where to look and the ones where you just can’t get more entertained.
People wonder why I write the way I do. It’s become a question that’s thrown at me very often nowadays and the only thing I want to do is introduce my enquirers to my family, and I am confident it will rid them of all their doubts immediately. So as I sit here in my hotel room without any connectivity on my box of a phone, or any access to the internet, the only thing left to do was start typing at breakneck speed before the power supply betrays me like it usually does this time of the day. The holiday was to this complete sham of a hill station called Panchmari . The drive there was terrible with the National Highway in Madhya Pradesh having more holes on it than John Abraham’s face before make-up, and honestly if I did have to break my back, I’d prefer doing so by indulging in other, more satisfying and self indulgent activities, which would ideally involve George Clooney.
So our first stop were these ancient caves to which I was dragged along by the parivaar and this archeologist family friend of ours who I shall not name because though I bet hardly any of you can name even one Indian archeologist, there will be a few of you ‘PhD in Ivy League’ types who will call me intellectually defunct and seriously, I’d rather be called that over something a little less than inane than rock digging and mud clearing. SO here was this very regal looking man—tall, handsome, salt- peppered beard and hair, rimless glasses and a crisp maroon kurta, the complete ‘can’t go wrong’ look of the quintessential Indian intellectual. He walked alongside the folks explaining to them in great detail the general happenings of the caves and how they were more than 10,000 years old and how the cave paintings were so well preserved, while I looked bored and dying to get home to another episode of 'Two and a Half Men'. I mean honestly, let’s face it—there were only two things people did 10,000 years ago--Hunt and Hump.
And the paintings revealed that just that. Sketch after sketch of spastic looking tigers, deformed elephants and virile looking human stick figures running behind other terrified animals. They did nothing else—no friends, no chilling, no beer even. So sorry, anthropology is just not my scene. The folks looked very interested and Mr. Kurta Jhola who incidently had always been a great admirer of The Maa ever since their college days, was more than eager to explicate each and every nuance of every damn etching till we reached a portion where two huge rocks rested against each other in such a way so as to form a rather pretty enclave. We all looked at this breathtaking sight in awe and inhaled a lungful of the freshness of the moss that grew so vibrantly in its crevasses. For once, just once, we were all on the same page. In the midst of this wondrous picturesque grandeur, out of nowhere The Maa, while running her fingers through her hair and undoing irritating knots, exclaims:
“Arey this must have been woh tribal people ka 2BHK for sure, see see! Here is the kitchen, here the bedrooms and what a lovely porch full fountain-waterfall and everything. And so cheap it must have been those days, no? But bathrooms without bum-washers are totally not happening, I tell you!”
At this point the Father and I were a little dumbfounded as this was one of The Maa’s typical habits—of just voicing whatever little there was even remotely running through her mind, a habit that I not only inherited but that which got me that got me the attention that you all are well aware of. Mr.Kuta Jhola stared at her and for once it was not because she is still stunningly gorgeous. It was a look of pain, a look of complete disillusionment, a look that said “No , this cannot be. How can I, a PhD scholar from Harvard, have ever had a crush on a woman who just asked a question that would put an American High school drop-out to shame? How? NO!!”
Needless to say that our charismatic archeologist did not join us for the rest of the trip. The father and I had our heads deep into the earth’s mantle by then, so deep that even Mr. Kurta Jhola’s research team at Harvard could not pull us out. The Maa of course continued to disentangle her hair.
Our next stop on the very same torturous day was a visit to the Bison museum, which was the most pointless place ever. It’s run by the Madhya Pradesh tourism department and since the place has really nothing to show off as awesome really, they put life size stuffed toys of tigers, lions and panthers coz that’s what you find in their jungles. To top it all, we had a uniformed guide, who was a forest ranger and who only spoke in the purest hindi mingled with words of Sanskrit. Now, this for my family is a huge impediment. The father can speak decent Hindi and Punjabi, I come a close second but The Maa is deplorable. With her, the South Indian genes just shine through and so when it comes to anything even remotely connected to the official language, she just blanks out, completely, leaving the Father with the job of translating everything the guide uttered word for word. Irritating as hell, mind you.
BUT there is ONE category of people, worse off than her, who we completely forgot about, and who as a matter of fact were standing right behind us. There they were, with those aesthetic stone faded jeans, those bulging muscles, but wait I could be wrong. I mean I have been called a stereotypical racist in the past, so as a part of me decided not to geographically place them just yet. I believe t-shirts can tell you a lot about about a man. So just as I was about to turn away, I saw one of the boys with a t-shirt that said “ I (PUMA INSIGNIA) DELHI.” But you never know, maybe he just had nothing else to wear, poor thing. I looked across the group and there they were—all of them with t-shirts that read “Eat Punjabi, drink Punjabi, do Punjabi” to “Proud Punjabi—Shera di Koum.”
DELHI BOYS! Woohoo! Now normally I would be a bit excited, having been away from the city and all, but given the circumstances, I was really not very upbeat.
So the guide continued about the tribals and tigers, in the most mellifluous Hindi ever, so not only was The father working overtime like a translator at a UN summit, while The Maa darkened her lipgloss, but the other confused souls, my beloved Delhi boys, looked bored as hell. The guide said something about how the Britishers coming to a certain area in Panchmari and forced the local tribals to flee. The Delhi boys couldn’t hear him nor could they understand him. At this point one of them said “Arey Bhaiya, thoda English vinglish mein bolo na?” The guide pretended to be deaf and continued. Now The Father, unlike me, is someone who loves being everyone’s favourite, right from the doodhwalla to the annoying salesman at the mall, he wants to be every random person’s hero and he’ll go to any length to turn on the charm. SO this was the perfect opportunity. And what better audience than Delhi ke Ghabroo jawaan?
So he turns to them in all seriousness and says “Dekh bhai, he is saying ki Angrez yaha pe aaye aur unhone adhivaasiyon ki gaand maar di! ”
Stone cold death silence like as if I just met Karishma Kapoor in the 90s before she got her eyebrows done.
The man had won them over, so much so that when I complained of a catch in my back, one of them even offered to carry my backpack. They obviously did seem the type who would hack me to death and feed my remains to the goldfish at the Golden Temple pond if they ever found out what I wrote about them. But then what they don’t know won’t hurt them no?
This, and so much more happened over the course of just two days. There is the annual family holiday to Sikkim next month which is getting me very excited and making me conscious enough to hit the gym and not look like genetic amalgamation of Uday Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha’s nose. Besides, I need the stamina for all the walking that the trip would entail.
They embarrass me, the folks, oh yes they do. But I prefer not going there or even bringing it up coz I possess the one thing that they have to endure every single day. My labour of love and the source of their bafflement—Broken Morning.