Do nothing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.  

 

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Five Season’s of Beauty!

There are different ways of naming seasons, people, trees. Seasons in India are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. People are described by their heights, their likes and dislikes. Some are coffee folks and others are tea folks. Some are beer guys or wine folks. Some love whiskey and others like their Vodka or Rum! Some are morning types and others are night owls! Trees are classified as coniferous, perennial, shady and so on. My favorite method of differentiation of people is based on the seasons they like.

Seasons based on Calendar are winter, spring, summer and autumn. In tropical areas the seasons are only two, wet and dry seasons. But in India seasons are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. Monsoon season is very different in India. When did I really start understanding seasons? I was in school maybe 5th grade and one day I needed an umbrella to go to school as I had exams on that day, hence I needed to go to school. This thing had never happened before so when it rained, I simply used to skip school if it rained heavily.

Names of seasons are also used to describe somethings in our life. Winter of discontent, there is a spring in his stride, are some of the terms come to mind. Summer of discontent is another term, that is used. What do these indicate? Winter of discontent indicates that bad days or times are at an end and they change for better, in the form as spring is coming soon! Summer of discontent is the term used when unhappiness or sadness of life is at the peak! Spring in stride indicates the fresh air or exuberance.  The reappearance of robins. The disappearing snow.  The longer hours of daylight. The emergence of flowers.

I started thinking in terms of Indian seasons, am I a summer guy or a monsoon guy or a winter guy. In India, the weather conditions are different in various parts, simply because of hugeness of the country. In summer, we have temperatures nearing 50 deg C in certain areas to minus 10 deg C in cooler climates in winter. Monsoons can bring rains to the tune of 1200 cm in a season. Weather in the country can be moderate to extreme like the human beings. Pune, where I normally live, is known for moderate weather, all the seasons are comfortable. Has that made people in Pune reasonable people? Does extremism or moderation in people happen because of the weather? I think it does. I am talking of general populace and not the wrong kind of people! Wrong kind of people are omni present where ever they want to be, irrespective of seasons or weather.

Summer, for me is lovely Alphonso Mangoes, Sugarcane Juice, Raw Mango Panna a kind of home-made sherbet! In childhood, it also meant school holidays, round the day playing cricket, table tennis and badminton! I used to live in Mumbai in those days. Once in a while there used to be a trip to relatives’ homes in Bombay or sometimes to Pune. That was the farthest we would travel in those days. There were no summer holiday trips to cool climes. Those were outside means of our family. And did I enjoy my trip to Pune by train? Eating Batata Wada (a potato patty) at Karjat!  That used to be the high point of the journey! End of summer also meant excursion to markets with mom to get new school uniforms especially when I out grew the older uniforms! Then of course there would be a trip to stationery shop to buy new notebooks. Followed by a session of covering the notebooks with brown paper, followed by sticking the labels for the names! Of course, there used to an occasional day of punishment when we overdid things! There used to be pinching of small coins from home to drink ice cold lemon sherbet on cricket ground.  But now in golden phase life things have remained more or less same but with one big difference. Diabetes makes things a little bit tricky for Mangoes and Sugar cane juice!

Monsoon in Mumbai and Pune are totally different. Most of the monsoon, one could manage without an umbrella in Pune! In Mumbai, many times it hardly mattered whether you wore a raincoat or had an umbrella; you would get drenched. Weather in Pune in Monsoon would bring a bit of chill but in Mumbai you were not sure whether you got drenched in rain or sweat! In Mumbai, going to Marine drive to walk on the sea wall, with heavy rains with heavy rains lashing and sea waves crashing on the wall! Oh, what fun we had! Mumbai’s rain fury is seen to be believed! As the British say, it rains Dogs and Cats in Mumbai, sometimes. Though it is a bit difficult to handle, it should be enjoyed at least once. It should be added to your bucket list. One day, I had pinched some coins from home and it was raining heavily. Heavy rains could sometimes create havoc in Mumbai. This was great opportunity to come home, from school,  ( we used to lie about lack of buses) walking in heavy rains and on the way, going to our favourite restaurant to eat a Dosa! That was the biggest heist in our lives!

Winter, of course is a special season for Pune. Cool breeze, some mist, some fog, everybody going around in their woolens with seniors using mufflers and woolen caps! Drinking hot tea with Salty biscuits at the road side kiosk was equivalent of reaching the heavens! In my younger days, Pune would almost shut down around 7 pm, like it happens in cold climates. I remember that my grandfather used go to sleep at 7 pm! Going up the hills in winter was another of past time in Pune. In all my stay in Mumbai, I was required to wear a sweater may be a few times but in Pune, for 2 ½ months sweater was a must!

Which is my favourite season? Cool climates are what I love the most but then monsoon chill in Pune is also great fun and as temperature don’t go down like in winter. Recently in Switzerland, we were caught in Bern, with reasonably cold weather accompanied by a light drizzle. We were geared for both rain and cold but found it very difficult to handle it!  That is when I realized that I love dry cold and not wet cold! I love winters in Delhi too but these days pollution has made things tough to enjoy. So finally, I am a winter guy, in hot countries!

Folks, there is one season that we forgot! Its season of love! Well, romantic love is what I am talking about. This is one season that never goes away, its beauty never feds!  It has its own low tides and high tides! All the things mentioned above, get turbocharged when you are in the love season! Seasons of nature and season of love merge. The season of love never changes into next season, but has its ups and downs! This has its highs and lows! But how many of us are lucky enough to have season of love in the life, throughout life? Season  of love in life, is a great elixir and is supported by small doses of nectar provided by the natural seasons! Lets get a bit philosophical. Do you have five seasons in your life?

I will share with you a lovely Hindi film song. It talks of natural seasons and the season of Love! Enjoy!