It was World Tourism Day and instead of packing our heavy bags as we usually do, my wife and I opened our individual laptops to go on separate delightful journeys.
The Day is celebrated on September 27 every year to promote, well, travel and to help in fostering peace, love of cultures and of course, to help the industry in these times of Coronavirus.
I am not sure whether any of you had heard of the term, “Armchair Traveler”, but this was much before the time of internet and was useful to many a lazy person, who didn’t wish to get lost in some strange faraway place.
The armchair traveller usually enjoyed the trip from his home, reading about someone’s adventures in hot, unpleasant and disease-ridden locales.
Our travel generally involved packing suitcases to the brim and taking advantage of the extra baggage offer by airlines, without giving a thought to the airliner, struggling to take off with all the baggage in the luggage hold.
“We are four, so each one of us is entitled to 22 kilos,”, my wife would say, adding, “Can you bring the weighing machine?”
My job every vacation time was to lift up the rock-heavy suitcases one by one and daintily stand on the weighing machine.
Deadlifting a suitcase
Have you ever tried deadlifting a suitcase packed with giant shampoo and conditioner bottles, books, video game stations and tons of mosquito repellent, without throwing your back?
“Keep still,” my wife would say, as my hands trembled with the effort. “I can’t see the needle. Can you pick up the suitcase a bit more. Oh, you have lost weight, what is the point of keeping Pedamma (the cook) if you won’t eat,” she would say.
I remember one time in Greece, the taxi driver dropped us off at our hotel, told us to enjoy our holiday and left.
The hotel was on the side of a steep cliff and no one came down to pick up our suitcases and since I was the only man (the kids were too small), I lugged the suitcases, one by one, behind me, muttering, “Visit the lovely Grecian islands, they said.”
My wife would exult exuberantly and unnaturally at the aubergine (brinjal, eggplant in India) dish, to our kids, as we sat on the beachfront. “I love the way they don’t use spices and the light crusted cheese on top.” The kids would go, “Yuck, can we have a hamburger”.
Since it was vacation time, everyone and his uncle would be flying about in the skies and the weather would decide to play a little prank, and dozens of flights would be delayed, leaving us at some dingy airport.
Left to our own devices
In the earlier days there were no massage stalls or video game consoles or sleeping pods and we were left to our own devices and to consume overpriced snacks and water and speaking to each other, which was difficult as we were not used to that.
The catchline for this year’s World Tourism Day was, believe it or not: “Travelling helps us relax, detoxify our minds, and achieve peace from within, exploring new cultures and identifying new roots.”
“Why are they wearing these silly clothes, they look stuffed,” our kids would say at some folklore dance.
This year’s theme happens to be, “Tourism and Rural Development”, giving rural youth a chance to make a living, without having to migrate anywhere.
Countries are pushing domestic tourism because of the dangers of human beings around us. India promoted the North-East of the country, and its ecotourism and culture and heritage.
“Shall we visit the art museum in Leningrad,” I ask my wife looking over my laptop. “No, let’s go to ‘Delhi Haat’, this year.”
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi