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I grew up in a typical middle-class family in Kerala where parents had to toil and work hard to make ends meet. My father was then teaching in a school and my mother was a housewife. Teachers never ended up earning much monetarily – then and even now. When I write about ‘making ends meet’ mind you, I am from Kerala which means ‘making ends meet’ included sending your kids to the best school in the locality. Education for children and coconut oil for hair was never compromised on. But yeah, unlike the general misconception, we did use shampoo and conditioner after applying coconut oil.
Coming back to my story, expensive education and reasonable standard of living meant no money for vacations. This also meant, I never understood what is meant to go on a vacation as a kid. In my small little world, vacation meant going over to my maternal- grandmother’s house or playing with the neighbour’s children. So, after one of these two months of summer vacation, the class teacher of upper kindergarten asked all of us about a vacation trip we took during summers. She explained that it can be any trip taken by you with your parents wherein you saw new places, ate chocolates, ice-creams and had lots of fun. The little me immediately ruled out going to neighbour’s house as a vacation since parents never accompanied me. I usually ran across, or my mother passed me over to my friend’s mother over the boundary wall. I contemplated the trip to maternal grandmother’s house. But that was not a new place. I was going there since I was born. In fact, that’s the first house I lived in for 3 months after my mother popped me out. Just when I was about to ask for further clarification, the teacher proudly called out my name for starting the narration. Though confused deep inside, the confident little me swung my ponytail in the air and began my vacation trip with my father to buy nails and a hammer!
The mention of the trip made my teacher and the little smarty pants of the class giggle. Completely ignoring them, I described in detail the ride on my father’s rickety old Bajaj scooter to the town nearby, the beautiful sweaty summer morning, the stop on the way to buy ice-cream, a minor breakdown of the scooter which led to a detour through a park till the mechanic arrived, our stop at the shop to buy the nails and hammer and of course the final stop to buy some chocolates for the sister. Afterall, she missed out on the trip. The teacher was, I think, in retrospect amazed at my ability to tick all the boxes as per her definition of a vacation and patted my back!
Once the other kids started narrating their trips to nearby hill stations (Munnar, Ooty), longer trips to North India (Delhi, Jaipur) did I realize that I may have made a fool of myself.
All said and done, I can bet that the 4-year-old little me who went to buy nails and hammer had a lot more fun in those few hours than what I had during the numerous trips I took around the world during the pre-covid era.