Discover your true self – travel in India with lots of relatives
Most people will get a total of 88 weeks of paid vacation in their lifetimes. Neo just wasted 2 of them on a “vacation” with his extended family that has left him feeling more stressed out than if he had simply stayed at home and gone to work as usual.
Neo had promised to Mrs. Neo not to whine during the last two weeks he spent travelling with his extended family. But their agreement is silent on the rules of engagement after the trip was over.
Neo already knew that he was sort of an oddball in the family – but this vacation has surely driven that message home.
Here are just a few of the “differences of opinion” (to put it charitably)between Neo and the rest of the Greater Neo family.
1. Kids make hay while the adults chat – Neo is staggered by the apparent pervasiveness of the following myth amongst his Indian relatives: “kids playing in groups need less adult supervision than kids playing alone”. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. While the group was gossiping discussing family matters at one of several non-descript restaurants, Neo was preventing one of his nephews from placing karate kicks on another nephews face. He also prevented his 6 year-old niece from drinking from an abandoned can of cold Kingfisher beer. (Sexist remark alert: Only a woman can abandon a can of cold kingfisher beer after just one sip.)
2. Aloo Tikki is local cuisine ? – Neo felt like a lactose intolerant man living on a dairy farm throughout the vacation. Who exactly decreed that “having fun” and “eating healthy” are mutually exclusive ? Neo was openly mocked for ordering “grilled fish with steamed vegetables” instead of the “Aloo Tikki” and “Paneer Tikka”, or a plate of mangoes instead of “kheer”. Neo was told by his uncle that “Aloo Tikki” is the local specialty of Maharashtra, which is almost certainly false. Besides, Neo can probably make a stronger case for Aloo Tikki being the local specialty of Fremont, California.
3. Holidays are busier than work-days – Enjoying a leisurely coffee, or a walk on the beach, or even reading a book are apparently not things one does on holidays in India. On their daily 200 km driving marathons across Maharashtra, Neo was constantly admonished against “thinking like a lazy American”. He was told to (oh the irony) relax and go along with the breathless pace at which the holiday was planned. The most relaxing part of the trip for Neo was when he had the chance to be motionless, quiet and gaze into into some beautiful sugarcane fields while Neo Jr took his bathroom break under a tree (Neo Jr has a newfound love for trees).
4. Its easier to talk about about being healthy than actually being healthy – Seeing Neo and Mrs. Neo put on their running shoes and go for long runs on most days of their vacation was somewhat of an amusing spectacle for the rest of the family. The gang was rolling on the floor with laughter when Neo suggested that his overweight aunt accompany him for a long walk. Neo’s elderly aunts constantly dole out unchallenged words of wisdom about the healh benefits of drinking kokam juice, coconut water and other similar “natural remedies” – but no one seems to even discuss (let alone practice) the benefits of regular cardio exercise and strength training.
Silver lining – It wasn’t all that bad. Maharashtra and Goa are actually spectacularly beautiful places to visit (especially along the Konkan coast). Neo loves the unassuming nature of the Maharashtrian people (once you get away from the touristy spots and the hawkers). With a little bit of clever marketing and infrastructure development, the Konkan coast can easily become a major tourist attraction and give South East Asia a run for its money.
Also, Neo is back just in time to enjoy the start of the new season of the Indian Premier League, and to cheer Arsenal in their Champions League campaign (Now isn’t that a great way to spend the next few weeks of our lives ?)