We are all going on a summer holiday...

Well, here it is that time of the year once again... April and we are getting ready to make plans on what to do for the summer. The summer classes have to be fixed for a month atleast as also the vacation travel to some place.

I think back to those uncomplicated days of my childhood when summer holidays did not involve that much of planning. We knew pretty much what we were going to do. We would be going to our grandparents' place - Madras and then Trichy ( Srirangam to be precise) visiting both the maternal and the paternal side of the family. Despite the complete predictability of this exercise we used to be so excited!

Those days travel from Calcutta to Chennai was not a simple affair - we used to take the Madras mail which left Howrah at about 10 PM, travelling through West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and then finally Tamil Nadu. Getting to Howrah station was not that easy either. Until I was about ten years old we used to live in a place called Kanchrapara which was about an hour by suburban train from Sealdah and Howrah a few kilometers away from Sealdah. Taking into account the huge amount of luggage that we travelled with, going by local trains usually was ruled out and so we used to make this journey at about 10 AM by my father's office jeep and reach Howrah station some time by 5PM. We would have ofcourse packed the lunch to eat enroute and also carried enough water. Carrying water again was not that simple. We had an earthern "Surahi" in which we carried water. My father had designed for it an interesting contraption called a stand into which it fitted itself. Ofcourse, the Surahi water was to be filled in before we reached Howrah station as the Howrah station water was very salty and therefore not fit for drinking.

Once we boarded the train we would make a bee line for the first class compartment ( there were no AC compartment those days) and start arranging our various little items of luggage. There used to be a trunk, a suitcase, a "holdall" and various plastic baskets- the largest one carrying the tiffen carrier as high as the Eiffel Tower. Once settled in, my mother would take out her plastic plates and serve out dinner for about 6 people ( the four of us travelling and the driver and peon who would have come to see us off). After stuffing ourselves with puri and potatoes, my father would pull the shutters down and we would doze off.

Come morning and we would find that we had reached Orissa. I remember morning tea being brought in a white china tea set ( complete with tea pot and milk jug) on a steel tray at the Berhampore railway station. We would be eying the tea with great interest but ofcourse were forbidden from drinking it. Then would beging the ritual of breakfast- idlis with podi ( for the podi my mother had a little box into which she would have pre mixed it with the oil) and then Appa would walk down the platform to fill in water into the Surahi.

Then the train would again move on getting to Waltair ( Vizag) station by lunch time where Amma would serve lunch- curd rice, potatoes and sometimes left over puris from the previous night's dinner. We would be eyeing the "kondapalli" toys that the vendors sold on the hand carts. We would also get some of the local banana varieties.

The train would chug on and then would begin the troublesome afternoon time when both my sister and myself would start our fights - I would have run out of Amar Chitra Kathas and Enid Blytons and she would have decided that she no longer fancied looking at the passing landscape. After some dire threats from Amma the fights would subside and we would try to go out into the corridor to peek into the other compartments to see if there was anyone else we could trouble.

Come night and we would have reached Vijaywada. Often, our food supplies would have been over by then and then we would have what my sister called "Train Sapad" ( train food). A tiny tot she was hardly 6 years old but would want an entire tray for herself, often wasting most of the food ( those days food on trains would be served on trays with  steel bowls and cutlery).

Vijaywada station to me represents a lot of drama besides the kid's tantrums. I remember on one of our journeys south, Appa had gone to fill water into the Surahi and had in the crowd dropped this earthern ware pot shattering it to pieces. Since there was no other container to hold water, he bought another earthern pot which ofcourse did not fit into his carefully designed wooden stand. So, we had this situation where there was a pot and a stand to carry when we got off the train at Madras, making Amma really mad! Besides, the pot that Appa had hurriedly bought was round with an unstable base and kept rolling whenever the train picked up speed , sprinkling the floor of the compartment with water...!

And finally when we arrived at Madras, we would be tiered and happy. After a week or so we would be ready to make another journey- this time by Rockfort express to Trichy -getting off at Srirangam. Not such an eventful one as this one but certainly one that held a lot of promise of uninterrupted fun for a month long vacation in this little island town..

I often think about how simple life was those days despite all the planning to be done for the travel. We drank water off taps on wayside stations but never fell ill. Infact neither me nor my sister have ever had any water brone diseases. We never missed the AC -infact travelling first class was the height of luxury. We did not have much by way of options on snack items to buy enroute but that did not bother us. No chips, coke, nothing ! I also miss those landscapes that we travelled through. I have done the same journey a few years ago but the number farms seem to be coming down and the number of  houses seem to be on the increase.

I never ever went for any summer classes that had to be paid for ( though while at my grandparents' place there were number of music and sholka classes that we used to be sent for - none of which required us to pay a fee). But these days the summer classes are so many - handwriting, maths, drawinng and painting, dance etc etc. As working parents, I guess it is a necessary evil- we need to find something for our children to do. Neither are these kids happy with just visitng grandparents. We do that too but it is just for a few days after that holiday to some exotic destination.

Well that was about three decades ago.  I need to now come back to the present and start logging inot "Yatra.com" or  " Make my trp" to look for the best possible flight fares to whatever location that we plan to go to and in the meanwhile look for the best deals in terms of summer camps for this precocious thirteen year old that we have produced..


  1. yaa...things have changed a lot as we have.... we are so much comfort prone these days, so just don't want to go through all those hardships.... which we used to enjoy earlier.

  2. awwwww, this is wonderful!

    have fun.

    how did we survive without all these new technology makes me wonder at times.

  3. yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    Yes you made me remember those days we use to go from chandigarh to Calcutta .. Howrah Mail .. started at midnight from chandigarh and reach Howrah after 3 days :) can u imagine 3 days on a train going through various states and all that ...

    You know I miss that more .. yeah we can reach in hours now but those were the days :)


  4. I think it is a sure sign that we are getting old- my daugther has never travelled on any train where the journey is longer than overnight. There is a saying in India about the "Safar" being more enjoyable than the "Manzil" - today's generation is so goal centred that they do not enjoy the pleasures of the journey towards one's destination..

  5. I loved the post Meera, I also remember our Summer hols when we would reach the station with all the trunks, holdalls and not to miss my 10 dolls in a special plastic basket. And in two rickshaws that we all boarded, parents would call to each one, “Suitcase taah niyecho” “Nel trunk taa geche” “Joler jaayega taa geche?” and etc etc. I also fondly remember the train SAPAD especially for the glass bottles they would serve the water in and we would love the ‘Baati-thaala” for food. Well, Howrah has its memory in my mind too.

    For your young lady, do try Lakshadweep once if you have already not done that. You will bestow on me hundred blessings, I am sure..

  6. I can't remember any of this! I do remember the holdall though :) And also that I used to be terrified of Appa getting down from the train to fill water. I always thought he would miss the train!

  7. Ani I remember my mother counting the luggage every time it went on or off the train. We did not have a bag for dolls though I did have a small school type trunk for old Enid Blytons! Deepa, obviously you don't remember any of this-coz you were the pest that we traveled with...:-)Constantly climbing up and down the berths and then letting out air from the air pillows when you thought people were sleeping!

  8. :) that did bring a smile! yes the journey especially on a train has something mystical about it, or atleast if you wish to see it that way! the farthest we have travelled is from mumbai to trichy! i used to love them and still do, but it has become a very rare occurrence.


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