Sea shells in Seychelles

22 July – 31 July 2017

It was a rather random plan that was floated among the four of us – a trip to Seychelles. The name sounded rather exotic to a geographically challenged person like me, and simply the mention of beaches was enough for the idea to be sold.

My husband and I often travel to the forests of India. These trips usually have a fixed itinerary – wake up, go on safaris, eat, go back on a safari, sleep and do the same thing the next day. As routine as that may sound, the real thrill is in discovering the hidden beauties of the forest. So each minute in each safari is unpredictable, although the overall trip is planned to the T.

This time however, the destination was a little out of the comfort zone, and we struggled to wrap our heads around it. What do we pack, how much do we pack, do we need to carry food, will we have to wear a new set of clothes every single day?! Questions troubled us on the prior evening as we sat amidst a pile of clothes and wondered why we chose such an ‘offbeat’ destination….

My first impression of Seychelles was a thin strip of runway, flanked by sea on both its sides. Suddenly, I was restless for the plane to land and to get out there and smell the ocean breeze.

We landed in Mahe and rushed to catch a jetty that would take us to the island of Praslin. We had planned our vacation around the three islands that are usually preferred by tourists – Praslin, La Digue and Mahe. Unlike my traveller husband, I had not read anything about these places. I was ready to embrace whatever came my way, the good or the bad. Although looking around at the beautiful landscape, it didn’t seem like any bad would come our way for the next 9 days.

The boat ride to Praslin was the first reminder that you need the bad to help you appreciate the good. As the boat rode the rough sea at high speed, our stomachs churned and each one of us dealt with our first bouts of sea sickness. When the boat finally reached Praslin an hour later, we walked out with pale faces and weak knees, but eager to have reached the first destination.

The only plan for this vacation was that it was going to be entirely unplanned. We had a few destinations in mind, which we absolutely wanted to check out, but other than that….we could laze around all day in the house, on the beach, or wherever we wanted.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Was, too! 😉

We lived in self – catering apartments on all the three islands, and that was a rather fun experience as opposed to living in a typical holiday resort. You get a taste of what setting up a home in a foreign country will feel like. You get used to a different kitchen set up and new tools around the house. You get used to the neighbourhood and the cheapest bread and butter options around! And above all, you get acquainted with the locals and their way of life.

Each island we visited had a different perspective towards life. Mahe was a typically bustling city, filled with supermarkets and branded stores. People rushing about their work, not having the leisure to share a smile with their neighbour. Praslin, on the other hand, was a little more relaxed. Random strangers greeted us and wished us a Good Day ahead; taxi drivers struck up conversations on the most weirdest of topics!

But the best of the lot was La Digue. A tiny island, the only way you could move around was on foot or by bicycle. For the lazy, there were battery operated cars too. Everyone here had more than a minute to spare and we were ‘my friends’ to all the locals. This was a place where everyone had the time to see the sunset, every single evening.

These 9 days on pristine beaches and foreign soil, somehow put my entire life in perspective. I wondered why we miss out on admiring nature’s beauty so often and prefer to stay glued to our computer screens instead. Why don’t we look out of our windows more often? Why don’t we take a moment to think about why we are doing what we do, but just prefer to work right on? A taxi driver in Mahe further strengthened this thought, when he casually commented, “See, only Indians working on Sunday. Rest everyone takes break, Indians work!” Does that mean we are extremely hard working people? Perhaps! But doesn’t that also mean that we are losing out on so much that there is to offer, beyond our four walls of comfort?

When was the last time you appreciated the sunset and let it envelop you in its romance? When was the last time you walked barefoot through the silvery sands of a pristine beach? When was the last time you stood still and just let the waves wash you around? When was the last time you lived all day in your swimsuit and didn’t mind the sand trails you left all over the house?

I hadn’t really done any of these things till date. But at Seychelles, I lived them to the fullest. It was hard to come back to a life of traffic and pollution and deadlines…but come back, we had to. It was a mental break definitely, but it was also a great learning experience for me.

It taught me to take some time off from all that routine we get ourselves into. It made me look beyond the hazy polluted air and smile at the orange hues of each sunset that I daily drive back home in. In fact, it made me leave office in time to catch each sunset.

Almost 12 days later, I am still suffering from the Seychelles hangover. I have a tan, evidence of all those hours on the beach. I have a swimsuit filled with sand, souvenirs from the waves I jumped into. And I have a smile on my face that refuses to diminish, proof of how effective that vacation was…

The Kanetkars at No.39

7 August 2017

When you are born an Indian, you grow up accustomed to a crowd. Be it at your local supermarket or while waiting in the enquiry queues at Government offices; if there is one thing we as Indians cannot escape, it is people. And people by the dozens!

Little wonder then that families aren’t an exception to this rule. But with today’s fast – paced and ‘busy’ lifestyles, we tend to hole up in our own spaces. And hate it if asked to share that precious privacy that is solely ours, at the end of each hectic day. A colleague muttered on his way out of office today, “This is all I do, rush from this place to that; find myself trapped amidst the hands of a clock! I don’t seem to have any time for myself!!” That is exactly how each week pans out for so many of us. It is not surprising then that we prefer to just enjoy the silence of our nuclear homes rather than setting foot out into the maddening crowd!

It was just another Monday morning that I woke up to. A Friendship Day Sunday was just past, and though I had been overwhelmed with emotion toward all my friends, I had preferred to maintain a rather low profile. Talking over the phone seemed to be a little too much, texting them seemed much too distant. I shot off some quick “Same to you” messages, but my mind carried over a slight regret on to the next day. Ironically, the next day was a day dedicated to brothers. So yet another wave of emotion and yet another “I’ll talk to them later tonight” excuse to drown it.

Luckily for me, this time someone else took matters in hand, and decided that tonight will literally mean ‘tonight’, for once. A relative had taken the initiative of inviting all of us over for the Rakhi celebration. We cousins always make it a point to meet up on this day, but we never make it to everyone’s houses. So although we do keep up with the tradition, it is still as ‘nuclear’ as it can get! However, this time after a really long time, it was the Kanetkars (and the additions and modifications!) under one roof for an entire evening!

It was with tremendous excitement that I finished up at office that day, and made my way to the relative’s house. Some of the family had already gathered and enthusiastic hellos welcomed us in. People kept coming in over the next hour, and soon we were switching places and accommodating everyone that came in. In a sudden moment of nostalgia, I caught myself looking around and realising that as a family, we had lost some but we had also gained some. Where once we were the ones being the centre of attention, causing all our parents to come rushing behind us; we were now running behind our niece. In narrating to her our childhood stories, we relived them once again. In sharing with her our favourite spots as children, we visited them once again. In helping her discover new relations, we acknowledged them once again. And in seeing her build new memories, we walked down our own memory lanes yet again.

As 4 generations sat down to share dinner that night, I realised that the Kanetkars at no. 39 had spread themselves all over the world in the past few years. Our surnames had changed and so had our preferences. But none of that seemed to have affected our excited chatter that evening. There was no awkwardness, but only a deep sense of security that comes from being a family.

And at that moment, it felt like no matter how many friendships you may build over the years, there is something about family that will always makes you feel ‘at home’…No matter how much the crowd, you will never once feel lost in it!