Summer is upon us again with soaring temperatures, the wondrous aroma of mangoes and the distressing demands of prissy morons attempting to guilt-trip well-intentioned parents into signing their children up for a course that's educational, mentally stimulating, safe, yet physically challenging, and, let's face it, mind-blowingly expensive. As my former boss used to say, although in a different context, "Fair enough, I say, but why?"
Both summer and holiday activities were a lot more fun in Bangalore back in the 80's when a shower could bring the mercury down to 16 degrees and we all had a good laugh at the expense of the fan division salesman who would sheepishly report sales of 100 fans for April. Today 100 air-conditioners are sold per day on Amazon alone. When we were children, my father probably arm-wrestled his colleagues for the keys to the guesthouse in Ooty where he would sit in an old planter's chair on the verandah fondly imagining he was part of the landed gentry. At the risk of incurring Maneka Gandhi's wrath, I must confess we took pony rides near the lake; I developed lasting insights into the pony's suffering when I received a lash from the whip of an over-enthusiastic syce but recovered miraculously when strawberries and cream were served.
Sadly, Ooty, once known as the queen of hill stations, is now a tattered jade, packed to the gills with screeching tourists and smoke-spewing tour buses maniacally blasting their air-horns. I know, because I made the mistake of taking my brood there in the fond hope of rekindling childhood memories; suffice it to say Gen Y doesn't respond well to holiday destinations with poor wi-fi connections. Broadband speed in Ooty was roughly proportionate to that of the pony I hired in my youth.
We live in hyped-up, slogan driven times where visions of a glamorous life filled with smartphones and theme parks have combined to suck the joy out of the ordinary pleasures that one looks for on a vacation.
In the era of the Tiger Mother and Anti-Romeo, there is huge pressure to fill every moment of your child's life with piano lessons, chess lessons, trips to the planetarium and Baba yoga… All of which will magically transform them into super-beings who will make enough money to drive Narayan Murthy green with envy. During Murthy's reign, most employees including owner managers were paid a pittance; this conveniently disguised the fact that the latter would subsequently make out like bandits when they cashed in their stock options. I think we ought to have a national award for hypocrisy; the hands down winner for 2017 is Narayan Murthy and if the competent but much-maligned UB Pravin Rao were to give away the prize, that would be in the fitness of things. As they say, "Only those who have collected their green cards want curbs on immigration."
Getting back to holidays: who wants to be surrounded by annoying little geeks playing digitally enhanced A.R Rahman tunes with topspin, or a sideline in code writing? IMHO, we are storing up trouble for later, creating expectations of an unrealistically wealthy lifestyle that is so unlikely to materialise as to make all this preparation positively unhealthy.
Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to chat with my kids, watch a movie together and for me the epitome of bonding is to cook a meal together from scratch. For a touch of the exotic, I speak to them in pizza-patois, the sort of ghastly Italian that would have Soniaji surrendering her Indian passport and setting sail for Turin. One last thing: unlike the lyrics of the Firehouse song where they see "forever by the look in your eyes," the UP cops are quite amazing with one constable claiming he can "spot Romeos by the look in their eyes." Really? Eat your heart out, Rod Stewart: I can tell by your eyes that you've probably been crying forever. And you will probably keep doing so if you move to Lucknow.