At a time when elders try hard to cope with their empty nests, a few youngsters lead the way by taking the initiative to show their parents the world they brought them into!
You may not remember dipping your little feet in the ocean for the first time or your first vaccination shot, but your parents do. They never get tired of recounting those moments to their kids but how many adults are ready to walk down that nostalgic path with their parents? The rat race and exodus of youngsters to foreign lands leave most elderly parents, especially bereaved singletons, battling a life of seclusion, often depressed, fighting age-related ailments. Today, when youngsters are literally dying for perfect Insta photos with friends, it takes some especially intuitive children to see the monotonous lives their elderly parents lead and take them on a journey heals and rejuvenates their soul and heart.
Like Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar did when he took to Instagram to post a video of him casually strolling the streets of London with his wheel-chair bound mother. He captioned the video thus, Juggled shoot to spend a few days with mom in London. No matter how busy you are with life and growing up, don’t forget they are also growing old...so spend time with them while you can. A family man and a very busy star with back-to-back projects, Akshay still managed to find time for his mother, driving home his point of how important it is to spend quality time with parents.
If it was a star son and mother bonding in London, bohemian actor Kalki Koechlin set some major daughter-father goals when she undertook a bike journey with her father Joel Koechlin through the scenic locales of Northeast India where they explored the cultures of Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh — in a 4,000-km, three-state bike ride on two Royal Enfield Himalayans a few years ago. This was when she had hosted her show Great Escape.
The duo indulged in beer-making, tried their hand at canoeing, donned traditional outfits, engaged in an impromptu football game, navigated a rope bridge, ferried their bikes across a river and navigated treacherous mountain paths in low visibility, proving that a parent can be an excellent travel partner too.
Celebs including Shraddha Kapoor, Kriti Sanon happily pose with their parents and share vacation photos on a regular basis. It is not just the stars but also a good number of youngsters who are opting for multi-generation trips with just their parents in company.
Lend them an ear, and some time
In the twilight of their lives, all that most parents pine for is the warmth, love and a little bit of time from their off-spring . Delhi-based model, lawyer and international certified yoga teacher Surya Prithvi Nain, who regularly travels with his parents Prem Lata and Sahab Singh, believes, “Caught in the bustle of life, we hardly realise that our parents are growing old. We carry desires and dreams to go to distant places, travel, have fun, make money, buy cars and houses and are so caught up by all these that we forget our parents giving up on their dreams for us.” He asks to give our parents our time and attention and travel with them. “Before they become memories, let us make memories with them,” says Surya, a statement and a stark reminder of a fact oft-forgotten.
Surya, through his own constant travels, realised that real learning happens when you travel, “It is when you meet and live with strangers and eat with them that your mental horizons broaden. My father had travelled to almost every place in the country but my mother had never travelled except to Haridwar and Rishikesh. So two-and-a-half years ago, I broached the subject of travelling together with them,” he says. Though his father was enthusiastic, his mother was not, asking what the gain in travelling was. Surya chipped away at her reluctance, wanting Prem Lata to venture beyond the confines of her home and she did hesitantly.
If Surya wanted his mother to come out of her shell, for 31-year-old businessman Sarath Krishnan from Thrissur in Kerala, every journey with his 61-year-old mother Geetha Ramachandran is a source of great happiness. He wants to give her the moon and though that is technically impossible, he did take her to the Rann of Kachch where she saw the salt desert on a full moon night, the salt sparkling and the whole earth lit up, reflecting the sky.
Sarath shares, “My mother spent all her life raising her kids and looking after the family, and through her travels she realised what she had missed all these years. I want my mother to experience all happiness in the world.” When everyone globe trots with their spouses, friends and colleagues, Sarath is only glad to take his mother wherever he can, at least every six months. “A spiritual person, amma’s regular trips have been to the temples in the neighbourhood. I had a tough time coaxing her to accompany me, but once she got the hang of journeys, she is now awaiting for our next trip.”
More than just a trip, it was nostalgia that was on Kerala-based software engineer Akhil Rony’s mind when he embarked on a risky 1,600-km bike ride from Manali to Srinagar with his 57-year-old father Rony. His father had been an avid biker in his youth fearlessly travelling day and night through forests, mountains and shallow streams. Rony proudly reveals, “I was the first in my hometown in Kerala to own a 500 CC Bullet bike.”
Akhil adds, “As time went by and family duties took over, my father had put his Bullet riding days behind him, engrossed in his job as a pharmacist so that he could take care of our family but I knew he yearned and missed his bike riding days. I thought why not fulfill that dream by taking him on an adventure like never before.”
Every trip is not about the distance. Even a one day or two day trip can be fulfilling. Mumbai-based communications professional Sanam Shah wanted to do something very special for her parents on the occasion of their anniversary. “Rather than giving them both something materialistic, I wanted all of us to be together and spend time away from home. During workdays, it becomes difficult to find time to actively converse with them even if we all stay together,” she says. On a long weekend, Sanam took off to the hill station of Lonavala with her parents deciding that a change in scenery would elevate their mood. And it did.
Mission Happiness: Accomplished!
The terrains may be different, but the happiness each adult child and parent experienced was the same. Surya’s initial trips with his parents were to Uttarakand and the Himalayas, surroundings he was familiar with. After four trips together where his mother saw majestic mountains, knee-high snow, tree canopies that touched the sky and wildlife that shyly peeked at her, he could see his mother emerge from her chrysalis. “Now she initiates a trip reminding us that it is time for yet another travel,” laughs Surya, happiness punctuating his words. Surya and his parents have travelled through Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Kanyakumari and Goa.
They have camped under starry skies close to the Gangotri glacier, frolicked in the ocean waves in Kerala and felt the unmitigated joy of tiny snow-flakes falling on their face at Chandrashila peak. Their faces have lit up with a sense of accomplishment on reaching the summit of a peak after a trek of 16 km in the Himalayas.
Much like a child tripping over words in his enthusiasm, Sarath can never tire of recounting the special moments and sights he shared with his mother. This year’s Valentine’s Day, Sarath and Geetha were at Varkala, staring at the starry sky from the iconic cliff and beach. The year before, they were at Varanasi, walking along the ghats holding their hands, happiness lighting up their faces. “Our first trip was an 11-day journey to Mumbai from where we went to Nasik, Shirdi and the Ajanta-Ellora caves. After that, we have travelled to Dubai, Delhi, Amritsar, Wagah border, Tibet, Nepal and even hired an eight-seater plane which took us to the peak of Mt Everest!” One of his memorable experiences was a daring ride on a hired 500 cc bullet from Manikaran to Manali — the son sporting a leather jacket and mother, a saree! “At the sight of snow, my 60-year-old mother, almost Cinderalla-esquely, transformed into a little girl; she was jumping, running and laughing, playing with snow. I will never forget that moment,” recalls Sarath.
Surya too vividly recounts such a surreal moment when his mother glimpsed the vast ocean for the first time when he took her to a beach near Dwarka in Gujarat. He adds, “I can still recall the wonder in her eyes when she saw a sand dune. She was jumping and splashing water, laughing and shouting like a child and even dancing in the waves! It was like the child in her had woken up!”
Back to Sarath and Geetha, on New Year’s eve, the mother-son duo partied at a club among loud music — again Geetha was the only one sporting a saree among the stylish youngsters in flashy attire. “The DJ called out to us and asked where we were from and why we were there. And he asked aloud if there was anyone there who had come with their mother. There wasn’t. We were the stars in the room. And amma said she had never celebrated a New Year in her life, never like this. That was a proud moment for me,” laughs Sarath.
There was danger and risk at every turn when Akhil and father Rony hit the road, starting their journey from Manali, travelling through the famous Rohtang Pass, Zoji La, Kardung La, Jispa, Siachen, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Kargil and finally reaching Srinagar after riding for nine days. They spent ice- cold nights, freezing in tents beside fast flowing rivers where Rony admits, “The sub- zero temperatures made movement and even breathing difficult and I did have some minor aches- but nothing that a really hot cup of soup or hot momos could not take care of.”
The highlight of Rony’s trip was, “Seeing the deep blue waters of the 3 Idiots-fame Pangong Lake. We rode through the banks of the exceptionally beautiful lake surrounded by tall mountains. Words fall short to explain that beautiful sight.” Incidentally, Rony had donated his kidney and though that was a matter of concern for a trip through high altitude and ice cold terrain, it did not prove to be a deterrent. Ask Akhil what he recalls of the trip and he laughs, “The fights with my father for control of the bike. He spent maximum road time riding the bike and was not comfortable riding pillion. All he wanted to do was ride the bike!”
Learn and unlearn together
Surya opines that travelling with parents can undoubtedly lead to moments of revelations from both sides. Surya realised that the world his parents grew up in was not the privileged world he grew up in, “I introduced them to my world in the course of these travels, teaching them to handle the latest smart phones. Now my mother is on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp and I am so proud of her! I also introduced her to my model friends some of whom are from the LGBT community and unlike many other mothers; she has no issues interacting with them.”
For Surya there is another big reason to be happy, “As a human being, my mother has evolved and opened up! She has embraced the world whole-heartedly! It has to do with her intermingling with different kinds of people, staying with local people in the Himalayas, travelling by road seeing myriad sights and tasting different cuisines.”
The Himalayas seem to have a profound effect on relationships. High on the snowbound road in picturesque Manali where Akhil stood looking at his father Rony, sporting a leather jacket with black leather gloves on his hands, knee guards protecting his knees and a helmet perched on his head, astride a Bullet revving it, impatient to hit the open roads, came a revelation, “I realised that this journey had brought back my young fearless father —albeit now with salt and pepper streaked hair and beard!”
Through shared laughter, Rony admits that the Himalayan bike ride with his son was the biggest adventure of his life simply because after many long years, he could once again feel the wind in his face, the throttle in his hands and the gear beneath his feet, reliving his lost biker days.
An excited Geetha, whose amazing journeys with her son will soon feature in a Malayalam movie titled Mother India directed by actor Shani Shaki, reveals that the trips have changed her into a different person. She says, “I didn’t know what I had been missing all these years. I am 60, diabetic and hadn’t hoped to see the world at this age. But now I am extremely happy and keep planning the next journey. My prayer now is to get my life extended by a few more years than destined.”
It’s all about loving your parents
For every youngster who goes on a journey with his parents, there will be moments of disagreement, frustration and of adjustments to be made, but there will also be unforgettable moments of closeness, trust, vulnerability and nostalgia. Sometimes it takes going miles away from home to unfamiliar terrain to help better appreciate both your home and those who live there. Akhil admits, “My travel reinforced my belief that only our parents will be the one constant in our lives. I have never interacted deeply with my father after my college days. Later, my career in software industry kept me busy. But through this trip, I could emotionally bond with my father like never before and see a side of him I had never seen at home!”
Surya says, “The travels with my parents have brought us even closer. The more we travel outside the more we go inside our own being. All these travels have helped my parents and me to connect with the child within, celebrating moments, living joyfully and taking every day as it comes.”
Sanam too corroborates, “Time spent together as a family helps make the bond grow stronger. Though I stay with my parents, our everyday interactions are very transactional. But on a holiday, there is a lot of old world nostalgia floating about. There can be moments of revelation about how our parents met and their history — aspects that tend to refresh the parents and the children.”
Ultimately in the most unfamiliar of places, children come to treasure anew those who had become so familiar that they had ceased to see them and gain a newfound appreciation for old relationships....