This is the story of a couple who seeded the passion for travel in me (Purba). And the roots were probably sown subconsciously very early in my childhood. Even though I am writing this post for Mother’s Day honoring my Mom (My Maa), the story would be incomplete without my dad (My Baba) because they have always been a team. And they continue to be a team…
Early Traveling Years
Among the first memories I have, I remember our road trips as a family. Our photo albums at home are filled with pictures of Somnath, Dwarka, Chittorgarh, Mount Abu and other places in Gujarat and Rajasthan. After Baba’s retirement, he always recalls “Even if we just got by from our earnings, not amassing huge amounts of money, we made sure to have a good time and travel as much and as often as possible”.
I remember Maa trying to save on small regular items and not letting Baba spend too much on our childhood whims and fancies, as every other middle class family in India does. But we always traveled! I remember our once-in-a-month day long trips to Chittorgarh (which was 2-3 hrs by road from where we stayed) and almost quarterly visits to Udaipur. It was as if we had combed through every nook and cranny of the cities, visiting there with our extended families when they came over to visit.
Wherever my parents stayed, they made it a point to scan the nearby areas. The most exciting thing was they always preferred road trips, as it gave them more freedom to stop and rest at any place and time they wished. I remember us taking our ever so light Maruti 800 on an 8-hour drive to Jaipur! And this was not 5 or 10 years back, but close to 20 years back!
Lessons in History and Interaction with Locals
My own interest in discovering stories behind the places I visit started with Maa being a history teacher and her interest in historical sites and architecture. Our first stops in any city would be its palaces, forts and other architectural landmarks. Maa would first enrich us with the textbook history of the places and we would then talk to the guides to learn more.
Both my parents loved interacting with the locals, whether it was the guides, the street vendors, drivers or restaurant waiters. They would quickly befriend the locals and Maa would immediately start speaking with them in their mother tongue. By the way, Maa can converse fluently in five languages (Hindi, Bengali, English, Gujarati and Assamese). She can also understand (and speak with some help) three to four more languages (Telugu, Tamil, Nepali) that I know of as of now.
Although I was a rather shy kid when I was young, my parents’ effortless grasp of languages and the more so effortless connection with people made me in awe of them. As any other teenager, I was always embarrassed when they started to speak with someone in their native language, calling them show-offs, I was always pleased inside. Today being a grown-up I am proud of their skills and happy to share their story with the world.
When I moved to a hostel to study Engineering, they still continued their travels more so of Southern India, and I have sure missed so much! Maa was the one who introduced me to Hampi way back in 2007. This was a time when parts of the bazaar were still being excavated and you could hardly spot any tourists. They have covered almost all of India, sharing amazing places with us.
Maa Baba have together covered most of India including certain places like Dholavira, Belum Caves, Badami, Chhipo (West Bengal), Mandu, Lothal that are considered off-beat destinations even today. I wish they would have been travel bloggers; I am sure they would’ve been a riot!
In the international travel scene, there were number of instances where Baba was invited to attend professional meetings and events overseas, but on two instances Maa could not just resist the temptation to tag along, were to Florida (USA) and Germany (where they tried to make the most by covering Cologne, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam as well).
The two international trips that we made as a family together were to: Nepal (1999) and Egypt (2004).
A Family Trip to Egypt
I have come across very few middle class families who would save up to travel internationally and that too to Egypt! Indians generally prefer the more exotic destinations closer home like Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka or our own islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
The love for history is pretty apparent in Maa Baba’s choice of Egypt and well we are their kids, why wouldn’t we love the place! So off we went in 2008 to Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. Although our trip initially covered Aswan as well, due to certain issues we had to drop it at the last moment.
It surely was a trip of a lifetime, and boy do we have amazing tales from the lanes of Egypt! The one time our parents had to accompany their two girls everywhere, with both us sisters getting marriage offers left, right and centre! But the presence of our parents with us did not deter a few prospects, one of whom even offered a hundred camels for my hand in marriage! No, this was no joke and did not just limit to one city.
Years before Baba’s retirement (he retired in 2014), they had started planning a life filled with many more trips discovering other parts of India. But, well not everything in life goes according to plans right? The last few years have been really tough on my parents owing to Maa’s ill health. From getting the diagnosis of a rare irreversible lung disease seven years back to a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis that literally made her wheelchair bound on several occasions, Maa Baba have together endured hard times.
But we fought all of it together, and today, Maa is back on her feet (touchwood) and they are back on the road! Since Maa’s return to relatively normal state of health, they have taken a long trip with extended family to Manali, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Chamba valley, Rohtang Paas and Kangra Valley. They also took another trip to Singapore with relatives.
Discovering Something New Always – Chhibo Trip
One weekend early this year while Siddhartha and I were planning articles for our blog, we get a call from Maa that they will be heading to Chhibo, West Bengal (from their Kolkata home). It is an off-beat destination few hours from Darjeeling and they planned to visit there with friends! I haven’t heard any of my Indian travel blogger friends yet cover Chhibo and I had never even heard of the place before Maa mentioned it!
After hearing their story of the place, I am dying to visit the place. I would love to get an account of their visit to Chhibo and nearby areas from them and hope can publish the story on my blog someday.
When I ask them why they travel so much, Maa simply replies with a shrug “Well we just do it! We need to get out there and see all those places, look into the history and learn more about each place”. She does not think it is a big deal and they are just following their hearts! Well I thank Maa Baba for being the way they are and passing on the vibes (and the genes) 🙂