Let’s go back … no, not to the future because no matter where you are in the world the future looks bleak. Instead, let’s go back to a time when things were simpler, travel was easy, airplane seats came with little ashtray slots in the armrests, people were friendlier irrespective of where you came from, and it was easy to adopt someone at the spur of the moment while flying thousands of miles up in the air… wait what?
This is my journey back to Memory Lane and you’re all invited.
It’s going to get a little bit bumpy – primarily for me – but most likely it is a mixture of cherished moments and episodes that should make you laugh out loud – at my expense – or if you’re as sentimental as I am then they might make you go “Awww”.
These events, life-defining moments maybe, have stuck with me through the last few decades – Yes! I’m that old – and it’s about time that the stories leave the comfort of my mind and travel around the globe for it was during travels that they came into their very existence.
The One Where I Got Lost in a Canadian Theme Park
It seems everyone wants to head over to Canada and settle down there. Would you believe I had the opportunity to do that about three decades ago but was so clueless that I didn’t even take up on it?
It had been a pleasant sunny day and my parents had taken us – me and my sister – to a theme park in Toronto. While she headed off to an attraction more suitable for her age and height – it’s always about the height at theme parks – I was left behind with my parents to enjoy the more toddler-friendly excursions.
Then, it happened.
Somewhere between “look here”, “look there”, “I WANT to go on this ride” and “smile for the camera” I disappeared.
What followed has been told to me many-a-times since then. While growing up I could not have been sure about it, but being a parent now, I understand the fear that runs through the body of a parent when their kid goes missing.
My parents grew frantic, obviously, and my sister was summoned back – till this day I haven’t heard the end of how I ruined her day out at the theme park.
And then the search for a little Indian boy began.
My memory faints around the time all this happened. I remember this one ride that I wanted to go on but couldn’t, and maybe that’s where I wandered off before realizing my parents were nowhere to be found.
I don’t believe I was crying or creating a scene as that would have helped. I do remember that a stranger eventually found me roaming alone, bought me an ice-cream – the disappearing act had been a success in my book based on just that – and then took me around the theme park till he found my parents.
Whenever this topic comes up, my Mom always says “I can still picture him coming towards me, cluelessly eating an ice-cream, holding the hand of a stranger”.
The One Where I Went on A Pilgrimage with my Grandparents
I was born in a family of travellers.
My father was among the first to travel abroad in his extended family and ever since my parents have been travelling around the world.
Although they took me on quite a few adventures when I was young there were times they would leave me with my maternal grandparents when they travelled.
It was during this time that I had some of the best and most cherished episodes of my life.
One of these stays coincided with a religious pilgrimage that my grandparents had planned. They were to travel through North India for a little over a week and visit the temples of the 9 Goddesses.
This “9 Devi Darshan Yatra” consisted of visiting Mata Mansa Devi Temple, Chintpurni, Naina Devi Temple, Chamunda Devi Temple, Mata Jwala ji Temple, Brijeshwari Temple, Sheetla Devi Temple, and Vaishno Devi Temple.
Leaving aside smaller trips, this was probably one of my first official road trips and while I hardly have any recollection of the temples – had to Google the names – somehow I feel blessed to have had the chance to travel with my grandparents.
One memory that always comes back is that of my Nani Ji (Grandmother) encouraging me to interact more with everyday people that we came across during this journey.
So, whenever we would stop at a red light, next to a commercial truck, I was encouraged to roll down the windows and ask the driver, “Sat Sri Akal Sardarji, kithe ja rahe ho?” or “Sat Sri Akal Sardarji, ki haal hai?” (A Punjabi religious greeting followed by “where are you going?” or “how are you?”)
Initially, I would quickly shout it and out of shyness roll up the windows giggling as if I’ve done something mischievous before the person in the truck could reply. Soon enough it became an exercise where I would have short one-minute conversation with the various individuals who would almost always reply back with a smile.
There was obviously the rush of talking to a stranger in the safety of my grandparents but maybe the chance to speak in a differ language/dialect – Punjabi – that fascinated me the most.
Now, I encourage my kids to spend as much time as they can with their grandparents and they even get to travel with them which I hope will leave some beautiful memories.
The One with the Green Chillies in Shimla
It had been a cold winter and Shimla – one of India’s most popular hill stations – was covered in a thick blanket of snow.
This was the first time I experienced snowfall, built a snowman, walked in ankle-deep snow, and experienced the true advantages of thermal underwear.
However, it is a rather fiery incident that has stayed with me from this particular trip. An event that is still used to embarrass me during yearly family gatherings.
Those familiar with Indian food would be aware that a “salad” comprises of raw sliced onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, whole green chillies and sometimes radish served on a plate to accompany the main meal.
As is often the case when eating food in India the dishes are all placed in the centre of the table and within an arm’s length of everyone to be shared.
On this particularly cold winter afternoon, while the adults went about talking with each other, I noticed that my father would pick up various ingredients from the plate of salad, that was incidentally placed in front of me, randomly.
Whether it was purely out of curiosity- as 5-6-year-old boys are – or maybe the food-blogger in me was starting to take shape, the thin bright green chillies seemed like the most alluring of the items on the plate.
Before anyone could stop me or say anything I picked it up and took a big bite out of a solitary chilli. What followed is nothing short of a Chaplin film, for the people watching. For me it was…
There was a lot of running around, on my part. If I wasn’t shouting for more water, I was drinking it. Then I had a few scoops of ice-cream and sugar and basically, even till this day, I can never look at a whole green chilli without remembering this incident.
Before you ask, no I have never taken a bite of a whole green or red or yellow or any other colour chilli ever again.
Emotions overwhelm every time I start writing about these moments from my life. The keyboard often experiences a slight drizzle even when it isn’t exactly raining where I am, making me stop, re-think and re-live these souvenirs of life again.
I know you are waiting for me to tell you more about the incident where a near-adoption took place in the air. But, that’s for next time for I still have a few more stories to tell, and let’s face it, hardly anyone likes to read long articles now.
More Travels from My Childhood to follow soon…
Note: The photos are from my childhood – just in case it wasn’t obvious – but might not be related to the travels mentioned.