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This new year, take a solo vacation. Unlike the much-touted weight loss or decluttering goals, this one is way more doable. And enjoyable.
It was only after I crossed 50 that I started thinking of doing a few things purely for myself. Things that I wanted to do for pure pleasure and unadulterated happiness…setting all expectations, pressures, deadlines and returns, at zilch. A solo vacation was certainly on the cards.
The first and easier-to-achieve milestone was to dabble in writing – an art I believed I had a flair for, but had never quite explored or indulged in.
Having been an educator for 15 long years, my literary skills were restricted to penning report card remarks, lesson plans, monthly work reports, yearly teaching goals and the like. Hence, I started off with writing non-fiction articles for newspapers and a media portal. Subsequently, I chanced upon a few online writing platforms and discovered the joy of creative writing. But more on that, later.
A very important and more challenging goal was to embark on a solo vacation – not a short, forgettable weekend trip but a proper vacation where I could relax, recoup, and be at complete peace for a few days.
Sunrise at New Tehri
I spent about a month doing a digital recce of the possible places I could visit. While I was all chuffed about my upcoming trip, never did I lose sight of the practicality quotient.
Tea in the hills
This was my first solo vacation and I was not getting any younger. The destination had to be beautiful, serene, tucked amidst the mighty Himalayas, and yet, remain accessible via flight and a motorable road. After investing considerable thought and time, I found a lovely resort in New Tehri, Uttarakhand, which fit the bill just right!
Enroute to Tehri
During my nine-day stay at Tehri, I managed to cover most of the sightseeing hotspots. It’s an amazing place and offers some stellar views. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, soaking in the sylvan sights and sounds, capturing some of them on my phone camera, but mostly, preserving them in my heart for the sake of posterity.
However, there were a few encounters that proved to be a revelation of sorts. I was often asked by fellow tourists – be it at a view point, inside the restaurant, or even at the resort where I was staying – who I was travelling with. The change of expressions I witnessed upon answering their query, was a sight to behold! And probably record! The battery of questions that followed could put a high school Math paper to shame – what (quite spontaneous), why (the universal one), where, how, and so many more.
Tehri Lake, as seen from a height
Bangalore is, indeed, far removed from New Tehri. I was required to first fly and thereafter, take a three hours’ cab ride to my exact destination. I shared these details and tried to assuage their doubts and concerns, as best as I could. Luckily, most of them seemed reasonably appeased with my explanation, my itinerary, and most of all, my self-assured, unapologetic approach.
Breakfast with a view
Curiously, many of these questions were posed by young men and women in their twenties, who invariably ended the conversation with a positive affirmation of me and my enterprise – “Waah Aunty, aap ki himmat ki daad deni padhegi!” (“Aunty, kudos to you and your courage!”)
And then there were those sly, insinuating ones – was I going solo only for the trip or was I single in real life, too? Why was I not worried about my folks back home? How come I was staying alone in an unknown place amongst complete strangers? And worse still, enjoying it so much?!
These self-appointed vigilantes got me thinking.
At the Landour Bakehouse
Why is it so difficult to accept that a middle-aged woman, possessing a functional brain and limbs, can actually opt for a solo vacation? Why is it deemed quirky if she chooses to savour some me-time? If, for once, she prioritises her own happiness and zen quotient over her wifely or motherly duties?
On the other hand, why are the menfolk never questioned on their intent or purpose while taking off on a trip – alone, or with friends and colleagues? Which is the more common scenario. In fact, such travel is invariably labelled ‘necessary’ or ‘super cool’.
This is where Mr Ruskin Bond lives in Landour
Unlike the western world where travel is a way of life, irrespective of age or company, it is still in a nascent stage in India. As a nation, we’re just about waking up to the benefits and delights of undertaking frequent holidays and exploring uncharted territory.
Night sky in the Garhwal Himalayas
That’s probably why we are still not conditioned to seeing ladies travelling long distances, all by themselves, without any companion or a fixed agenda. The joy of just being one’s own self, of not having to worry about others’ needs, of not aligning oneself to others’ preferences, is an emotion and a concept we are still not familiar with. Or comfortable about. And that is exactly what needs to be changed!
These nine days of disengagement from home and hearth after 30 years of dedicated and selfless service, was something I owed myself. Without any explanation. Or justification. And most importantly, without harbouring the slightest trace of guilt or remorse.
Just travelling solo and enjoying it!
Contrary to popular assumptions, there was nothing or nobody I was seeking an escape from. There was no malaise that required healing or a panacea. I was unabashedly seeking an opportunity to inhale the fresh air, draw in the woodsy scent of pine, and soak in the mesmerising natural beauty that only such a mountainous getaway could offer.
Besides the sensory pleasures, there were a few takeaways as well.
My faith in humanity remained unscathed while my self-confidence peaked. It gave me a chance to connect with my own quintessential self without the fear of being judged or being socially correct.
Chaar Dukaan at Landour
Spending a few days in this serene hamlet, all by myself, has certainly been one of the most liberating and life-defining episodes of my adult life. It has given me enough joy and fulfilment to recommend it to every woman, professionally employed or engaged in homemaking.
Dear ladies, do consider undertaking solo travel – not to prove a point to any one, not for the sake of creating Insta stories, but purely to bolster your own inner strength and courage.
Make sure you choose a destination your heart approves of.
As we stand on the cusp of a new year, let a solo vacation top the list of our resolutions. Unlike the much-touted weight loss or decluttering goals, this one is way more doable. And enjoyable. The will power and the yearning are already there; all it needs now is a fool proof plan and a generous helping of care and caution.
In case of objections at home, try and reason it out; this is where your prior planning and preparedness might come in handy. Leave behind a well-stocked kitchen and clear instructions with the family and the domestic help. The bliss of travel becomes largely scaled-down and counter-productive, if you leave behind a fretting, whining bunch of people back home. Which, much as we wish it could be otherwise, is often a fact of life.
Travelling alone does not imply wallowing in loneliness; it simply means, putting oneself first, visiting places and doing things that one cherishes, at one’s own pace, in a pleasurable solitude. It’s time to indulge in some self-love and self- pampering, dear ladies, just to see how enriched and wholesome our life becomes!
This coming year, aim to be a Solivagant – listen to your pulse, test your boundaries, live your dream… you’ll be surprised to discover untapped reserves of strengths and skills you never knew you possessed!
Image source: a still from short film Everything is Fine
Urmi Chakravorty is a military spouse and former educator, who has imbibed lasting life lessons from both her roles. Her articles, stories and poetry have found space in The Hindu, The Times of India, Women' read more...
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
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Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
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