Summer, school is out and is travel time to most of us. As a child, every year I used to wait for summer so that our family could travel by train and visit my grand mother, relatives and the most wanted cousins to play with. The things we did during summer in my childhood, I still remember till today. Even before we complete our exams we used to start our summer plan with our dad and make arrangements to buy train tickets. Since that day we used to feel as if our journey has started, in our thoughts and words. We used to buy dresses and gifts for our cousins. We would be excited to get our report card from school and hop into the train.
Once the packing is done we say goodbyes to our friends and off to the train station by hiring a horse-pulled cart. My dad used to hire a porter to get our suitcases which we packed for our almost-one-month stay. Once into the train, my two brothers and I used to pretty much fight for the window seat, and eventually take turns or squeeze in a single seat to get the view through the window. Within a short time it would be dinner time we all would have some tasty food, pulihora (tamarind rice), which my mom used to carry for us from home. We used to read some comic books or chat for some time and then again the preferences for the berth distribution. Each one of us wanted the top level berths and usually the older one get the top and youngest one always the middle or lower one. The moment we laid our back on the berth, we start dreaming what we would do as soon as we visit our village. Even before we knew we slowly fell asleep, we would be awakened by the noise on the platform and porters to help carry the luggage. We had to take a local bus bumping and jerking on our village roads to reach grandma's place (of course, today’s travel modes have completely changed).
Once we are home with grandma we would forget all the troubles we had on the way. We immediately jump into the backyard and look around the house and try to find any changes, since our last visit. My grandma’s house has cattle, hay stack, and small lakes around. My best part was playing in the hay stack. We could not wait to go to the lakes for a swim, play in the hay stack and play around the cattle. All our uncles’ aunt and cousins would come in. Playing and being around cousins is a unique experience, unlike friends, which I cherish till today. During my 5th grade summer, I went to lake with my cousins and somehow could not get my breath while swimming my eldest cousin noticed, unknowingly I was moving away from the group, and he swam through his breath and caught hold of me. I still remember the day but did not stop going back to the lake. We feel we just landed there, even before we know the return journey would fast approach. With heavy hearts we say goodbyes to our cousins and take blessings from all the elders. Usually our return journey would be partly day journey; day journey by train would be the best part of the travel. We come across so many families, make friends with the children and start playing. Meanwhile some food items would be brought by the sellers and we would insist on buying them, my mom would tell us some stories that they are not good for health and she would give some snacks which my aunt has given. We would sit near the window get an illusion of the trees going behind the train and sometimes wave my hands to the people out in the fields. Intermittent halts in most stations would be a break to buy some stuff on the platforms. My travel post would not complete if I would not mention about sitting near the window feel the air onto our face.
Usually our last segment back home would be in coupe, means a cabin just for our family. That is when we would miss all our cousins for which we had to wait until next summer. My parents would start talking about back to school. The fun part is here my dad used to think enjoying the entire summer with cousins, we forgot our alphabets, basic math and used to ask us the basic questions. On this lighter mood we all adjust back into our seats, try to see the darkness outside the window for a brighter morning to meet our friends and start another school year.
"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind."
"And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind." -Dave Barry