I like plans. Making them. Sticking to them. Of my many faults, one is that I have trouble, as my mother would say, just going with the flow. I get discombobulated when my husband calls from work to say he'll be on the 6:20 train instead of the 6:00. I'm flustered when the baby decides not to nap. A running joke in my house is that even on weekends I ask, "What's on the agenda?" and pester everybody until we have one.
Last December, just after Christmas, I, along with my family—meaning my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister and her fiancé, my husband, and our two kids, ages six and one—took an exceedingly well-organized trip to Colorado. It was a blissful week. We went skiing, snow tubing, and dogsledding. We rode horse-drawn carriages through the glittering snow. And finally, when it was time to leave, we took a shuttle to the airport so we could catch flights back to our various homes.
At least, that's what was supposed to happen. Instead, my husband, kids, and I watched as our relatives boarded planes while we waited for our flight to Chicago, which was delayed, then delayed again… then canceled (a mechanical issue, we were told).
We'd been in the airport for five hours by the time of the cancellation, and we would spend another five retrieving our luggage, commiserating with other passengers, walking in circles around the gift shop, and trying to get rebooked on a new flight. Finally, we succeeded. The catch? The flight was three days later. And out of Denver, three hours away.
Well, whatever it takes, we thought. We hunkered down in a hotel. We cooked food in the room and washed clothes in the sink and tried not to bump into each other with every move. It wasn't until the night before the new flight that we started to relax. The children pulled the sheets off the hotel beds and made a fort in the bathtub. Tomorrow, I kept thinking. We'll be home tomorrow. Ultimately, no one would miss much school or work.
Then our flight got canceled again, this time due to weather.
We called the airline. "Three more days," they told us. "That's the best we can do." Frantically, we tried other carriers without any luck. My husband called our original airline and set his phone on the bed, hold music playing in the background as both of us checked flights online. Was this some sort of cosmic joke? Would we ever get home?
Two hours of synthesized Muzak later, an agent answered. My husband dove for the phone. He started explaining our predicament. Then I heard him say, "Hello?" "Hello?" he said again, the panic in his voice rising like a flood. "Hello!" He stared at the phone in his hand. The call had dropped.
Desperation is the most irrational of motivators. We thought we had been at the end of our rope before. Now we were someplace new—utterly defeated.
Which is why, when my husband suggested that we rent a car and drive 14+ hours in winter weather from Denver to Chicago, I agreed. It might not have been such a long trip for someone else, but the thought of a restless baby and an impatient six-year-old in the backseat for that long didn't sound fun. Worse, this wasn't anything close to the original plan. So I was reluctant, but given the dearth of options, I was on board.
We went to a grocery store and stocked up for the trip. A Styrofoam cooler and a bag of ice. Juice boxes and string cheese and grapes and yogurt squeezies. After we paid, the cashier gave my daughter a quarter to ride the mechanical horse at the front of the store. We have a picture of her on that horse, an enormous grin on her face. It was the first time that she—or any of us—had really smiled in days.
The sky was white as salt as we drove. Mountains rose in the distance, massive and stoic.
After a time, we stopped at a gas station, where the children pressed their faces to the beverage cases and ran around for a few minutes before we corralled them back into the car. We did that every hour and a half or so for the rest of the trip, and usually that brief release of energy settled them down enough to get through the next leg of the trip.
In the car, we turned on the radio and blasted "Wake Me Up," by Avicii, whose lyrics about traveling the world without any plans seemed oddly apt, given the circumstances. When nothing good was on, we sang every Christmas song we could think of, and then every children's song, and then every song from The Sound of Music.
That night, as we neared Lincoln, Nebraska, I was gazing out the car window into a navy sky when I saw a shooting star. A sign, maybe, of good things to come.
We stopped for dinner at Applebee's, and when the waitress asked if we were from out of town, we told her the condensed version of our sorry tale. When it was time to pay, she said, "Your bill's been taken care of." My husband and I looked at each other, confused. "The couple in the next booth heard your story," the waitress said. "They paid for you. They asked me to wait until after they left to tell you." If the shooting star had been a sign, it was for this simple act of generosity, one of the nicest things a stranger had ever done for me, for us.
We spent the night in a hotel off the highway, one that, contrary to my nature, we booked at the last minute. In the morning, we piled back into the car, through Omaha, into Iowa. We stopped at gas stations along the way, and then soldiered on. The kids were surprisingly well-behaved. The baby played happily with his shoe for untold hours. My daughter talked to my husband and me—really talked—about her friends at school and about some of her fears, conversations that I'm not sure would have occurred if we hadn't been stuck in that car together for almost 1,000 miles.
By the time we approached Iowa City, we were in the homestretch, and we stopped at Prairie Lights bookstore, where we let the kids each pick out one book. We drove by the building that houses the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where I did my graduate work, and I told my daughter, "That's where I learned to write." She looked at it in wonder and said, "I want to do that one day."
The traffic picked up as we neared Chicago, and though the temperature was minus 15 degrees, a mere polar vortex was no match for our soaring spirits.
"We're almost there," I remember whispering to the kids. I could hardly believe it.
And when I thought about it, I could hardly believe this, either: how wonderful it had been. How, after days of being miserable because I was trying so hard to stick to the established plan, the thing that had saved us in the end was changing course, and taking a different road—literally. Maybe it shouldn't have been a revelation, but for me, someone who puts so much stock in order and routine, it was. Our vacation had been full of incredible memories, but the long journey home, the part that I hadn't seen coming, was the part I now cherish the most.
My father-in-law was waiting at the rental agency when we pulled up. We hurried into his car, which he'd been keeping warm for us, and then we took off, at last, to our house.
"How was the drive?" my father-in-law asked us as he pulled out of the lot.
"It was great," I said.
Sunrise over the Himalayas
After 31 days of continuous work at school, the summer holidays were finally announced. I forced my parents to plan a holiday to a hilly area — Munsiyari. Unknown to many, this place is still untouched by pollution. As we reached our destination we were caught in a hailstorm and we could do nothing that evening. However, in the morning I beheld a beautiful sight — the sun rising between two Himalayan peaks. I felt a soft, cold breeze. It was a remarkable experience. The full moon night was equally charming. We toured the region known as “Little Kashmir”.
Arvind Kumar, X B, Nirmala Convent School, Kathgodam, Nainital
Ride to remember
Holidays or vacations are words that bring joy to everyone but they mean different things to different people. For some people it would mean fishing in your uncle’s boat or visiting your grandma’s place or simply lazing around. For me it means reading books, watching movies, cultivating new hobbies and playing. At the beginning of my holidays all I did was sleep. Then I decided to do my holiday home work. Then I began reading the Harry Potter books. My parents took me to Wow-Worlds of Wonder in Noida. We had great fun there. There were rides that completely frightened me and took my breath away but I still enjoyed them. Just when we thought of returning it began to rain. We got drenched. How was the day? It was simply splendid.
Tracey James , VII B, F.R Agnel School, New Delhi
Last vacation we went to Ooty. It was cold even though it was summer. But the weather was pleasant compared to the harsh summer in Kerala. We visited the Doddabetta peak. It is said that from the peek we can see the whole town. We then visited the Rose Gardens. It is situated in the heart of the city and has been beautifully laid out in terraces with rose tunnels, pergolas and bowers with rose creepers. Today it houses the largest collection of roses in the country, with around 3600 variety of roses. The next day, we visited the Botanical Gardens. It is one of the best tourist attractions with flourishing green well-maintained lawns, rare trees species such as a 20 million year old fossil tree, a monkey puzzle tree (monkeys can’t climb this tree), an Italian-style garden bordering an immense variety of flowering bushes, flowers, and plants, fern house with a vast range of ferns and orchids and a clear pool are some of the highlights of this garden. As we were walking through the garden we also got an opportunity to run for our life as a herd of cows came chasing us. On our way back to Kerala, we also clicked some pictures at the famous shooting spots Sixth mile and Ninth mile. But what I really enjoyed was the pleasant weather.
Karthika Manoj, X B, Bishop Moore Vidyapith, Cherthala, Kerala
In an exquisite land
The start of holidays is always sublime. There’s no worrying about back to school blues. We spent most of our vacation in Thailand, an exquisite land. We did a lot of shopping on the first day. The next day we went to the Floating Market. They sold a rich variety of colourful fruits on boats. We went to a Flower Garden. Rows and rows of flowers I hadn’t known to have existed stood daintily before us.
That night was the first we got to taste the hotel’s cuisine. The mouth-watering, amazing desserts were just about enough to make up for it. We went on a temple-tour and saw the famous sculptured Buddha — a vision of beauty made of gleaming emerald. We watched a dance show — Siam Niramit, went to the waxworks, Mirror Maze, a 5-D theatre, a wild-life safari, a Dolphin Emporium and more. Before I knew it, the tremendous week was up. How very unfortunate, it was back-to-school blues after all.
Tejeshwine, IX, Boaz Public School, Chennai
Off to Bangalore
My holidays started on May 5. We decided to spend the first part of the holidays in Bangalore where my maternal grandmother lives. During the journey, my brother and I enjoyed eating the food sold along the way. We also played card games. It was a thrilling journey. We passed rugged mountains, gushing rivers, long dark tunnels and whistling trains. My grandmother’s house is at Chikallsandra. We travelled in the newly opened Metro from M. G. Road to Baiyappanhalli. We went to Devanahalli International Airport to pick up my uncle who was coming from the U.S. We also visited all our relatives. We left Bangalore with a heavy-heavy heart.
Tushar Kulkarni, IX C, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Dharwad, Karnataka
I visited Sikkim, the Switzerland of India in summer. Of the various places I visited, Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley were the most enthralling and enticing.
Yumthang valley is a mesmerising valley of flowers. Gurudongmar Lake is the sanctum sanctorum of Sikkim. A part of the sacred lake is believed to remain unfrozen even in extreme weather conditions.
Now I’m back in the civilised world, the sweet sights and songs of nature that I had cherished had been replaced by smoke and noise.
Parvathy Salil, XII.A, V.N.S.S.S.N.Trusts Central School, Cherthala, Kerala
In God’s own country
This vacation was extraordinary because we travelled through Kerala visiting our relations. We went to Karunagapally, Parambikulam, Nelliyampathi, Wayanad and Kochi. Usually we would go to Delhi, Dubai, Kuwait or Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal but this holiday was different and was super fun. I spent most of the time just climbing trees, gardening, playing outdoors, eating mangoes and enjoying myself.
Muhammed Azam, VIII C, Silver Hills Public School, Kozhikode, Kerala
Into the wilds
This year we went to the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. We stayed in a tree house in a resort. All the furniture was made of wood including the tea cups. Solar energy was used for lighting and heating. We saw a Malabar giant-size squirrel eating chickoo. Surprisingly, it did not move when we went closer to it.
We took the Mudumalai Safari ride. We were taken in a fully covered jeep with protected windows. But, we could not see any tigers. Instead, the driver showed us the foot prints of tigers at few places. We saw gaurs, wild ass and some birds like Kingfisher, horn bill and so on. At Theppakadu we visited the elephant camp maintained by the Forest Department.
We also trekked to a stream. We played in the water. Suddenly the place was filled with butterflies of different colours.
G. Arun Vaidya, VI C, K.V. I, JIPMER Campus, Puducherry
Family is the best
I spent my vacation with my grandma, uncle and aunt at Nellore. I was there for 15 days. I had a nice time, playing with my cousins all day long. No books, no lessons, no summer camps. I realised the joy of being with a joint family where everyone would take care of everyone else. I enjoyed the taste of fresh Avakkai(pickle) this hot summer. I visited my relatives and the beach nearby. My aunt bought me all that I wanted for the academic year. I heard bed time stories narrated by my grandmother. My sweet grandma always gave a moral behind every story. At last the day of my return arrived and my brother came to take me back.
M. Sreekar, VIII, Narayana E Techno, Varadarajanagar, Tirupathi
Memories to cherish
As soon as the vacations begin, the first thing we kids do is stack our books neatly in the cupboard (which is as good as throwing them into oblivion), bags get packed and we set out on trips or, we lounge on our beds and watch movies. Our lives turn into fantasy and suddenly all play and no work becomes the rule of the day, but still “Jack manages to be an active, robust boy”! This year though I planned my vacations. So I got involved with an N.G.O — Ramakrishna Mission, to spend time with the orphans. I played basketball with them, sat with them in their classes and even helped them with their studies. It was pleasing to note that whatever I taught them or whatever I spoke to them left a lasting impact on them. I even ate their food and as all of them were looking at me with apprehensive eyes when I tasted the bland food, I did not let it show, that I didn’t enjoy it. Slowly in two months our lives were so entwined and our bond so deep, that they celebrated with me when my Std. X results came out. I even let them play on my laptop. The enthusiastic smile that lit their faces when I greeted them, taught me a lot. Even in the face of so much adversity the spirit of the kids was not broken. And many times the warm smile that lit their faces simply made my day. I realised that it is not about how happy you are, it’s how happy you make others. I learned something, enjoyed myself and I move on with memories I will always cherish.
Nidhi, XI, Delhi Public School, Noida
After I had completed my Std. X exams, I had a long holiday. As soon as my holidays started, I penned down all the places I wanted to visit. But to my disappointment, due to Lankan issue problem, there was a strike in my sister’s college. Her semester exams got postponed. Even though we both had holidays, we couldn’t go anywhere during that time as my mother fell down the stairs. She had to undergo treatment for more than three weeks. During that time even my grandmother was unwell. So I was at home. My aunt and cousins came to help out. All my sadness of not being able to enjoy holidays turned into happiness after my cousins’ turned up. We had a lot of fun at home playing games, watching movies, eating the delicious dishes my aunt made and also learning to cook. We also did other work like washing clothes and utensils. While washing we had fun by splashing water on each other. After that we did some cleaning work. At that time I switched on the radio. We were all singing, dancing and doing work. After my cousins left I spent rest of my holidays reading books.
M. Bharathy, XI C, Shri B.S Mootha GSSS, Chennai
In the mist
We were waiting with our bags all packed and ready, to go by train to Khajiar. But then came the disappointing news, the trains were all booked and it seemed that we would have to cancel our trip, but then my father proposed that we could also go by car. I was sceptical about these proceedings and protested against it but I relented and we set off.
Khajiar is located in the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh a little further off Dalhousie. We had a long way to go but we hoped that the destination would be worth it. After long hours of journeying through the hot winds and the harsh sun, suddenly a cool breeze gently caressed our faces and we found that we were enveloped with mist and tall and exquisite trees with brilliant green foliage. We were still awestruck by the scenic beauty when we found out that due to the tourist season there were no rooms left so we were not staying in the hotels teeming with noisy people, instead we were staying in a little log cabin not far off the hotel. We were delighted that we would be able to enjoy the view of the tall mountains and gaze at the sunrise every morning. We unpacked our bags and as it was almost nightfall we changed our clothes and went to a deep and peaceful slumber.
Next morning we woke up, had breakfast, and decided to explore the small town which was situated in the almost bowl like shaped valley with small lake at the end. There were a lot of rides like zorbing, horse riding, and paragliding. We all did paragliding and had a lot of fun, at first I was very scared but as I gradually started looking around I saw that there was a fantastic view from up in the air and I enjoyed the whole thing. The next day we chose to go to the Kalatop sanctuary, a very famous wildlife preserve.
When we reached the place which was on a high mountaintop we found out that we had to wait in our car a long line. After what seemed like an hour we finally got inside only to find that the supposedly called bear sanctuary was just a normal nature reserve. After a long and exhausting walk in which to our delight we found almost thousands of rare and beautiful bird of every kind we plopped down on the seats in the local canteen and guzzled on hot pakoras and maggi. When we returned to the log cabin we were so worn out by walking that the first thing we did was to lie down on the bed and go to sleep.
On our last day, we thought that we would spend the time walking the quiet and calm forests near the valley. It was wonderful walking under the lofty pines in the serene stillness of the forest and we were enraptured by how it managed to preserve the woods from the everyday bustle of life. By the time we got back to the log cabin it was already sundown and the stars had appeared in the sky. We were dumfounded to see that unlike the city sky there were stars as far as the eye could see. There were so many of them present that we were able to point out almost all the constellations in the sky. We went to bed and reluctantly shut our eyes from the world that had shown so many new wonders. At the break of the day we were up preparing to leave this amazing new world. We left sorrowfully and silently said goodbye.
Bhavita Varma, VIII, St. Xaviers Sr. Sec. School, Jaipur
When it comes to holidays, we generally think of a Wonderland, surrounded by blue waters with dolphins as “receptionists” and the land covered with lush greenery, or a place famous for temples and holy people.
But this time it was not the similar case with me. I had to study and complete my holiday homework. This situation is influenced by the growing competition and views of relatives.
I painted and sketched, played video games, watched cartoon films and classic films. I did yoga and cycling.
I also learnt a good habit of waking up at six in the morning which kept me active the whole day. I read a lot too.
Achyut Chaturvedi, X, Narhi, Lucknow
Holidays are almost over. Many of my friends visited famous hill stations and went to exotic places during their vacations. As for me, I spent my vacations very differently. I love reading, so I spent my time reading many of the classics and the bestsellers. I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and learned precious lessons too. I am not much of a poet, yet I tried to write some poetry. I also finished my homework. There was so much of it. I played many games too. Lastly, I spent quality time with my family.
Amber Khan, IX C, Aligarh Public School, Aligarh