The mind is a very fickle thing. It remembers some things and others, it just doesn’t.
Ever since I began writing about travelling, and thinking about the origin of my love for the road, I was transported back to the roadtrips that we took when I was a child. It was like a flashback – remembering a few incidents here and there and recognising the star behind them – my father.
Subsequently, I spoke about him and I wrote about him. I wrote about how our bags would be packed when we’d get back from school on a Friday and we’d be ushered into the car. We’d tour Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, stay in small properties, eat in shanties … I remember holding a grudge against my parents for dragging me on these trips as I became a teenager.
But just the other day I had an epiphany – What about my mother? We travelled together as a family. Surely, my mother ‘agreed’ to travel, whether she liked it or not.
So finally, on the way to the airport today, (she’d been visiting me), I asked her, “Did you enjoy travelling too?”
“Of course!” pat came her reply.
“Really? As much as dad?”
“We both used to decide where to go next, which part to explore.”
Wow. That must have been something, I thought to myself. Imagine the 70s and the 80s – when maps were non existent and the only thing my parents knew were the names of places. And the general direction the place was in.
“So you’d just pop the three of us in the car and take off?” I pursued my line of questioning.
“Yeah, stuff you three in the car,” she said and laughed. “Those days there were no diapers also. So we’d just throw the underwear or (cloth) nappy that you kids would dirty.”
“I’d always keep aside a few old langots (cloth nappies) for such trips,” she said and smiled at the memory. “We would carry water and soap to wash our hands.”
And then, sadly, the airport arrived.
On the drive back, I kept thinking of my mother, the traveller and roadtripper, and how tough it must have been for her to travel with not just three children, but also all the things that we’d need for the road. I imagined a hot water thermos, a box of Farex, change of clothes, nappies and undies and eatables to keep us busy on the road.
Just because my father was the man behind the wheel, all my childhood memories of travel were from his point of view, never recognising that she was the one who actually made it happen!
And I know that because I never travelled much with my children. I always found it too cumbersome (despite the amenities available these days) and by the end of roadtrips, I’d be sick of answering the proverbial question, “When are we going to reach?” I found it difficult to keep my cool with regular loo breaks and the way the children would fight in the backseat.
But my mother – she put with all this and more, just for her love of the road!
Now if that does not define a roadtripper, I don’t know what does!
Postscript: My parents gave up travelling by road almost completely as the vagaries of life caught up, almost 3 decades ago. I want to talk to them about it someday. Even though they’re now senior citizens, I hope they will travel as much as time and their schedules permit.
Since I don’t live in Kerala, I had to dig into my phone and these are the only two photos I found, both from the 70s. Hazy, blurred but full of life. Will upload more when I visit Kerala.