Indian attitudes to vacations

Us Indians aren’t a very vacation-y lot. We don’t like to go on long vacations, unless we are visiting friends or relatives, or going on pilgrimage.

When the wife told her colleagues that we’re going to Italy and Greece starting with the middle of this week, they all responded with “oh, second honeymoon so soon?”. Ok i don’t get this concept of a second honeymoon. Yeah, we thought we needed a break, and we wanted to experience a few places so we’re going. I don’t know why I need to classify it.

If I look back at my childhood, and vacations taken with parents, it broadly fits these patterns – we went somewhere either because we had relatives there, or because there was a temple there that my parents wanted to visit. If I remember right, each year, my parents carried forward most of their quota of vacations.

I think the reason for this vacation-aversion among us Indians is similar to the aversion we traditionally had to eating out. There were lots of intricate (and insane) caste taboos, which prevented people from eating where they wanted to.

You get a flavour of this when relatives start asking you what food you are carrying, given that you are going to “non-veg countries”. You get a flavour of this when most people go to Europe on package tours with “indian vegetarian jain meals included”. You get a flavour of this when they had to take massive barrrels of Gangajal on board the ships that took Indians to work as indentured labour in the West Indies.

There was a taboo on eating food whose source was not known, or known to have had the hand of a person belonging to a different caste. This massively limited mobility, and put limits on the potential places where a person could travel.

So you went to cities where they were relatives, for you could eat at their house. You went on pilgrimages in huge groups of your own caste, and you could cook. Even if you couldn’t the visit to the temple would wash away the sins incurred in eating random food.

So yes, we are going to Italy and Greece, for a week each. And no, we are not going as part of some Patelpackage. We are traveling on our own, without a plan, apart from hotel bookings. And no, we are not carrying any food along with us. And we aren’t going on pilgrimage.

And the kannada word “pravaasa” which translates to “travels” always cracks me up, since the first time I heard it was as part of the phrase “bekkina pravaasa” (the cat’s travels), a hilarious story in my Kannada text book in primary school.

2 thoughts on “Indian attitudes to vacations”

  1. One of the reasons why a lot of Indians go on pilgrimages or religious sites for vacations, is that most of the scenic and beautiful places have been converted to religious. Examples – Chaar Dhaam, Ambaji, Mt Abu, Thala-cauvery.

Put Comment

%d bloggers like this: