Monday, June 16, 2008

Great Indian Exodus - I

The “Great Indian Exodus” takes place every summer. This sub-continental crisscross commences some time around mid-April and by early June we see the reverse flow. I might even say this unending flow is similar to the mass migration that we see at the Masai Mara or the Serengeti, the only difference being humans take part in this exodus.

In this exodus, you get to see, feel, know and experience many uniquely Indian concepts / ideas (depicted in italics). A nation on the move brings in its wake chaos, confusion, delight, tears, commerce, learning, relaxation, happiness and perhaps a moment of peace to the harried and overworked.

The Indian summer is oppressive and extreme. The coastal areas witness temperature in the range of 32 – 38 deg C. The conditions are sultry but the sea breeze makes things a bit more pleasant. Interiors are harsher where 40 + deg C is more the rule and made worse by long power cuts – another permanent feature of modern day Indian life. No problem, the ever ready inverter / generator is always at hand. Well, you can at least get a room cooler to cool the habitat for a couple of hours.

School annual exams are over and children are jumping around relishing every moment of their new found freedom. It is time for summer vacations. Sixty days of bliss. What better than spending a few days at “your native place” or your “hometown”, a very Indian phenomenon? Is it not incredible that wherever we may be, in this day and age still retain, with a sense of pride, a link with our roots?

How about traveling to some other place? An escape to colder climes would give you some respite from the soaring mercury. A string of hill stations are waiting to welcome you for a few days with their varied offering of the Mall Road, horse rides, observation points, lakes, boating, botanical gardens and of course the friendly neighbourhood tout who arranges a nice room with hot water availability.

A new animal on the horizon is that Indian who plans and goes on a holiday to foreign lands. A foreign vacation is still largely aspirational and a sure shot way to climb a few notches on the social ladder. You have the Kesari Tours or Raj Travels or several hundred similar travels groups that promise cook-on-board, vegetarian/ jain meals, or Eiffel Tower 3rd level included (you can’t beat that). Never mind the itinerary is crammed and at the end of it you need another vacation to recover from the earlier one.

There is another great institution which has contributed to this great exodus. I am sure the person who thought of this and drafted this provision was bitten by the travel bug. This is the grant of LTC / LTA (Leave Travel Concession or Leave Travel Allowance to the uninitiated). LTC / LTA has, perhaps, done far more to boost the travel lust of Indians than any Incredible India campaign. (This is a tax free allowance that we Indians get, to be spent on travel when we avail our annual privilege leave.)

The second part will carry forward this fascinating journey.

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