I’ve been itching to offload all our trip stories quickly. Those rare days when you want 72 hours in a day as opposed to the norm of wanting 24 hours for 5 weekdays put together, but 60 hour weekends 😉
Part 1- Don’t underestimate the power of Schengen Visa Officers.
Part 2- To go or not to go? That is the question.
Part 3 –Poguma, pogadha?
So, I’m back to bug you more until you scream stop. I will not though. Will try to make it less detailed. Raji, referred to as R henceforth, will do the hard work of recording all the places we visited and how we got around on her blog. I will conveniently link to hers. In this post, I intend to capture some snippets that I’d like us all to remember.
The group unanimously conferred the title ‘Dora‘ on R. R has a built-in magnetic compass. Yes, she’d be the one ahead of us and would do the most tedious task of determining the correct route, correct bus stop, the right train line. She’d not want the entire group to go down two levels of platform only to discover that the trains there would go the opposite direction. Her idea of ascertaining the right bus stop from our hotel to the Eiffel tower was to ask everyone to wait in the hotel lobby, go to the bus stop, take the bus, alight at the Eiffel tower, ensure that it indeed was Eiffel, come back, gather everyone and make the trek again! To our credit, she had a couple of able assistants who would dutifully open the map, trace the route, buy group tickets, distribute, keep a tab on Dora speeding ahead, and usher the rest of the troupe to catch up, remind Dora to slow-down, and most importantly remind that there was such a thing as hunger and another thing called food 🙂 Less fuel, more mileage- that is R for you. Truth be told, she survived on the mushrooms we discarded from our own share of food. There’d be an occasional tomato or a bell pepper.
D is THE MAP. The moment we’d step out, she’d tell North from South. Validation of choices we’d make vested with her 🙂 It could be about a preferred mode of transport, choice of restaurant, or the place of visit. She’d also ensure R, in her excitement, did not jump out of the radar and vaporize. So she had her hands cuffed with R’s for the most part of the trip. I’m not exaggerating folks. Will send some pics (upon request) which J1 has so tactfully, yet truthfully captured on her wide-angle lens 😉 D apparently is also one who has attained total nirvana in our gang 🙂 She put her security management skills to good use and made sure our choices were always safe and intrusion-proof 🙂
If anything got R and the able D (I like the R &D ring to it!!) excited more than the white, snowy mountains or the rolling meadows, it was the Tabaachi shops in Italy! For the uninitiated, they are the tobacco shops. Yes folks. It would be hard to miss the excitement levels that’d be a notch up, with their palms visibly trembling and shaking in anticipation. These are the typical withdrawal symptoms. It was their bounden duty to rush to the nearest Tabaachi every morning, sometimes in the noon, or on some nights, to stock up. The days would be a drag to them and as a consequence, to us, without this mandatory visit to the Tabaachi. Of course there’d be even distribution of the ‘maal’ and sometimes involved additional perks like ice creams or cappuccino! But the bulk purchase here earned us curious looks that even bordered on shock😀 . If 11 tickets seemed like too many, asking for 22 must’ve seemed ridiculous! But Tabaachis were the only outlets selling local transport tickets at 1.5 Euros per ticket as opposed to 2 Euros if you buy in the counter or inside the bus. We were both cent-wise and Euro-wise you see. So, even before the last of us finished bathing, R & D would’ve set out to the nearest Tabaachi to do you-know-what!
J1 in our group was the official photographer and therefore earned the title JC-PC. However, unlike PC, her shots had a lot of light and life. But she was dressed for the most part of the trip like an astronaut. She clicked photos of everyone from every possible angle, with every possible pose. Her candid shots included my open-mouthed laugh that revealed the teeth that got root canal and the replaced ceramic one. Each of us have a hippo-look-alike pics where we are yawning away to glory. Jokes apart, J1 has captured every amazing moment of the trip and so beautifully that surfing through them feels like being on the trip again. When she was not busy clicking pics, she’d either be tossing-in tons of chilli/pepper powder in her food and eat, or she’d be sleeping. She’ll also speak sparingly so as to save up her energy to click the skies in all its splendid hues!
J2, till we boarded our return flight, existed in two parallel worlds. In one she was drooling over Shahrukh Khan cut-out on top of Mount Titlis, while in the other she was singing her 5 year old junior, back home in Chennai, to sleep 🙂 She was blissfully unaware of a thing called ‘itinerary, and would mostly ask about the places we visited after we returned to the hotel;) On the day of boarding our return flight, she was a fox on an over-dose of honey. Four of the remaining 5 moms, that is, the notoriously evil ones, were already suffering from withdrawal and were trying to figure out how-moms-work. The only other time besides the return flight where she was existing in one piece was, every night around dinner time. If Tabaachi set R & D’s hands shaking, the kitchen counter top did that to J2. She’d wipe the place clean and leave it cleaner than the homestay/apartment folks let it to us. In fact, if they’d perused the monitored webcam footage, they’d be tempted to reduce the room rates for us, or would’ve contemplated paying her a hefty sum. J2 also made the best hot chocolate!
P, the quintessential mom, who until then had not believed it possible to do a trip sans the kids, exhibited some faint traces of being a split-personality. While she was the one who kept extracting promises from me and others to lose her in Switzerland and not bring her back home, was found profusely weeping on Titlis. For a minute, I was wrong to assume that the sight moved her so much that words failed her. Knowing her, I also knew that words won’t fail her. She was sad that her kids missed being where we were. Thanks to wifi, she was able to relay the beauty over a whatsapp video call and get her little ones to catch a glimpse! Other than that, whenever she mentioned ‘home’, she referred only to Switzerland and none other. She had already decided how to earn in keep in this beautiful country. Idly shop. There is absolutely no competition. Could not find the omnipresent Saravana Bhavan (which supposedly has a branch in Zurich) nor the speciality outlet-Murugan Idli Shop. I’m sure that is the bestest thing to do! 1 Euro/idli. The batter will never become sour. It might not raise too. But there is yeast! Will keep you all posted when her venture comes through.Throughout the travel, she kept furiously scribbling into her diary and would insist on finishing a paragraph even if the train reached the station we had to alight at. This was her best mode of coping with the rest of the group who will never be able to catch up with P’s rate of words/minute 😉
N1, the one who had taken an oath to process her visa no matter what, and avenge by not doing the trip, was on a roll. She was busy posing for not only J1’s camera, but everyone’s phone-cameras too. She is R’s able ward and has imbibed the ‘no-hunger’ culture from her. She was busy looking up the marathons happening around that time and her feet were itching to run. R will think. N1’s mind voice will catch and act on it. While the rest of the ladies in the trip were certified aunts, N1 was the ‘akka’ figure. The trip probably wouldn’t have happened but for her! Though she is in denial, I’m sure she got a personality make-over ever since the trip- inside and outside 😉 And guess what? N1 is said to have wept inconsolably because the trip came to an end. And she was caught in action by the sonny who apparently doled out some gyan on why it was okay to cry. Again, the evil moms wondered ‘why-cry?’! It is only a matter of time before our gang’s country effect rubs off on her!
N2, the awesome sister of mine, had panic attacks even before the trip. She was sure she’d not survive the weather. Then she’d philosophise to herself with, ‘when we’ve weathered so much, of what consequence is this weather’. On day-2 in our trip, she was turning Paris upside-down searching for a woollen face mask that would show just her eyes had have holes to breathe. Her extra-large nose got in the way and caught the chill in the weather much before the others. For most part of the trip, she sported a parakeet-like red nose, and a matching pair of red eyes. Though we were never able to ascertain during the entire trip if the redness was because of the chill or something she’d downed without our knowledge to keep the chill at bay 😉 She did find a burglar mask at the Paris flea market. I conspired with a few others and dissuaded her from buying insisting that it was expensive. Live like a Parisian in Paris and all that. She knew when J1 had her camera on her and would pose for the not-so-candid shots. Of the 5K odd pics on her camera, 50% would be N2’s!
N2 and I earned the title ‘cookies’. No. Don’t get any ideas. We can never be sweet. We cooked a simple one-pot meal for dinner in some of the places we had the facility to cook. We happened to overhear (not eavesdrop!) a conversation between two men sitting adjacent to ours. There was this handsome young man who introduced himself to the other thus,” I’m a cooker”. Indeed! If a guy who cooks is a cooker, what can the feminine gender be but a cookie? So. We were the official cookies who cheated our way through by doing a stir-fry of assorted veggies and wrapping in tortillas, or cooked a simple pasta meal. All the while pretending to do a thorough professional job of pounding some spices that weren’t there and tossing in random stuff (edible ones of course). The others profusely thanked us for putting food on the table and we soaked it in shamelessly!
About the three musketeers, the nephew, the niece, and the sonny. I have just three words. Simply Awesome Threesome! They survived the grind without as much as sulk or a whine! They were convinced that their main purpose on the trip was to help lug the luggage;) They added a lot of fun and cheer to the trip. Though I knew my babies had grown up, this trip showed them in real ‘grown-up’ light. How time flies! Won’t say more. Kaala Teeka and all that!
Well, about moi, what can I say? You know by now how modest I am and how little attention I want to draw to the self. I would dutifully assist R & D, mercilessly tease P and J1, egg N1 to strike different poses for the pics (not that she needed telling!), hound P into not getting scared of the canine (a detail I overlooked mentioning earlier!), coax J2 nicely to make hot chocolate,harass N2 on keeping her bag safe, hound the kids to pose for the 8 cameras sticking on them, and chase to hug and kiss them.
All I’d say to end this post is this: *Aaashi-Aaashi-baaee!
*Our own little secret 🙂