This one has been a much-awaited vacation.
Adapting to solo travel…and loving it
As we have super-senior citizens at home, my wife, Jyothi, and I have decided that one of us needs to be at home or thereabouts at all times. Travel, therefore, has turned into solo travel and both of us have decided to celebrate this new phase of our life too.
Jyothi was in the UK last year. She also made a short trip to Chennai. I had taken a 5-day break in Chennai and a 10-day break in Odisha earlier this year.
You can read the first part of my Chennai & Odisha travel series here and the subsequent series on my website.
Sister of all surprises…
As per the plan, it was my turn to visit the UK this year.
However, a pleasant surprise awaited us. My elder sister, Bina, and my brother-in-law, Hariharan, offered to hold the fort for us in Bangalore for about two weeks. What this did was open an opportunity for Jyothi to travel to the UK for those 2 weeks. Through this post, a big Thank You is being sent in the direction of my elder sister and my brother-in-law.
Our visa and tickets were done. In a running household, if the main players are going to be away, there is a lot of work to be done. We finished all our chores responsibly. We got a list of requirements from Sid and Prerana and also bought some gifts. Now we were ready to take off.
I left earlier and flew Etihad Airways. I downloaded the Etihad App. It was useful to get all the relevant information on my phone. The flight was comfortable. I landed at Heathrow and also downloaded the Heathrow App. It helped me connect to the airport Wi-Fi almost immediately. With the Wi-Fi, I could stay in touch with Sid who was waiting for me at the airport exit. I could apprise him of the queue status at Immigration. Thankfully, the queue was not too long, and in about 45 minutes, I was facing the Immigration Officer.
Pride and prejudice
I have been to the UK several times before. When the Immigration Officer asked me the reason for my visit, my response was that I had come to visit my son and my daughter-in-law. As compared to my responses to the UK Immigration Officers in the past, this particular response was a first.
He followed up with his next question: ‘What do they do?’
This is the typical moment for a father’s pride to skyrocket, almost zooming out of control. The kids could consider a father’s pride as misplaced or highly exaggerated but I think fathers need to be pardoned for such indiscretions.
My heart swelled with pride as I responded, ‘My son is a Ph.D. and a Neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. My daughter-in-law is also a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and she works in the industry.’
‘Smart kids!’, he remarked. I couldn’t agree more.
I collected the bags and met Sid at the exit.
As per the plan, Sid and I were to head to Reading where my niece, Aparna, stays with her husband, Sandeep, and their 3-year-old daughter, Meenu. As Reading is closer to Heathrow as compared to Cambridge which was to be our main base, the Reading plan was right on top of the itinerary. Our daughter-in-law, Prerana, had already reached Reading from Bosnia where she had spent a brief vacation with an old friend.
A Mercedes-Benz cab picked us up from Heathrow Airport on the way to Reading.
I recalled my first overseas trip decades ago to Bangkok for work. This was during the pre-liberalization phase of India and we had only 3 automobile brands in India – Hindustan Motors’ Ambassador, Premier Automobiles’ Padmini, and Standard Motors’ Herald. A Mercedes-Benz cab picked me up from Bangkok Airport. During those times, in India, a Mercedes-Benz car was a highly-prized car owned primarily by industrialists. As I settled down in the Mercedes-Benz cab, I remember being wonderstruck.
In 2023, Reading was voted one of the best places to live by The Sunday Times.
I was going to spend the next couple of days in one of the best places to live.
PS: The picture is of 3-year-old Meenu during one of her mischievous moments.
Coming up next: my time at Reading, happily obeying 3-year-old Meenu’s instructions, a walk through the Reading City Centre, and family time around the barbecue at home…