Monday, June 22, 2009

Essential Indian middleclass vacation planner

If you ask what is the fastest growing organic structure in the world, even Bush will answer that it is The Indian Urban Middleclass. There are a lot of challenges that new members of this fast growing class face due to lack of awareness - on middleclass etiquettes, middleclass social behavior, middleclass purchasing power/limits etc. One such issue is how to plan and execute a yearly vacation that was hitherto a privilege of only the upper class in India. This post is a comprehensive vacation planner that can be used by anybody who is an urban Indian middleclass family head(gender could be anything), on how to plan and execute an annual vacation successfully, because studies show that many Indian urban middleclass vacations get spoiled due to lack of planning.

First challenge is finding an agreed upon location with your spouse(Kids will be ok with any place, as long as they don’t have to do home works there). Fortunately, India is an incredible(Antonym - credible) country with a large number of choices and you got Goa, Shimla and Kerala to choose from. Now remember, you are still middleclass and all the above are becoming unaffordable for middleclass, shortlist all hill stations and seashores that are at a drivable distance and come up in Google search. One thing to remember here is that this is not that annual pilgrimage that you used to go with your parents in childhood, so don’t chose the nearest temple-town as your parents used to do, choose a place where you can relax and enjoy the crowd, pollution, bad food etc.

Next, narrow down to two choices by conducting a lunch time exit-poll among your office friends. Once you got the choices, submit it for spousal approval (always submit two choices, anything below that will make you a victim of domestic violence and anything above an indecisive person), he or she will again repeat the exit poll in his or her friends circles and come back with two other places, go for any one that he/she choose for two reasons 1) laws on domestic violence 2) If the place turn out to be a disaster, you know exactly whom to blame – the government for making laws on domestic violence.

Next, start on the logistics such as finding accommodation, transportation. The best way to find a middleclass accommodation is to look upward, I mean look at what the rich are doing, because psychologically, middleclass think they are at par with the rich, so even if it costs you an additional couple of thousand bucks, go for a place that promises a ‘spa’*, swimming pool, a gym, a bar and couple of restaurants; again most of these are virtual-realty, just to give you a psychological feel-good factor for the money you are paying, most of them will be dysfunctional in actual-reality.

Call up the resort/hotel identified, it will be booked fully for the next 999 years by the rest of the middleclass, so you have two choices now 1) Choose an alternate holiday spot and repeat the process 2) Settle down for a not so up market, yet minimalist place. Go for choice 2 as the holiday season is just few weeks away. Ensure that the following are available in the place booked 1) A room with 4 walls and one roof, one floor 2) A bathroom with same number of walls, roofs and floors 3) A TV and cot 4) A socket for mosquito repellent 5) AC and fan. Note that both AC and fan are necessary as the AC will never work and in the likely event of your trip not going well, you can take all your frustration on the hotel staff on this, your spouse and kids will be spared.

Next on the travel. Though you would be tempted to hire an MUV, it’s much safer to take your own car out for the very reason that these MUVs come with in-built device drivers who just returned from another trip and had not been sleeping for the last 48 hours and chances are that you will become a page 3 celebrity in next day’s papers, along with the wreckage of the MUV. For driving guidelines, read this post.Keep a print of Google map of the route, will be useful to wipe your hands after food on your way. For directions, ask people at every junction, who will direct you to other people who know the directions.

Before any vacation, ensure that you have an overall awareness on the various attractions at the place, which will typically involve a supposed to be ancient temple/fort, a waterfall, a dam and a pathetically maintained park, couple of dirty beaches/lakes etc. There will be excellent websites detailing the attractions, read them couple of times and draw a daily plan, because that’s one activity you will enjoy in this trip(I mean working out a plan, not executing it).

Now you are all set to go. Buy and keep some snacks, aerated drinks etc a day in advance, make sure you forget to carry them because you won’t want to reach your holiday spot with a bad stomach. Another essential middleclass vacation equipment is a digital camera, (don’t carry your old video cameras, you are not going to use them) because a middleclass vacation is not about enjoying places, it’s about the snaps you take that will make you feel like being the best photographer in the world.

Always start your vacation journey early morning, because then you will have enough time to stop at every junction for directions and still reach the place by evening. Also studies have proven that driving at day time is safer in Indian roads as potholes become blackholes at night and will absorb your car, unless you are travelling at a speed higher than escape velocity. Ensure you carry water from home, because again there are studies that shows bottled water is harmful to health, especially when they are duplicates(imitations) of known brands.

Now after reaching the hotel, first thing to do is ignore your daily plan, check with the hotel staff on the places around. They will give you which ones are suitable for visit during which season, go ahead, choose them and re-adjust all your daily plans accordingly and execute. Execution is a simple process – reach the spot, click snaps, start back. Ensure your kids are safe, it’s not their fault that you chose to spoil their entire week in the name of a vacation. At the end of the trip, return back, no special advice/guidance needed here because I’m already tired with this post. Go ahead, enjoy your vacation!

* Author is ignorant on what exactly this thing is, but it’s a mandatory middleclass vacation doodad.

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