Thursday, January 11, 2018

The best experience of 2017

New year is a time of checks and balances. Planning for the year ahead while reflecting on memories from the past year. Earlier today, I was wondering what is the best thing that has happened to me in 2017. There are many good things, but if I had to choose one, I would pick traveling with my father for the first time.  

Traveling together did much more than show us the sights of South Asia. It undid the parent-child relationship that often manifests as worrying, obsessing or controlling long after the child has grown up and no longer needs parenting. That parents do not have to parent all their lives is a concept many do not understand. Traveling together unshackled those chains and made us equal. We were two adults, both with almost no prior exposure to traveling in South Asia, traveling together for the first time. We figured things out together, we figured out maps and meals, we negotiated our way without knowing the native language, we figured out visas and new currencies, and we picked a travel pace that is comfortable to both of us (My father is sometimes too full of energy, too restless, too eager to see everything while I enjoy sitting at a spot and taking in things more). He made dinner for me every night and I cooked breakfast for him every day. There were no assumed gender roles or parental roles. And that was the best thing this trip did to us.

Ever since we broke out of the parent-child care-giving chains, we have become closer. We talk more on the phone, and those are long, engaging conversations about our individual life aspiration and goals, and not the usual script of lists and directions like "Eat on time and don't catch a cold." I have learnt things about his childhood I did not know, and he discovered aspects of me not known to him. For example, I could clearly see the discomfort on his face when I bought a handful of fried grasshoppers (he is vegetarian and has only seen me eat chicken and mutton), but he did not stop me or preach me. Ever since the trip, he has resumed painting after years, I have gone back to learning a language, and we often exchange what he recently painted or what words I recently learnt. He was the cultural secretary of the Durga Pujo committee in our neighborhood this year and shared pictures of all the cultural events he organized with pride while I shared pictures of my talks at conferences. And there is no more " সাবধানে থাকিস " or "Be careful, live carefully" at the end of the conversation. Only, "talk to you next week" and "Where shall we go for our next trip?"


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