[Travel] Rediscover yourself- Travel with Indian Parents, Uncle and Aunt!

The definition of a holiday according to Google is ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home.’

However, when you travel with an Indian clan, holiday is demarcated as ‘a period of leisure, multi-layered entertainment, inner-self-discoveries, enlightenment, fun and tasting delicious home-cooked food when abroad and it comes with a price of you doing the roles of a trip planner, tour guide, butler, personal grocery shopper, nurse, food guide, google map finder, street finder, bargainer, room to room service provider, technical assistant, mobile calculator, money changer, photographer, bathroom orientation leader, technical assistant and a cultured daughter.’

Holiday destinations were usually decided by mum who spot locations according to where her favourite film actors have stood, swayed and opened their arms, for songs. Particularly, Sivakarthikeyan’s songs. This time round, her dream was to step foot where Sivakarthikeyan and SriDivya danced for “Kadhal Kann kathudey” song- Norway. 

Since the song was released, mum has been chanting “Norway” almost everyday like Suprabatham. Her desktop picture was set to be one of the picturesque locations of Norway too.  

                                         (picture taken my mum at the original location)

Visiting one country may not rip our wallets apart that much, hence adding a few other places justifies the equation. So Denmark and Sweden made their way to the travelling list this time.  At this juncture, I would like to request and beg Sivakarthikeyan to do his next songs near Bedok reservoir or Kallang River.

“Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.”
― William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

And both my sisters decided to do this wickedly natural thing to me- to go for the holidays ‘alone’ with parents. Normally, travelling as a family may not seem that bad. The dramas or whatnot fights or quarrels that might occur during the trip, would be neturalised by the presence of the entire family somehow. You ask any indian family? It has happened and it is a proven theory that some form of conventional and unconvential ‘drama’ is inevitable when an Indian family decides to go for a holiday or just a simple gathering or preparing for a wedding. The ‘drama’ might happen before, during or after the event. The element of drama lingers in the air. It is a matter how or who triggers it. It is to be carefully handled. Thus, I desperately and seriously needed my siblings’ support. However, they, being my enemies right now, were not coming for the trip. Thus, it was me, my parents, uncle and aunt.

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So did I emerge weak or stronger after the trip? Did I had my fair share of fun? Was there any self-discovery and enlightenment?

Starbucks Vs Uncle

As a food guide and mobile calculator, I had to be with the adults all the time whenever they had to buy things. They need a person for them to calculate the foreign currency to Sing Dollars. And obviously, I was given the job of a mobile calculator. So much mental calculations done in my mind, that I am confident enough to say that I can be a successful Maths Olympiad if I were to sit for the test.

Uncle to the barista: Is there Milo?

Me *extremely shocked and eyes widened*: uncle, they don’t sell Milo here.

Uncle *ignoring me and still looking for milo on the menu board*: Can I have milo?

Barista *irritated by now*: What is Milo? (with a British Accent)

Me *again, trying very hard to avoid any embarrassing situation* *whispered*: Uncle, this is starbucks. Milo is only popular in Spore, Msia and maybe Australia. Starbucks is an American Coffee Company.

Uncle *looked at me*:  Gaya, look there. They have Chai latte. Chai is our brand. So why can’t they have Milo which is also my favourite?


 Parents and their eccentric habits

I panicked when I heard a loud noise coming from my dad’s bed. I rushed out from the bathroom, only to realise that he blasted a song in his phone. Yes, he learnt how to play songs in his phone just before the trip. I didn’t know what was worst- the volume or the fact that the song was on repeat or the fact that he decided to put all his Super Singer capabilities and my patience to test by singing along with the song.

How would a young girl be able to tolerate listening to some 1950s “Ninaipathu ellam nadanthu vitaal” song for 55 times?

If my dad was giving Anand Vaidhiyanathan a tough competition, my mum on the other corner of the hotel room, looked very tensed. At that moment, she looked no different from a surgeon doing a complicated surgery in a brightly-lit operating theatre with an operating table for the patient to lie on, an Electrocardiograph Machine to monitor a patient’s heart-rate, and surgical suction machines to remove blood from around the organs. Eyes focused. Thoughts being processed in her mind reflected on her forehead as she frowned. At one point, she looked up like a doctor instructing a nurse to quickly get an equipment.

Me, “Enna aachu?”

Mum, “Vaani Rani pochu. Wifi strong-aa illai.”

And I finally realized that she was watching the previous day’s Vaani Rani episode on youtube. As a technical assistant, I had to solve this problem so that I would get my meals on time. I managed to fix the portable wifi router and she sat beside the router so that the wifi and her Vaani Rani get stronger literally and metaphorically.

Watching Vaani Rani was a daily-affair then.

Love, peace and Dove
The beauty about travelling and holidaying is the fact you get to meet lots of people. Strangers. Many of them. When we were told since young, to avoid speaking strangers, these are the instances that prove the notion wrong. Mum, dad, uncle, aunt and I were totally clueless about getting a tram ticket at Bergen Bus Station (Norway). We tried our level best to click on the buttons on the kiosk but most of the instructions were in Norwegian Language.

There, came a lady who offered to help us. Another friend of hers joined her to help us get the tickets that cost about 130Kr. In fact, they paid for our tickets and guided us the way to the tram. And they were Sinhalese.

Sinhalese helped Tamilans.
There is nothing more beautiful than strangers helping one another. Thank you.

My body, my antagonist
Falling sick during a trip is the last thing that one wish for. However, it was the first thing that happened to me. It was as though God decided to plot a twist in this journey, and he dropped this ball of splitting headache attack on my head. As though it wasn’t enough, I also suffered from an imbalance of blood flow to my left brain. It was something that I was suffering from, for almost a year. The head gets waves and it moves on to light-headedness making me feel giddy all the time. Sometimes, it gets hard to focus one thing. But with all these, I can still walk and talk and teach and move on, with life. It gets extremely tiring at one point. 6 years in the working world, has taught me to handle all kinds of shit in life. Thus, surviving was my only option. To add on to it, I had muscle cramps too. A splitting headache, topping it off with giddiness and drowsiness because of the tablets that I took and muscle cramps- This combo was more sufficient enough to make my body, my antagonist. When my heart was happy and cheerful that it was the holidays, my body decided to become the antagonist.

Culinary Magicians
Planning an off-day in between your holidays is necessary. Thank god, I did that! On the 3rd day, nothing was planned. Thus, I took an off-day. Yes, from all the duties of bringing them around. I slept the whole day. My headache subsidized. But I had body ache from taking 4 bus rides, 2 boat rides and a train ride the previous day  to see the Fjords where Sivakarthikeyan danced which was a good 12-hour journey from the main Bergen City.

On my off-day, my clan wanted to go out and buy some things. I wasn’t sure if they could navigate around on their own, considering the fact that their sense of direction was as bad as the flight meals we had. For once, I started behaving like my parents to my parents,

Me: you sure you go alone?
Parents: what? alone? uncle and aunt all of us are going.
Me: yes, but still….
Parents: you take medicine and sleep.

I woke up after a few hours and saw a glass of ‘milagu rasam’ (pepper soup) prepared by my aunt. The craving for crap soup was so strong after seeing huge craps in the Bergen Fish market on the first day. Thus, milagu rasam was a pleasant surprise. We stayed in the hotel room and how the hell did they make this?

                  (The fish Market, Bergen)

I went over to my uncle/aunt’s room and the entrance welcomed me with the aroma of chicken curry. OMG! What on earth, is happening?

Learnt that my mum and aunt had actually packed some necessary ingredients like curry powder and a mini rice-cooker from home. They bought some vegetables in the nearby supermart. My aunt cooked rice and chicken curry using only one rice cooker and a tiny spoon that she had. No extra utensils were used.

Food, drinks- basically many things in Norway and Denmark are very expensive. A cup of coffee can cost about 40Kr which is S$8. A normal Macdonalds fish burger meal is S$16. So obviously, cooking was a better option. But cooking out of almost nothing, is nearly a Ripley-believe-it-or-not stunt! Another day in Denmark where we rented an apartment that came with a kitchen, more dishes were prepared. Stir-fried cauliflower egg and wheat thosai were the highlights. For a family of 5, eating out might cost about 500kr. Home-cooked meals (and that too, for two meals- lunch and dinner) only cost about 250kr.

My mum and aunt should be crowned as culinary magicians.

The Singaporean-ism and the Indian-ness in them

It is quite amazing how they make everything ‘Singaporean’.
When we were in Copenhagen, my mum wanted to go buy mineral water bottles.

Mum: let’s go NTUC.
me: NTUC ah? ma, that is called Irma.
*Irma is the name of the supermarket near the apartment.
Mum: yea la yea la. Denmark NTUC.

Just like how many Singaporean males don’t even bother exercising yet spend hours watching soccer, dad and uncle were not exceptional either.  Typical Singaporeans they were, shouting and screaming at the TV screens at night.
It is a verified phenomenon that if you are a Singaporean, you need to take almost everything from the toilet- soap, shampoo, toilet paper including the pen and paper on the dressing table.
Parents: hey, we paid for everything leh! It is our right.
Indian-ness Galore when you sit and watch Gordon Ramsay’s Hell Kitchen, and aunt who has never seen the show asks mum “who is he?”
Mum: Gordon Ramsay.
Dad: Vellaikaran Venkatesh Bhatt.
Me: ennathu bhatt-ah??
On the 5th day of the trip, we were in Copenhagen apartment. In the afternoon at about 3pm, we heard someone knocking and pushing the door vigorously. After a few knocks, we heard someone turning the entrance knob aggressively. It was clear that he/she/group of them were trying to force open the door. I went near the door and asked “Who is that?”

The knocks stopped. We heard her/his/their footsteps as they took the stairs down. We opened the door and there was no one. My parents, my INDIAN parents, needless to say, came up with a ground-breaking story instantaneously.

mum: I think someone is watching us going out. We need to be careful.
dad: last month, I saw CRIME WATCH.. eppadi thaan…
me: pa, can you just call the reception and inform them instead?

After informing, they apologized on behalf of the guy who mistakenly tried opening our room instead of his, which was in another block. If we had not called the reception to find out, my INDIAN parents would have scripted a mega serial that would have put any CRIME WATCH series and Vaani Rani episode  to shame.


Lift assistant- the toughest duty that I had

This was the world's smallest lift. Travelling in this lift can be scary if you are fearful of small spaces. However, my mum and aunt who are ardent fans of CRIME WATCH, didn't want to step in the lift unless I followed them. They had more trust on me than their husbands. And I had no idea what I would do, if the lift got stuck in between. And the lift looked like it had all possibilities of stopping halfway. The lift could fit only 2 people and 2 bags. The lift went up. Half way, the lift shook, paused for a milli-second and that made my heart do a somersault and my heart landed somewhere near my small intestine. When the lift stopped at the respective level, it juddered again. Thus, every time my mum wanted to use the lift, I was the lift assistant. 

Their photographer, 27th honeymoon clicks and other moments
Holding on to my phone, navigating the next stop via google maps, can be a daunting task at times when the directions it shows, may not always be right. Many times, I had to take a sensible decision based on some gut feelings. But at the same time, I had to deal with demands such as clicking pictures of themselves posing on every inch of the historical place.  It was raining at Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen but the photo-taking didn’t stop. It was probably at about 8 degree Celsius. Yet, I was commanded to take picture of them in a certain angle in the downpour while I was completely drenched and my lips, because of the freezing cold weather, were twitching like Silk-u smitha’s.  

          (Tivoli Gardens)

At the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, we spent about an hour and 58 minutes were spent posing like any other honeymoon couple, trying to do a heart-shape with their arms that ended up looking like an octopus doing tai-chi. Laughing out loudly and rolling on the floor were tempting but I had to control myself because I was nominated to be their 27th Honeymoon photographer.

Would I travel again?

Having mentioned some stress-filled hilarious moments, I would say that I did enjoy the time travelling with them. Getting to know their  habits and how child-like they were when all 4 of them start jumping in joy when we took the short tram ride in Bergen, was indeed a delight to watch. My uncle and aunt, are in fact, our ex-neighbours. 

When I was born, she came to my house everyday, just to watch me sleep. So now, when I bring them around and to see their excitement-filled faces, is a true blessing. Hearing their stories about their first ship journey from India to Singapore and how they had to sleep on bare grounds on the ship while going on the luxury cruise from Norway to Denmark, was indeed an unforgettable experience for me. 

Watching these 4 adults getting enthusiastic about everything, would be something that I would not trade in, for anything else.

And of course, travelling is the only time PARENTS listen to ME! hehe...

And this holiday has not only given me confidence but given my parents the chance to see that their daughter is really independent!

Neruppu da!

Nerungu da!


  1. traveling with parents is lot lot fun than ppl think.. i hav travelled many places with parents n its been amazing n fulfilling so far..
    beautiful post. n pics. :-)

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  3. Hahah had a hearty laugh . Well narrated incidents... Wish there were more post and more pics of silk smitha

  4. Remember silku smitha is the photographer. No time for pics of herself!!

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  6. Hi Thala! Terrific article! I was laughing throughout! The conversation at Starbucks, the way mom watches Vani Rani, the way dad sings along songs on mobile phone. Hilarious! It's a brilliant coincidence that my parents too visited Singapore recently and I was planning to write a similar writeup on all the funny revelations!

    Your writeup painted a brilliant picture of what happens when you travel with family. I think this applies to any family, not just Singaporean :)

    I think the best part is the reason all of this happened. Sivakarthikeyan's dance steps! Hahahahahaha! Thanks to him you had a trip and we got to read this article. My kovam on sivakarthikeyan is reduced a bit :)

    1. Boss!!! eagerly waiting to read your experience!! True true, it is just the indian parents thing!

      And i still strongly believe that Sivakarthikeyan shouldn't do any foreign location song!!


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