Let's hear it for long overdue family vacations in Georgia

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Bird’s eye view of Tbilisi town taken from the fort walls
Bird's eye view of Tbilisi town taken from the fort walls

It took decades for siblings and families to get together under one roof. And they found a larger, global family to call their own. And some Bollywood...

By Sunil K. Vaidya

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Published: Thu 23 Mar 2017, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 Mar 2017, 8:43 PM

It no longer surprises me when I meet Bollywood fans in places outside India. Three decades ago, I met a hard-core Amitabh Bachchan fan - Mohammed, who kissed my hand and wanted me to not wash it until the iconic Indian movie star had kissed it! So, when I went on a 'family holiday' to Georgia, I was expecting a native to come up and talk about Indian cinema.

 A Georgian hostess at the winery shows off her culinary skills (left), Old monastery in Kakheti region (middle), A waterfall at the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens (right)- Photos: Sunil K. Vaidya
But I was pleasantly surprised when an old lady in a remote village in Kakheti region on the east side of Georgia not only knew Indian cinema and television shows but enthusiastically talked about the Kapoor khandan (family).
For all our communication, during that visit to a now-restored 16th century winery, we had to depend on sign language or our driver/guide for translation. But, as soon as we sat at a long dining table to enjoy their hospitality, the lady began speaking in Georgian about Indian cinema. Her animated expression gave away her fascination for Indian showbiz.
It is a known fact that Raj Kapoor was a very popular Indian actor in the erstwhile Soviet Union, much before another dancing star Mithun Chakraborty, who also became equally popular. The old lady broke into an impromptu singing of popular Mithun song, 'I am a Disco Dancer.'
Her excitement, however, reached another level when she talked about the family bond of the Kapoors or family soaps like 'Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi' (dubbed version aired by a Georgian broadcaster). For us, it was a perfect connect as we were on a family holiday. The woman did say that she was happy to demonstrate Georgian culinary skills to a family visiting their age-old family winery.
The Georgia trip for us was strictly a 'family-together holiday' - for the last 30 months or so, we have become a 'satellite family' - with each of the four members living in a different country. We had decided to stay, eat, drink and enjoy together. To stay apart, is tough for someone who has spent his childhood in a joint family of more than two dozen siblings and cousins living under one roof, ergo, this trip was overdue.
Living apart doesn't affect the family bond. I realised that recently, when I attended a family wedding where we - cousins and their children - met after almost 30 years. Some from the younger generation even met for the first time. My daughter was pleasantly surprised to see such a large extended family (over 50 people)  that bonded so well and were so happy in each other's company.
So coming back to our 'family holiday' that was also an excuse to celebrate a birthday. We live in an age where each family member has his/her own room and more often than not, we are glued to our mobile, kindle, laptops or television sets. Our trip to Tbilisi started with a very old family house-turned cosy 10-room hotel. It was a perfect family room for the four of us. At breakfast, we met this Indian textile merchant from Dubai, who had also come with his family to spend quality time.
For a walk around Tbilisi's old town, my son, who had arrived two days earlier for his own 'backpack tour,' was our guide. Walking around the old town, eating from street-side eateries and listening to some music, including a visit to a small Jazz Café added to the family fun.
While sunny weather made walking around Botanical Garden and fort wall in Tbilisi pleasant, the walk in the drizzling rain in Batumi was equally enjoyable. Of course, not to forget a frantic search for flowers, just before midnight, in a Georgian town by the Black sea. You see, a birthday celebration was part of the family holiday and this one couldn't have been complete without flowers. Those enormous roses in different colours at midnight gave immense pleasure to everyone in the family, including of course, the birthday girl.
The idea was to enjoy every moment of the holiday and the close could not have been better. We had five-to-six-hours to spend in Tbilisi on our way back to Dubai and my son suggested we go to the Marco Polo Hostel run by affable hosts, Briton Andrew Tucker-Peake and his Iranian wife, Mina. As parents, we were also curious about the hostel that our son had stayed at before we arrived.
There was a group of young Iranians, a Kazakh, an Uzbek, a quinquagenarian Kiwi exponent of the Hacky Sack and all of us, the Gulf Indians. The tourists from different nationalities chilled out together, exchanged views of different cultures and thus become one big global family.
We stayed up that night, talking to this new global family until it was time to catch the flight back to Dubai to end the most pleasant family holiday - which a colleague said, made me look the happiest he has ever seen me.
Sunil is KT's sports editor. He's interested in photography, theatre and social media

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