What taking 'annual leave' to fly back home really means

Through the lens, lightly


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Wed 30 Nov 2022, 9:46 PM

Does it ever happen to you that when you plan a stretch of annual leave — to visit home, not to do something touristy — you are gripped by stress because you suddenly realise you have X number of people to meet and only Y (a figure that is way lesser than X) number of days on hand? It’s been plaguing me relentlessly as I try to chalk out an itinerary for an upcoming holiday, while also factoring in a family wedding that threatens to eat up a substantial portion of aforementioned leave.

For me, there’s an invariable pattern that follows — for any given annual leave. On WhatsApp, there are pronouncements that I will be in town from so-and-so date to so-and-so date, and we have to meet up, do a lunch or at least a coffee; many times, “You have to come home, we just moved into a new place” is thrown at me, and I agree virtually. By the end of it, there are some 100 people I have “promised” I will meet, but there’s a little voice, growing shriller by the day, saying I will only manage to meet a handful.

On most trips, when I do manage to meet a select few, I have to insist that there cannot be social media postings “because I don’t want others to know I was here”.

I am asked, “Oh, so no one knows you are in town?”

“They do, notionally,” I say. “But I will just tell them that I had to cut my leave short because something pressing at work came up… or there was some sort of family emergency [which is technically not a lie since there is always an emergency — or at least an imagined one — exploding on the family front]… which put the brakes on all meet-up plans.”

This time, it’s particularly harrowing because there will be three different sets of friends from the US who will be visiting India around the same time. I have to meet all three sets because too much water has flown under the bridge and if I try and slime out of even one meeting, I will be at risk of forfeiting age-old friendships. None of them know each other so they will have to be in three separate outings. Complicating the whole deal are visitations by two male cousins in the same timeline — both coming in from out of town. Now, these two are related but not on talking terms, and since I cannot afford to be an interloper, I will have to give them each alone time on their terms. Another friend is organising a New Year’s Eve bash for me. And one more wants to spend “the better part of an afternoon” with me because I’d told him we would collaborate on a writing project; he’s prepared the blueprint which he wants to discuss threadbare face to face. There’s also a dear friend’s daughter’s birthday bash, and a meeting with a bank manager to figure out an investment option for my father (“Keep one whole day for that,” my father has instructed).

In the time warp of a family wedding and innumerable meetings/engagements, my father will insist I spend time only with him. Ditto, my niece, who’s reportedly told all her friends she will be unavailable, both emotionally and physically on the days when I will be in town.

I only have X number of days. So, who do I turn my back on?


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