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Every year, like clockwork, our family embarked on a much-anticipated summer vacation to some picturesque hill station. The mountains, the fresh air, and the scenic beauty provided the perfect backdrop for our cherished moments together. But then, the unexpected happened. The world was gripped by the relentless grasp of COVID-19, forcing us to put our travel plans on hold for not just one, but three long years.

As April rolled around this year, a newfound excitement ignited within me. Thoughts of exploring different places and making up for lost time began to weave their way through my mind. However, there was an odd sensation, a strange emptiness that lingered deep within my heart, courtesy of the pandemic.

It dawned on me that no matter where we ventured, we would be surrounded by strangers. The thought of that brought a pang of longing to my soul. I yearned for those familiar faces, the comforting presence of my loved ones, with whom I could sit, talk, laugh, and gossip, just like we used to before. The image of us sharing captivating stories over steaming cups of tea or relishing countless rounds of ice cream cups played vividly in my mind.

What I truly desired was someone close, someone who understood me without judgment, unlike the fleeting encounters with strangers. After all, who better to fill that void than our relatives and friends? It was then that I made a decision, a firm resolve to recreate the magic of our past by revisiting the homes of our paternal and maternal grandparents.

There’s something special about returning to the roots, to the places where cherished memories were forged. The warmth of family, the embrace of familiarity, and the unspoken bond that connects generations—it all awaited us at our grandparents’ homes.

As I envisioned the upcoming trip, excitement bubbled within me. I could almost taste the tea, hear the laughter, and feel the love that would surround us. This time, we would relive those treasured moments, creating new memories while cherishing the old.

So, off we go, with our hearts brimming with anticipation, eager to be embraced by the love and warmth of our relatives and friends. The pandemic may have paused our summer vacations, but it couldn’t diminish the power of our connections and the joy of being together. This time, we’re reclaiming what was lost, recreating the magic, and embarking on a journey that will revive our spirits and reaffirm the significance of togetherness.

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At the top of my itinerary list was the enchanting city of Jaipur. Known for its rich heritage, magnificent forts, captivating art, grand palaces, and sacred temples, Jaipur held a special place in my heart—it was also my native place. With excitement in our hearts, we planned to surprise our children’s grandparents, fondly called Nana and Nani, by spending our summer holidays with them.

The moment our loved ones laid eyes on us, disbelief washed over their faces. They couldn’t fathom that we were there to create cherished memories together. Witnessing the tears of joy welling up in my father’s eyes was a priceless moment—a witness to the depth of our bond.

We decided to dedicate our days to spending quality time with our grandparents, immersing ourselves in their love and stories. As for the evenings, we had a schedule brimming with captivating sights to explore. Our adventure took us to the majestic Amer Fort, the awe-inspiring Jaigarh Fort, the serene Birla Temple, the revered Khol Ke Hanuman Ji shrine, the holy Khatu Shyam Ji temple, and the opulent Ram Bagh Palace. Along the way, we were treated to the breathtaking sight of peacocks, the vibrant procession of parrots, and the enchanting chorus of cuckoos near our bungalow every single day.

No visit to Jaipur would be complete without indulging in some shopping. We delighted in exploring the bustling markets of Badi Choupad, Choti Choupad, Johri Bazar, and Bapu Bazar, where we discovered vibrant textiles, intricate handicrafts, and exquisite jewelry. Of course, we couldn’t resist the temptation of savoring the delectable kachoris and famous sweets from LMB, accompanied by refreshing glasses of Lassi.

Our days were filled with laughter, love, and the exploration of the city’s treasures. Jaipur, with its rich cultural tapestry, not only gave us a memorable vacation but also reconnected us with our roots. As we bid farewell to this remarkable city, we carried with us a sense of gratitude for the cherished moments shared and the bonds that were strengthened.

Even in their eighties, my parents maintained a remarkable routine, rising at the early hour of 5:30 a.m. and retiring by a maximum of 9:30 p.m. Their disciplined lifestyle served as a valuable lesson for my children, who witnessed firsthand the importance of structure and consistency. They relished the moments spent listening to stories and real-life incidents shared by their beloved grandparents, affectionately known as Nana and Nani.

To add a touch of excitement, my father delighted in ordering specialties from Jaipur online, allowing us to savor the flavors of the city right in our own home. However, it was time to take the kids to their maternal aunt’s and paternal aunt’s house. In our Indian culture, love is often expressed through the meals we share, which meant that even our diet plans were granted a well-deserved holiday during this trip.

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One evening, we decided to visit Chokhi Dhani, an enchanting destination that offered a glimpse into traditional village life and Rajasthani culture. There, we had the pleasure of indulging in a wide array of Rajasthani delicacies, including daal baati churma, tangy garlic chutney, spicy gram flour dumplings, and the vibrant Kair Sangria dish, among many others. The warmth and hospitality extended to us resulted in us consuming more than our stomachs could handle. We were delighted to witness the captivating performances of the Kalbelia dance and the mesmerizing puppet shows and even had the opportunity to enjoy a camel ride.

My daughter and I couldn’t resist the allure of Jaipur’s prints and fabrics, and we happily filled two bags with our purchases. Meanwhile, my sisters joined us on this memorable journey, allowing us to relive countless childhood memories and strengthen our bonds even further.

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After soaking up all the fun in Jaipur, our journey led us to Kota, where my in-laws reside. We explored the Seven Wonders Park, took in the serenity of the Chambal River, visited the renowned Godavari Dham temple, and indulged in some retail therapy at Kota’s vibrant market. The highlight, of course, was savoring the mouthwatering kachoris filled with lentils and a variety of spices, accompanied by the finger-licking pudina chutney. We couldn’t resist purchasing exquisite Kota Doria sarees and suits from the local market.

In Godavari Dham, my children experienced the joy of feeding cows with their own hands, a heartwarming and humbling experience. Rajasthan’s scorching heat in May could have been overwhelming, but the shower of love from our dear ones shielded us from the heat’s effects.

Sadly, the time had come to bid farewell to Rajasthan and our loved ones as we made our way back to Mumbai. However, we never leave Jaipur alone. We carry a treasure trove of memories that will forever hold a special place in our hearts, reminding us of the cherished moments we shared. These memories will accompany us on our journey through life, serving as a constant reminder of the love and joy we experienced in the vibrant state of Rajasthan.

-Meena Chugh is a certified dietitian and nutritionist with a penchant for nature and travel.

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