It was an advertisement in the morning newspaper that gave wings to Zainabi teacher's travel dreams. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) invited travellers for its ten-day package covering Agra, Delhi, and Punjab. The package included accommodation and food. She decided to give it a try.
That was the first step that the retired teacher, now aged 67, took for touring the world. Before that, Zainabi teacher's life was dedicated to her family and job. However, this native of Mukkam in Kozhikode is celebrating life by travelling.
A dream realized
“I always wished to travel and visit new places, but studies, employment, family, and other duties prevented me from setting out on trips. Within no time, I reached the retirement age of 55. The decision to dedicate my life after superannuation to realize my travel dreams was taken after the all-India tour of 2005,” says teacher.
That was the IRCTC tour package. It was the first time Zainabi teacher was travelling alone after retirement from school. But she faced many hurdles, the main one being getting permission from family.
The IRCTC ten-day tour promised to take travellers on a journey in search of India's soul. Teacher saw several new sights and tasted different cuisines along with a group of fellow travellers who were total strangers.
While in service, Zainabi teacher had organized several study tours for students, which proved an inspiration for her post retirement travels.
“The biggest achievement of every trip would be a few moments which we can cherish forever,” says Teacher.
“I realized that unless I embarked on journeys during my retirement days, I would never be able to make my dreams come true”, she adds.
“That thought was the real spark which compelled me to set out on my travels,” teacher explains.
“I had resolved at the onset that foreign trips would be planned only after I visit the maximum destinations in India,” says Zainabi teacher.
Many people dream of foreign tours without even being aware that there are numerous attractions in our country itself. “But I did not want to be one among them,” she adds.
Zainabi teacher visited as many tourist spots as she could in India before travelling abroad. Among the locations in our country, Coorg is among her favourites. She had learnt about a Coorg tour package from a fellow traveller in an earlier trip. The trip was by bus from Kozhikode. When the travelling party arrived at Kodagu - another name for Coorg - there was the thick morning mist. There were grassy areas everywhere, crisscrossed by dirt tracks through which farmers headed to markets on bullock carts with vegetables and fruits.
Orchards with oranges ready for plucking were an interesting sight, says Zainabi teacher. “The area resembled a film shooting location. I also felt that though Kodagu was part of Karnataka, there was Kerala influence somewhere,” she adds.
“We went to a place called Manthalappetty, which is similar to Vagamon. Many films were shot here. Another destination was Nisargadham, 25 km from Madikeri. It a natural island in the Kaveri River. Attractions there include a trek through the forest, ride on an elephant, and a deer park. Other tourist spots in Kodagu include Harangi Dam, Dubare elephant camp, Omkara Temple, the tombs of Gaddige, Raja Street, and Abbey waterfalls.
A wonderland called Thailand
Zainabi teacher had just returned home from a trip when she heard about IRCTC's Thailand tour package. Thailand was the first entry on her bucket list. “It is indeed a dreamland. Except for some minor physical ailments, I had no challenges for embarking on the trip. It was a journey I was so eagerly looking forward to. When our flight landed in that country, I was so excited,” she says.
When the tour party approached their bus, they were greeted by the driver with coloured water sprayed from a toy gun. Some travellers were annoyed and made their displeasure felt. But as the bus raced to the city along a stretch flanked by shrubs displaying attractive flowers, the travellers noticed that everyone on the streets carried toy guns with which coloured water was sprayed on passersby. The entire country was celebrating. It was 'Songkran,' the Thai New Year, informed the bus driver. The celebration falls during April every year.
The programme next day was a visit to Mini Siam. Beautiful miniatures of various world-famous landmarks were displayed there, including Eiffel Tower, leaning tower of Pisa, the Colosseum of Italy, Abu Simbel of Egypt and Tower Bridge of London.
The next item on the trip was renowned Alcazar cabaret. “A curious fact is that none of the 'female' dancers at the cabaret are in fact women. Nobody would believe that it is in fact men who dress as women for the show; they are so pretty,” says Zainabi teacher.
The travellers' next stop was the botanical garden at Nong Nooch, which lures visitors with programmes like elephant ride and show. During evenings, Teacher spent time at Walking Street, which is a crowded place round the clock. Massage parlours, bars, pubs and restaurants line both sides of the street. Brokers seeking customers and scantily clad women can be seen at many spots. “However, Thailand beckons tourists with its scenic beauty, not sex tourism,” says teacher.
Singapore trip - a different experience
After each trip, Zainabi teacher shares her experience with close ones. “A single journey gives you a thousand experiences, some happy and others sad,” she reveals.
Among the trips that gave Teacher sadness was the one to Singapore. “The journey had materialized after a long wait. When waiting at the airport for the flight, I received a call from my son saying that my sister had been admitted to hospital in a serious condition. It was a big shock. I didn't know what to do. My dream journey may not take place after all. What if I go ahead with the trip and something happens to my sister?” says teacher.
For some time, Zainabi teacher sat confused. Finally, she decided to travel to Singapore. “I prayed that my sister would recover from her illness and boarded the flight,” she reveals.
At Singapore Airport, teacher was surprised to see sign boards and announcements in Tamil. The first stop was Universal Studios. “It was a one-day programme, similar to Ramoji Film City, with 3D shows, rides and several other magical sights. The next day was meant for shopping and Zainabi teacher was shocked at the prices. “You cannot describe how costly Singapore is. You may have to shell out a fortune to buy every item,” she explains.
A depressing news awaited teacher when she returned home; her sister had passed away. Teacher's relatives had not disclosed it to her while she was in Singapore as they felt it would deprive the joy of the trip. “It is a loss that can never be overcome,” according to Zainabi teacher.
Teacher's journey to Malaysia was as a guest of her son's friend there, which helped her enjoy the hospitality of the family. “The first day was dedicated to city tour. Malaysia is a very tourist-friendly country. One can hop into a bus and enjoy a free ride to visit the city’s attractions,” she informs.
“Live Museum will leave you wonderstruck. Numerous 3D paintings are displayed there. When photographed from a particular angle, the paintings look real. The spots to be photographed are marked,” says teacher.
Among the amazing sights in Malaysia is the view from the top of KL Tower. “You can have a panoramic view of the entire city from there,” says Zainabi teacher.
A heavy rush is witnessed at Petronas Twin Towers, one of Malaysia’s biggest landmarks. “No tourist would want to miss the pride of Malaysia,” feels teacher.
Other sights that left her wonderstruck included a street with 14 mega shopping malls. “There would be no better place for shopping lovers,” she says.
Teacher visited Putrajaya, a planned city which houses all the administrative offices in Malaysia. These offices are located on the banks of an artificial lake.
Zainabi teacher's next trip is to Bali, which has been beckoning her for long. “The biggest gain of every trip is the happiness it offers. I have made several trips to destinations in India and abroad. After each trip, life becomes more beautiful. Retirement life is not meant to be spent looking after grandchildren. It is, in fact, a period which is the last stage of your life. These years should be enjoyed to the maximum by setting out on journeys,” concludes teacher.