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Saving The Lazy, Family Sunday

Sunday. I remember a time when that word embodied a myriad of things: Mom and Dad with a day off from work, my brother and I with no school and no homework, silly games, special home-cooked treats, and occasionally, a family picnic. I’d wake up to the smell of aloo tikkis in bubbling oil or a chocolate cake in the oven — because Sunday was free from calorie counting — and linger over my morning Bournvita, swapping stories of stolen erasers, annoying classmates, and other mundane events with my family. After a lazy, chatty breakfast, my brother, Kedar, and I would stretch a blanket from the window to the bed, using the space in between as a tent, where we brewed make believe tea and served it to stuffed bears, parrots, and Barbie dolls.

Sometimes, we were the guests at the picnic. These were the best Sundays of all. A basket in hand, the four of us would set off for the Malad jetty to catch the ferry to Aksa Beach. With the wind in our hair and the sunny beach rolling out before us, I remember feeling like we were right out of a storybook — the only thing missing was a family dog. Mom laid out the chatai, while Dad took charge of food. And before either could blink, Kedar and I stripped down to our shorts and ran off to the waves, only lured back onto dry land with the temptation of Dad’s treats. On the days we felt artistic, we’d spend hours building sloppy sandcastles until the sun dipped. We always caught the last ferry home.

Those Sundays are etched in my memory, as bright as the sun.

But they seem very far away, now. Sundays evolve and grow alongside generations. When I look around today, I see the sanctity of the day slowly eroding, like a beach in a storm. With between hectic jobs, tuitions and social engagements, the weekend has become a relaxed workday instead of the holiday it once was. Adults catch up on emails they missed during the week, and kids run from one class, play date or party to another. iPads sit squarely in the face of both. I’m almost fooled into believing we’ve evolved into organisms that no longer need holidays. Yet, Facebook and Instagram feeds — packed with photos of a “much needed family vacation” or squeezing in a “quick getaway” over a long weekend — are proof that we’re not close to becoming robots yet. Why, then, do we wait for large doses of relaxation once or twice a year, when Sunday is right there, every week?

I think part of the answer lies in showmanship. The same social media that we use to document our breaks has made us so much more aspirational about them. We constantly compare the insides of our lives to the outsides of others’, always striving for better – for a better salary or a fancier holiday; for a child who speaks seven languages and wins a beauty pageant while thinking about conserving water or a house that looks like the cover of Good Housekeeping. This striving isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, but when it causes us to sacrifice letting go one day a week in pursuit of better vacation photos, we need to take a moment.

It surprises me when I see folks, who grew up enjoying lazy Sundays, depriving their kids of the same joy and weekly reset. Sure, the dynamic of the urban Indian family has evolved considerably over the last few years. And admittedly, I’m not a parent, so I can only guess at the challenges of raising a child in this day and age. Work, life and education are all more complicated than they were 20 years ago, and digital escapes are more convenient, if less social, for parents and kids alike. But I’ll still hazard a guess that there aren’t too many children who wouldn’t love splashing around in the waves or blowing soap bubbles more than an activity class. The prospect of baking cookies with dad on a Sunday cannot possibly lose to a game on the iPad. And which son or daughter wouldn’t love going swimming with mom instead of playing on her laptop while she makes business calls.

Your days of baking cookies and going swimming with your kids are numbered. Kedar and I got taller; the beaches of Mumbai got dirtier, and the ocean, unsplashable. From waiting with baited breath for Sunday family time, my brother and I began to make Sunday plans of our own. The beach set and the chatai were packed away at the back of a cupboard. Calories became an important part of life, and aloo tikkis disappeared from the breakfast table. Claim your family time while you can. For a single Sunday, forget routines and fish out recipe books for some family experimentation. This weekend, I’m going to try to convince my family to bake cookies and, if I’m lucky, get them to play ball on the beach.

I hope I’ll see you there.

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