Shahnaz Habib in The Guardian:
My father, who lives in India, loathes travel. He will tell you this himself. When he hears about other people’s road trips, he shakes his head, wishing they had more common sense. The greatest pleasure, for him, is to be at home, reading the news and eating rice and coconut chammanthi. Ideally, the coconut should be from his own village in southern Kerala.
Alas, all his children live abroad. My siblings live in the United Arab Emirates and I’m in New York. Every few months, my brother will send my parents a non-refundable round-trip ticket and my father’s reluctance to travel will battle with his parsimony. Eventually, he will climb on the flight, bundled up thoroughly against air-conditioning, which he hates almost as much as travel. Once he arrives at my brother’s house in Sharjah, he ventures out as little as possible. He knows what he likes: reading news. Why bother doing anything else?
Outside of these Sharjah exiles, my father has made two epic trips. As soon as my parents could afford it, they went on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The other journey was a visit to New York. When my daughter was a few months old my parents and sister arrived to take over my household, cook four multi-course south Indian meals every day, and sing endless lullabies. “You must be exhausted,” I said when they arrived at the apartment after 20 hours of flying. “Of course not,” my father said and fell asleep on the couch.
I knew that between my adventure-averse father and my infant, we would be home a lot. But I also wanted to show off my city. I surprised my parents with a helicopter tour over Manhattan. My mother got off the chopper with windswept hair and shining eyes. “Just wonderful. Everyone should do this,” she declared. My father shook his head and said, “eminently avoidable.”