It’s been just over a week since our return from the Motherland. India. And my oh my, what a trip it was! To put your mind at ease, let me start by saying we all survived! Yes, we are back safe and sound to the alluring cityscape of Dubai, and with only a bite or two from the dreaded Mosquitoes which have long dissapeared. (It turns out they DO love sweet NRI blood, but only that of my poor baby brother, Mr A!)
Travelling to Mumbai, India
It all started with a luggage fiasco at the airport when we were told almost all our bags were overweight, thanks to the faulty scale that we used at home! However, once we got our tired selves on the short haul flight, our spirits rose back up again. Flying with Master Z was so different this time around, now that he was 2.7 years old. Master Z was aged under 2 during our previous flight to Saudi Arabia, so this time getting his own seat was a luxury. Also, this time he was totally into the in-flight entertainment! Parenting win! Que replays of Bob The Builder for the entire journey!
We landed in Mumbai during the late evening and by the time we drove to my grandfather’s home in Sanjan about four hours later, it was almost midnight. My husband and I spent the entire road trip, mouth agape, baffled at the sights and sounds of India. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
The manic sounds of car and truck horns, as scooters whizzed by, inching their way over the pedestrian crossing, whilst children walked in between roads selling Santa hats or roasted peanuts. The sight of slums and roadside vendors, as well as lush greenery everywhere and trees painted with red and white stripes by the government to ensure they are not cut down by the public. The overpowering smells of Pau Bhaji being cooked a few metres away and a second later, the whiff of cow dung followed by burning plastic and then quickly again by the smell of Paan. The seemingly never ending bumps in the backseat of the car as it drove across potholes of alarming sizes. The stray dogs crossing highways, and escaping to the other side, miraculously unscathed. The blast of Bollywood music from the truck , as it inches even closer to you, and you quizzingly wonder how we have not crashed already. The organised chaos that lights a firework to all your senses, all at the same time. Overwhelming. All of it.
Yet, Master Z slept almost the entire way home from the airport, because tiredness can do that to you, no matter how loud the car horn next to you is or how high you jump from the pothole you drive over. Once we were home, I was reunited with my grand father as well as my parents and younger brother, Mr A, who had arrived from UK that same morning. A quick catch up followed by a good enough night’s sleep, and we were wide awake at 6 am the next day thanks to our body clocks still reminiscing in Dubai.
The majority of our first morning in Sanjan was spent kicking our feet in the air, as we swung from the Veranda Swing, overlooking the lush greenery around us and wrapped up in blankets to ward off the morning chill. After all the unpacking, and catching up with the family, we were set to explore the state of Maharashtra over the next few days. There were weddings to attend, relatives to socialise with and bank errands to run. Among these, we managed to fit in shopping, horse riding, scooter rides, beach walks and sipping freshly made Lassi.
By the second day, we did all have a hoarse cough and runny noses, but this was mainly due to the change in air and in some parts, especially Mumbai, very high levels of pollution, that we were most definitely not used to. I also ensured to constantly have the Bentley Organic Mother & Baby Hand Sanitizer on hand to spritz before and after every meal to ensure all our hands were sanitized. I also took with me the Pixie First Aid Kit in case of any emergencies, but Alhumdulillah it was not needed at all. (Apart from the safety pins inside to help pin my dupatta on my dresses every morning!)
One of the main reasons we decided to take Master Z at this age is because he can communicate with words, and that comes in very handy when your little one is ill. We had one tough night early on with Master Z where he had a temperature and would not stop shivering. He told us he was cold and with the help of Mr Z and my mother, we managed to warm him up with plenty of hugs and blankets, and entertained him for a couple of hours with toys and food at about 2 am in the morning. That was the only scare we really had, and from then on it was just a case of tending to his cough with home remedies such as warm honey water and constantly wiping his runny nose. I count myself pretty blessed because I know it could have been much worse, for example stomach upset, diarrhea or even trips to the doctor. Thankfully, my body held up pretty well too apart from the cough and cold, even upon consuming copious amounts of street food! *Pat on the back to self* My husband’s stomach on the other hand didn’t do so well. (Wimp! Teehee!)
To combat mosquitoes, my mother lit mosquito repellent sticks in all the rooms and we ensured all windows and doors were shut tight as the sun set. Mumbai itself does not have any mosquitoes but there were a few in Sanjan, yet I came prepared with Para’Kito Mosquito Repellant Wristband and religiously applied the Chicco Anti-Mosquito Gel all over Master Z every night. He came out of this trip with only about three tiny bites on his face, which have dissapeared since, so I was pretty happy! I also ensured he wore long sleeves and trousers to expose as little skin as possible!
It was such a blessing to have so many helping hands but also to be able to spend lots of quality time with the family, even if my brother and husband did complain that we spent three hours shopping in only one store. The bond between Master Z and his uncle and grandparents grew tenfold, and he now has a million more memories of them now that we are back in Dubai that he constantly talks about.
It was also an interesting experience to visit relatives that I had not seen in the last ten years, and looked similar to that in my memory but older and greyer. Some of whom I still have vivid memories of had passed away during this time, and some were now mature adults with their own children. Many homes were the same, and others completely renovated. Driveways now where before there was only rubble, and in some cases, homes that were once palaces now gradually turning to dust. All in all, it was quite an emotional experience.
Master Z’s highlight of the trip was being inside a Zoo for the duration of the trip, because though there were no lions and polar bears, there were plenty of chickens, goats, cows, bulls, stray dogs and cats to keep him entertained from morning till night. He much preferred to be outdoors the entire time, chasing and
stroking pinching them whenever he got the chance. (Yes, I santized him like crazy once he was back indoors being the OCD freak that I am!) He would wake up every morning and ask my mother to take him outside to chase the neighbour’s chickens that made that awfully loud Cock-a-doodle-doo noise, and only after that would he have his breakfast! Riding the horse and camel on the beach of Dahanu was another highlight for him. He couldn’t give a wider smile if he wished when he was sitting on them!
Oh how I love Rickshaws. Having the wind run through your hair (or hijab in my case) as you hold on to your dear life whilst jumping over pot holes and race through the narrowest of streets, almost missing the cow walking across. Similarly, riding the motorbike on the roads of Dahanu with my husband gave the very same adrenaline junkie feeling that I was getting rather addicted to! Trains are another MUST when visiting India, and is it just me or is the sound of the train cackling through the rail roads not the ultimate soundtrack? Yes, listening to Dil Se’s Chaiyya Chaiyya song throughout my childhood may have something to do with this. Of course, I was having a minor stroke as my mother held Master Z, next to the OPEN train door, waving goodbye to the station as it dissapeared out of sight. But that’s just the way Indians travel, and as berserk as it sounds, it’s insanely amazing and exhilarating at the same time. Open roof cars just do not compare!
Let’s face it. This is the only reason I actually visited India. The country is renowned for their street food, and very rightly so. To be honest, I wasn’t a great fan of the restaurants there because even as I asked for the least spicy dish on the menu, my nose would be running after the first bite. Guaranteed. Of course, it is not their fault, it is just that my tongue is not accustomed to the Indian palette. However, when it came to street food, I could not stop ordering plates upon plates of them! Khaman, Dhokla, Khandvi, Sev Puri, Dhai Puri, Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Pau Bhaji…You name it, I ate it.
Seasonal fruit is another peak of visits to India, because there is one in particular that I have been craving for for the last ten years, if not more. I specifically remember that during one trip when I visited India with my family, at the occasion of my baby brother’s first birthday, my grandmother would get us Gajra (Flowers) for our hair and Taar Gilli from the local market for breakfast every single morning. This act of my grandmother is why I think back of India so fondly. For those of you that are not aware, Taar Gilli (or Tadgola/Ice Apple/Palm Fruit, as it is also known) is the juiciest fruit and tastes oh-so-delicious. Imagine lychees but sweeter, the size of your palm, and with no pit in the middle to remove. So anyway, these were very much in season during our trip last month and I enjoyed about ten in one go! Along with Gilli, I also enjoyed Figs, Singota (Water Chestnuts) and Ubadyu (Pot roasted Beans), all of which are finger licking good!
Mumbai Meri Jaan
For the last four days of our trip, myself, Mr Z and Master Z travelled back to Mumbai where we spent the duration of our time staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Indians will very well know that the Taj Hotel is the crown of Mumbai, one of those must-take-a-photo-at destinations, and I was very grateful indeed for being able to actually stay inside the hotel. I will dedicate a post especially for the Taj, with plenty of photos, because it was an amazing experience and I would not be able to justify it in this one paragraph.
When are we going to return?
Leaving India, I had very mixed thoughts going around my head. I could not wait to be back in the comfort of my own home and city that is Dubai. At the same time, I would definitely miss the adventures that we had along the way with my family. I could go on and on about all the other things we experienced in India, but we would be here for hours.
Do I see myself living in India? Of course, not. I think I am far too fragile for the life of India. Would I visit again? Absolutely, yes. This trip has given me the confidence to be able to go again, and not let ten years pass by before I step foot on the motherland. Being back in Dubai, I already miss the hustle and bustle of India. The organised chaos. The wildlife and lush greenery. The smells. The food. Even the annoying Cock-a-doodle-doo at the crack of dawn! There are some equally annoying things that I can’t get my head around, but there are also many beautiful things that have made me appreciate my life and given me so many more reasons to be thankful for.
India, like all homes, you have good and bad within you. But you are mine and I am yours. You are the reason I wear Shalwar Kameez and know all the lines of Aamir Khan’s Lagaan. You are also the reason I take pride in my heritage, my culture. You are what started me, even before the memories I hold of family homes that now fall to the floor. You are where I began, and for that I am indebted to you. Thankful to you. Humbled by you. Till we meet again…Jai Hind and more to the point Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.
Note: This post contains some affiliate links.