Monday, June 2, 2014

The case to GO to India


Recently I wrote a blog post about my uncertainty to travel all the way to India with a toddler, for an upcoming wedding. My main concerns were the cost and the 18 hour flight with a young child.

As an insane mother, I like to consider a full spectrum of factors before I do anything, especially with my daughter. Because if my daughter's not happy, I get freaked out. After becoming an overwhelmed, constantly stressed out mother, I am hesitant to go outside my parental comfort zone. I like her to eat timely, sleep timely, take her to parks...to make MY life easier. I like to be able to anticipate her tantrums and be readily prepared for them. Although I have my own personal yearnings to return to India, as a new parent it is totally out of my comfort zone. I can't predict how many meltdowns she (and me!) could possibly have.

I got a lot of input from readers who were in favour of it - saying that it is easier to travel while the kids are young, "go if you can afford it", and that traveling long-distances is "one of the necessary costs of being in an intercultural marriage". I also heard from readers who advised against it, saying that "it may be too exhausting for Maya", "put the money into savings", and that my Indian relatives "would have no time for me" since they will be busy with the wedding.

All of the above are true. 

So, I consulted dear husband-ji, who said, "We will go if we can afford it. Simple, da!"

Ahem, what a dad.... 

I said, "Maddy, there are SO many other factors to think about. Like the fact that we don't know how Maya will handle it. And what about all your relatives who have never visited us here?!" And then he went in to this long rant about how his relatives do not have the money to visit us here, in which I had to remind him that the many of his relatives are dripping in gold and that maybe they just don't prioritize traveling like we do. Cue the argument. Then we get into a heated discussion about how traveling is looked at differently in our cultures - for us, it is a necessity; for them, it is seen as an unnecessary luxury. 

The last time husband-ji went to India for thatha's funeral, he was extremely stressed and he came back saying that he "was finished with India". So I was under the impression he still felt the same and that there was no reason to rush back. Fast-forward a few months - to present day - after things have cooled down after thatha's passing...and now husband-ji says that he is not finished with India, and "never will be".

He explains to me that it is his home country, and even if he has no relatives left that he will still want to go so that he can have a connection with the culture. And that Maya should have that connection also. And that it doesn't matter who visits/does not visit us here - that we are going for our own reasons and for our own holiday. "That's how we should be," he said. "We should do things that WE want to do, and not because we are expecting something in return." Hearing all of that, I felt like a total asshole...

Because we are living in my hometown, I don't get homesick. My family is here 24/7. We go to restaurants that I have been to my whole life. Sometimes I forget that husband-ji is a transplant, and that he is thousands of miles away from his family and his home country. Even though he has adjusted, it is still not his home. He has made a life for himself here, but every day I think he wishes he could go to the corner idly shop in Hyderabad for breakfast. There are very few South Indians here, and you can't get a proper Sambhar to save your life. He is struggling to teach Maya Tamil, with no one here for him to converse with in his native tongue. Maya calls him "Daddy" instead of "Appa". She knows more words in Italian and Mandarin, than she does in Tamil. 

As much as I overcompensate by making the efforts to do things like cook his favorite foods, play Vishnu Sahasranama, and celebrate South Indian holidays, it is just not the same...in a sense, he may always be homesick, and I need to be more sensitive to that.

Another factor is that I have just heard from my MIL who is saying that she will not be visiting Canada this year, and I am starting to miss her A LOT. She will only be visiting us here next Spring - and I can hardly wait until then to spend some one-on-one time with her. She will be in India for months, for the wedding - so that is reason enough for me to go.

As usual, I consulted my trusted Firangi Bahu's. I asked one of my friends who has been to India with her kids at almost every age and raised my concerns. She said, "it is actually easier to take the kids before they are in school year-round". And then she shared with me a photo album of her trip - when her kids were Maya's age. And I just melted. I was sold on the second picture. To see the kids with all the relatives and the extended family was so heart-warming. And I just wanted to take Maya so badly. Forget about the flight, the jet lag, the cost....seeing her bond with family is priceless.....

I realized that life is short (DUH!!I realized that Maya should go to her father's country at EVERY stage, and at every age - to bond with family, to experience life there, and to get used to traveling. India is her country too - and I only need to look at her birthmark on her forehead that is the shape of India - to tell me that...


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27 comments

  1. I agree it is easier to travel when they are young, so go for it. As for trying to anticipate her tantrums. My advice is to relax and go with the flow, you NEVER will anticipate them all, nor will you prevent some to happen, tantrums throwing are part of a toddler's job, they have to throw some to know how far they can go boundary wise. Prepare yourself to handle them and have a tantrum coping plan ready. Maya is about to hit the terrible twos, and from experience age 3 and 4 aren't any smoother :-) travelling with a 4 and a few aged kiddo last November to Thailand, I can tell you there were crazy moments :-)

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    1. That is so true about anticipating the tantrums. We recently took her to Italy and she did great on the flight, thanks to cartoons! When she has her tantrums it stresses me out to no end! LOL
      I need to re-read my parenting book on tantrums, I just read it a few months ago and now I have forgotten it again! It's called "Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Harvey Karp

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    2. Dear Alexandra, your posts about Venice were very sweet. I guess by now you feel less anxious about long flights with your daughter. She seems to be a happy, healthy and relaxed child, I'm sure she can cope with a trip to India... We are thinking of taking our 5 months kiddo there. Take care. Huggs. Padparadsha.

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    3. Thanks Padparadsha! OMG I can't believe your baby is already 5 months, how time flies! I remember when you were pregnant, seems like yesterday! Is it a boy/girl?
      Definitely less anxious about the flights, she is totally ready for India! Another adventure this year!

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  2. I am sure you will have great time there. My brother and SIL are in Nepal right now with my 2 year told nephew and they are loving it. have fun :)

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    1. I think I have had to change my perspective, I have to look at it as fun! After we get over the jet lag, it will be such a joy to see her enjoying time with relatives.

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  3. @Alexandra

    I am often overwhelmed by your love and respect for your husband and inlaws. Your post on thatha was so wonderful. Your attempts at keeping your husband from not feeling home sick is wonderful.

    About your relatives not coming, I can understand. The cost of international travel, even if your dripping in gold, is quiet something. Then, there is also tradition. Indians in the olden days only travelled to relatives or perhaps to pilgrimage places. Travelling for fun was unthinkable because it was expensive. Most of the summer holidays of Indians of my generation were spend at their maternal/paternal grand parents place. Government servants got some concessions from Government to travel to their native places if they worked outside. Railway employees got free passes to travel all over the country. Apart from them travelling was expensive for all others. Now, with increased incomes, people are travelling not only to different places in India but also outside. Basically, Indians are not the travelling type.

    Nowdays, you have skype, face book and all other means of communications. Distance is not a major issue. You just have to keep relationships alive through constanct interactions. We are all guilty of not maintaining relationships while living in the same country.

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    1. My hubby's family is like that too, very few travel, or if they do then they do pilgrimage. Even some NRI cousins in the USA, my FIL offered to pay for them to come up here and visit and they declined. My FIL loves to travel so he feels it is a waste to live abroad, yet so close, and not at least try to travel around. I think it is a different mentality.
      One thing I would like to carry on to our kids is a love for travel.

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  4. My husband always, always, always complains about India and tells everyone it is sh*t and he would never live there in a million years - but he has told me many times he wants our future children to travel there regularly while they are young so that they feel connected to their Indian side and family over there. I think this is a good idea and it will be good for Maya. My dad was born in Mexico, but I have only been twice. When I was 12 my parents wanted me to go stay with an uncle for the summer and work on my spanish speaking (my dad never taught my two brothers or I how to speak), and I cried so much that my dad changed his mind. I have never felt a connection to Mexico or like I belong there, so that is a shame. I also see this in my brother-in-law's kids who have only been to India 2-3 times in the last 15 years. They think India is boring and don't like visiting. Maya is lucky to be connected to two cultures and it will only benefit her to feel this connection to both sides. :)

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    1. Thank you for sharing...I think it is so important too. At first I was like, well she's only 2.5 and what is the point if she won't remember? But then I realized that the point is for HIS family to bond with her AND for us to have a nice family vacation. Plus, if I keep putting it off, I feel we will never make it if I keep making excuses, because the more kids we will have, the more costly it will be!

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  5. Alex,

    So glad you all have decided to go to India if funds are available. You are so respectful to your husband and inlaws. I think your Mother in Law would just love to see you even though you may not be able to visit much. Besides the wedding will be great and it will be a learning experience. The relatives will just love little Maya! She is getting a little older and probably not have any problems traveling.

    Hope all is well with you and husband-ji! You have a wonderful weekend!!!! P.S. I just went this past weekend to the movie to see, "Million Dollar Arm." GREAT MOVIE! A true story and very entertaining. Take your entire family to go see this movie you will like it.


    Melissa

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    1. OMG Melissa I want to see that movie! I have heard great things about it!
      She did so great on the recent 12hr flight to Europe....Maya's ready! :)

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  6. I love your husband's response. Let's go if we want to. Let's go if we have money. So simple! Sometimes, we over analyse things and think too much.

    I too need to visit India once in a while to get my regular dose of pani puri + chaat + meet friends + just be there, though wedding are not something I choose to attend :)

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    1. I know, right? Sometimes the simpler, the better. He says my mind is too active LOL.
      OMG I need a dose of super spicy roadside pav bhaji!
      Yesterday Maya was sick, and the only thing she wanted to eat was mango pickle and rice. Pakka Indian gal! She'll love the food there!

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  7. Its a hard choice to make and traveling that distance is so hard, but when shes older in school, goes to camp, gets into sports and has friends it will not be as harder to go. I know in the past you have talked about the fact there is not alot South Indians were you live and there is not a good Hindu Temple to attend, so I think its really important to get that experiences for her now. Who knows, life changes what if for some reason you cant go in the future would you regret not going. My suggestion is just control the trip dont let family stress you out, do what you want to do in India. Give your daughter memories to hold on for ever. Even at 4 months old my daughter enjoyed india and she still looks at pictures and remembers.

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    1. You are so right! Who knows what will happen in the future, if we have the chance we have to take it!

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  8. I've been reading your blog for a while but don't ever comment. However. Having traveled with our five-year-old since he was two and a half months and also being a mom who swears by the little one's schedule, I felt I have to share. My son has been to 18 countries and on 110 flights (we started counting!). Our strategy has always been to take flights that leave just before or soon into bedtime and are 8-10 hours long.

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    1. WOW....inspiration!!!!!!!! I have hope!

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  9. We request an empty middle row so the little one has a couple seats to lie down comfortably. When flying longer distances, we take a long connecting time and spend the day on the ground for him to use some energy, swim in the hotel pool, eat properly, and see something new and interesting. Then it's another night on the plane.

    The two of us get tired in between and take turns napping in the hotel, but he doesn't even realise he's been on a long flight!

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    1. Excellent, excellent tips...thank you so much!

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  10. It takes some adjustment for time differences, etc, but it's doable. We flew from the East Coast of America to the West Coast of Australia once and stopped in Seattle for one night, Honolulu for three nights, Fiji for five, and Melbourne for one before making it to Perth to meet his great grandparents! He was about a year old at the time. And yes, it does get more challenging as they get older.

    For Vancouver to India, I'd suggest Thai. Great hotels with amazing prices, fun things to see, and many veg restaurant options. Singapore airport is fun for kids, too. Let me know if you need any tips!

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    1. Great airline, I'd love to try. I bet the food is awesome!
      There was one flight option we were looking at Vancuver-Hong Kong-Hyderabad via Cathay Pacific.
      And another one was Seattle-Dubai-Hyderabad.
      Have you ever tried those two airlines? Great idea for a stop over. If there's a swimming pool hotel, she'd love that!

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  11. And sorry about the multiple postings; I've never commented on a blog and was having technical difficulties!

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  12. You've already changed your mind and I'm not saying this because I think you're a bad person. I think you're a very lovely person, wife, mom and DIL. But I just had to point out that it is a tad rude to notice people's jewelry when considering their ability to fly out to meet you.
    1. Traditionally gold has been given to women in lieu of property. It is their inheritance from their parents and meant to be their investment for their future in case of emergencies and unfortunate events. Couple this with the lack of education for many women and, till recently, an unreliable market, this is their only life support for their retirement should their children refuse to support them or their husbands die off or whatever else happens that they had not accounted for. Selling of gold is like a last option in dire circumstances kind of thing.
    2. Your husband and probably you too would be traveling there because he is connected to the whole country. Its a difference. They would consider their trip here as just to see you guys. They don't feel any connection to Canada because there isn't any. That changes the dynamics a lot.
    3. No one is looking into your retirement accounts and wondering why you don't liquidate them and use that money to travel more or give bigger gifts. It would be considered rude.
    All this to say that there is a different perspective to people having lots of gold and yet being unable/unwilling to spend lots of money on travel.
    And lastly, their invitations to you are meant as a way to welcome you. Indians consider it bigger to invite others to their homes than to travel to meet others. Its just a cultural thing. Besides you could never give them the same level of conveniences if they came here as they give you. It is hard for older Indians to travel to other countries because they feel very dependent on their hosts being unable to drive and finding distances very long and public transport hard to find or navigate.
    I'm just saying this because I felt the same way as you till I saw the other side. For me, my mom in law wouldn't come visit and I felt very bad. But once she came here, I could see how uncomfortable and out of her element she felt.

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    1. Interesting perspective...
      I think it is also a TAD rude to assume that when people choose to spend money on traveling, that certain people can go ahead and ask for costly electronics which cost as much as the flight ticket.
      It goes back to the fact that a lot of people think that traveling is an unnecessary luxury. Like they would rather hit certain financial milestones like buying house, car etc before seeing the world, and then whoops they're nearly dead and they've never seen anything.
      For us, I'd rather see the world and buy the properties later, because life's all about making memories. That doesn't mean we have loads of extra money to fling around.
      #2 - We often travel to places we have no connection with, for example we just got back from a trip to Italy. Why? Because my inlaws had never been there before. And also, why not? I have a whole list of places I'd like to travel to.
      I often invite family members to visit us and very few do. And I totally disagree with "the same level of conveniences" - I would absolutely cater to them as I cater to my inlaws. If they are coming to my country, then I am a representative of that, and I'd absolutely spend my days touring them around. The reason why I am so close to my MIL and she feels comfortable here, is because I am so caring of her and sensitive to her needs. I know what it is like to live in anther country that is way outside your comfort zone, only thing is at the time I had no help.

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  13. I see that you chose to not post my comment explaining why people dripping in gold might really still not be able to afford travel to Canada.
    I had tried my best to make my comment kind and not judgmental. I'm so sorry to learn that yet another blogger is more interested in a monologue than a dialogue. Including only people who agree with you and excluding comments that respectfully disagree with you does not constitute a dialogue. I feel like I'll be getting a one sided view from this blog too. I'm a little disappointed. Good luck.

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    1. Jesus. I was actually on a family vacation and did not receive your message(s) until I got home and logged into my blogger. You need to calm the f* down, for real.

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