So the long-dreaded trip to India happened. 15 days with the kids in our hometowns-which-we-inevitably-fall-sick-in, no helpers. It’s boot camp, weight loss included.

I went into this trip fully expecting nothing but the worst, and with a great deal of angst because somehow V had landed up with eight-and-a-half days in Bangalore and I had got six-and-a-half-days in Bombay. V pointed out that I had agreed to this, and I had, but I had got confused somewhere down the line and tired of fighting. And I hadn’t realised the disparity because I have problems counting.

Anyway, we made it to our flight in the nick of time because we waited for our helpers to check into their flight to the Philippines and then only had time to say rushed goodbyes in the immigration queue which made me kinda sad. The flight was not great since Mimi slept really fitfully and I didn’t get a wink of sleep so I was exhausted when we got into Bombay. The kids slept for about three hours at home and then woke up.

Something about the slight chill in the air, and some newfound josh in me, plus the racket the kids were making which threatened to wake everyone up at 5.30 am and I decided to take them for a walk. So we set out down the deserted streets, confident that at least A1 Bakery would be open. First, we had chai on the street while the kids ogled auto rickshaws. Then we bought buns from the bakery and ate them. Then, we got into an autorickshaw and went to Bandstand. Within 10 minutes, the kids said they wanted to go back home. Nothing personal, I think the strangeness of everything was getting to them and they needed the comfort of another auto ride.

My sister, bro-in-law and niece were also at home, and it was awesome how the three kids got along. Well, Benji and Sibear who are the same age teamed up, and sad to say, quite often cast Mimi in the role of monster or person to be run away from. Nevertheless, they all had fun. There is a wall between the living room and kitchen in my parents’ house which is irresistible to kids. Mine were no exception and they would run around that wall screaming, until my grandmother who is 101 could bear it no longer and we had to ask them to stop. The other big draw, especially for Benji, was the piano, which he wanted to bang on all the time. Frankly, I think the noise and chaos got to my father who was probably cursing himself for taking leave during that period. The entire house was a mess and the kids wanted to touch everything.

Benji had had a cold just before we down, which Mimi caught from him the day we were leaving. I took her to the doc the day we arrived and started her on antibiotics so she was recovering well, but then I fell sick. I had a proper sinus infection and fever on Christmas. Clearly, I now cannot survive the air in my own hometown.

Nevertheless, I felt that at least since the kids were having fun the holiday was worth it. Like our previous trips, they were not in the pink of health. But unlike our previous trips, they took to local time and slept well at night, ate decently (since we stuck to familiar and simple foods that they liked, even if not entirely nutritious), were excited to experience new things (maybe too excited because they were quite riotous at times) and fairly good with new people, which surprised me. I was in Bombay for five days, the first of which I spend recovering from our flight, so I had exactly four days to do anything. I realised that it was a tight squeeze meeting just my immediate family. I made it a point to go to my cousins’ homes and though I did so by doubling down on paracetamol, it was nice to see my kids play with their older second cousins and get to know my cousins. We did one dinner out – it took us 45 minutes to get from Bandra to Khar – and I was fairly stressed out as the kids are not beautifully restaurant trained.

Christmas at my parents’ place was pretty low key. My mum refuses to go to anyone’s house and is too tired to invite anyone to hers because of my grandmother. So it was just us at home, which in a way made it a good thing that I insisted on Christmas in Bombay. There was a hodgepodge of food, none of which I really liked, but I was sick so it didn’t matter. Being in Bombay for Christmas, the kids got more prezzies than we knew what to do with. While I am one of those rare NRI visitors who actually wants to take the toys back home because we rarely buy toys here ourselves and our kids’ toy box is almost entirely composed of gifts, this time my sister had brought a suitcasefull of clothes for Mimi and I wondered how we would fit it all in to take back.

On Christmas Day, my sis lost it on the niece who was howling in the room. According to me and my mum, the reason wasn’t good enough for the punishment. I went in to console the niece and got snapped at by sister for undermining her. I totally understand her sentiment, and yet, it made me wonder about that special love for nieces, that makes one do the unprincipled thing.

I also had a fight with my mum because I said I was too ill to go shopping for Christmas gifts for the kids with her. My mom is super-tired all the time looking after my grandmother and has a short temper these days. The added stress of the load of us in the house was getting to her, but nevertheless, she was unduly snappy. Watching my parents interact, gave me some insight into my own marriage and it was not pretty.

I managed to squeeze in coffee with a friend who had kind of drifted off. I was pleasantly surprised that she made time and we could talk about things that mattered. It was too short and I don’t have high expectations of that relationship, but maybe a sliver of hope. Another friend didn’t make it, and I feel a tad annoyed that she didn’t bother to try to set up another meeting, and maybe she felt the same. Perhaps I’m mellowing that I don’t feel strongly about these things anymore.

We left for Bangalore all too soon, Sibear was really disappointed and I definitely think at least another day would be in order. And of course, I don’t generally cherish my time in Bangalore with the in-laws who I’ve grown more wary off as time goes by.

I’m happy to report that time with the in-laws was smooth. Maybe because I have no expectations, and also because I have justified my existence by having not one but two kids, one of which is male, and I naturally have my hands full with them, I floated through my time there. My mother-in-law’s knee is bad and I felt sorry for her and helped around the house a lot – including sweeping the whole house even when I had a bad cold and washing up the entirety of dishes after a big lunch since her maid didn’t come (I do suspect though that the more one does these things, the more people expect, including unnecessary stuff like sweeping for a second time). I have also gone beyond considering my sisters-in-law close friends and so do not get embroiled in any controversies. I noticed my older sister-in-law was kind of distant but I guess she had the flu (as did I) and the younger one who had pissed me off on FB was her usual nice self, barring one annoying comment, so overall things went well.

The kids had a great time in Bangalore as well. They had two cousins there too, though dare I say that Benji enjoyed playing with Sibear a tad more. My tail Lala has turned into a little lady of eight. It is unbelievable how grown up and poised and dreamy she is, so much so that I struggle to figure out what to talk to her about even though she still lingers around me. Much less though, she is very much someone who can turn inward. Maybe that’s why we gravitated to each other, kindred souls. Her younger sister Ann is Benji’s age, and the complete opposite on Lala in personality. The only way to describe her is firecracker. I got to know her better this trip, because on our previous trips both the kids were too young for me to bond properly with her. I’m the only one who finds her mellowed out.

If Bombay was about auto rides, Bangalore was about cars. After much resistance, I finally caved and we did a seven-hour (that turned into over 10-hour) drive to Kerala and back for a cousin’s wedding. By that time, I was feeling physically better, but V was unwell. Unfortunately, when we reached Wayanad where the wedding was, I fell sick again. I’m glad we went for the wedding itself, because our presence was appreciated plus Mimi got to be a flower girl which she really enjoyed, but I really struggled to keep it together.

We left for Bombay again the next day, for the very last sliver of time there, one-and-a-half day to be exact. I landed and could feel myself collapsing physically. Luckily, the parents stepped in and entertained the kids.

I had reserved one evening for meeting friends, particularly Curly who had not been in town for the earlier leg I was in Bombay. We were to be around 9.30 and my plan was to put Mimi to bed and then go. Only Mimi refused to fall asleep. So finally, I handed her an iPad and left, leaving V to fend for himself with both the kids. Got to Bandra gym where we had decided to meet out of convenience to me and within about 20 minutes of Curly getting there, my mum called asking me to come back because Mimi had been crying since I left and had finally vomited. I must admit I was kind of pissed because I had told V before our trip that he should get some experience with Mimi and he hadn’t bothered, and all I had wanted the whole 15 days was this one night off. When I got home, as expected, Mimi was sleeping soundly and there wasn’t a peep from her the whole night. Both my mum and V told me separately that it had been my mum’s decision to call me and V had told her not to.

Anyway, when I saw Mimi, I melted. I had been her caregiver the entire trip and I did feel guilty about bailing on her. And then the next day, I fell properly sick, with fever and tummy upset and cold, and so it was a good thing I hadn’t had a late night.

Luckily, Curly dropped in for a while the next evening, for a short catch up that was interrupted by the arrival of V’s friend and his wife. I was really flagging by then and wondering how I would survive the flight.

We got a porter at the airport, which not only helps when you have two sleeping children to carry but also speeds up check-in through some quazi-legit process. We got seats together which was good, and Mimi fell asleep quickly though she refused to use the seat belt which resulted in multiple hostesses berating us. Then, I got my period and didn’t have a sanitary napkin and had to get one from the grumpy hostess manning our aisle. So in addition to cold, fever, tummy upset, I had period to cope with. Just before landing, Mimi woke up, took off her diaper, refused the seatbelt and caused drama again, finally, just as we landed started screaming for the toilet and started to pee on me. Once the plane landed and was taxiing slowly, I tried to get up to use the loo so I wasn’t wet and worse pooped on by Mimi and was again told off by the hostess. When I finally got to the loo, Mimi was completely wet and she had really wanted to poop, which she no longer does in diapers.

So yeah. Got home and pretty much collapsed. I had made an appointment for the next afternoon which I had to cancel because in addition to period, my stomach had turned to water. Fever had gone though and cold seems minimal. I’m hoping I can get over this without antibiotics.

Mimi, who was my limpet during the trip, has completely switched loyalties to our helper J. She jumped into her arms when the cab reached our building and has not looked at me since. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with email, I might have had a total meltdown. I’m surprised at how hurt I am. After a day, she seems to be at least coming to me for some things, and I got a kiss out of her, but generally it’s all “my tita this” and “my tita that”. Thank God, Benji is dividing his affections equally. So much for daughters. Hmph!

Overall, the trip was great for the kids. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves, basked in the new things and freedom and affection. For myself, I’m not sure. I didn’t get in much good conversation with my mum or sister, barely met my friends, especially Curly, didn’t shop at all, didn’t eat anything super special. I managed one Indian Chinese meal and a smidgeon of tandoori that might have pushed my tummy over the edge. For me, it was nice watching the kids have fun, but I think six days each would have been ideal. Two rounds of sickness is a tad too much.