Since my boss is being a pain about letting me have leave during Christmas in December, I decided to do our annual pilgrimage to India in October this year. Then we realised we had to be in Bangalore in December for my in-law’s golden wedding, so it became an Mumbai-only trip, with a very short stint in Bangalore.
Unfortunately, I came down with a stomach problem that has still not been resolved, even if it is more manageable now. I was really nervous about falling ill, because V wasn’t going to be in Mumbai with me to pitch in with the kids. Depressingly, I had to resolve to eat very carefully, which takes away a large part of the fun of going to India at all.
We are now seriously looking at schools in Bangalore (if any of you have suggestions, do tell) and had to make a short trip there for two entrance tests. I was not optimistic about these given that my kids do not have exams at school and we had no idea how to help them prepare. One of the schools didn’t have space anyway, but the other ridiculously gave them an end of year test when they are only a couple of months into this school year. So that situation is in limbo.
I did get more sold on the idea of moving to India – mainly the prospect of family (more for the kids than me), bigger houses and being closer to, if unfortunately not in the same city as, my parents whose health has declined.
The Bombay trip was as good as it could be. I now only have one close friend in the city, but we only managed to meet for a very early morning coffee. I did not eat out at all, save for a sandwich at the Taj (more on that later) and some dumplings that had been ordered in.
Because V wasn’t around to chauffeur us, I didn’t take the kids out as much as we might otherwise have. We visited our neighbourhood and fed kittens, made a trip to Juhu beach that has become an annual highlight (in which I let the kids play in the water, something I think people living in Bombay refuse to do), walked down our local shopping street and did a drive into town that I have been wanting to do for a while.
We had watched a documentary on the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and since then Nene has been fascinated with it. I also thought it might be worth seeing the Gateway of India, and “town” in general, so I planned to have a bite at the Taj cafe. Unfortunately, Nene behaved like a brat in the cafe, insisting that he wanted his own plate of pasta while I tried to convince him to share with Mimi, and I had to give him a talking to, which rather spoiled the mood. And then, we had to rush out of the Gateway area due to rain.
But I did enjoy the rather nostalgic drive through town, past the route I used to take to college, even if my children were not similarly enthused.
My mum organised a dinner for close family so I could meet them all in one place though my cousins from my mum’s side were out of town.
The most fulfilling thing about the trip was that, because we were housebound a lot, the kids spent a lot of time with parents, especially my dad who seems able to relate to them better now that they are older. There was a lot of TV watching, but my dad who has either the news or sports on every waking hour, at least makes it interactive. So, on day one, they were all poised on the couch for the counting of Maharashtra poll votes, and ready to support grandpa in his aspirations for his (unfortunately losing, but you wouldn’t know it to hear him) team. They are now aware of the BJP and the Congress party, and possible merits of kabadi.
The sad thing was that literally zero kids were seen playing in our building’s very generous playground. I had to take Nene down myself and bowl to him every day. It seems more kids congregate downstairs in our estate in Hong Kong.
I must say flying without V was rather peaceful. It meant I had to be in charge of all documents but it also meant that I could set the agenda without secondguessing myself. And if that meant each child chose to buy food from a different outlet, so be it.
On the flight back, we travelled premium economy on Cathay Pacific, and it was really good. There has been some debate on the merits of premium economy with kids because the handrests do not move, which means the kids cannot lie across. However, with kids my age, the wider seats and the leg rests that come up worked well, and I could sleep without having two little people sprawled over me.
The other advantages are that the food service starts from that section first and you also disembark right after business class (and so do have to contend with the annoying people who jump up and form a tight queue).
So that was that. I survived, we had some good times and unfortunately some tears.
We got back and I basically crashed the entire morning, rousing myself only to go out Halloween shopping with the kids. That evening some parents had planned a trick or treat route, and I followed twenty candy-filled screaming children down numerous corridors. There was a barbeque after that I didn’t plan to join as I thought the kids wouldn’t be up to it and also because I wasn’t sure I wanted to socialise with sundry parents, over hot flames, but I ended up hanging out there a bit, and it seemed like it would have be nice.
It also struck me that we do have a community in Hong Kong, at least the kids do, and this could be expanded, and so Halloween in Hong Kong dispered the ghosts of my India longing.