We just returned from a 10 day long trip to Chandigarh and then to Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. The former was to attend a Punjbai wedding- the wedding of the brother of a close friend of mine from NJ. The latter was to experience, destress ourselves in the midst of nature. Both the trips went very well and as a mother my parameter of the success of any trip depends on how much my girls enjoyed the same. This one in that sense was simply outstanding. It was the most relaxing and interesting trip for all of us. I could sense it from Chellu's behavior. It was simply par excellence. She seemed to be in her own world..I could hardly even feel her presence. Of course a great part of this is also because her father had returned back from the US just a few days prior to taking the trip. Like all kids she adores her dad. He is her hero ..her mother is the person who is always there but her father is that extra special something. Since a very small age she has enjoyed Shankar's company alone. The first time she went away with him (to Connecticut)for 4 full days was when she only 2.6 yrs ..she never asked for me even once!! It was the same in this trip too..though I was physically present with her this time she didnt seem to acknowledge it..for every need she went to her dad. Of course I was thrilled!!! :)))
The kids enjoyed both the trips..it provided them with amazing diversity of experience. The Chandigarh trip gave them a taste of different people, of a very differently celebrated wedding , of a different type of cuisine, of a completely new city, of a different language,of the close interactions of two families, of enjoying a cute little baby, of all the dressing up and the general parapharnelia around a wedding . When we stepped in Radhika's ( my friend) house the girls were awestruck with the sangeet that was going on. Chellu immediately planted herself next to the dholak and one could see that her hands were itching to play it. After waiting for a long time she finally asked the lady if she could play and took over. She experimented with it- tried playing with her hands and the spoon...
A lot of things happening before and during the actual wedding was so new to the girls that many a times I caught them just standing and staring. The making of the rotis in the tandoor, the horse during the baraat, the dulha on the horse ( and everything about the baraat!!), the energetic dancing during the sangeet night , the beautifully dressed bride , the rituals during the shagun ...everything seemed to captivate them. They never complained even once during the wedding that they were bored even though there were literally no kids around. Except for Radhika's own nephews who were in their own world. Only on the day after the wedding during the games that the newly married couple play that I saw the nephews and my girls playing together! But before that it seemed like these 4 children who were the only ones in the wedding were in their own world. But Chellu and Kunju did enjoy immensely the company of Radhika's 7 month old baby- Chaarvi. Chaarvi is the cutest little thing and the girls couldn't keep away from her. Especially kunju- she would get up in the morning and ask first thing if Chaarvi too had got up?
We were put up at a neighbor's house next to the wedding house between which was a huge lawn. The girls loved running to & fro between the houses. Everytime I needed something the girls would volunteer to go themselves and ask for it from Radhika's house. After 2 days or so of being in Chandigarh we could detect a Punjabi accent in Chellu's hindi! She had apparently struck a conversation with the guy who made the tandoori roti enquiring about the process!
The most often asked question about HSing is on socialization..I frankly feel that HSing is where true socialization happens when children interact with all sorts of people all the time. We have been to so many places and have interacted closely with a lot of very diverse set of people- higher middle class, rich class, lower middle class, poor poeple, people speaking various languages, elders, teenagers, babies etc..and I've never seen my children getting bored. Like the Chandigarh vacation there might not even be any children around but they never complain. They don't whine for the lack of playgrounds or TV or children or toys or anything that is generally a given in a child's life. Like in Chandigarh all they need is some mud,stones, lots of free space to run around, loving elders, enthusiasm in the air and they proceed to have a blast!!!
Most mornings I have caught the girls playing by themselves alternating between mud play, running around, stopping for brief intervals at the wedding house, playing with Chaarvi and fooling around with Shankar. The singing in the Sangeet with the dholak never failed to captivate them and they would immediately plant themselves in the midst of all the ladies. They never bothered me for anything !! It felt so different..they ignored my very presence!!! ;))
I think the wedding gave them an entirely new world to experience and that kept them very very busy mentally and physically. They even took a new liking to parathas for breakfast!During the Shagun chellu figured out the wide array of starters being served and kept going herself to the servers to ask for more. She also became the "go to" person for her sister to pick the starter of choice. I was watching them from a distance and could hear conversations of the sisters discussing about the starters .." this is paneer, that is too spicy , this one has yogurt etc". In my moments of brief absence they managed to serve each other lots of cold drinks too!!!
Chellu developed a new hobby during the wedding- Photography!! It started when Shankar & I were dancing like crazy during the Sangeet ceremony..She danced with us briefly then asked if she could photograph us. I guess she has never seen both her parents dance like this before!!! Shankar gave her the camera and then nothing could stop her. While viewing through the photos later on I realized that apart from a few photos of us the majority of the photos she had taken were of still objects...the chair, the light, someone's design on a dress, the pole of the tent etc...Things that would never capture an adult's imagination!! For adults it would seem like rubbish but I was quite intrigued by what is it about these still objects that caught her attention..this trend continued in the Corbett Park too..I have never asked her why yet. But I'm amazed at the fact that such little things could intrigue a child. As adults we need big, happening stuff to justify our attention and interest but here was my child taking such a keen interest in the most mundane things. A huge wedding was happening around her and she chose to capture the stillness in it..I am always inspired by my children..I learn so much from them..I feel so humbled. They see the extraordinary in the ordinary, the "wow" in the most simple things, they take in the present for what it is never demanding for extra-special stuff ! In the book " Buddhism for Mothers" the author writes that our children are actually our spiritual zen masters housed in small bodies.I couldn't agree more!!! :)))
Overall the Chandigarh trip gave them a taste of a very different culture and they lapped it up with great enthusiasm. This is indeed the beauty of this country. Everytime you cross a border you see and feel something very different. The entire experience was very rich for all of us. I love going to new places. And this time I truly experienced the warmth of Indian culture. Many of us in the US constantly question whether there is any Indian culture left at all in India. We have personally never doubted this but experienced it too.. Indian culture lies in the fact that :
1. The neighbor of the groom’s family agrees to host an unknown guest for 5 days!!
2. From the moment we step in the house of our host it feels like we know them for ages. We talk for hours together exchanging all sorts of information about our respective families. The aunty and uncle at whose house we were put up kept telling that it is God who connects us all. They have been always wishing to know a South Indian family very closely and their wish was finally granted! They made us feel so much at home. We were planning to move out and check in a hotel once the wedding was over but the hosts refused to let us go. They told us that we will stay in their house till we left from Chandigarh. Aunty forced us to eat dinner and breakfast in their house even though arrangements were already made in the wedding house. She kept saying” Ek baar tho hamare gar mein kana hi padega..”. They helped us in every sense taking a keen interest in everything we did. They made phone- calls for us , gave us tips on sight-seeing, participated in making plans for travel to the next destination etc…We didn’t feel like guests but rather like part of their own family.
3. The wedding host and thier neighbor fight over whose hosting the guests. Both of them want to and will not let go of their guests.
4. Radhika’s parents inspite of being dead tired from the wedding invited us to dinner the day before we left. It was very late and aunty seemed very very tired. But they prepared a such south-indian dinner for us and sat with us till 1.00am.
As a HSing family Shankar & I see these events not just as a vacation or a wedding or a trip but as huge learning experiences. I am certain that my children learned a lot ..just the fact that they were exposed to a totally different environment , a totally different culture was such a precious learning experience. My heart regaled at the fact that they my children were being soaked in the goodness of the Indian culture. Its warmth, love, hospitality and colorfullness thats hard to experience anywhere else. And I could see it from their behavior that their brains & senses were fully engaged in every detail of what was going on around them. This is true learning!