We’ve just returned from India.
Two boys and one mama on tour. It made a great Instagram hashtag.
The teenager and the tween were excited about this adventure. Tween Two had been before, a couple of years ago we ventured to the northern desert region . An easy first step.
This trip we hit up Mumbai, Varanasi and Kolkata.
Arriving to the chaos feels like home to me. This is my tenth trip to India – some have been long and languid over many months and others have been quickies to enrich my soul during difficult times.
The boys have been lucky. They have travelled well over their short lives; births in London and New York, travelling Europe by car and train, and drop in holidays to Asia has given them an understanding of their place in the world and importantly how much we have compared to the have nots.
Arriving to the faecal smells of India hit the senses at 7am in the morning. The crammed taxi, the gridlock traffic. We bustle into the hotel for brief relief before we’re off again on the local trains to taste the food on the beach, the laneways and roadside.
We cycle early in the morning as Mumbai awakens to her daily routines. We gather the smells of the pavement dwellers and the cleanliness and order of the slums.
Flying into Varanasi gives us a new smell. The smell of burning wood for warmth and the offering of the family to the Ganga god underpins the taste of everything in this small rural location. The Ghats are busy with offerings amongst the closeness of the smog and pollution. It’s not how I remember it – long summer evenings sitting and thinking, a quiet calmness. That was in the 1990’s – Varanasi like me has grown up.
We check out a day early as we yearn the bustle of a city again. Kolkata doesn’t disappoint.
We walk the roads to Mother House to be part of the movement of volunteers. We spend time with the round milky babies and the wobbly children. We tickle, we laugh.
Early the next morning the boys drag tired bodies from the warmth of blankets to experience mass at Mother House, a volunteer breakfast of cha, bananas and bread before heading off on the local rocking bus to work in the one of the children’s homes.
The delight of the teenager and the tween as they spend time with young people who haven’t had the kick start to life is refreshing. They do laundry, play, teach, read and feed before tucking up into large cots for rest time.
Our metro ride back to the hotel is full of funny stories and laughter. The lightness of their world is wonderful.
We eat, we explore, we taste. The food has flavour, the conversations are rich and we discover new enchantments with each twist and turn.
My early morning solo run on our final day provides delights to the locals and some peace for me. I run to Mother House to listen to the singing. The doors are closed but the sweet voice of women, young and old, emerges above the traffic and the horns and floats down to me.
It’s this peace amongst the chaos that makes two boys and one mama on tour such a unique and wondrous adventure.
Jessica Purbrick-Herbst January 2018