By Rajbinder Grewal
“Raj, I had a dream last week,” said my 84-year-old father-in-law. “I dreamt that I went to India with my granddaughters.” Gulp. There it was – the guilt trip. My husband and I knew that one day, we would like to take our three girls to visit the homeland of their grandparents. We wanted to take them, really, we did. After all, we both had spent many summers visiting India with our own families. It was just that the beaches in Maui beckoned to us more than the farmlands of our parents’ pinds. I had my reservations; lots of them actually. But faced with the unintentional guilt of my father in-law’s dream, it felt as good a time as any to take that trip.
So why I was hesitant (ok, completely terrified) about taking my kids to India? Here’s how I broke down my fears:
- Fear: The journey – No parent looks forward to spending 14 hours on a moving vehicle up above the clouds with three kids in tow. How would the kids do on the longest flight they’ve ever taken? How would I do on that flight?
- Truth: A direct flight from Toronto to New Delhi, and carefully packing our carry on, made the journey actually manageable. We arrived caught up on every movie from the last six months and exhausted. By the time we got to our hotel, it was bedtime (Indian time), so we collapsed into bed. This actually helped us get over our jet lag somewhat easily.
- Fear: Illness – When I think of India, I always think of the numerous tummy problems I’ve had when I’ve been. Illness on vacation is never a fun thing, and with so many of us travelling, it increased the chances of someone not feeling well.
- Truth: After visiting a travel doctor here and making sure we were all up to date with our vaccinations. I made sure we were prepared and fully stocked with all over-the-counter medications that we might need. Everyone also all followed the tips about eating fruits and veggies that were cooked and drinking only bottled water. Thankfully – everyone remained healthy.
- Fear: Planning – I love my in-laws, really and truly I do. I know that they love me, we have a good relationship and they are very involved in my children’s lives. But to travel with them? Now that would be a first. I knew what I wanted to see, and where I wanted to take my children and what kind of trip we wanted it to be. But I also knew my in-laws would have their own ideas of how they wanted this trip to go with their grandchildren. The biggest challenge would be to figure out how to make us all happy. Easy, right?
- Truth: The internet can be a great thing! Booking flights and hotels was easy, getting our visas was a little tedious, and finding the right itinerary so that everyone got to see and do what they wanted was definitely the most challenging. But after an open chat with my in-laws, where we shared what we wanted to see and do (with them), and heard what they hoped to show their grandchildren, we were able to come up with an itinerary that made everyone happy. A shared itinerary that everyone had a say in, also made for happy travellers. Cutting down from seeing 3,287 gurdwaras (ok I’m exaggerating) to just 5 meant that my in-laws had to compromise. Staying a few nights in their village with relatives I didn’t know instead of a hotel meant that I had to compromise. Giving into the important things that my in-laws wanted to share with us wasn’t much of a compromise in the end because it turned out to be special for all of us.
The verdict? Success! Our time in India was above all a healthy and happy one for each member of our family. Having flexibility in our plans, as well as our expectations, meant that we were able to have a little of everything. We lived like locals in the pind and we toured the big cities like tourists. We slept on manji’s batting away flies but also indulged in room service in five-star hotels.
My husband and I checked off some bucket list items of our own, such as staying in a real-life palace in the middle of a lake in Udaipur. The grandparents got to show their grandchildren their own childhood homes and share stories of growing up there. Our children still got to swim in hotel pools (the highlight for every kid!) and take in the splendour and chaos of India. And that guilt I had felt? Well, let’s just say it’s moved on to other areas of my parenting life!
About Rajbinder Kaur Grewal
Born in Toronto, raised in the ‘burbs which is where Raj lives with her husband and three daughters, and labradodle pup Bear. A former teacher and now stay at home mom, Raj’s time is filled with shuffling her girls to hockey practices, and writing for her travel and lifestyle blog www.thismamaneedsavacay.com. Follow her on twitter @thisvacay, and instagram @thismamneedsaavacay, Facebook and on Pinterest where she tries to keep afloat the social media world while wanderlusting about her next dream trip
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