Incredible India travel: Four museums, two roadtrips, and a wedding
With schools recently opened, pupils can count on one perennial topic for their first English composition of the new academic year: “What did you do last summer?” I always took this question to mean, “Which exotic destination did you visit during the long, languid days of the school break?” My own written narratives were either embellishments of bland facts or hastily cobbled-together fabrications. My family rarely went on vacation, a “deprivation” I had never resented, since I was born in 1970, when air travel was an exclusive privilege enjoyed mostly by the well-heeled, and hardly anyone in my extended family ever packed their bags for balmy nights on the beach or cool dewy mornings on a hill station. I have resolved to never have to make my son weave fantastic yarns about non-existent summer escapades, unless he is penning a work of fiction. And he has never had to, thanks to low-cost carriers and ties that bind across oceans.
My son spent his first four years in India, before we settled in the Philippines in 2010. Since then we have been summering in Chennai to visit the in-laws and encourage my son to stay in touch with his Indian roots. Prior to marriage, I had been to this incredibly beautiful sub-continent in 2002, as part of a group that trained new employees for the Indian outpost of the company I was working for. What can I tell you about the land that gave us the zero and Bollywood? There’s plenty to say, but I’m afraid I’d be drowning you in cliches. India is a land of striking contrasts, a pleasant assault on the senses, an exhilarating riot of sight and sound, an invigorating palette of colors, etc. etc. India is all that and more. It is also mine and my son’s second home.
I had seen a fair bit of India before my son was born. I’d marveled at the majesty of the shimmering and bewejeled Taj Mahal in Agra and bowed in supplication before solemn stupas in Buddhist villages of Tabo and Nako. I’d bargained like a pro at the fruit market on Wednesday nights in Chandigarh, and helped wash and apply perfume on my mother-in-law’s lifeless body to prepare it for cremation in Chennai. Yet a multitude of destinations have eluded me, remaining just beyond my grasp due to time and circumstance. Now that my son has started to become travel-friendly, I am slowly filling in the gaps in my exploration of the country that is 10.96 times as big as the Philippines.
In the recently concluded summer, my son and I soaked up art and culture in Mumbai, logged an underwhelming visit to Bangalore, and witnessed a traditional Tamil wedding in Salem. The result: more than 1000 digital photos, a few pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises, and a reaffirmation of my deep affection for India and her friendly people. Rarely does travel work out the way we plan them, and I had to cross out a few important entries on my must-do list. But I have learned to look at missed sight-seeing opportunities as an invitation to try again. The rest of our summer days in Chennai were filled with having my son try out tennis and roller skating or just plain chillin’, as Motito likes to say.
My son will have plenty to write on his essay, but he won’t be writing it for an English teacher who will be sorting through some 200-odd handwritten accounts of unforgettable summers. He will be writing it for me (and a general audience, in the pedagogical sense), because this is the year when we take the giant leap into, what is for us, unknown territory. This is the year that we homeschool. But that’s another story worthy of its own five paragraphs. 🙂