Thursday, December 27, 2007

Adventures in India 1

“We are in India. Wow!” she said beaming. Her eyes are sparkling and her smile is alike a half moon. She said this at the end of her first day here.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for my daughter to wake up to India. She’s a pampered princess from the suburbs. She has a bottle of hand sanitizer in her desk at school. She’s been strapped into a carseat and driven around from birth. We have a private home that offers us seclusion and tranquility.

Her first words were “It’s hot.” Yes, that’s the standard reaction when you land in Mumbai. My first thoughts were “There’s that India smell.” It’s a mix of musty and spicy. The air feels as old as India.

Annika sat at the window seat all morning watching the activity outside of the Mumbai apartment building.
“I saw a man riding a motorcycle without a helmet!”
“I saw a green bird and blue bird and white bird and black bird.”

One of my friends would always tell the kids, “If you don’t eat your food, the crow is going to come and eat it.” This is one of those sayings that Indian mothers say and one just spews it automatically. I told her that our American kids don’t even know what a crow is. Now, I was excited to show her a black crow was sitting on the grate outside of the kitchen window. Annika stood at a window pretending to be Princess from “Enchanted” and sang to beckon the birds to her! She announced she had magic powers because she yelled “Ikday-ye kabutar!” and the pigeon appeared. (Side note: her Marathi skills do not really go beyond this. I’m sure she’ll pick up more with her cousin. However, she’s speaking English with an Indian accent to him – a skill unique to ABD’s)

She’s yelling outside the window with her little cousin. I love it. Yell. Be noisy. There’s a sense of freedom and casualness in India that does not exist in the prisitine air of the US.

I’ve also indulged her outside of my best interests. She and I sat in the front seat together, strapped into the seatbelt. I don’t care that carseats are not required, one has to be buckled. We’re not pulling a Britney here with driving with the kid in the lap. But, I figured she should sit shotgun once.

She’s delighted to see her cousin, uncles and aunt, and not to mention grandparents. We’ve got boiled water bottled, and controlling her food intake. Her pediatrician (who is Indian) had given her a mantra: Cook it, Peel it, Boil it, Forget it! He was specific about the ice cream and lassis. Other friends had warned me about juices, which may have impure water mixed into it.

It’s hard to deny her ice cream and cold dairy treats. And, her grandfather is bringing home lots of fresh snacks – methi dhokla, saffron jelebi fried in ghee and golf-ball sized modak. So, while he means well and gives with passion, we must refuse and look for alternatives for Annika, such as the fresh steamed idlis.

Speaking of food, she was confused with breakfast. She was offered milk and plain tea biscuits. “Why am I getting snacks for breakfast?” Then, we had bata-poha (potatoes cooked with rice flakes and spices). She looked a bit confused. “Is this lunch or breakfast?” She’s used to milk and muffins.

Another unusual aspect of Indian lifestyle for Annika is the bedtime. She’s always slept at 8-9 pm. Actually, she’s had to stay on a schedule to get adequate sleep; if she went to bed late, she would be overstimulated, cranky and wake up every few hours. Until she was four, she couldn’t sleep late. Anyway, this is unheard of in India where toddlers are wide-awake and partying at 11 p.m. Folks are eating dinner at 10 p.m. So, obviously, Annika’s loving staying past her bedtime. We’re on vacation and schedules are out the window!

Here’s two more funny observations from Annika. She told me she saw a girl about her age with a nose ring! She was amazed. Up until now, she’s only seen the teen and coed childcare attendants and dance teachers with facial piercings. I could see she was excited. I remember when I was 11, my grandfather suggested I have my nose-pierced and I was horrified! No way could I return to school with a freaking nose ring. My mom has a nosering and I've seen the questioning she's received; she's proud of it and doesn't care. Now, my little girl is sitting here contemplating how old she needs to be to have it done.

Then, when we were in the car, she noticed another girl in an adjacent car who sitting in the front seat. “There’s another little girl there. She’s looking at me.” Yep, get used to it. People keep staring at you for no reason. I don’t get that. Actually, I noticed this staring business among desis started on the plane itself.

We went to the Atria mall in Mumbai and I’m so embarrassed of our local mall. This one has neon lights, skylights and large windows and funky elevators. Granted, this is the high-end mall with a Rolls-Royce showroom and designer stores. However, the food court is to die for mix of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Pizza and Pasta. You can get nachos as well as fried potato skin chaat. I had paneer rolled in toasted bread (khati roll). OK – I will take more pictures of the food.

Birds are waking up as is the city. (I've been awake since 5:30).


Anonymous said...

ABDs, Desais?? Huh?? You are talking in code. I'm confused, but it sounds like Annika is enjoying herself. Glad to hear that. Hope you are too.

N said...

glad to see you are enjoying...your posts have a zing to them :) i can tell you are really taking it all in! look forward to hearing more about your travels...


Anonymous said...

Desis: From the word "Deshi" which means from "Desh", our country.

For example, Bangladesh means home of Bengalis.

ABD: American Born Desi - first generation Indian-American who has a totally different rel'ship with India and US cultures than their parents did.

ZenDenizen said...

Nice to see you blogging from India so you can capture all the details of your trip before you forget them.

"speaking English with an Indian accent to him – a skill unique to ABD’s"

My sister could do it but I never even tried :)