On Women’s Day

On why I’d choose to celebrate Women’s Day.


In a world full of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hated, it is important to celebrate. To choose celebration over hatred, everyday. It is also important for these celebrations to be universal and not be tied to a particular religion. It’s important they be celebrated with an open mind and in our own way, with no fear of divine consequences should we fail to do them in a particular way. And in a country where the female foetus is aborted, the girl child is starved at her brother’s expense and the sister kept home to do household chores while her brother goes to school, it’s all the more important for us to put aside celebrations and rituals that put the man up on a pedestal in his role as a brother or a husband, and choose to celebrate the woman for her inherent strength.


Read the rest of this piece  on yowoto.


Of chicken and pork – II

If I’d thought that the Bean getting chicken pox was the worst of it, it wasn’t. Keeping the kids away from each other was a Herculean task. We entered the house and both kids flew to Button – I screamed, “Don’t touch him!!” They came screeching to a halt and remembered everything I’d coached them all the way from Delhi.

At this point everyone in the family rushed in to ensure that their feelings weren’t hurt and I lost track. The basic rules were that we were to sanitize our hands with bottles lying around the house in between touching my two and the Button. Button had also been given a homoeopathic antidote and I don’t care what people say about the system, it worked, and how!

X’mas at our place has always been crazy. Throw in three kids who have to be kept apart and a bout of chicken pox and the crazy quotient sky rocketed. On the whole it wasn’t too bad because the Brat had his shot and the Button had the antidote. So the whole family did their best to entertain the Bean and not let her feel unloved each time the Brat and Button cuddled. If I had a rupee for every person who said it was unfair to expose the Button to CP, I’d be a rich woman. But I think we’re all a little richer for having spent that time together. The Brat and the Button were soon inseparable. The Button actually believed he was the Brat’s equal and would keep beating him up, pulling his hair, crawling all over him, and finally pushing him over, all while the Brat lay on the floor laughing helplessly and hugging him.

We had our annual X’mas party planned so it seemed only fair to call and tell everyone who had kids to keep them away from mine. Dutifully we called up and told everyone that we’d understand if they didn’t show up. I was surprised by the number of people who showed up anyway, some without their kids and some with. The kids had a blast and I hugged the OA through the last dance that night, grateful we’d come home. I can’t imagine what we’d have done stuck in our flat in Gurgaon, unable to take the kids to the common park, to the grocery store, unable to have friends over. A shitty X’mas that would have been.

And in all this we’d wake up each morning and frantically examine the Button to make sure there were no spots on his little dimpled self while he’d look at us with his curious, big bright eyes, convinced that he’d left the comfort of his home only to end up in a madhouse. It was almost like having a third baby and the OA and I kept him with us as much as we could, washing his little butt, changing diapers and feeding him his bottle. Everything but his meals – only his mother could manage to make him finish his entire portion. It was also her job to feed the ultra fussy Bean who can drive a saint to crime. I have no idea what she did in there and I don’t want to know. All I know is that she made insanely huge portions and got them down the Bean’s throat while I enjoyed the respite from begging, pleading, coaxing, screaming, threatening to feed her to crocodiles and finally attempting suicide.

And then of course because all of this was too good to last,  we woke up one morning to find spots all over the Brat  -he’d got the bloody chicken pox after all. I’ll never forget the betrayal writ large on his face, ” YOU said if I got the vaccination I won’t get it!” Oh well, we tried, I reasoned with him, but the doctor said you might have already been in the incubation period.

But a child who has had a poke in his butt and still gets CP is not to be reasoned with. He got it worse than the Bean. At least a 100 little boils all over his body and we were back to the neem leaf and oatmeal baths and slathering on calamine by the gallon. On the bright side, his bout barely lasted a week. On one occasion, while trying to make sense of the unfairness of getting it after having had the poke, he seriously explained to a visitor, “I got it because Nani cooks too many things for dinner. We had chicken as well as pork at the same meal. So it turned into chicken pox.” Errr, okay, whatever helps you make your peace with it!

The Bean was torn between relief and remorse. “Now he won’t leave me to go play with the Button!” and “Maybe he got it because I was teasing him and saying I’m coming to lick you. I’m very sorry now.”

But honi ko kaun taal sakta hai yaada yaada and we couldn’t have got it in a better place. All day they played across my parents’ and my uncle’s homes, swinging, cycling, climbing trees, sitting by the pond and watching fish and even going boating to the Sangam. None of this could however make it up to the Brat that he could no longer touch the Button. And we tried hard, I’ll tell you this much. In fact many weeks later, we were back in Gurgaon and the Bean casually asked, “Mama, how do you know when you love someone?” And the Brat responded gravely (he thinks he’s an adult now that his permanent teeth are in), ” When you love someone you want to play with them all the time, you share your toys with them and if you have chicken pox you don’t touch them.” I thought that summed up love pretty succinctly.

Of chicken and pork

When your children get chicken pox, the world quickly falls into two categories. Those who look terrified and take one step back and those who step forward to lend a hand and go, ‘Poor baby..”.

The Bean got chicken pox 3 days before we were to go to Allahabad for X’mas. Yes, that is why you’ve seen neither hide nor hair of me in a month. Dad’s big birthday bash. X’mas. Precious nephew visiting India. Moving house. Every single thing blighted by the damn pox.

My first thought was, Why me?! A second later I remembered I was the adult in the equation and it was the poor child who was suffering. Not literally though. The vaccination she’s had as well as the booster shot, ensured that she didn’t get a particularly bad case of it so there was no fever and none of the listlessness and cough and what not I associated with it from my own childhood bout.

We’d attended a birthday party the night before and I sent out mass SMS to all the mothers asking them to check their kids before rushing her to the doctor in our apartment complex. She confirmed that at least 7 other cases had already been reported over the last couple of weeks. Subclinical she called it. Not infectious, but it would be best to give the Brat the vaccine booster since he exhibited no signs of having it, she said. I went home and sent a mail out to the complex google group warning them. While a few people mailed back thanking me for the warning, others mailed telling me not to go the ‘American way’ I quote. That kids will have ailments and will pass them around and there’s no reason to quarantine or warn. Um. Okay.

Either way, I knew our holiday was over. My chance to spend time with my brother and nephew, lost. I cancelled my tickets, then called and told my mother and SIL that I was not coming because I didn’t want to expose Baby Button to the virus. And then I settled down to do art and craft with the kids so that they didn’t go downstairs and infect the entire community. My phone didn’t stop ringing that day. Uncle, Aunt, parents, SIL, everyone kept calling. I have no idea what we spoke of but apparently we couldn’t stop. I have the bills to prove it.

The grandparents were torn. One set of grandkids having to stay away for the sake of another. The SIL was upset that we’d not get to be together. I was hopping mad at the timing. In general we’d all have been fine with the Button getting it if he’d been older, but he was only 11 months old and they had to travel back soon. Of course plenty of others saw it in black and white – if your kids are sick, no point risking another. But for family it’s never so simple. We all wanted to be together. We have only ONE f**king festival in the year to look forward to, this would be Baby Button’s first X’mas and this was the only time we’d get to be together as a family. X’mas is not about Santa and gifts – it’s about sitting around the fire ribbing each other and making your mother pull her hair out in bunches by only settling down for dinner past midnight.

By night the brother had woken up in the US and heard the news. He rushed out of a client meeting and called me – The kids have what? You’re not coming? This is not happening.

I shooed him back to work and went to bed only to wake up the next morning to a call from the SIL. Chicken pox or no, I was to haul my butt to Allahabad, not because they wanted to see me, but because the poxy kids were the Button’s cousins and he had a right to spend time with them. Secretly I was dying to hold and kiss him and didn’t care who caught what in the bargain, but the adult mask I sometimes like to prance around in dictated that I behave responsibly.

No no, I said seriously.

Yes, yes, she said firmly – Kids get chicken pox. That’s what kids do. We’re enough people to handle the kids and its not fair that you should be holed up in a flat without friends and family through X’mas season. Yes, yes, I bitterly cried inside my head. The Uncle and Aunt called – You come and stay with the kids at our place. Yes, that was all very well but then what would be the point? We’d still be together for meals and exposing the baby to the germs.

The OA came home from work and said – Am I the only adult in the family? You’re not going. We’re not going. We’ll figure out what to do to have a fun X’mas without infecting either your family or the entire apartment complex.

The kids were blissfully unaware of the change in plans.

And while we argued and debated, time sped on in that nasty fashion that it tends to when you badly want something. It was almost X’mas Eve and the brother was landing in Delhi and heading on to Allahabad. I went to the airport at 3 am to pick him up and till 7 am we sat in my living room, sipping on hot coffee and chatting. I savoured the time I got uninterrupted by kids and husband, just us siblings catching up, completing each others’ sentences.

Tambi woke the kids up before he caught the flight home and they tumbled out of bed in excitement. Tambi Maama was here!!!! It was all I could do to convince them not to hang on to his coat tails and go off with him. It was also heartwarming that they remembered him and were falling over in excitement on seeing him. Perhaps babies have a little sensor that tells them which people make their parents happy. Tambi dragged me out of the room and I wilted under his fierce glare as he bit out – You ARE bringing them home, chicken pox or no.

The OA kept rolling his eyes but we ignored him. I was sick of my kids being locked up in a flat like criminals, specially when the Bean felt perfectly fit and was running around making me dizzy. I was sick of being locked into the house myself with them and not having even a ten minute break because the conscience demanded that I don’t even get out to buy groceries taking them with me. With no house help I had no one to leave them home with either. I was so grateful to go home where there’d be others to share the work load and the joy err.. pox with. And I was so glad that the Bean would have people willing to touch her and cuddle her and hold her and not treat her like she was untouchable. It was the season of joy but the joy had been sucked out of her little touchy-feely-cuddly baby life. To go back a bit – after we got the Brat his shot the Bean asked sadly, “Mama, can I hug him now? I’ve been missing him.”

And so it was that two days later we got into our little coupe, and rattled away down the train tracks, the wheels chanting home, home, home. Sometimes you need to be at the end of your tether to appreciate what you’re getting. And this X’mas I learnt that family are the people who will hug you, kiss you even when you’re infectious and want you home even if they have an 11 month old being put at risk. Because the spotty 4 year old is as precious to them. And that  God is rarely unkind enough to take away your 2 weeks of being aunt to the most beautiful, dimply, bundle of joy ever.

Home, home, home…. The train pulled in late thanks to fog, but on Christmas Eve we tumbled out onto the the grey, cold platform and straight into the warmth of excited family. Yep. Twas certainly the season to be jolly. Hope yours was too.

PS: This isn’t the end of course. Stay tuned to know why the title is called Chicken and Pork!

Eight years come Easter

So the OA and I celebrated eight years of marriage on the 25th of April (cue to wish us, thank you), in Dharamshala. Our trip to the hills said something about why this marriage has lasted as long as it has. It was Easter (Hope you all had a Blessed Easter) and we were in a strange city and not attending Church. Actually I realise I am even more casual about such stuff than the OA. He tried to get us to wake up and attend the service at the lovely St John in the Wilderness Church, but I said I’d rather not drag the kids out of bed and rush them around on a holiday. At the beginning of this year we noticed there are a lot of long weekends and so we have a bunch of little trips booked up for the rest of the year. We did Sariska two weekends ago and have been using our Club Mahindra membership to the fullest. Yes, kam daam, full paisa vasool would describe us. Not too far, costs us nothing more than a tank of petrol and we’re off. We don’t shop, we eat at the local joints, we don’t even bother to ask for mineral water bottles.

We’ve been trying to get other couples to join us but most people are unwilling to travel on festivals and want to be home to celebrate, while others find it a nuisance to travel with babies. And in that one line I realise what has held the OA and I together. I dated guys who were wilder, I dated guys who were richer, I dated guys whose parents loved me. But I guess I married the one who thought just like me on these very relevant, daily issues. I don’t think I could have stayed married very long to someone who believed in going to the church/temple regularly and fasting and keeping rituals. Neither could I have married a man who couldn’t be a man and handle his share of parenting. Who didn’t think it was a lark to pick up a two month old baby and drive off to the hills with a wife burning with fever and a toddler puking out the window! Similarly he has a very healthy respect for women who are low maintenance and can handle their kids and still have a life. Anyone remember that post? We took the two month old Bean to Kasauli against all odds and that was still a fun trip.

So last weekend we grabbed two Easter eggs as a nod to tradition and drove off. We stayed one night with some friends who were once princely rulers and their old haveli brought much joy to the kids. Cows to be milked, orange orchards to be explored, old ruins (including a deeeeeeep well) and much more. We literally had to drag the kids out of there. They’d also dug out size  appropriate beds for the kids and the Bean got lucky with a little cot that she refused to get out of. She’s not over it yet and at six hourly intervals I get a request for a cot. *groan*

Good Friday was spent with the friends and everyone laughed at the irony of spending it exploring an ancient Gurudwara. Holy Saturday was at the Bhagsunag Temple and Easter Sunday was spent trying to see the Dalai Lama. None of it was intentional, but that is how it ended up being and for me, it was a good Easter because I was with my brats and the OA and that was all that mattered.

I came back all tired and grouchy and a friend teased me – But I thought you said the kids are no trouble. Well, they weren’t trouble, they were, well, just kids! They walked all over the place and only whined when they were really exhausted, at which point the OA and I, kind parents that we are, threatened to leave them sitting on the road if they didn’t get up and walk. That worked. No strollers, no carrying, nothing. Funnily they were all excited and raring to go the next day inspite of what I thought of as us traumatising them. They kept awake late most nights but the OA and I stayed up even later, reading for a quiet hour, sitting outside the room in the garden and chatting for a while, getting our own little hour of conversation. But then they’d be up bright and chirpy and the OA and I would bury our heads under our pillows and groan, telling them to go to the bathroom and not trouble us. Which they did willingly, except that they don’t really maintain boundaries. So they kept skipping in and out of the loo, sitting on our bed, having loud conversations while the two of us moaned and slid lower in the bed and snapped at them for letting the sunlight in. Finally with a broken extra hour of sleep we’d get out of bed and take them for breakfast. Ah, good times! But I think the biggest problem was the soft beds. The OA and I are not creatures of comfort and even our bed at home has been divested of its thick coir mattress and replaced with a local cotton handstitched mattress. It’s really good for the back and the hard bed now has us so hooked that other beds just end up being a pain instead of a comfort.

The anniversary was spent driving back to Delhi and we stopped along the way to play in a river, watch a bridge being constructed, examine some Stinky Williams and a quick lunch break (at 5pm!).  Healthy diets and timings usually go to the dogs when we travel and the kids ate pancakes for dinner and burgers for breakfast and butter chicken with roti at some point in between it all. Earlier I used to carry colouring books etc but I’ve realised that they don’t bother with them choosing instead to look out of the window. Neither do they need to be entertained with cartoons put on the laptop or puzzles or anything. I make up a bed out of the backseat by stuffing luggage in between the front and back seats and then spread a sheet over it. They fall asleep when they are tired, get up and look out when they are rested and chatter with us all the way. We now argue over the radio stations and if we do tend to fall silent for a while, the quiet Brat who never says much will suddenly pipe up in a very Itna sannata kyun hai bhai way. “I don’t want to talk,” says he, “but I want to listen to you  all.” It’s scary how much they pay attention even when you don’t think they are, because the OA and I were discussing an uncle’s heart attack and the two of them who had been arguing over something suddenly joined in with questions – what is a heart attack? Why does it happen?

Anyway, a lot of people want to know how and why the OA and I love travelling so much with two little kids so I’ve got my travel tips down pat. They won’t work for everyone, but its okay, we’ve got to do what works for us!

1. Carry lots of snacks and water. It’s a holiday and you’re on the road so it’s okay if you eat whenever you want and whatever you want. Healthy diets are for being at home. Funnily no matter how much junk we eat on vacation, we all come home looking leaner and fitter (and more tanned)! Sanitiser, tissues, umbrellas, toilet roll, newspaper for accidents, plastic bags to avoid littering. We also carry two big laundry bags and keep stuffing our dirty clothes in those instead of packing them back in the suitcase. It’s simpler to unpack when you come home. The laundry goes straight to the laundry room and the rest of the stuff takes very little time to unpack. Which brings me to the other point – always pack your stuff back neatly when travelling home instead of stuffing it higgledy piggledy. I find it saves me a lot of time when we reach home tired and sleepy with a full day of work and school the next day. Again, it really helps to travel by your own car because then you can just separate things into bags and stack them in the boot without worrying about how you’re going to get it all home.

2. Drive if possible, or take a train. Nothing like seeing each place as you pass, stopping to examine a big toadstool, getting off to eat hot fresh jalebis at a level crossing while waiting for a train to pass, splashing in a stream and collecting pebbles.  Don’t carry video games and laptops for the journey at least. Let the kids do what we did as kids – look out, play number plate games, count red cars followed by black jeeps, sleep, appreciate the silence, play antakshari and do some colouring. I hate to have them thinking that they need to be entertained. The journey is part of the holiday and they’re not doing us a favour by coming along. If they whine I offer to either offload them on a truck heading back to Delhi or ask if they would like to stay back in Delhi with the cook the next time we’re going on holiday. Admittedly I do carry some DVDs in case there is a problem. Case in point, a storm at Sariska where we were stuck in our tent for hours. No place to walk, nothing to do and the wind howling around us. We played for a while, read for a while and finally left them to watch some Madagascar while we read our books by the lamplight.

3.  No shopping for a hundred toys each time you pass a shop. I understand the excitement of a new place and let them pick up something small – as of now they think anything more than Rs 100 is very “inspensive” and so a plastic gun, a bunch of blocks, some rubber insects and they’re duly grateful for our largesse. I’ve told them that at least they are out having fun and so they must think of those who aren’t on holiday and so they get really excited about picking up gifts for those left home –  a shawl for M didi, the maid, leather boots are suggested for Baby Button and gently turned down. It’s really sweet to see them not go for a toy but pick up a spaghetti top for me and choose a shirt for their father – all sadly returned to the racks.

4. The idea is to sightsee and sights are what see, but within limits. I don’t pack the day with too much. And I don’t take them to places where they have to be quiet or careful. They’re too young to be forced into silence and fear of breaking something expensive.  If we see one temple/fort in the day, we spend the rest doing fun stuff with them, even if it is something simple like playing cricket/basketball in the hotel gardens. They pick one toy for familiarity, but more often than not they don’t even cast a look at it. I’ve often wondered why my kids had no comfort objects or transition toys. Clearly I am doing something wrong. No blankie, no teddie, nothing. Strange brats.

5. Eat local food. We love eating local food and the kids learn to eat whatever is offered. Maybe not much, just some plain roti and subzi but try it they will. Over the years they’ve learnt to try everything once. I am not one for getting into the hotel kitchen and requesting for sandwiches and pizzas – there is always some curd, rice, dal, roti available and if they don’t like the special local cuisine, they make up for it by eating the other familiar but available food. If they don’t, they are not allowed to go out and play. It always works. Parents with really young babies tend to take along maids to cook and feed the babies. But I find it more of a nuisance to drag along house help who would much rather take a break from duty and watch TV. I nursed the babies as long as I could and then fed them simple stuff available everywhere like boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, bananas, curd and rice. Zimble. At times like this I miss our firangi friends who are mostly pretty cool. On the other hand its so much easier to get highchairs and motels with toilets on the road abroad. Here I have to hope and pray that they don’t want to go potty once we set out because the toilets are filthy at stops.

6. Make friends. Travel is all about meeting people and we encourage them to make friends with other kids. The only rule I have is that they aren’t allowed into anybody else’s room unless I’ve carefully checked out the family. The last trip I allowed them into a little girl’s tent only after ascertaining that the only other person there was her mother, also sitting at the door like I was, reading a book. And here I have to say the new school has done them a world of good – they’re very inclusive. The Bean has become a bit of a mother hen – she walks up to shy children even older than herself and invites them to play.  It’s really rather sweet to see her hold their hands and coax them into a game of hide and seek or catch. The Brat is less proactive but has slowly grown into a strong, capable ringleader, holding his own when other more boisterous children feel nervous about taking the first step in a new place. I have to admit I feel rather tickled as I sit there watching the kids confidently invite other kids, make up a game, and in general display any degree of confidence. I often say I couldn’t care less if they become beach bums or engineers. I just want them to be happy and confident and good people. It’s a long road ahead and I might never know if it worked out that way.

7. Don’t fuss. If they fall asleep in their jeans or don’t brush their teeth one night, it’s not the end of the world. I am anal enough about it at home to ensure that they will not suffer by missing one day. By not sweating the small stuff I take a lot of pressure off myself as well as them. At one hotel the gardens were being watered and we played a game where we had to run under the sprinkler as it turned around, without getting wet. The kids had a blast and ended up getting quite soaked. One thing I never seem to have enough of, is changes of clothes! No matter what I do, we end up filthy. On the hills the kids end up puking. The last time I hopped out of the car really fast and rushed to open the door and let the Bean out. Too late – she threw up all over herself and down my pants. Not only did I wash her down on the highway, clean up the puke off the inside of the car (the Brat took one look at her and thew up too) but I also had to strip down to my smalls on the road and change into another pair of pants. If I thought delivering a baby lying pretty much naked on an operating table was the end of the indignity motherhood brought, I had another think coming.

8. Try and stop off and meet family/friends even if it is a little out of the way. Gone are the days when we had extended family holidays and got to meet everyone. Our kids are lucky to see their uncles and aunts once a year. So we ensure that we atleast have a meal or stay a night with someone we know. The kids get to see a different way of life – some places the ladies cover their heads, other places people take their slippers off at the door, some places we eat in steel thalis and although they are tiny details the kids soak them up and learn that people live differently and we have to follow the rules in their homes even if we don’t like it. This time the children who live in Delhi and never seem to have noticed turbans suddenly woke up to Sikhs in Punjab. “Why are they wearing that thing on their head, mama?” From there on to an explanation of religion and for the first time in 6 years I told my kids that their mother was a Christian and their father was a Hindu. They nodded vaguely and dismissed it – clearly we’re not as exciting as the “salwarjis” (the Bean’s cute mispronunciation – much cherished since she pretty much gets everything right these days) who are big and strong and have the best roads in the country.

9. Travel whenever you get the chance, regardless of the season. People thought we were mad for going to Sariska, Rajasthan in the heat. Hell, we thought we were mad too. But we ended up having a blast. Our safari was at 2.30 in the afternoon, open jeep, hot sun beating down on us, no sheltering trees – by 3.30 we were numb to the heat – I think our senses had died. By 5 it was cool and beautiful. By night we were using quilts. This was truly Rajasthan as we hear of it. The kids didn’t care about the heat and ran around all day in the sun, risking heat strokes and narrowly missing them I am sure. The off season times are better in resorts, you get more space, better service and more peace. The OA and I went to Kerala in the rains, against popular consensus and loved it. We went everywhere, got drenched and sneezed and dried off, but got to see the lush God’s own country at its most beautiful.

10. Don’t let a small hitch change your plans. I’ve gone on holiday with high fever, with a UTI and all sorts of other problems, simply because I didn’t know when we’d next get the chance. This last Dharamshala trip was jinxed. The Brat had fever and we were leaving on the third day of his fever. We took a calculated risk that the fever would come down by the third day and it did. He slept most of the way and took his medication on time, reaching the hotel fit and fever free and ready to bounce on the springy beds. We asked him if he was feeling too sick to travel and he shook his head and said he wanted to go on a holiday and see snow capped mountains. So we went. He’s come back apple cheeked from the mountain air. Two days before we left the OA was driving past some construction when he heard a blast. He turned around to see that our passenger window had shattered – no idea how. We sent the car in for servicing and it came back worse, jerking, shaking, shuddering to a halt. Frantically sent it in again – and it came back with the dashboard cracked open (wtf?!) and the music system giving an error. We got in and drove off anyway. On the way the fuel gauge packed up so we had to keep guessing our usage and topping up the tank. The charging point wasn’t working so no iPod, no charging our phones, nothing. But we soldiered on, managing with local radio and singing loudly when we were out of signal range. We came back and the car finally gave up the ghost when the OA was on his way to office yesterday. We were hopping mad at the garage but quite grateful that it laboured up to the hills and brought us home safely.

Okay enough gyan – here are some pics from both the trips.  Starting with the tents we stayed in at Sariska. Air conditioned so can’t really say we roughed it out. But the kids enjoyed the tents, constantly zipping themselves in and out and threatening to unzip and walk into the toilet when we went in. Pests!

*gasp* My kids playing the weirdest game of cricket ever. I have no idea who the Bean is bowling to. Neither does the Brat.

This picture tells you what it is like to be mother to the Bean. I was trying to get a picture of her sitting and balancing on the football. In the split second it took for me to click, she’d jumped off the ball and right out of my frame. Most exasperating.

She is incapable of sitting on her own butt or standing on her own legs. At any given point she is either clambering on to my lap or climbing on to her father’s back.

Refusing to get off even when he gets up to go someplace. Standing confident, the lithe little acrobat.

And on the other hand, my contemplative little Brat – collecting pods, pouring water and digging with his sturdy little fingers in an attempt to green the desert.

And now for the animals. I have to begin with the disclaimer – No, we didn’t see any tigers. But then I will go on to say, that I find a lot of people ruin their trip by setting it up as the tiger trip. It wasn’t for us. For us it was just the widlife trip and we were more than satisfied with the hundreds of sambar and bluebull that surrounded our jeep and nosed in. Similarly we didn’t set the kids up for disappointment by telling them we were on the hunt for a tiger. We told them we were going for a jungle ride and whatever came, would come. And this is just a fraction of what came..  The guide told us that unlike most other sanctuaries, this one has no real natural water bodies. The royalty built a number of watering holes for the animals. So kind of them, right?

Wrong. Because they built watch towers along side the watering holes and then bang! shot the poor thirsty animals. I don’t support shikaar, but this is positively the worst way I can imagine preying on animals.

I’ve never seen so many peacocks… Did you remember that the phrase for it is a muster or an ostentation of peacocks? The OA and I racked our brains and finally remembered it just in time to tell the kids!

And here’s an example of how close things were – this little bird came and sat on our jeep!

And now the pics from Dharamshala and McLeodganj. These are the rabbits at the hotel.

Followed by the ducks and the fish pond.

The Bean gets to watch the rabbits being bathed and then spends the morning watching over them as they dry so that a wild cat doesn’t get them, cuddling the younger ones who are petrified of the water and shivering.

This is view of the play area, swings to the left that I didn’t remember to take pictures of.

The beautiful, beautiful Norbulingka. I keep going back there. We had brunch there – waffles with honey and fruit. Whats not to like? The Bean threatened to drown a couple of times, but that aside, a wonderful time spent there.

Peaceful and serene. Even the Brat leaped over the little streams without a sound!

The OA keeps an eye on his daughter who began with sitting on the edge of the pond and then slowly climbed in when no one was noticing. At this point she is perched on the inner ledge and they are having a rather civilised conversation. I’d have simply pulled her out and shaken her up, if I hadn’t been so busy clicking pictures!

At the Bhagsunag Temple. The Bean is so tiny that the bell was too heavy for her to ring!

This is the swimming pool into which the water from the holy waterfall is collected so that devotees can have a dip. I was very impressed to see local swimmers practicing their laps in the freezing water, getting out and warming up and then plunging right back in.

The Bean wakes up to a view of the hills. She could get used to this life.

The OA helps the kids with their Easter eggs.

The Bean plunges into a stream with enthusiasm. We were driving by and it just called to us so we scrambled down the hillside and scraped our knees and hands but got there!

The family that prays together…

The Bean throws up all over her last pair of clean pants and goes home confidently in a pair of frilly bloomers… with Dr Seuss to keep her company. In case you’re wondering, that is a dupatta that I pushed into the window to act as a curtain and keep the sun off their faces.

This sign had us cracking up and I had to bring home a pic for you guys… Enjoy!

And finally, to the man who has spent the last eight years with a crazy woman, though thick and thin,  from pukey beds to stripping on highways to dancing under waterfalls to feverish kids to long drives, to empty pockets but never an empty promise, from crashed up cars to looking dashing at parties…thank you. Thank you for the best ride of my life. I have no idea where we’re heading to, but as the Bean says, This is a sooo fun trip!  This one goes out to you.

and this

and this..