“India is overwhelming, chaotic, challenging and embracing.”
I took advantage of the school holidays to get my assorted teenagers off their devices and into India (getting them off their devices was perhaps optimistic but with no data out of wi-fi range, it was mission almost possible).
In Delhi we joined a cooking class but such was the chef’s enthusiasm, chick pea flour and potato was flying across the kitchen in no time. I retreated a safe distance and left them to it. Soon a dazzling array of dishes appeared and I realised I now had three masala experts on call. We also visited an orphanage where my children sat on the floor surrounded by dozens of delightful smiling faces; singing songs, gifting hair ties, bracelets and pens before sharing a simple lunch. Moving and life-affirming for us all.
In Jaipur, the Jai Mahal, Amber Fort and City Palace provided history and stories-a-plenty, an afternoon spent washing and feeding elephants had the whole family wide-eyed with wonder, while just crossing the street as we headed into the market was part luck, part prayers to Ganesh. Fun and banter followed as we looked at shoes, Indian pants and scarves and everyone came away with a few treasures. Quite a highlight. One evening, we clambered aboard tuk-tuks and hit the cinema, joining in the frivolity that is Bollywood.
In Agra, even with the inevitable crowd, the Taj was beautifully serene and gleaming. The shady grounds of this mausoleum a welcome respite from the unrelenting heat.
Gorgeous Udaipur. Bougainvillea spills over walls, water everywhere, trees and green space made us feel we had entered a new world — and we liked it. Our guide had teenagers and connected with the kids immediately so I knew it would be a good day. Even the wander back through the narrow market streets was a delight as we were neither hassled nor overwhelmed by stares or hawkers — possibly because it had now reached 45C but it may just be Udaipur.
April is wedding season — everywhere we went were gaily decorated vehicles, horses and elephants, vast outdoor arenas with bright flags and banners, hotels overflow with saris every colour of the rainbow, staggering amounts of jewellery adorn all the women and slick gents in black tie sweep past leaving an overpowering trail of cologne. The night sky peppered with fireworks and glossy ‘pre-wedding’ photo shoots took place in nearly every hotel. The guest lists seemed enormous and fairly fluid so if you fancy joining the most riotous party of your life, ask politely and you will be welcomed with open arms.
My children made instant friends with people who provided food and drink (an innate skill it seems as it happened everywhere). They even found an Indian Kiwi restauranteur whose grin could have lit up the city as soon as he heard our accents.
India is overwhelming, chaotic, challenging and embracing. Grab the kids, grab your passport and grab it with both hands. You’ll love it.