I have been travelling to India for many years but I remember, like it was yesterday, my first trip to India. My mother, Padma, had visited India over twenty times so I was fascinated to see what the attraction for her was. I packed up my husband Rahul and my two sons aged four and five and organised a five-week holiday to India.
I remember thinking, as the plane taxied down the Mumbai airport runway, that this was going to be a trip to remember. This thought was prompted by visions of people cooking their dinner in the make-shift houses of the slum that exists just metres from the landing jets. Rahul and I peered out the plane window in amazement as life went on despite our arrival in a huge, loud aircraft.
I remember being picked up at midnight at the airport in a rusty old mini van by our hotel driver. As we turned the corner to leave the airport a huge lumbering elephant adorned with silver anklets was running down the road with its keepers in hot pursuit. “Moving to temple Madam” our driver smiled as he pointed to the elephant. My sons couldn’t believe their eyes.
I remember arriving at our hotel right in the middle of an Indian wedding reception. The loud Bollywood music made everything in our room rattle and vibrate. However we all lay in bed and smiled and enjoyed hearing the music mixed with happy laughter.
I remember taking a lead from my sons in focusing on the positive. As we strolled down Juhu Beach they ignored the rubbish but marvelled in the attraction of the coloured balloons and the hot pink fairy floss. This skill of seeing the good in everything has remained with me on all my trips to India.
I remember going to a temple in those first few days in India. The temple elephant was present and when you passed the elephant ten rupees he would pat your head in a blessing. Wow…we all adored this. The Indian man standing next to me witnessed our delight and he turned to me and exclaimed “Madam loves India” complete with a gorgeous head wobble. I turned to him beaming “Madam certainly does!”