Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Ta-ta, bye, gone

It's two weeks since we left India. In our first days in England, Seth walked around saying 'ta-ta Ambassador, ta-ta tuk-tuk, ta-ta Apple Kids, ta-ta chapatis, ta-ta Ammu....', listing all the things he didn't see any more. Then it became 'ambassador: ta-ta, bye, gone...'.  He hasn't forgotten them, but he talks about things in India less and less (tractors are the new tuk-tuks). India does seems far away, and much longer than two weeks ago. Of course Ollie is writing his book, so his head is still there.

The familiarity of England was wonderful, and here in Holland we are enjoying the order, and fresh air and how clean everything is. It's not an adventure though, and the last six months were certainly that. There was so much to take in on every walk to the shops or the school run, every meal such an event, barely anything was familiar. I need the big open skies of Holland and a bike to be able to think and feel less overwhelmed by that crazy, wonderful, frustrating and captivating country of India.

This is the end of regular posting on this blog (I'll be starting again in September, at doble M), as my short passage to India has come to an end. Maybe I'll post from time to time, when I have reflections or stories, or make a collection of photos, but this is really where the blog stops. It's been fun! Thanks for following. Ta-ta, bye, gone.

One last biryani

Kayees is the best place in town for a biriyani, and was our choice for our final lunch in Fort Cochin. It's a shabby joint, on a bustling junction that crosses the Gujurati Road. Every day Kayees is packed out with mostly men sitting a long tables in the cramped rooms, or waiting around in the entrance for biryani to go.

There is effortless colour coordination, with black laquered dining chairs set against a retro jade green wall. Stainless steel plates piled high with rice are slapped down on the table with a smaller plate of poppadoms, a jug of water with stainless steel cups. It's no frills all the way, but the biryani is just perfect.

As it was our last day, I asked if I could take some photos out at the back. The rice is cooked in huge vats, four or five were on the go, but they run out most days by about two o'clock. The kitchens and storage area make good photos, but I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of one corner which was literally crawling in rats. It kind of spoilt that last biryani, the thought of rats running over the vats of veggies.

Seth happily wolfed it down!

With all our running around (finishing up jobs, packing, tea at Kashi owners, Dorrie and Anoop's amazing home, goodbyes at Sui House) we'd worked up another appetite, in time for dinner at Dal Roti with our good friends Cristelle and Ravi, and baby Ishaan. Bo had even more attention than usual from owner Ramesh, and it was a really happy way to end our time in Cochin. We ran back to Delight Homestay in the rain to catch a few hours sleep before our early flight out.

I'm ashamed to say I left India in a really bad way - shouting at a security guard. Six months of frustration vented on some poor chap. Mumbai airport  finished me off though. There were so many silly little rules and all the security staff were so incredibly unhelpful it was like they'd sat down and planned how to make it as inconvenient as possible. I was totally exhausted by it. I was through to the last stage and unloaded all our handluggage onto the security belt, collapsed the pushchairs and added them on, while holding Bo. Seth wandered off somewhere, so I was told to go and get him (men and women are separated for the security checks, and children go with the mother), then they added that I'd put my things on the wrong belt. Why they couldn't have told me that as they stood watching me unload them? Seth was now running all over the place, so they told me I had to hold him as well. So there I was, holding a boy on each hip as I lugged our stuff over to another belt which was crowded with people, none of which would let me in. I asked the staff (there was a group of them hanging around) if someone could help me please as it's very hard to move everything while holding two children. Blank faces. Please, can't you see I'm struggling here? The it's not our job answer came back..... ok, fine. I fought back the tears as I bent down with Seth and Bo and picked up our things one by one.

Seth's last chapati and Bo after falling asleep while eating spinach curry. The food on Jet Airways was great.

I went through the body check to the final stage. One of my bags had been stopped and put on the floor for checking, and they just left it there. I asked if they could check it so I could go and get some food for the boys. Nope, they did everything else but attend to my bag. That's when I started to get annoyed. I really, really needed to go now and they seemed to be just winding me up. Eventually a guy came over and asked me to empty the contents. It was a big bag of kids stuff for the flight, cars, puzzles, toys, books. Loads of stuff. He went over ever single item, turning it over in his hand, asking me what it was, doing it so slowly, as if in slow motion. I was getting agitated and asked if he could please hurry up as our flight was now boarding. He replied 'You are irritated'. I felt like screaming YES I AM IRRITATED!!! In fact, maybe I did actually scream that. It all got a bit messy then as he kept repeating to me that I was irritated and with each time he said it I became more and more irritated. Ollie, meanwhile was standing around the corner, praying that I wouldn't get thrown into a Mumbai prison! He'd had his moment earlier, getting onto the bus between the domestic and international airports. It inconveniently has steep stairs, and then a tiny narrow gap between the row of seats for passengers and their luggage to squeeze down. He was lifting our bags up, and pulling up the boys in the Maclarens. There was a man standing there by the entrance to the bus watching this spectacle, not helping of course, and Ollie, frustrated, said loudly to him (so the whole bus could hear) what is your job exactly?'. He turned out to be the driver. 

Not a very graceful way to end our India trip.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Back soon

The blog's not over quite yet, I'm just ill. Again.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Last day in Cochin

Months of scrabbling around trying to think of things to do, yet our last day we were running around doing things we hadn't got around to. We booked Jitu and his tuk-tuk for the day. We dropped off Bo at Sreeja and Usha's (his face beamed when he saw them) and Jitu doubled up as childcare for Seth as he played in the tuk-tuk as we went off for dental appointments and stopped to drop off or pick up things around town.

I had been intending to have my photo taken in a sari, and typically left it until the last day when I barely had a minute free. The owner's wife at Delight dressed me and took this terrible photo (didn't even manage to get my feet in it) of me just after I'd been soaked in the rain. Ol didn't even get to see me as he'd gone off to meet a deadline on an article. I really liked the feel and look of wearing a sari, shame it was over so quickly. I had to take it off and keep going with my to do list. I woke Seth up before his nap was finished, picked him up and stood him outside to lock the door and his legs were still sleepy and he fell on the floor. Oops. He fell back and cracked his head on the corner of the wall. Oops. Blood started pouring out of his head, so I crossed five things off my list and was frantically putting ice and cloths on the cut to stop the bleeding. Agh, such a terrible mother.

Seth, his hair matted in blood (he screamed so hard every time I tried to clean it) and I walked down to Idiom Books to sort out our packages to be sent to Argentina. In India they wrap parcels in cloth and handstich them before posting. We'd set aside most of our books to be sent, so I wandered down to check the final weight and price. A whopping 33 kilos worth! So we ended up sorting through them and selling a big pile of them to Idiom, and we hope the rest do actually make it to Buenos Aires for our return in September.

Sethie and I went for a last wander around Jew Town. This is Synagogue Lane, with the Paradesi Synagogue* (built in 1568) at the end, and Seth at the water bowl where he liked to stop and try and catch the little fish. We then went to a Kashmiri shop to buy some gifts and see the view from their rooftop.

* Google Synagogue Kochi to see photos of the inside (cameras are not allowed, so I couldn't take any). I liked the interiors very much, with the old blue and white Chinese tiles on the floor and the smattering of chandeliers in clear and coloured glass hanging from the ceiling. I'm quite a fan of blue and white tiles and quite fancy doing a kichen all (I mean floor and walls) in mismatched Delft tiles (with everything else just plain white and wood), so I visited the synagogue several times just to see the floor and lighting.

Kickball & tapas

Malabar House had a World Cup Tapas Fest, so we went there to see England get thrashed. Sethie calls football 'kickball'. The six course tapas with a tasting of Indian wines was of far more interest to me than the football. Seth fell asleep after the full-time whistle blew, and Ollie joined him about a minute after this photo was taken, so I wrote in my journal as I finished off the tapas and wine. Seth's godmother and our great friend, Macu, gave us a family travel journal for Christmas, so I've been keeping that alongside the blog, just for our little family to read. On the subject of the World Cup, we heard so many people talking about Argentina, and apparently there were two cars driving around Fort Cochin decorated in Argentina's colours of blue and whit. Unfortunately we didn't see them...I reckon if we'd taken a photo, one of the Argentine newspapers would have published it. 

Poolside calm

We mostly went to The Old Lighthouse for the day because anything was better than being stuck in a small room all day. We didn't care about the rain, it was just good for the boys to have space to run around. After four hours there though, we were pretty keen for a break, so we put the boys in the Maclarens and went off for a walk hoping they'd fall asleep. We walked by the convent where my friend Katie is returning to help at later in the year, and down little lanes like in the picture below that I like so much in India. We saw this ghastly house, which must be the most ugly property in Fort Cochin.

 The walk worked and - perfect timing - the clouds cleared, so Ol and I read and fell asleep in the sun for a hour. It was bliss.

Two men and a boat

Hands on parenting

Raindrops keep falling on his head

It was with great relief that we made it back to England. It's all very well being relaxed with the boys, and taking them off to India when they're so small, but if something had happened to them I'm sure they're would have been plenty of 'told you so' looks. Mostly from Indians. I was constantly being told that Bo had the sun in his eyes, or that Seth was climbing on a wall, or that Bo was crying or (see photo above) that Bo was playing in the rain (the waiter insisted on standing there with an umbrella to shield Bo from the raindrops on his head). So I'm very grateful that none of us came to great harm and avoided any serious illness....and that I no longer have to field a constant barrage of comments about my parenting style! It's so good to be HOME.

Toy rescue

Leaf fishing

Thumbs up!

Or as Sethie says: 'Tums up'.