South India Adventure with my GranddaughterBlog
posted January 4th 2019
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In July 2017 I took my 13 (soon to be 14) year old granddaughter to South India. We only had two weeks and two days due to her holiday schedule, so we had a packed itinerary as I wanted to introduce her to all the people, places and experiences that I know and love. We started off on the east coast at Chennai, formally Madras, and from there went to Bangalore, Mysore, a game reserve, a tea plantation, and finally ended up on the west coast at Kochi (Cochin). This was journey of 1,110 kilos by road. We actually travelled by plane, train and private car. This wasn’t a package holiday, but a trip “tailor made” and organised by myself. Nor was it back-packing. I am far too old for that, and in any event I wanted my granddaughter to experience some life as Indians live it, rather than as tourists see it, although we obviously did some touristy things. I wanted her to develop some of the passion that I feel about South India.
But there were a few anxieties on both sides. My granddaughter’s, largely irrational and driven by teenage fantasies of impending disaster, were as follows:
– She might get bitten by a mad dog, get rabies and die. She bravely chose to have a course of rabies injections. On our travels I made sure there were no dogs, mad or otherwise in sight
– The plane might crash/be blown up/hi-jacked. Ten hours is a long time to get through particularly if you are anxious. I decided it would be luxury for both of us to use my airmiles (accumulated from past trips to India with my husband) to upgrade our seats and have beds, and unlimited food and snacks. Even if we didn’t sleep, we could watch films non-stop. We both survived.
– She might not like the poverty. Unfortunately the worst aspects of any country (floods, famine, appalling living conditions) are usually all that is shown on TV. On our trip we met people from all walks of life and income levels – all normal people just like home.
– She might lose me or get abducted. That was easily taken care of as we were together all the time we left the hotel.
– She might be horribly homesick and miss her parents which of course she was, but I introduced them to WhatsApp (my only claim to be slightly ahead in terms of technology), and daily chats and pictures helped.
– I wasn’t aware of this ahead of the journey, but noticed that my granddaughter had been supplied with a large number of earplugs and obviously she was concerned that she might not sleep if Granny Sue snored. That was a little embarrassing.
My anxieties were fewer in number:
– I expected that one or both of us would pick up a tummy bug. On your first trip to South India it is almost inevitable. So we were absolutely strict about not drinking anything but filtered or bottled water, not cleaning our teeth with tap water, not eating salads and fruit without skins, except in people’s homes and hotels you could trust. Street food and ice cream were forbidden, but that rule was broken without any ill effects. Neither of us was ill, but I had packed all kinds of remedies just in case.
– My next concern was about sharing a room. I am an only child, I have never had to share, and I like my own space. When I go on holiday with friends, I rarely share. I am also 66 years older than my granddaughter. This would be the learning experience! Well we fell into a routine of being together: I always had the bed on the right, towels and space in the bathroom were allocated (very fluid boundaries here). I ignored the fact that clothes lived on the floor, and got used to my toiletries becoming jointly owned toiletries. My granddaughter used her earplugs and still complained about not being able to sleep, although if I got up in the night to use the bathroom, she was always dead to the world. I was surprised, in fact slightly shocked at the amount of time spent on snapchat under the duvet. All I felt I could do, was ask if her Mum approved. We watched silly films in bed and laughed a lot.-
– Maybe South India would be a disappointment for her. I don’t think it was. There were many great experiences,: experimenting with the food; happy time in the bar before dinner having a non -alcoholic mocktail (lurid colours, probably hundreds of E factors); riding on an elephant; being at Mysore Palace at dusk when the lights went on; participating in a Bollywood dance class and picking up the moves quickly (my granddaughter is a Theatre Arts enthusiast); cruising on the Cochin Backwaters with Indian friends; spotting a leopard in the Bandipur Game Reserve; meeting my friends whom she got on with rather well… So many things. I suspect the defining moment for her was during our first 4 days in Chennai when we were in my favourite shopping mall. She was already surprised that the mall was as good as Westfield, and it was suddenly better. It had a Sephora outlet – whoops of excitement and frantic messages to big sister, as Sephora is not available in the UK. So what is Sephora? – a brand of make up! A learning point for me.
I wasn’t disappointed either. I had forgotten about teenage ups and downs in mood, but we coped with that. And I just loved her linking arms or holding hands as we wandered around the streets. She was enormous fun to be with, and the 66 years difference didn’t seem like too much. I am not sure if my granddaughter feels the passion that I do about South India, But maybe I have sown the seeds.
By Sue Waters