My fabulous sister Lisa has arrived in Delhi with my nephew Otis. We cover them in marigold garlands and annoint them with the red pigment sindu as soon as they burst from the departure gates and into our arms. As we bounce along the highway Paloma and Otis, are ecstatic to see each other and kiss and cuddle in the back of the Ambassador taxi into Delhi. Who knows how long that will last!
Ben is heading to Afghanistan for a ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure and I thought it would be great to visit the south of India on a ‘Girl’s own’ adventure with Lisa. And the kids, of course! We are sad our other wonderful sister Ainsley can’t join us, but hopefully she can next time with more kids in tow. Lisa is writing a blog about her foodie finds through the USA, Mexico and Europe and is on the first leg of her 5 month family sabbatical. Matt, her husbando, is on a Caravan of Comics (hyperlink) traveling through the USA.
Sisters are doing it for themselves! We wonder if we are mad, taking two under three year olds through India with us, probably but you have to give it go, right?
Our days are spent buzzing round dirty Delhi, feasting on Mughali food at famous Karims and exploring Old Delhi, getting mobbed by everyone for photos of our blondies at the Jama Masjid and relaxing in the lovers quarters of the Lodi gardens.
Before Ben leaves he takes the kids for one night while Lisa and I run through the streets and markets, shopping and getting our hands and feet hennad. The kids love our weird and kooky hotel Anoop and are fast becoming friends with the boys who live in the hotel, these boys break their backs to give you a hand with anything you need. The Indian service is second to none. After a few days in Delhi I can already see that Lisa is a natural, taking India in her stride.
The Taj Mahal is the seventh wonder of the world and as horrible as Agra is, being filled with dodgy touts, dirty streets and tourist walahs begging for your rupees, it all contrasts starkly with the beauty of this magnificent building. I still believe that no trip to India is complete without seeing the Taj Mahal. After a 3 hour drive from Delhi to Agra we have a dip in the pool at our hotel and head to the Taj for sunset.
The Taj Mahal building is as stunning as always, surrounded by lush manicured gardens and flanked on each side by identical red sandstone mosques. Lisa and I are love with it and can imagine it in its former glory. It was originally built is a mausoleum in 1632 by emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. She demanded he build the most magnificent tomb for her, as every wife deserves.
One would think that by being surrounded by all this splendour and tranquility; the gardens, the white marble made soft over time by the millions of hands and feet seeking meaning in this ‘ode to love’, that the place would be peaceful and calm. On this occasion however the experience was a little more challenging than last time; with 38 degree heat and non-stop requests by Indian Tourists wanting ‘snaps’ of Paloma and Otis. We were stopped at every carved flower, at each minaret all around the tomb . One or two ‘snaps’ is ok. But the people wanted more and more. We stop for one and a crowd soon forms and everyone then is asking for a photo with our children as if they are celebrities!
The children have their own ways of declining these offers. Even when Otis is ‘blasting’ them with his ‘rocket powered arm and Paloma is rolling on the ground flashing her nappy, they still don’t get ‘NO!’ Otie is very vocal in his dislike of ‘snaps’ and Paloma loves pulling silly faces at them when they beg for a smile. Somehow we manage 2 minutes on our own to absorb a brief lull of peace and love and then we are out of there and head back to dusty Delhi.
Our itinerary had originally been to travel to Kerala for our adventure, but we are told it is scorching hot down there already and would be too much for the kids. At the last minute we decide to change our plans. Instead we decide to visit a place that turns out to be ‘paradise on earth’.