Tuesday, March 22, 2016

With my toddler in India

My toddler is soon going to be 2 - "terrible two" I hear you say! Time has flown like a "rocket" - a word I discovered today she already knows whilst showing her a flash card with a picture of a rocket on it. She has grown up fast - learnt to speak even faster. Like every year, we spent the time between Christmas to well into middle of February in Indian amidst family. This long trip to back home once in a year is a much needed break that just helps to realign our axis and put us back into the zone. As I already mentioned in my previous article, this trip included holiday spent in the foothills of Govardhan parvat, and visits to Krishna janmabhoomi of Mathura and Vrindaban. Trip also included memorable experience to one of the seven wonders of the world - the Taj Mahal.
After this vacation lasting for 5 nights, we spent some family time with my in-laws in the wonderful town of Rishikesh. They showered love on their grand daughter to bits and spoilt her to extremes. However the good thing that happened before we went on the India trip was that she had already started speaking clearly all the words needed on a daily basis. Therefore, managing her had become much easier. Words like "apple", "ball", "water", "thirsty", "food", "sleepy time", "mumma come come", "poo-poo", "standing", "sitting", "slide" etc she could easily speak at 18 months. However the long India trip helped her to built a strong vocabulary in Hindi - so much so that we had the opposite problem by the time we reached London - she had forgotten pretty much everything in English and was able to form complete sentences in Hindi.
The reason she has been able to pick up learning two languages / numbers (1-10) / all basic shapes / all basic colours / alphabets (A-Z with a slight mess up around L to P) all by 21 months of age is because of her style of learning. She would repeat everything she hears multiple times. She would even repeat instructions given to her like "bring the ball" in whichever language before acting on them. Like a robot (as my mother calls her), she first repeats instructions given to her before executing them. And sometimes cleverly also declares her execution of those instructions with correctly amended verbs.
From Rishikesh we went to Delhi to attend a big fat Indian wedding. From dance to drama, from food to fanfare, from rituals to recitations, from creativity to lots of colours, from gorgeous to glittery, the wedding had everything. Toddlers have a way of having fun when they sense fun all around them. They only make fuss when they are bored. With a busy toddler who had lots of people attending her, she was having a blast. When toddlers are busy and active, they eat well, therefore sleep well, therefore play well, get tired and again sleep well - it's a cycle that is not vicious but desirable.
From Delhi we had a flight to catch to Guwahati to attend another wedding on the same day - now from my side of the family - son of my mother's sister. Whilst my toddler was not giving us any problems even after so much of travel, my husband's stomach left no stone unturned to trouble us. It was upset with all the rich food he had been eating. This meant that at the airport he was more attending toilets than us. And this resulted in the ultimate situation - we missed the flight!
It was the morning of 21st of January at Delhi airport that we were supposed to catch the Air India flight to Guwahati departing at 10.15 am. We had hardly slept the night before as we left the wedding past mid-night to reach out hotel for packing. We left for airport quite early, conscious enough that we did not want to miss the flight with a tired toddler. At 8.35am we took our boarding passes. However amidst attempting to feed her breakfast and my husband's frequent toilet trips, somehow we only reached the boarding gate at 10.00am. We had not had any breakfast ourselves, not even a drink. At the boarding gate, the duty manager - a lady whose appearance was rude and condescending to say the least - without even bothering to look at us stated that our flight had already departed. "How could the flight depart at 10 when it's supposed to depart at 10.15?", we asked collecting our breath. It obviously had not departed as we could see the aircraft and she was on the walkie-talkie asking the ground staff to locate our luggage and de-plane them. They had found one of the two suitcases and she was screaming at them for not being able to find the second one. We told her nicely - "Ma'am we realise that we are 5 mins late. Please understand that we have not eaten anything since morning and did not delay willingly. The time you are spending in de-planing our bags, you could instead use that to board us into the aircraft." Obviously she did not listen to us and had made up her mind. She left the counter to physically go down herself and search for our second bag. After spending a few minutes talking to other staff, who were realised were all junior to her and therefore had no powers to over-rule her decision, we were left with no option but to come out of security and reach the airline's baggage check in counter again. The idea was to get a new ticket for a later flight issued.
However God and luck was on our side that day. Our mistake was honest and genuine. So when close to Air India's counter I decided to first go and talk to the Air India supervisor in an attempt to see if anything could be done. The frequency of flights to Guwahati from Delhi is very limited, and the wedding we were due to attend in Guwahati would be missed if we boarded any later flight. Due to that lady's insistence to de-plane our luggage, that aircraft had missed their 10.15 take off slot. Additionally, due to the dry run happening for Republic day celebrations on 26th Jan, the run way had been temporarily shut down until 12. I gently told the supervisor - "Sir, we are travelling with a toddler, have had nothing to eat since morning. The aircraft we were due to fly in has still not taken off. Your duty manager at the gate was rude and unfair to us. I hope you can help us by sending us back on the same aircraft". He spoke to her in front of us and asked her to take us back into the same aircraft. He issued us with new boarding passes and asked us to rush back to the same gate. By this time the dry run had finished and the flight was ready to take off. It finally took off at 11.30 am - with us of course - as was supposed to be the case!

It was a short visit to Guwahati but one which left imprints for years to come. The amount of love you can sometimes feel from relatives you have not met in a while make you realise that although we have now more ways to stay connected, we are actually less connected than before!

We returned to United Kingdom with a toddler who was not only spoilt for choices but also one who was used to staying busy with all the attention showered on her. This plus the cold weather of February made the settling back into routined life quite fun and challenging!