India II.

I grew up in Goderich, a small town on Lake Huron. Pretty much the half way point between more well known destinations like, Grand Bend and Sauble Beach.  My sisters and I had the perfect 70’s & 80’s style childhood.  We never wanted for anything, our parents almost always said yes.  And if it was no, they had a good reason.  We were outside from the time the sun came up until the street lights went on.  Sometimes later.  Our neighbourhood was our whole world.  We explored, and road hockey’d and adventure’d and played army and Star Wars and skated on our back yard rinks until all hours of the evening.  We only came in when we heard the patio door open and Mom yell our names for bed time or dinner (But we called it supper then).  And if it was Dad, we knew we were really late.  And in trouble.  I imagine most people I know have had childhoods with similar themes as these.  A little different, a little the same.  Growing up in Canada, that’s the way it was.  And I’ve tried and want to give Sully and Max the same.  I think it’s important. Kids should be kids.

As we’ve driven or walked around Delhi and Jaipur, we’ve explored many markets and bazaars.  And the level of poverty is like none I’ve seen before.  There has been poverty in all the other countries we’ve been to, of course there has. But here it is so visible.  It’s depressing and it makes you wonder how people get by from day to day.  Especially the children.  They are constantly in our face or banging on our car, begging for money.  Once, from our car at a red light, we watched a child who couldn’t have been more that Max’s age run out on the street and bang on a tourist bus. He caught their attention and performed a dance like it was nobody’s business.  Flipping, twisting, hand-standing and smiling.  Doing what he could to get their attention, their approval, their money.  He was really good at it, clearly a veteran.  A veteran at 8 years old.  And the boys laughed and were amazed at his skills.  But it struck me then, after seeing so many other children on the street begging, how lucky the 3 of us are.  Essentially we’ve won the birth lottery.  If there is such a thing.  Been born in a country and at a time that makes it easy growing up and just being a kid.  I was able to do it and Sully & Max are as well.  They don’t have to worry about where there next meal is coming from, where they might sleep at night, who will protect them…things we take for granted…but just a few of the ridiculous things kids here need to worry about.  M&S can just be kids.  Like kids should be allowed to do.  They’re aware of how fortunate they are.  I know they are.  I hope one day it drives them to do something special for those people who might need it the most.

Yesterday when we were ordering dinner, I chuckled to myself.  Sully was debating between choosing Daal or Beef Vindaloo.  Max was wanting to try Tandoori Chicken, but knew the spices would be too much for him.  So he chose lemon, coriander and shrimp soup. When I grew up I had potatoes, meat and a vegetable with every dinner.  Every one.  Our soup was Campbell’s.  Vegetable, tomato, maybe mushroom or bean with bacon.  Or if we were lucky, my Grandma Gloria’s homemade ham broth with potatoes and carrots.  Lemon & Shrimp?  Never.  Curries, Masala tea, Dosas, Chicken Briyani, Daal?  Nope.  If I did have rice, it was white minute rice at my Grandma's with margarine and white sugar on top.  Seriously.  I didn’t even try sour cream on my potatoes until 1st year university.  Thai and Indian food were exotic delights I discovered soon after that.  And in Goderich, Chinese food was simply fried rice, an egg roll and sweet & sour chicken balls.  Oh, and a fortune cookie.  Who could forget that!?  Sully and Max were certainly excellent eaters before we left on the trip (Sully for sure. Max, getting there), but I love that they’ve already been exposed to more types of interesting and exotic foods in their life than I ever was in mine. Love it. 

Today we spent the day in Jaipur, touring the ‘pink city’ and the Amber Fort. When we arrived at the Fort, we were greeted by guides and elephants and expected to pay $20 each to ride an elephant to the entrance to the Fort.  From our time we spent at the Elephant sanctuary in Thailand, we learned how tough it was on the elephants when people rode them.  We could also see how stressed these elephants were.  Swaying back and forth, flapping their ears, and sticking their trunks into their mouths to gather saliva and spray it on themselves to cool them down.  We weren’t impressed and were actually quite down about the entire scene.  The boys decided they didn’t want to ride the elephants.  So we walked past the 40 or so elephants, all of the guides and close to a 100 tourists lined up waiting to ride them and began walking up the cobblestone road that led to the entrance to the Fort on our own.  The boys not wanting to have anything to do with riding an elephant.  It was a moment of pride for me. And confusion for the locals.  They couldn’t believe tourists would just walk the same path as the elephants when there was an opportunity to ride them.  Telling us loudly that we weren’t allowed to do that.  Intimidating us and trying to block our path.  But we marched on, feigning ignorance and pretending we didn’t know what the ‘rules’ were.  Eventually they left the ‘you crazy!’ tourists alone and let us be.  I was proud of the boys.  They stuck to their guns and did what they felt was right.  Sometimes this parenting gig has its payoffs. Tomorrow we’re off to a cooking class.  The boys are super excited about it.  Maybe they’ll bring some skills back to Canada.  And I’ll get another payoff. Ha!  Maybe.

Ok it’s late, but this country is still loud and intense and relentless.  Funny, I think of it as the Sully of countries. Even though we’ve become more familiar with it, it hasn’t eased up.  My internal Spidey senses are always on high alert, on the lookout for anything or anyone that could cause us trouble.  A pick-pocketer, a scam artist, a tuk-tuk driver, a motorbike, a cow, a monkey, a stray dog and because the streets are so insanely crowded, especially in the evening, everything seems even more amplified. More in your face. The scenes are fascinating, the colours, the smells, the noises. But I rarely take out my camera or iPhone to get a picture or video, not wanting to become an even greater target than we may already be.  It’s exhausting.  Mentally and physically.  An extra set of adult eyes and ears would be ideal.  And make it a touch more relaxing.  Just a touch.  I feel safe here, though.  Just not comfortable.  

Oh.  And Max is puking.  3 days in is all it took.  3 days.  Man, India.