India leg of our Journey

After Mauritius, Ayaan and Ariana spent 6 straight weeks in India during the festive season in September, October and November (Anjali and I had a 5 night escape to Jordan without the kids that was incredible). During this time the kids have really adapted to the Indian culture, school, food, lifestyle and Hindi. They’ve loved getting pampered by the grandparents and have really started enjoying their school Creative Kids. On dropping Ayaan to school he always says “Don’t pick me up too late”, while Ariana on getting picked up from school says “I want to go to school”! At school they’ve made friends, dressed up in Indian attire, made several field trips to the post office, grocery store, library etc, done several show and tells, and made several art things. Even though it’s just 2.5 hours for Ayaan and 1.5 for Ariana, they seem to be making the most of it. They even come home singing Hindi songs like “Henna Bolo Bolo”. Ariana continues to develop exponentially and is now potty trained using the 3 day method, while Ayaan can ride a tricycle super fast and remains obsessed with his baby car.

I have kept busy playing tennis (my game is finally back), watching cricket, reading books, spending time with kids and parents, spending time at CCI (including the lawns) and connecting with friends. I’ve also started advising Hearsay, my most recent employer again, which has been intellectually refreshing. To our complete surprise we were also able to catch Above and Beyond, our favorite DJs, at a show in Bandra! We’ve also tried a few more restaurants in Mumbai including Miss T, Yautcha, Clearing House and our favorites Trishna and Mahesh. I also took advantage of having help around and no work to get a minor surgery on my hand that went smoothly. I was also lucky to be able to watch the India – West Indies ODI cricket match at CCI and the WTA Mumbai Open at CCI in October.

One of the highlights of this leg of our journey was our trip to Delhi end of September to celebrate my brother in laws 50th birthday. My parents and I spent 3 nights in Delhi, while Anjali and Ariana joined us for just 1 night. Ayaan stayed with Nani and it was the first time Ayaan and Ariana were separated. It was a great trip as I got to spend time with my nephews Aditya and Siddharth, take them out for lunch to sushi and see Sids new college. The 50th birthday party was fantastic as my sister Sonil hosted over 200 people at her beautiful home and I got to meet several folks after decades. We also got to visit India’s best restaurant Indian Accent which once again lived up to the expectations with its amazing modern 6 course menu.

After the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in September, the kids enjoyed praying to the Durga mata idols in the neighborhood and collecting Prasad everyday. They also loved the Dassehra festival celebrations where they saw an effigy of Raavan or “the 10 headed monster” being burnt followed by fireworks. They enjoyed the Radio club festival for Dassehra in October where they won chocolates in game such as bowling, spin the wheel and shooting. Being there to celebrate Nani’s 65th birthday was also special! A couple of weeks later the kids enjoyed the grand festival of Diwali. Ayaan went to the CCI Diwali festival with his grandparents and loved the cotton candy, train, the hanuman god on a unicycle, the live music and the laser and fire works. He’s also learnt many, many Hindi words and phrases and songs such as “Khushi Manao, Diwali Aayi hain”. Both kids enjoyed decorating dadi and Nani’s house for Diwali, and doing puja and eating sweets for Diwali.

Between Dassehra and Diwali, we made another trip to Delhi to visit my sister Sonil. It was great to spend time as a family as my parents joined as well and Sid and Adi were around too. The kids were excited to be on a flight again after 4 weeks and were very well behaved. The highlight for them was playing with fluffy, a pug, and playing with all the gadgets in the house including a handicap chair for the stairs. They also loved driving the motor cars and bikes in the mall and jumping around in the bouncy house. We got a chance to try out some fantastic restaurants including China House, Bukhara and Olive. We also took a stroll at Lodhi gardens and visited the amazing Humayuns tomb – which was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. I asked Ayaan at the end of this 6 week period if he liked India and this was his response “yes I like India because it has a lot of speed bumps”. Oh the mind of a 3 year old!

Mumbai – “home”

It’s been 3 months since we departed SF and for the last couple of weeks (and the next few months) we are calling Mumbai home once again after 16 years. Both Anjali and I grew up in the Cuffe Parade neighborhood and our parents live a couple of blocks apart coincidentally – which works brilliantly with young kids. It’s been fantastic to be back as usual, but this leg still felt like we’re visiting for a short period rather than making it our home base for the next 4-5 months. The weather has been beautiful with the monsoons retreating.

It’s been busy in Mumbai, getting Ayaan and Ariana adjusted to their new school, figuring out a new eating-sleeping schedule and most of all coordinating with both our parents and even with each other! They love their school which is very comforting and return every day learning about a new fruit. Preschools are quite different in India from size to philosophy but they’re doing well. You also realize Mumbai is so tiny even with 25 million people where half the parents of their classmates were our classmates or acquaintances. We got Ayaan a new bike with training wheels that’s he’s started to enjoy and Ariana a push car that Ayaan is obsessed with. They are just so happy to have toys again :). They are also absolutely loving getting spoilt by their grandparents with candy and sweets, and several visits to the playground a day.

Anjali and I have spent every night either dining with our parents or meeting our school friends over a drink or dinner. We’ve already visited some favorites like Koko, Leopold, Copper Chimney and CCI; many more to go. That of course is a pleasant change from the last 3 months when we spent every night sleeping with them early, although the constant social activity has drained both of us already. We’ve also realized it’s extremely hard to get out as a couple since it’s just not the norm here. We are also still adapting to the different style of everyday conversations. We’ve been filling the days spending time with kids, our parents, playing badminton together, swimming, using the health club and just relaxing. My most productive few hours was making my LEGO plane from 30 years ago as Ayaan insisted he wanted to play with it. I definitely enjoyed that more than he did.

My sister Sonil flew down from Delhi for a few days which was great as we got to reconnect as a family and the kids got to spend time with their favorite Sonil Bua. We’ll be visiting her a couple of times in Delhi over the next two months so really looking forward to that. But the highlight of the last couple of weeks has been the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, where every building and corner hosts and welcomes the powerful Elephant God for 1-13 days and there are celebrations, music, dancing, live bands, lights and prayers everywhere. It’s been 15 years since we experienced this and it’s the first time for the kids. Ayaan absolutely loves it – he “dresses up” in Indian clothes, dances to the music, joins his hands to pray, eats prasad (sweets with Gods blessing), and has visited several Ganpatis (statues of the Elephant God) with Nani and Dadi. Ariana is so American that she says “Gaanpaaati” and stares at the lights in amazement. It’s been incredible to see the kids experience our childhood, enjoy the yummy home food, start to learn some words in Hindi, and adapt to the different lifestyle in India. Ayaan has already gotten used to the concept of having a driver, a cook and all the luxuries that India offers. He’s going to miss it for the next 10 days as we head to Mauritius – his 25th country!!!

Copenhagen

We arrived into Copenhagen on a rainy evening so we checked into the AC hotel and dined at the hotel bar before calling it a night. The next morning, we took the subway to downtown and the kids were delighted to find a toy store where they could play and ‘test drive’ a large majority of the toys. We spent an unanticipated 45 minutes there since the kids have been deprived of their toys for two months now (save for a few favorites that we were able to squeeze into our suitcase). We then strolled to Nyhavn, a picturesque (albeit touristy) harbor with colored homes and restaurants lining the canal. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the water and my burger was pretty good (most other places in Europe where I’ve tried a burger haven’t been able to match up to American / SF standards). We decided to take a canal cruise which was a good start to getting a ‘lay of the land’. We then walked to Christiania, which is meant to be a bohemian, eclectic neighborhood. It may have been the rain but we didn’t get what was special about the neighborhood. The rooftop bar at our hotel had just opened so we decided to dine there. The build-out was impressive and the ambiance hip and energetic. However the service left a lot to be desired. We enjoyed several rounds of Japanese-inspired cocktails that were fantastic but didn’t end up getting our entrees well past the kids bedtime, forcing us to leave somewhat hungry. Not entirely surprising for a restaurants first day but a disappointing experience nevertheless.

I was excited the next morning as my Cornell bestie, Bumjoo was flying in from London with her husband Adam to meet us. We spent the day at the Tivoli Gardens, a creative amusement park that was celebrating its 175th year, and from where Walt Disney reportedly got his inspiration. The park was unique in that it was also appealing to adults with nice restaurants and lounge chairs in the grass. It was a perfect way to catch up with Adam and Bumjoo while the kids were well entertained with a live show, trams, the famous carousel and driving cars and boats. Ayaan was thrilled to finally find cotton candy after searching for it through all of Europe. Luckily, by lunch time the kids were exhausted and napped instantly and soundly, allowing us to enjoy lunch with some local Carlsberg beer! We ended up spending the better part of the day at Tivoli and then retreating back to our hotel through another Pride parade (we experienced pride in Lisbon and Madrid as well!). Dinner was perfect at a nice Indian restaurant Rasoi near our hotel where the kids chowed down on butter chicken and saag paneer with rice.

We started the next morning by climbing to the top of the Round Tower, but not before stopping at a Lego store (LEGO is from Denmark) where the kids played and Ayaan bought a little Lego train. We noticed that all the toy stores in Copenhagen have created an experience for the kids, likely allowing them to survive (and thrive!) despite the proliferation of Amazon and other online retailers (Toys R Us couldn’t learned something from here by creating an experience and potentially preventing their downfall!). The kids did great climbing to the top of the Round Tower by themselves (it helped that there was a ramp nearly the entire way) from where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city. After retreating back down, we headed to the Rossendberg castle and some gardens where the kids played in a unique park. We then met Bumjoo and Adam for lunch at the fresh food market and enjoyed some delicious fresh fish from sushi, sashimi, and a smorgasbord of seafood delights. We strolled to the nearby botanical gardens and a beer garden where they told the history of beer. Next we went to some food trucks in Christiania where we got another small bite with a round of drinks. The Copenhagen Iron Man was inspiring to watch! We bid goodbye to Bumjoo and Adam that evening and enjoyed dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant before retreating to our hotel. Onto Irelend tomorrow where we’ll meet with Gaurav’s parents!