Friday, September 30, 2016

Travel Journal: Day 1: Flight from Delhi to Leh & Acclimitize

Of course, Sumit and I had landed from Chicago 4 hours before our flight out to Leh. Talk about Travel Junkies.

After a scrumptious Indian Style Breakfast at Delhi Airport, we sat in our flight; with 6 adults and 3 kids!

Just a preview to the trip ahead.

First come first: Yes Acclimatization, is a real thing. You are at 9000 ft. above sea level and really little Oxygen: The way you realize it is your breathing becomes slightly hard, you take longer breaths unconsciously and Trust me just take 24-48 hours in Leh and do nothing major!

Within 4 hours of landing and resting in the Army guest house, my older daughter, 8 year old Miss V started throwing up. Within the next 2 hours my Little Lady, 3 year old started throwing up. (aka 3 times in less than 10 minutes).

We rushed them to the local hospital; the people were really nice and understanding. It was interesting that our Army Jawan kept telling us, don’t worry, this happens to everyone. 

At that time, it felt like, oh my gosh, what have we done… but the minute I got to the hospital and I saw people around only with altitude sickness, it was sort of comforting. All of the patients in the room, big or small had similar symptoms: Throwing up, Nausea, Light headed-ness.

When you see the two little ones so weak and listless, its hard. I held back tears and made silly jokes to keep their spirits up.

2 injections and loads of candies later, both the girls were back home and resting as highly recommended by our hosts!

We were advised to have minimum 25 glasses of water each day and eat small and frequent portions. The best advice Ever!

So again: If you plan on travelling, Acclimatization is a real thing. Plan on 1-2 days in Leh so you can settle in, it will be worth it in the long run!

Warning: Leh, Laddakh is definitely a place which is a tough trip. You need to mentally prepared for 'falling sick'.. trust me as you read rest of my travel posts, you will know why!
Having said that, I still highly recommend it. The youngest in our group was 15 months and oldest 60+. and I still say, it is heaven on earth with its sprawling beauty...

Day 2: Will be another day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Travel Diaries: Leh Laddakh- Trip of a lifetime

Truly heaven on earth! This is probably one of the hardest travel posts to write, words really are hard to describe this place which has such contrasting and breathtaking landscapes. Be it tall mountains, vast plain lands, wide lakes or serene views, this place has it all.

I have to start by saying- we all flew in from all over the world to Delhi to take this one week family re-union and a trip. My parents, the four of us, my brother's family all 9 of us spent a week in Leh & Laddakh and definitely made memories of a life time.

We were guests of the Indian Army, a family friend is a Colonel of the Indian Army stationed in Leh & Laddakh. Thanks to him and his entire team, we had a great trip and above all found a respect for the Army which we as civilians really didn’t think about. A separate post on this ishere. Thank You Indian Army!!

Here was our Itinerary in short, and detailed posts will follow slowly but surely!!! Stay Tuned

Day 1: Just acclimatize

Day 2: AM: Choglamsar, Shanti Stupa; PM: Hall of Fame, Pathar Gurudwara, Magnetic Hill, Sangam

Day 3: Chang-La Pass, Pangong Lake

Day 4: Shey Palace, Rancho School, Thikse Monastery, Night stay at Chumthang (which might be hard for non-army visitors) so please look for either driving up to Karzok

Day 5: Karzok, Tso Moriri and surrounding

Day 6: Enjoying the drive back, Hemis Monastrey, double humped camel ride, local Leh Market

Day 7: Fly Back

Here is a quick glimpse of why you should be excited

Monday, September 26, 2016

Co-incidence or Sisterly Bond!

How does this even happen.. two sisters come to the same location at least 7 years apart...And they both do the exact same thing..

Drink water from the fountain at Chicago Botanical Garden with the same level of excitement and naughtiness in their eyes!

I am reading too much into it, I know. I get that kids love open spaces, water and all water related activities.

Chances there were loads of other kids who must have drank water from that water fountain in the Rose Garden, Yeah, I get that! But its still adorable to have very very similar pictures of the two sisters

Here is Miss V aka Chatterbox when she was 1.5 year old

Here is Miss S aka Little Lady (Budding chatterbox) at 3.5 year old

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Indian Army: A story that need's to be told

As I read up on the Uri attacks, my hearts fill up with sadness. 17 Indian Army men lives lost in this cowardly attack.

We recently visited Leh & Laddakh and were guests of the Indian Army. After spending a week with our Indian Army, I feel one Indian army man equals the courage, the strength and the humility of 20 civilians combined.

The story of the Indian Army needs to be told- not in the 'Indian Bollywood way' but their true stories of sacrifice, spending months away from family, having the willfulness to actually so something for the country. The way I see it, we as Indian's sleep peacefully while the Army (as a matter of fact our navy/ air force) stay awake and protect us.

Being an Indian, I love Bollywood, love the movies, the fun, the gossips, the drama, the music and the vibrancy of Indian Film Industry. But today, to them I say: One thing you fall short on is showing the true nature of our Jawans (Soldiers)!!

Within a week of the one-on-one time with them, my entire family was often brought to tears as we heard their daily lives.

Here are some excerpts of stories from a week:

Mr S-ji, is a Kargil veteran, he was with us for the entire week. He recanted stories of the war: His best friend from school who joined army together. He helped his friend and his lady love elope and get married; they went through training together, cared of each other's families like they were their own! In the Kargil war, one evening they sat and wished each other luck. Mr S'ji's friend said- please tell my wife no matter where I am, I will always care! The next evening they come back to the base camp and Mr S finds out his friend was martyred! It's been over fifteen years, but Mr S'ji eyes were moist. He said- he feels this guilt that he lived and his friend died. He questions 'why him', he has this guilt every time he visit's his friend's family- maybe he could have done something different to save/protect his friend.

Another Army Jawan- Mr. X, let’s call him is a Kargil Veteran. He was telling us very simply about the "Tiger Hill Capture'. In the snow clad mountains, they would go for days without food or water. There were days when they came back to the base mountain to get one poori since all Jawan's needed food and supplies were running short. He told us of a story that they had to kick ice with their boot's for some ice to melt and they could quench their thirst. He told us the eve of victory night for the Tiger Hill, he was tired, hungry and exhausted. His colleague told him, carry this extra food for the night- Mr X's response:' Just give me the Tiranga (national flag): I just want to hoist that on the mountain!! That's the only extra weight I want to carry- food can wait!”

Mr S'ji tells us about his son, similar age as my daughter gets to see him may be 2-3 months every year! He was describing a story of building his house in his hometown. And though the civilians see the army uniform- they are not shy of asking him for a bribe to get the 'house plan' passed or get 'electricity connection' going! For Mr S'ji- I am here on the border, truly serving my nation and here these civilian's ask me for a bribe to build a house with my hard earned money!

We heard about the disparity of 'hardship pay' A Jawan stationed in the Siachen gets an additional hardship allowance of say 100$, but an IAS officer stationed in the urban city of 'Guwahati' gets a hardship allowance of '100$*5' How is that fair?

We visited the army base camp near 'Tso Moriri' lake. We had the privilege of having lunch in the Officers Mess. The camp, the Jawans, the officers all had the largest smiles and unspoken humility for us. They were happy to have my little one play with their hat or show my older daughter the 'pistol' from one of the wars. I was wondering- may be watching my kids- they think about their own families, little sisters or a life they could have had!

That evening we met a really young officer and we asked him- Why army:: He responded : Why not? This young officer from grade 9 knew the army is what he wanted:- he went to military school, studied did everything he could to get to the army. Nope, he has no family in the army- it's just what he wanted to do: Serve his country!!

I can go on and on about these little conversations, the stories, the valor, the courage, the sacrifices... but they won’t be enough!

These are the stories that need to be shared, the movies that need to be made! Bollywood, you know I love you- But I really want you to show the true army! Their stories. It might not be 'masala movies' but it will be something that will inspire you and me!! may be it will make us think twice before we ask/ give bribe. May be it will make us salute a passing soldier; donate a little something to their families!! 

Just a little something for them so that they know- we care, or at least we acknowledge and really appreciate their hard work.

As I sip on hot tea in an air-conditioned office: I remember the Jawan's who blew our minds in ONLY one week!
One of them- asked us what we did professionally- and all I could say was: Nothing! Nothing compared to you

Friday, September 9, 2016

Summer of 2016

Summer here is officially over, kids are back to school, life is back to regular scheduled programming.

As I have been getting back to 'life' I keep hearing: Summer was too short! Luckily Chicago weather has been good and its still amazing, I guess they are referring to 'summer: the official close of schools is over' I agree and disagree.

Agree: Wasn't it just yesterday I bid adieu to my munchkins are they went to spend 8 blissful weeks (First 1 with Sumit in India, 5 with Grand Parents solo and 2 again with us joining them) in India with the Grandparents and Cousins. Wasn't it yesterday that Sumit and I planned our '4 trips whilst the kids are away' Wasn't it yesterday that I washed and folded 11 loads of laundry since after kids left everything really needed to be re-washed!!

Disagree: They were gone for a really long time. I mean being away from the kids for 6 weeks is 
relaxing for sure, but definitely the empty house is not. Seeing other kids in the playground, at the beach, having tantrums over dinner all gave me an empty void. It was really long!

Yes we traveled while they were away: A weekend getaway to Pittsburgh to ring in cousins 50th, a last minute trip to Grand Yosemite, a romantic 4 day relaxation trip to Montreal-Quebec. I barely cooked whilst the kids were away. We ate out, walked, biked, met friends, and enjoyed long dinners and even longer chats! We piled on pounds, caught up on some books; saw some shows and the best of all: Really slept in!

I'd be lying if I said didn't enjoy the mornings: I mean waking up, showering at your leisurely pace and just heading to work was amazing!

But now that they are back, waking up to their cute hugs is the right way to start the morning.
The kids in India also relaxed: They watched a LOT of TV, cartoons, traveled with grandparents. Dressed up and enjoyed the gathering of cousins and friends. Attended weddings, and lots of reading, swimming, going on horse carriage rides, getting a fair share of ice cream and generally 'just bumming around'. They bonded with their cousins, fought with them, played with them and definitely bonded!!

A non-scheduled summer like it should be!

My Chatterbox-Miss V: Slept in, almost every single day. My Little Lady picked up Hindi so beautifully that she is only conversing in Hindi out of choice with us!

It really works out to have this balance trip: A friend mentioned: Your parents are doing 2 things: Pampering the grand kids and pampering you! I agree, since I got the 'much needed break' The kids loads of un divided attention and really got to broaden their horizons and get more independent!

This could not have been possible without our families in India. They paused their own lives to ensure the kids were happy and settling in! And now as they get used the quietness around the house, we get used to the riot!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

3.5 years of complete and utter joy

Ok, may be some tantrums, some stubbornness, some food pickiness, but with Little Lady, now a
little over 3.5 years of age is complete and utter joy!!

Her name means the 'Peaceful One'!
0-1: That's what she was. Feed her and change her on time, and she is a happy girl.
1-2: The pattern pretty much continued, of course moving from Nanny to Day Care was a bit tough on her, but besides that she pretty much was angelic.
2-3: Shy and reserved outside, but a riot in the house. This totally describer her toddler year.
3- Till Date: Complete and Utter Joy.

A quick update:

Head Strong and her go hand in hand. Once she makes up her mind, there is very slim chance of you changing it. Good Luck is all I can say.
She is now in the 'Why/Who/Where phase' Case in point: If she looks at my what's app contact-
she will ask who is this, why do they live there and ask a gazillion simple questions to keep you on toes.

Daring: There is no slide she won’t conquer, there are no steps that she won’t jump off, there is no adventure she will shy away from. She thoroughly enjoys swimming, but definitely not the class

Musical: Oh my, a lot of our family calls her 'Gud Ki Dali' implying A sugar Cube. And that is true, she is singy songy, melodious and definitely has an adorable sweet voice. Yeah, I should look at some singing lessons for her.

The one thing she is not excited about is challenges when it comes to reading/ writing.
Example: She knows to write 'A' really well so will stick to that and take a while before venturing to a new alphabet. Numbers, haha, good luck having her 'try to write' any other number except '1'. She is definitely not showing any signs of interest in reading as well. Oh well, she will be ready when she is!

Puzzles, Structures: Now this she can sit for a while and do it. She will keep attempting, ask for her but keep at it for a while. She is pretty good at entertaining herself while say: I am cooking/ working etc.

Language: I can go on and on writing about this, she is now fluent in Hindi and English and is ONLY conversing in Hindi with us and reminds us 'Hindi mein bolo' of course her 2 month trip to India with grandparents had a lot to do with that. She has a flair for languages, loves Spanish in school and is amazingly sweet about teaching me songs in it!

Phone & TV. My gosh, this is her true passion, remember point 1: Headstrong. She will argue and make any case possible as long as you cave in for TV/Ipad/Phone. Uff.

Sisterly Connection- They fight, there is no subtle way to put it. Yes my girls are 5 years apart and they fight! Not all the time, they will over  sharing a cookie, a pencil, an Ipad. Little Lady will go and pull Miss V’s hair just because. She follows her ‘didi’ like a shadow but will annoy her a lot as well

No write up about Little Lady is complete without describing her ‘Girly Choices’ She picks out my mom’s nail paints and had her ‘Naani’ change the nail paint color every single day for 2 months. She is all about dresses and couldn’t care less about pants. She will twirl with utter joy and loves to dress up in anything Indian.

Here is where V and Little Lady differ the most!!!

Coming back to 'Peaceful One' I am blessed with two young vivacious girls!

Both of them bring utter peace to my being. And Yes, Little Lady is hilarious, girly, witty,
shy outside the house and a riot inside.

I see her I smile, she has a tantrum, I find it cute, she has a meltdown I laugh!!  I know, bad parenting.. But she is a true utter joy!

I want to make sure I capture this sweet innocence and the person she is now!