Their idea of India

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 15 July 2017

In June-July, NRIs return home on a short visit — to savour mangoes, go sight-seeing, shop and bond with family members. These visits prove to be eye-openers for their children, who are goggled by the diversity of India, reports Ambika Shaligram

Shiv and Veer, sons of Bhakti and Anurag Mathur, based in Hong Kong, wanted to know more about India, from their Amma. That was the beginning of the ‘Amma take me...’ series. Now, as a natural evolution, Bhakti, a former banker, has come out with another series introducing her kids to various faiths co-existing in India, and the shrines and monuments associated with them. So the first book —The Golden Temple, Amritsar — in this series is out.

The picture book, brought out by Penguin Random House India, is based on the family’s travel to the seat of Sikkhism faith and is written for young readers, like her sons, full of curious questions. Bhakti is working on two more books — Tirupati Balaji and Fatehpur Sikri.

“I am a resident of Delhi and have visited Fatehpuri Sikri often in my childhood. I wanted to take my sons there and introduce them to its history. I did that and it’s now coming out in a picture book form. I also took my kids to visit Tirupati Balaji — many Indian parents wanted me to write a book on this — where we watched various rituals,” she adds.
The boys enjoyed the visits immensely; the only hitch was standing in long queues. “They couldn’t understand why there were so many people around, even at the crack of the dawn,” she points out.

While most Non Resident Indian (NRI) parents want their kids to form an understanding of their land, not all of them have an inclination to come out with books, detailing the history. What they usually do is bring the kids back home, introduce them to their extended families, relatives and cousins and take them sight-seeing. Most of the parents take their children to their birthplaces, native places or places associated with their childhood. Some would also like their children to experience the diversities that abound in the country — from Lamborghinis to bullock-carts. Here, some parents talk about the bond their kids share with India...

Seeking out fun
Dipti and Prashant Patil have been living in Geneva, Switzerland, for almost two decades now. But their connection with Mumbai, their home in India, is as firm as ever. They bring their two sons, Tanish (16) and Aayush (7), back home, once in two years.

Says Prashant, “We take the boys to meet the families, and also travel to some destination in the country. Our only thumb rule is that there should be some fun element included in the visit — like a jungle safari or going to a film city.”

“The kids enjoyed the visit to Ranthambore. And, every time we plan to come home, they want to go on a safari,” says Dipti, who is a homemaker.

Patils want their children to experience the diversity and the ever-increasing gap between haves and have-nots. Prashant, who works at Ralph Lauren, says, “We want Tanish and Aayush to experience the diversity, instead of us explaining it to them. We want them to see the Lamborghinis and the bullock carts, the five-star accommodation and the slums. Our kids read Amar Chitra Katha and quite a few places that we visited (Hyderabad, Jaipur and Agra) have references in the comics.

However, we don’t explicitly mention this. If they are able to relate, it’s great. And, if they can’t, it’s fine.”

Lessons in history
The Tyagis are from north India and UK has been their home for 11 years now.  “I am from Delhi, while my husband, Puneet is from Moradabad.

My daughter Kashavi is eight and her younger brother, Reyansh is five.

We come home almost every year, usually in December, as the climate in Delhi is cool then. If we can’t come in December, then we come in April. The kids will not be able to tolerate the Indian Summer, if we come in their holidays in June and July,” explains Jaya.

When they are in India, they follow the usual drill — meeting with grandparents, and going out for lunches and dinners, besides sight-seeing. “We came home in December 2016 and that time we took the kids to Nainital and surrounding area. Earlier, we had visited Pune and then we also went to Jaipur and Udaipur,” she adds.

Unlike many NRI kids, who dislike coming to India, Kashavi and Reyansh are enthusiastic. For them, holiday means India. “The children are not exactly disconnected with India. We celebrate all festivals here, and then they also see us dressed in ethnic clothes, not very often though. Reyansh was a little reluctant to wear Indian clothes on festivals, but after coming here, he is quite happy,” says Jaya. Her daughter is eager to know about the country of her parents. “We often discuss history as taught in school — what I studied and what she is studying. She is keen to learn about Indian history and visit historical monuments. We have been to Red Fort once and I want to visit the Taj Mahal with them,” Jaya adds.

Puneet has a ‘sweet’ plan up his sleeves. On their last visit, he treated the kids to Indian sweets, the way they are meant to be eaten. “My son ate Jalebi-Dahi combination for the first time. And, he loved it. Even now, he gets craving for that particular combination and is looking forward to gorging more on his visit this year,” says Jaya.

Sensory tales
On their visit to India, the Alurkars take their children, seven-year-old Abhaya and three-year-old Anay, to art museums, gardens, historical monuments and food places. “The kids savoured a six-feet dosa in Chennai last year. I usually team up my conferences and meetings in India with their holidays in June and July,” says Mugdha, who teaches at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, USA.

The children enjoy their visits to the country, but India can prove to be ‘sensory overload’ at times. “Too many colours, noise, people speaking in various languages, can be chaotic. By and large, their lives are peaceful in USA,” adds Mugdha.

But, her eldest daughter is getting used to this. “Abhaya enjoys visiting new places although it gets overwhelming at times. She enjoys talking to people, bargaining in markets and learning a few key words from new languages. She has acquired a taste for various Indian cuisines,” says the mum.

The family also makes it a point to read up about the places that they are visiting. Currently, travelling in north India, the Alurkars read up on Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. “Abhaya read up about Taj Mahal from the Magic Tree House series. She also read on cobras. In USA, we watch TV shows about food and culture such as Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan to complement our literal knowledge visually,” adds she.

Coast calling!
Madhuvanti is from Kankavli, while her husband, Chintamani Karyekar is from Pune. They live in Indiana, USA, with their six-year-old son Chinmay and his three-year-old sister Annika. In June-July, they usually pay a visit to India, meeting relatives, catching up with friends and visiting Konkan-Malvan region.

"We spend a few days in Pune, with my in-laws. And then I make a short trip to Kankavli, to visit my folks. Between Pune-Kankavli trip, we make a couple of stops. One is at Kolhapur, because it’s very convenient. And, at Narvan, a village near Hedavi in Konkan, which is my husband’s native place. So far, we have visited the places with which our memories are associated,” says Madhuvanti, who teaches at Indiana University.

The couple would like to travel more in India, but haven’t been able to plan a long holiday. Also, their kids are small, to really understand the diversity that exists in this country. “We talk often about home, our people and our childhood. So Chinmay and Annika are not exactly disconnected from the country. But they are too small to understand and co-relate the information,” she adds.

Chinmay, says Madhuvanti, is eager and a friendly child, so he is interested in meeting with new people and visiting new places. At the moment, the family is in Kankavli, raking in the monsoon bliss and lush greenery of this season.

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