It is holiday season! Yippee. The schools have broken up, the heat wave is lasting longer than the obligatory two days, the roads to the coast are jam-packed with heaving cars and sweaty people armed with sun screen and swimsuits. So, have you booked your holiday yet?
For me, holidays to India always start with a list. As soon as we let the family know that we’ve booked our tickets, the list arrives:
1) ‘Remember to get chocolates- those ferris ones, everyone likes them.’ ‘Ferris?’ ‘Yes those round spiky ones in gold wrappers with nuts inside.’ ‘Oh, Ferrero Rocher you mean?’ ‘That’s the one. And get lots. The last time you came there were no chocolates left to give Walty Uncle. He’s still fuming. And I had to pay 300 rupees, 300 rupees mind you for a tiny box from that shop that sells those imported smuggled goods to give to Aunt Mimi. I had to lie and say they were from you. You know how particular she is.’
2) Shampoo: ‘Get that one smelling of apples and vanilla.’ (‘Don’t they get shampoo in India?’ My husband asks; eyeing the myriad bottles scattered around the suitcase, as I wrap tape around the tops so they won’t spill, pack them in and begin the mammoth task of weighing the suitcases and juggling the contents so the weight doesn’t exceed 23 kilos. )
3) ‘And Nimmi aunty has just had a baby boy, get something for him.’
4) ‘Something for Billu Ab’s grandkids.’
5) ‘For that family down the road who are always giving you jackfruit when you visit- get jeans for the boys.’ ‘What size are they?’ ‘How should I know? Just guess.’ ‘What age?’ ‘Younger one is in Fourth Standard, older one in tenth.’ ‘Yes, but what age are they?’ ‘9 and 15 I think, but the older one is well built and the younger one is very skinny.’ ‘Are they tall for their age, short?’ ‘Just get some jeans, Renita.’ (And before my husband begins his, ‘don’t they get jeans in India’ spiel, I interject- ‘these are foreign jeans. They have a sheen all their own, even if they are from Primark.’)
Every year my husband implores, ‘Please try and pack reasonably this time.’ And every year, he sighs as he calls the taxi company to book a people carrier for ‘2 adults, 2 children.’ ‘Then why the people carrier, sir?’ ‘Well…there are 4 large suitcases and assorted hand luggage.’
Every year, the journey to the airport is fraught; my husband thin lipped as he shares his seat with a giant suitcase and my handbag spilling over with baby clothes. ‘Baby clothes? We don’t have any babies.’ ‘Not for us, for Aunt Chinnu’s cousin’s child.’ ‘Why in your handbag for God’s sake?’ ‘There was no space in the suitcases.’ ‘Have you packed any clothes for us?’ Both of us remembering the last time we visited when we had to buy our entire wardrobe down to socks and toothbrushes as soon as we landed. ‘Um…Well… Um…’
At check in, I discover faith again as I plead mercilessly to all the Gods, to please, please, by some miracle make all the suitcases weigh 23 kilograms, frantically remembering the shoes for Pedru Ab-‘he blisters easily, Renita, the shoes in India are not good’- that I sneaked into the green suitcase, and the diabetic chocolates I packed into the brown one after they had all been weighed by hubby the night before and declared to be teetering closer to 24 than 23.
A frenzied reshuffle begins, as I open suitcases and stuff more items into already bulging back packs, and my hubby slumps with his head in his hands.
Finally the suitcases are through, thank you Oh Great and Loving Lord, and we make our way to the plane overloaded and hunched with the weight of hand luggage digging into our shoulders and backs.
And if you thought that was the end of the story…
On the journey back, scenario repeats itself- but this time with pickle bottles pressed into hands by loving relatives, packs of jackfruit and banana chips, grated coconut, bhujia, pots and pans for the kitchen, a pressure cooker, a spice grinder… ‘Why not take that mixer, those guavas and chikkoos from the fruit basket and the kitchen sink as well, for good measure?’ my hubby asks.
But in between, we have a fabulous time. The warmth of the people, the amazing food, stories exchanged, gifts showered, love bestowed. The smell of spices, the pleasure of biting into a perfectly ripe mango, juice trickling down chins, the sun tinting faces gold, the noise, the chaos, the heat, the glorious mess of contradictions that is India.
Want to go? You can, for just £1.99 (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monsoon-Memories-ebook/dp/B00DHVEEDS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0 or $2.99 (US): http://www.amazon.com/Monsoon-Memories-ebook/dp/B00DHVEEDS/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2_XA5N
Here’s what some of the reviews about Monsoon Memories have to say: ‘you can experience the taste, the heat, the spice of India …in the comfort of your home…’ ‘you can almost smell the food cooking & imagine the heat & way of life…’ ‘you quickly forget your immediate surroundings as you are transported into the world of monsoon memories.’ ‘I’ve never been to India, but Renita D’Silva’s writing is so evocative that I felt as if I’d been transported there whilst reading Monsoon Memories. The sights, sounds and smells all came alive for me…’
So, no hassle of packing, no back pain from carrying overflowing hand luggage. Just sit in your armchair or lounge on the sun deck or even float in the pool with Monsoon Memories on your Kindle and a glass of something cold by your side and transport yourself. What are you waiting for?