I spent 10 days this month on my first visit to India. I say first intentionally because with my new job, I’ll likely be there once or maybe twice a year.
India isn’t a country that I particularly aspired to visit. I knew that the crowds and contrast of extreme wealth and poverty might be more than I was ready to witness. That said, I love a new experience and opportunity to see and learn so I jumped at the chance to see it for myself.
The 20+ hours of travel were rough but not as bad as I expected, it didn’t hurt that I got an upgrade to economy-plus. I arrived in the dead of night to find my bag hadn’t made it out of Hong Kong. Hell, I barely made it out of Hong Kong with just 30 minutes between flights and having to be re-screened in security.
It’s always a trip to arrive somewhere in the dead of night and try to assess what this new local really looks like, matters were made worse by the streets being clear and my driver seizing the opportunity to fly on our way honking as we approached red lights and cruising through without letting off the gas.
My first day there I was treated to a site-seeing tour by a colleague who couldn’t bear the thought of not showing me around. We saw so much of the city. Beautiful gardens, stunning architecture, an elaborate laundry run entirely by men. We went to Ghandi’s home and saw his spinning wheels. Stopped at the Gateway to India and Victoria Terminal.
Everything I was told about India I found to be exceptionally true…that you would see cows in the road, children riding motorcycles with no helmets, that the poverty would be more striking than you can stomach and with more opulence than you’ve ever seen. I try not to allow such statements to sway my perspective when I travel because I think stereotypes apply to countries too, but all told it was exactly what I assumed to see and even still it shook me as I realized how much I don’t know and how fortunate I am.
Most of my trip was occupied with work functions — but two of those functions were massive employee festivals where the staff entertained one another with cultural songs and dances mixed with modern day music as well. I ate more Indian food than my entire life up unto this point. Luckily, we were staying at great places and the food agreed with me just fine. I even convinced my boss to take me for street food. I have new Indian favorites like jalebi (sortof a thin sweet funnel-cake with honey), dosas (like crepes made with ground lentil and rice), and a green masala local to Mumbai that I’ve never had the likes of in the US.
On a whole, I was struck by the attitude of service in the country. Both in and around the hotel, people went out of there way to get whatever was needed. My colleagues were with me every moment of the trip, showing me around, making sure I was comfortable and eagerly showing off their cities. Visiting that country with a network was an amazing way to see the sites and I think I enjoyed the experience exponentially more because of it.
I spent my last week in the country in Hyderabad, which is a booming tech center. It has more of a Muslim population and I was delighted seeing the women wearing embellished burkas with their fashionable handbags and designer shoes. My last day there I was free for sightseeing and had the opportunity to host the chair of our advisory board on a city tour. We started at the Taj Falaknuma palace which has the largest dining table in the world. Then we were off to tour yet another palace, visit a local museum, see stunning tombs of former kings and queens, check out the city fort and spend some time shopping.
Needless to say I was exhausted til all was said and done and absolutely dying to get home to my little guy. I firmly believe that it is the right path for our family to live this way but man it does challenge me some times. Much like I’m sure working at home moms are challenged with frustrating days with their children. I won’t hide that there were tears on my end after a few of our FaceTime visits, and that our reunion was sweet. I love my wild child and it nearly broke me to leave for such a long trip. But equal parts good and (for me) sad, he did just fine while I was away. He has amazing structure and support at daycare; his relationship with Eric is unparalleled and they had a blast doing special activities while I was gone.
I’m absolutely looking forward to more travel and new experiences and opportunities but for now, I’m thrilled to be home. To be covered in stickers, play-doh and little boy kisses and to pick up the duties as mom before duty calls again.