Well, it’s been nearly a month since we set out for home. The journey back was very pleasant, the plane had one of those systems where you can choose what to watch from 200 films. All three of the children sat still and silent for the entire 10 hours- George slid down in his chair a little bit when he fell asleep, but apart from that- so we arrived home without really noticing the journey.
I had expected to be amazed by how different London was from India but in fact it just felt the same- not the same as India, but the same as it was before we left. Our house was the same- more or less- it was lovely to see friends and family and find they were just the same, which was, after all, how we liked them.
We had about a fortnight of Easter Holidays before school started during which the children ate baked beans every day and their own body weight several times over in Easter Eggs. Despite having lived on such a bizarre and limited Indian diet for four months they all seemed to have grown improbably taller and Alfie only owned two pairs of trousers which went any lower than his ankles. Maybe I should set myself up as a child nutritionist with a patented “Indian Lengthening Diet” based on Aruveydic Princlples and a daily bar of 30 rupee Dairy Milk.
Everybody seemed happy to go back to school and I can announce with no small degree of maternal pride that Alfie and George received gold certificates in this Friday’s assembly for “settling in well” and in George’s case, also for “special effort with skipping”. Martha was ten yesterday. My Mum gave her some speakers for her iPod so now she can dance to Tamil Pop at top volume in her own bedroom rather than in the kitchen, where it tended to get in the way of cooking the baked beans.Elverybody is off, all day doing their own things- except me, who is at home, still unpacking and trying to reorganize life- and get a proper, grown up job for September. There’s swimming, gymnastics, piano, karate, Quaker meeting, tea dates, homework, skateboarding, committee meetings, school uniform to wash, packed lunches to pack, PE kit to forget- in short, it’s all just as it was, and I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

As far as the children are concerned it’s hard to say whether the changes in them are down to India- or to the passage of four months and more or less unbroken exposure to family life. I have noticed that they all tell people their favourite thing about India was “riding on an elephant” which I imagine gets a simpler and more satisfactory response than ” being allowed to drive the SEED Jeep across the dual carriageway” (Alfie)/”fiddling about with feral livestock” (Martha)/ “watching Indian children’s tv” (George).- the more truthful answers. We talk about SEED everyday and have introduced a Quaker Grace before family meals, including an Om Shanti at the end, just like at SEED.
I have learnt so much, on my travels, it’s hard to know where to begin. In fact, it’d be even harder to know where to end- so with that in mind it might be safer to embark on trying to explain over a cup of tea so I can judge from your glazed expression when I need to stop. When a new difficulty presents itself for me to worry about I ask myself what Hema, Anakili and Maya, the ladies at SEED, would make of it- I didn’t think they would worry about whether Martha was REALLY pleased with her birthday celebrations, so I stopped worrying about it too.
I think they probably would be quite worried by the state of our house- so I should get a move on with that. I remembered the other day, as I walked home through Shepherd’s Bush Market, how Mr Dilibob had asked, incredulously whether it was really true that in England women didn’t wear flowers in their hair. Oh dear, how sad that it really is true. I find I don’t have the nerve to jangle about London in belled anklets or wear a bindi in day to day life but obviously, I never take off my gold bangles, for fear of losing them- might we call that a 10% improvement?
One change that is certainly Indian in it’s origin, is in our perception of what constitutes a “long journey”. It’s three hours from our home to the Dorset Coast: too far for a weekend, even a bank holiday weekend, we’ve always felt. But after driving for 6 hours to cover 4cms on our map of the Western Ghats, three hours feels quite managable. So here I am now, bringing you right up to the minute- on the beach at West Bay, sitting in the sun after a lunch of fish and chips. So far from where we last sat by the ocean, but mindful that it’s still the same sea, just about twenty degrees colder.

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