Landour: Of Stunning Views and Steaming Khao Suey

With steep hill climb, sweeping history lessons, stunning scenery, pinewoods, old churches and Ruskin Bond’s house around the corner. Landour is probably the oddest destination one could have picked to travel with kids (10 months and 4). Odd because of the sheer amount of uphill walking one has to do ( with kids that could be a pain). Plus, there’s nothing much to do as said by many friends. However, husband and I wanted to runoff to a quiet and non-touristy place; so on a gorgeous summer afternoon we landed up in Landour, a small cantonment town roughly 4 kilometer away from Mussoorie.

As I stood in the gate of Ivy Cottage, a sense of calm descended on me. How do you describe a feeling you don’t have words for? With clouds touching my nose, I hugged the baby and descended down the stairs to reach where our cottage was.

…and the sight just stole my heart.

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The 180 degree view of the hill, nestled Woodstock school in the distance and a small window with colorful hanging flower pots (I was told that is Ruskin Bond’s balcony) held me in spot. I had seen different shades of the sky, but never before have I witnessed the magic of green, blue, aqua and white mingle in a manner so cohesive that you can’t help but get teleported to the fantasy world of your childhood.

The next three days were spent doing that– staring at the hills for hours, playing peek a boo with the sun and clouds, amidst lots of laughter, diaper change, baby food and conversation.

Plus, we abandoned all the plans of usually site seeing that our driver suggested.

Kempty Falls, Gun Hill, Mall road…NO.

Instead, we did this.

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…spent hours staring at the horizon.

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over many cups of coffees at Cafe Ivy.

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and many heated arguments on world politics.

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There were discussions on experiencing Landour in winters, just so we can curl up in bed with a book under the glowing orange flame from a fireplace.

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Not to mention, how unashamedly we posed for pictures in every possible corner of Rokeby Manor

Tell me why, the food taste so good on holidays? or was there something special about this Khao Suey at Doma’s Inn.


and this Salmon at Rokeby Manor

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What can I tell you about this old-fashioned library at Rokeby? Just pick any book from here, and find your favorite corner.

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and this oh-so-inviting living room which called for cuddles and hot-chocolate.

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Did I mention, how often we huffed and puffed like a dragon in Landour?

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There were times, when the pebbled streets looked far too quiet and spooky near Stubli, The Stray Dog.

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We saw other interesting things..

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Landour stole my heart; we couldn’t help doing the touristy things.

Landour taught me what slowing down means.It taught me, I don’t have to tick items out of my bucket list to be happy, I need to appreciate life for what I’ve now.

#Travellingwithkids #Travelogue #Landour #Mussorie #Ruskinbond #RokebyManor #IVYCottages #CafeIvy #TheStrayDog #Stubli #IvyCottages #CharDukan #Travelling #slowingdown

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Of Travelling with Kids and other Ambiguities

 

Strutting her high heels, she sashayed her way up in the aircraft holding Kafka on the Shore and a Starbuck coffee. On her head not a single hair was out of place. I saw her enter because I was given a special privilege— family with kids first. I dream of travelling like that someday—kids-free and holding a tiny LV bag. But for now reality bites.

Recently, I took my first flight alone with the kids (10 months and 4 year) and I am happy that we made it in one piece. Most parents stress over travelling with kids and I’ve had my share of nervous moments. Primarily, I had three concerns: how will I use the washroom, handling unfriendly passengers, and a possibility of a tantrum (this was freaking me out) at 30’000 feet.

The bad news is all the three happened, and I survived to tell-the-tale. So here’s my two cents worth of advice for surviving an airplane with two-kid:

1. Of Pockets, spare tee, and easy-to pull down pants 

Stop enviously looking at that woman reading Kafka on the Shore and sipping on a coffee, looking all relaxed. You too, will travel in style someday. But for now, you need an easy-to pull down pants because baby wearing in tight-fitting jeans is too-hard to shimmy down. Plus, you need pockets to carry your mobile (can’t miss Instagram now, can we), a bottle, boarding pass or whatever. Also, don’t forget to carry a spare tee for you and kids, coz you don’t want be smelling the puke in your entire journey.

2. Of using a little imagination

Kids don’t need toy when they are trying to make your life miserable at 30’000 feet. Also, babies usually don’t want the toys you are carrying. Instead of fretting over what they may or may not love, give them anything that’s handy—security leaflet, plastic cups, tissues, air-sickness bag whatever. When nothing seems to be working, I gave the baby an empty juice can and its jingling sound worked like magic, much to the distress of my neighbor. For the boy I carried a thin Pixar Cars (he is obsessed with Lightening McQueen) sticking book.

3. Of crabby uncles and nosy aunties

I totally get it why people don’t want kids around on an airplane. But I am mommy now, and I strongly believe in karma. So you may not understand why I am not able to discipline my 10-months old. I say—do-what-you-gotta-do—nurse, walk, distract, whatever! If nothing works, remember this too shall pass. That crabby business men giving you stinky eye is probably tired of travelling with hysterical kids, and that nosy aunty has already been in your shoe but has short memory. So do your mama-things, and then put on an umbrella to let the snide “tuts and sign” fall in the ground. BTW, do you have any other choice? No. So go find your Zen!

4. Of keeping your hands free

If you are planning a trip with younger kids— go buy a backpack as hand luggage so that you have both hands free. I have a sturdy small backpack that I am using since the boy was a baby. It makes it easier to carry your child or hold their hand or show your passports or help a potty-trained kindergartner in the loo— or whatever else you need to do at the airport.

5. Of sweating over small stuffs

Now the pressure of the airplane taking off drives most kids crazy and they don’t understand why their ears are suddenly hurting. So carry some chewy finger food—small box of fruits, lollypop, nuggets, chocolate cookies. For small babies nursing helps, but only if they are game for it.

 

Now that you have successfully gotten the children settled in-flight and they look somewhat quiet, happy or even asleep. Look over to that woman reading Kafka on Shore with perfect manicured nails, and call in a drink (I mean coffee) for a treat.

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Have no picture of three of us together as my attempt at taking selfies sucks. Period.

Tags: #travellingwithkids #travelogue #travelstory #parenting #mommytraveller #mommyblogger

Train Trips and Summer Vacation

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Image courtesy ClipArtBest.com

So, the new session has started, the son has joined a new school, the baby is napping on my lap, and summer vacation is around the corner. How exciting? When we were young, this was the time when Baba use to book the train tickets for our month-long annual trip to Siliguri. Journey always meant trains, and the anticipated train journey use to make April hard to pass.

Our parents use to accumulate all their work-leaves so that we can travel to their native place, and spend time with the extended family. During nights in April, me and my sister use to lie down next to Baba and count down the days of journey and make long list—orange or elaichi crème biscuits, cake, chana chur, Koolkit with ice, air-filled pillows, chicken & roti for dinner. Maa always use to pack in some rice, as she’s never too fond of ruti.

Maa also use to carry a Kujo (an earthen pot) to keep the water cool throughout the journey. This was long before Bisleri and Neer days; people use to get down in the station to fill their bottles with tap water. “The ice would melt but the Kujo will keep the water cool” she used to argue. Baba’s “it’s too big for journey” retort and our embarrassment standing no chance in front of her. I remember, once when our train was running 18-hours late that Kujo came to rescue. The train was stranded in the middle of some barren land, with no station nearby, and my mother started offering water to those who had none. Our effort of carrying a kujo over the years finally paid off that day. Incidentally, she never carried a Kujo again, and we never asked her why.

I also have indelible food memories of train trips— what we ate, what we packed, what all we bought. Jainagarer Mua, orange and black lozenges, shosha (cucumber) with beat nun, jhaal muri, and how the taste of tea changes as you near Bengal— passing through, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Those smell of frying samosas wafting from the pantry and— naa, pet kharab hobe, from my mother.

Our train trips also inevitable featured some fights with the sibling. Who will sit next to the window? Where will we sleep at night? Will I get the middle birth? The fights would inevitably be accompanied by a phase of sulking, followed by long conversation and antakshari.

Though, summers were mostly about bonding with the cousins, grandparents, and relatives. The most exciting part was the train journey, and stories they brought. Like, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the train passing over a bridge “this is Farakka Barrage, we are passing over Ganga”— Maa would say. “Throw in a coin and take her blessings”.

No matter how rough the ride there were plenty of stories we carried in our bags from our train journeys. Stories that remained etched in my mind.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

At the end of the day, all that matters is love and memories!

Heritage Transport Museum: A Photo Diary

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If you are vehicle enthusiasts, head straight to this one-of-its-kind Heritage Transport Museum. Housed about 40 KM from Gurgaon, this stunning and well-maintained Museum is a goldmine for transit junkies, packed with information and dozens of the actual vehicles used to transport high-flying Indians over the past 150 years. Run by Mr. Tarun Thakral of Le Meridien, New Delhi, the museum houses an eclectic collection of vintage cars (from IMPALA to Pontiac), hand carts, palanquins, boats, a train compartment, Pakistani truck-art by famous artist Anjum Rana, and even a bi-plane. Built on a 3 acre complex, the museum is spread over four air-conditioned floors that offer over 100,000 square feet of exhibition space, library and reference centre, mini auditorium, souvenir shop, and cafeteria.

What’s on offer?

Take your kids on a walk through time and explore the history of transport in India, although I felt they need to make it more interactive for the kids. Lots of vintage cars, buses, mini Vespas to see; but they can’t really clamber or touch it, and that could be a little disappointing for little kids. (Disclaimer: I am not endorsing touching the displays here, in India you can’t really allow that). I felt a nice play area where kids can indulge in a vehicle-related activity would have been nice. Though, after checking the four floors of the museum kids can enjoy a day of painting, pottery, horse and camel ride in the outdoor plush green area—but they can do that anywhere, right?

Getting there

Finding the place was a little taxing for us as it is a bit far from Gurgaon, and the GPS showed 2 approaches— via Sohna or NH8. NH8 is recommended, and a possible landmark could be GITM College. The place itself is in the middle of nowhere so that made it a nice little road trip for us.

Mommy Tips:

  • It felt great to visit a museum like this in India with great exhibits, informative displays and without any jostling for space.
  • Cafeteria is running but there are limited things on offer (Pastas, Popcorns and Yippee noodles are not my thing)
  • One can spend 3-4 hours easily exploring the museum
  • Souvenirs are expensive as all the cars and trucks are designed and decorated by famous artist Anjum Rana. However, it’s worth paying for if you are into that kind of stuffs.
  • The entire place is accessible by stroller and wheelchair

Verdict:

Highly Recommended.

#destinationunlocked #eyeforluxury #kidsdayout #daytrip #everythingvintage #parenting #placestovisit #mustvisit #museum

A version of this blog post also got published in Huffington Post India under my name. Here’s the link of that post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/mousume-roy/heritage-transport-museum-gurgaon-steer-the-kids-here-for-a-fu/?utm_hp_ref=in-

 

 

Happy Family Vacation

Friend, partners in crime, rivals…

I have one elder sister.

While growing up we fought like cats and dogs, and said some of the meanest things to each other, and later patched up as if nothing happened. We did some of the silliest things together, and laughed at jokes only we could understand.

But then she moved to the U.S and the Skype conversation and over the phone talks took a beating because of the time zone change, work and babies! Thus her arrival in India was something I was looking forward to with bated breath. The moment I saw her the years vanished like a fart in the wind, and we’re right back to where we’ve left it, that is, like nothing has ever been missing.

We recently visited them in Kolkata, and the overnight conversation against the high rising Rajarhat is something that I cherish the most. We had the best time with our parents joining in. The house was bursting at the seams, but in a good way. Also, watching the kids gel is something that took me by surprise as they all met for the first time. My nieces and nephew don’t speak Bengali or Hindi, and I was a bit skeptical about how Aurko will respond to their accented English. But boy was I wrong, kids speak their own language, they don’t need familiarity. Cousins laughed and giggled, husbands had long conversations, there were lots of slamming doors, chasing after boys, and hair braiding for girls.

As usual we (me n hubby) did a poor job of taking pictures and didn’t pull out the camera much. Partially because it was busy and there was so much catching up to do and so many stories to be recalled.

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Princep Ghat

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#Travel #Travelogue #Familyvacation #Cousins #Sisterdom #Sisterhood

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi

Sky scraping snow-capped Mountains, vast expansion of meadows, small quaint cafe, steep walks and groves, is what I’ve been longing for lately. Except reality couldn’t be any further from the truth. A mountain getaway now is completely off-limits, as the boy’s flu last month took away two-weeks off work.

Living in Delhi NCR, I have always missed the nature. There are no water bodies, no mountains or rivers to just sit by and stare, and do nothing. I stayed in Bhopal for a few years, and I have some fond memories of sitting by the lake chewing on roasted corn on weekdays. I couldn’t imagine doing that here as I am always in a hurry.

If only life could slow down a little? Some would say, there are enough parks and bawlis, old forts and ruins, India Gate and Lodhi Gardens but the distance and the crowd always spoils the appeal.

However, there is this place right in the heart of this city where life takes a different turn the moment you enter through the gate, where you can here the chirping of birds and not the traffic honking that you are so used to, where the whistling sounds of the woods are as clear as crystal, where the serenity and calmness stirs the poet inside you, where the trees play their own music, and even you are allowed to make some with the hanging instrument–minus the tourists, college crowds, or some such humdrums.

Just the sound of the nature playing its own tune!

I call it my Secret Haven.

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