Here’s the thing. I’m back! Where was I for the past month? I dunno. Somewhere over the Atlantic waters for a few days and then on the other side of the world for the rest. Any guesses yet? Let me clarify. I was in India for about 3 weeks for the winter holidays, and it was the best thing ever. Mainly for two reasons. One, I would get to see my family after 7 years, and two, I needed a break. Desperately. School is stressful by itself, and three weeks away from anything that has to do with Triangle Similarity Theorems or on the Nervous System was exactly what I needed. And what better way to do so than to visit your family?
Pune is the city where my dad’s side of the family lives. Well, apart from my Atya ( dad’s sister- a specific term for aunt) who lives in Australia with my Mama ( dad’s sister’s husband- specific term for uncle) and two older cousins. Other than that everyone else lives there.
I’d say the highlight of my trip there was being able to spend time with my two younger cousins. I feel a bit guilty for choosing that over every other wonderful and exciting moment, but I really looked forward to meeting them.
The last time I met my first youngest cousin (Viraj), he was only 2-3 years old. He was still a small kid. And also at that time, he wasn’t able to communicate yet. The was, however, able to pinch very well. I was around 6 years old at that time, and I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be an older sister. I found it annoying and didn’t understand why he did it, and instead scolded him. Looking back, I think that was his way of communicating. I can’t remember if he was able to communicate with sounds, but if not, I think pinching was the most effective way he could communicate or get someone’s attention. But now, he’s grown up, 8 now, and is one of the most adorable, and best kids I’ve ever met. Not just because he’s my cousin. But because he’s such a good kid. He’s a very obedient kid who will help out or do whatever is told of him no matter what. Not only that, it’s amazing how much he looks to me, even if we haven’t been able to see each other very often in the past years. Not in a bragging way. I mean it as in, he always wants to do something with me.
I’m an only child, and that means I’m kind of by myself. I’ve never been able to have that older sister or younger sister sibling relationship, so I really got to experience that more this trip. Especially with being an older sister. Viraj is always wanting me to come play or do something with him. Once there was a stray kitten looking for it’s mother and he so desperately wanted me to come help him. I eventually gave in, but it was really warming to see him so determined to convince me.
My youngest cousin, Viaan, is 2 years old, and is also a late speaker. Instead of pinching, he uses sounds and gestures more often. Despite having the biggest, most innocent eyes and curious mind, he is a bit of a troublemaker. It is incredibly hard to get mad and scold this kid. Viaan once did something wrong, and so my kaka ( dad’s brother- term for uncle) was telling me to scold him. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not hold in my smile or laughter for more than 3 seconds. (I think he knows he’s cute, and uses that very well to his advantage. ) Once he gets to talking, the real fun will begin. This is my first time meeting him, so I was really excited when I got to see him and make my first set of memories with him.
A picture of my Kaka, two younger cousins, and I! This was taken at Saundatti Yellamma temple in Karnataka. It’s kind of a tradition in my family to go visit it a few times a year, and we usually always go whenever we visit India.
Now let me tell you a bit more about my other family members.
My Kaka is the best expert at food. I do remember some memories when I was younger where he would take me out somewhere for the day to have fun, but we never went for food. I do remember one time he talked about the Domino’s Pizza in India and the most cheesy pizza I would ever find. Sadly we never got to try it that time, but we did this time. I don’t think he remembers that time, but I do. And I got to try it. He’s a fun person to be around, but sometimes he feels serious. Like way too serious. At times I can feel a bit intimidated by him, but otherwise he’s comforting.
My Kaku ( dad’s brother’s wife- specific term for aunt) is the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She’s a quiet person, but she cares deeply for others. She actually reminds me of my Mami ( mother’s brother’s wife- specific term for aunt) in Mumbai. They’re both caring souls, and have extremely pure hearts. She’s an amazing person who is extremely talented, and is literally the best.
My grandfather is a man in a hurry. Even if there’s nothing to be in a hurry about, he’s always rushing. He likes to be a part of what I do, and try to know me better. He’s a bit strict, so it’d be a lie if I didn’t say I’m scared around him sometimes. But the best part about him is that he always wants to talk to me. He always wants to tell me something. Whether it’s about his continuous stamp collection or some story, he always wants to talk to me.
My grandmother is a bit of the opposite. She’s the person to watch everyone in the background and smile lovingly. She always puts others before herself, and that frankly worries me sometimes. She’s also a very religious person and would end up telling me some stories about baby Krishna ( a god) or even just children’s stories. At times I don’t mind, but sometimes it makes me feel upset that she doesn’t know I’m older now. Same with my grandfather. They’re getting old, and it shows.
Above is a picture of my entire Pune family at Saundatti.
It probably doesn’t show, but I was exhausted when we took that picture. I was still jet lagged, and we had immediately left for Saundatti the second we ( my parents and I ) arrived in Pune. It takes almost a day to drive there as Pune is in Maharashtra, and Saundatti is in Karnataka. (These are both states in India.) So for the majority of the trip I had one thing on my mind. SLEEP. I slept on-stop that entire time, and yet,was still tired. Waking up at like 4 in the morning to go visit the temple really doesn;t help the jet lag either. Ahem. Anyways, we spent about 2-3 days at Saundatti before traveling back.
Here’s a second photo of us on the way back. We had stopped at another place for a quick aarthi. My Kaka isn’t here because he had to go deal with an issue with one of our cars.
Once we got back, the REAL adventure began. The first day, we pretty much just went shopping. Shopping for clothes, jewelry, and pretty much anything we liked. I think I probably should have taken that opportunity of being able to shop instead of whining about being tired. India has some serious lockdown restrictions in certain parts, including Mumbai, and at those places you can only go so far to do something. So, I think I should have grasped that opportunity in Pune better. However, I do not regret it! Every moment is precious, and if it was meant to be spent with me whining, then so be it.
Later that evening, we went out for dinner. And for dinner I mean a full mutton course. As I’ve mentioned before, my Kaka is practically a connoisseur in food. So we were able to get a full course on how to eat and what to eat. I have to say, this was the best mutton experience I have ever had in my entire life. It was truly, one of a kind. Sadly, I cannot describe the taste anymore, but it is definitely one of my most favorite spots during that trip.
The NEXT DAY. My Kaka, Kaku, and I went out together for sometime before meeting my parents to eat Misal. The three of us went over to a Ram Chandra Maddie ( temple) and they were showing me around a market, Tulsi Bhag, until my parents came. I’d say this was also one of my most favorite moments. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a chance to spend time with both my aunt and uncle alone, so I really got to interact with just the two of them during this time. It was a short experience, but I really had a great time visiting the different parts of the temple with both of them explaining the significance and best moments of it. It was a really special moment for me.
After that, we ate Misal. I don’t know how many times I’ve eaten Misal before, but this felt like my first time. Misal is basically rasa, bread, and a mix of masala potatoes, onions, and toppings. I’m not sure the exact translation of rasa in English, but it’s like a soup, except it’s just the broth. Except this is thicker and with masala.
I don’t want to spend my writing explaining every detail and day of this trip, but this next day is also very important to me.
So, the next day, my uncle took me and Viraj out for a day of fun. We went on a full food tour that day, and finished with the new Spider-Man movie. The reason this was special to me was because this is kind of a tradition Kaka does with me. The last time, we had gone to see Inside Out and we had gone exploring on his moped. I don’t remember anything we ate, but I do remember we got to see the Indian Eiffel Tower, and my uncle talked about Domino’s Pizza, as I had mentioned previously.
Honestly, I really enjoyed the first two dishes’ the most. Later in the day I didn’t really feel that same excitement for trying other things. I loved everything I ate that day, don’t get me wrong. But I wasn’t as excited to try them. I think I was already worn out by two dishes even though we were less than 2 hours into our day. I think I also kind of felt awkward as well. I’m extremely thankful to my uncle for taking me out, but I think that because he was waiting for what I thought of each new item that I couldn’t really savor it that well. I guess I might have been the slightest bit pressured to express more enjoyable thoughts in order to not make him feel bad. It was all honesty though! I did enjoy every item, except two, and I was honest the whole time!
We later went to the movies and saw the new film. I mention this because Indian theaters and US theaters are different in “protocol”. In the US there are trailers and ads before the movie starts. It’s the same in India, BUT, before the movie starts the national anthem is played. I had no idea of this at all, and so I immediately panicked and stood up with everyone else when the announcement came on. I stood there so awkward while everyone began to sing the national anthem and I did not know the first two lines of it. Good thing I had my mask on, or else it would have been even more awkward. AFter that it was all good. I personally like Indian theaters better. One, there’s a half time as Indian movies are ridiculously long. It’s great because you don’t have to get up and use the restroom in the middle of the movie and miss something. Two, because they have subtitles. I am a person who needs subtitles. Even if it’s in English, I need to read what they’re saying in order to understand it better. Okay, need is an exaggeration. I prefer to watch it with subtitles.
I feel like my time in Pune was also kind of tense. Tense in a way, I feel cautious. Like I’ve said, my grandfather is a strict person, so that kind of aura usually remains in the household. I can’t help but sometimes I feel a bit cautious with what I do or say because of that. I feel awkward sometimes.
But I also think that may be because I’m the only one of my age range there. My cousins are still much younger than me, and everyone else is at least 20 years older. So I’m kind of alone. They’re there with me, and I get to spend time with them, but it’s not really on the same generation level. It’s not that. We all think differently, and like different things. It’s not the same.
Besides that, I’m satisfied with my visit to Pune. I was able to complete the top things on my list there, and I think I spent my time well. At certain parts I wish I could’ve gotten more time to spend time with a particular family member, but otherwise, I’m happy.
That concludes the first part of our trip.