Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh! Calcutta

A little over four years ago, I wrote this post about our Matheran trip. As you can see, I was feeling mighty chuffed about the fact that we had taken our first trip with a 1.5 year old Ayaan without parental presence or assistance. Well last weekend, I decided to conquer a new bastion - travelling with BOTH kids and NO husband.

Some of my favourite bloggers were congregating in Calcutta so of course, I had to go. In an ideal world, I would have gone without the kids but as I have learnt the hard way, the world is seldom ideal. I am still breastfeeding Tarana so she goes where I go and it didn't seem right to take her and leave Ayaan behind so to cut a long story short, last Friday found us on a flight to Calcutta.

We were not completely on our own though. Kiran was one of the aforementioned favourite bloggers coming along and so was young Krish. The boys, as always, got along like a house on fire. Literally. They seemed to feed off each other's energy and proceeded to be boisterous, hyperactive and violent in turns - Ayaan more so than Krish. For a hilarious account of their antics, check out Kiran's post. This was the proverbial calm before the storm:

Dipali met us at Calcutta airport. After much hugging and greeting, she led us to her car and probably wondered what the hell she had got herself into as the bachcha party raised Cain through the long drive to her home. Her home was welcoming and cheerful and it felt good to finally get there. Assisted by the brats, we proceeded to take over her guest room and made short work of the well-ordered space.

Sue, Eve's Lungs and Rads (who doesn't blog anymore) arrived soon after we did and much merriment ensued. Given that I had Tarana on my hip, I was roundly ignored by certain people who went straight for their little doula baby without so much as a look-see at the prop holding her up! Ah well, such is life. And the certain people were Sue, in case, you were wondering.

We then proceeded to exchange gifts and it was as if Christmas had come early. The kids got a bunch of toys and I raked in a booty of stoles, purses, jewellery and a hand-embroidered handkerchief amongst other things. The kids had fun exploring their toys and some of them didn't even survive the evening - notably the play doh and the delicate wooden toys.

After that, we settled down to a lovely potluck dinner. All the girls had pitched in and the result was an awesome meal. Dipali had made a raw papaya salad, a pasta salad and a spinach, corn and cheese bake. Eve's Lungs has provided the mandatory non-vegetarian item - some yummy mutton curry. Sue, who complains about her poor cooking skills, had turned out a fantastic corn and mushroom quiche and a sinful chocolate tart.

After dinner, the kids were packed off to bed. The boys (including Sue's Bhablet) insisting on sleeping together so Sue was deputed to go and lie with them till they fell asleep. I wouldn't have offered myself up for the job for anything in the world but Sue claims she had fun! With the kids out of the way, we nattered away till it was 3 a.m and then took ourselves off to bed.

The next day dawned bright and early, for me that is. My kids refuse to sleep in no matter what time they have gone to bed so both were up and about by 7.30. The rest of the household stirred soon enough thanks to the racket they created. After a round of tea, milk and baths, we settled in to eat Dipali's trademark cheese paranthas, which were just yummy!

Mid-morning found us floating around New Market. I didn't buy much but enjoyed the hustle-bustle of the place. The boys, again commandeered by Sue, hung out at the Christmas market till they were shooed away by the shopkeepers for endangering their wares.

We then went to Good Companions, where they sell hand-embroidered kids' clothes and home linen. I had a few clothes from here when I was a kid (since my grandparents lived in Calcutta) and one of the jhablas had even survived and been worn by Ayaan and Tarana. So, of course, I had to go. I picked up some adorable frocks for Tarana from there. This is an old pic of Tarana in a classic Good Companions jhabla.

Lunch was an authentic Bengali meal at Kewpies, a quaint bungalow re-purposed as a restaurant. We were joined by Suki and Eve's Lungs lovely, young daughters. Ayaan had one of his redeeming moments during the meal when he sweetly fed the Bhablet from his own plate. As soon as lunch was over though, the boys were back to regular programming.

After a much-needed afternoon nap, we set off to dinner at Mamma mia! Me a mamma?, who from henceforth shall be referred to as M4 for the sake of brevity :)

I was worried about the brat's behaviour since there going to be TWO MORE BOYS at the dinner but M4's boys were friendly and gracious and kept all the kids busy with their Wii. After they went to bed, the rest of the kids zoned out in front of the television and largely kept out of harm's way.

M4's house was gorgeous and full of old-world charm, with some seriously lovely paintings on the walls. But all that was nothing compared to the spread she laid out for us, a big part of it cooked by herself. I didn't even look at the vegetarian stuff though I hear that was brilliant as well but the carnivores had a veritable feast comprised of tiger prawns, mutton curry and fish paturi. I was already considering opening the top button on my trousers when the dessert arrived. Oh my - it was the most unusual cheescake I have ever eaten: the base made out of boondi, follwed by a layer of mishti doi and then a layer of chocolate hazelnut mousse. And all this yumminess was garnished with some roasted cashews. Wow! If the Calcutta girls ever come to Mumbai, I am catering in the meal. There is no way I could ever live up to these standards!

Back at Dipali's house, the kids were put to bed so that we could continue our chatting marathon, which again went on till 3 a.m. Morning brought chaos as Kiran and I ran around bathing and feeding the kids in an attempt to get out of the house by 9, while Dipali fed us some more yummy paranthas (aloo this time). We made it to the airport just in time. (Kiran has a post up on our horrible experience at Calcutta airport). And then we were on our way home.

What a trip! Utterly exhausting but oodles of fun, gossip and affection. Next time though, no kids so that I can soak in the fun without feeling bone-tired :)


  1. Anonymous9:55 pm

    I tell u I am so J of all u guys, so j :P

    and we meeting when u are here righgt?

  2. *turns slowly green*

    Have been hearing too much about that cheesecake...this is bad torture!

    You girls n your adventurous spirits rock! I don't think I would even have survived the trip to the airport with 2 kids!

  3. still jealous.

  4. That seems to sum it up except for

    1. Trust me, three liddle boys snuggling up to you is fun.

    2. Don't complain, when you are my doula baby I'll greet you first too.

    3. Oh that cheesecake. In an ideal world I'd live in a joint family where the cooking was done by Dipali, Evie and B4. *dreams on*

    4. You forgot the cheese parathas! Rads and I got dhaniya ones too.

  5. Niiice! Looks like you all had loads of fun enjoy!

  6. [Monika] Yes, yes. Let me put out a mail to the effect

    [Starry] Like they say, there is a fine line between courage and insanity :)

    [Mons] Hugs. Next time.

    [Sue] What? My bullet points getting to you?
    1. Errr... thanks but I'll pass. One wriggly, muttering boy is more than enough for me...
    2. Since there are no chances of that ever happening, I reserve the right to crib :p
    3. And you would be the MIL lording it over all of them? The mind boggles!
    4. Oops! Thought I had got the cheese paranthas. Shall go and remedy that pronto

  7. [AA Mom] We did! :)

  8. 3. Me as MIL? I had thought more of myself as the only girl in the family, getting spoilt rotten. ;)

  9. Sue - Stop speed reading my posts! The cheese paranthas are there :)

  10. A yummy trip indeed!

  11. No, don't you dare leave those kids behind!! They can stay with mine while we have fun. In fact, we can even do a Ladies Night Out! Come back, come back, come back! (hehehe...guess what your word verification is -- childses)

    @ Sue: Wow...that's your idea of an ideal world? Mine has Johnny Depp and Arjun Rampal as pool boys! ;-p

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. M4 -- I know, I know it's a shameful thing to admit in one's 20s but I'm afraid I have to admit candy in the mouth beats candy for the eye, especially when the 'candy' in question is such good cooking. Of course, now if the eye candy were for more than looking I might wish to restructure my ideal world a little. ;)

  14. Anonymous5:57 pm

    Good place to be.

  15. Its fun meeting fellow bloggers and getting to share so much, I am most most candid with my blog pals and it would be fun to hang around with them

  16. Finally...

  17. J J J!
    But er.... if ever I get to play host to you bloggers, am catering too!!!

  18. We had such fun, Ro!!!! Come again- I still haven't managed to cuddle Tarana!

  19. Next time, can I come too? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

  20. Zoe Diamond8:19 pm

    My name Zoe Diamond. I am a journalist working at the BBC World Service, on a discussion programme called World Have Your Say.

    The programme is on-air from 1800GMT - 1900 GMT.

    World Have Your Say is an informal discussion programme, similar to a dinner conversation with friends - except we have people from all around the world taking part.

    I have outlined the topic we are discussing this evening and wonder if you are interested in talking to me?

    The topic today is based on an article by the Yale Professor, Amy Chua. We are asking: Do Chinese mums make better parents than their Western counterparts?
    Amy Chua, a professor from Yale University certainly thinks so. In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, she sets out why Chinese parents demand greater success from their off-spring and how they desire their kids to show success academically and musically.
    "Western mums on the other hand are so scared of failure and their kids having low self-esteem that they allow mediocrity to be praised".
    As far as Amy Chua's concerned it all comes down to being a hard taskmaster.
    "Even when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough".
    Amy Chua doesn't just suggest this of Chinese mothers alone, extending this drive and desire to Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian mums too.
    Dominic Lawson writing in The Independent suggests that whilst Amy Chua has a point, many Western mums don't judge success in the same way necessarily.
    "Most Western parents would say that all they want is for their children to "be happy": and if the little darlings are browbeaten in this way, they surely can't be enjoying themselves - and might grow up to hate their parents for forcing them to play the violin. Who knows? Happiness is the most ephemeral of phenomena and certainly not something which can be achieved at will".

    Read Amy Chua's article here:

    Here is Dominic Lawson's response in the Independent.

    We have had many comments about this on our Facebook page: and our blog:

    I am specifically looking for Indian/Asian parents and/or their children, who would talk about the way in which they have brought up their children/been brought up.
    I wonder if you are interested in speaking with me?

    The programme is on-air at 1800 GMT.

    We can talk to people on the phone or get them in a studio, we can also call on Skype.

    You can contact me at

    Many thanks for your help.

    Zoe Diamond