How I Learnt to Live Now!

If I ever find myself stuck in a rut, I ask myself: “what is special and unique about where you are in life right now?”. It always seemed impossible to live in the moment, to breathe in the now and just be. Having suffered with depression and later anxiety, it was just so hard.

Depression and anxiety is a cruel combination. Depression casts a dark cloud as you wallow in the past, anxiety leaves you paralysed and petrified by the future. This leaves little room for the present. My life was held prisoner between Depression and Anxiety, while lines formed around my eyes due to fatigue, dehydration and the passage of un-savoured time.

A huge burst of bravery and determination to be with the one I love catapulted me out of my comfort zone when I moved to India, initially making my mental health worse. My old habits didn’t fit in with this new way of life. My concept of personal space and etiquette didn’t translate, I had to face my fears and anxieties. I no longer had a choice, I couldn’t hide behind familiarity.

Here I was, with the man of my dreams, but the perfect partner isn’t a cure-all. I discovered, despite popular belief, that only I could cultivate my happiness and health. 

Every time I found myself outside my comfort zone, doing something I felt scared to do, I shed a little piece of anxiety. This started with small and simple things, such as smiling at the people I didn’t know during social situations I didn’t understand.

I didn’t want to be a prisoner anymore.

As I was a world away from my normal, I realised how much time I had wasted not doing the things I could no longer do. I should have spent more time with the people I love, I should have enjoyed wearing fluffy slippers during cosy winter nights, I should have watched the ocean more often when it was only a five minute walk away (I now live 500 miles away from the coast in the geographical centre of India).

I began to make lists of the things I wish I had done more of before I moved to India.

Then, I had an epiphany…

In England I couldn’t get up at dawn and watch flocks of parrots fly overhead, I couldn’t wear flowers in my hair everyday, I couldn’t sit in the tranquillity of a temple a short walk from home, I couldn’t celebrate colourful festivals or be immersed in a new fascinating culture.

That’s when I started to try to appreciate what was special and unique about where I was. I started smiling at the colours of rangoli, the way saree pleats moved and the smell of monsoon rains. I found comfort and courage in learning and trying to understanding the differences between the culture I grew up with and the culture I plan to grow old with.

The lists of regrets came in useful though. I have been working my way though them during my visits to England, with more happiness and confidence. 

We’ll never be able to live this stage of our lives again, we should appreciate and celebrate what is special and unique about our now. Some days are harder than others. If you are struggling to live in the now, start small, take a deep breath and smile at something you find beautiful.

It helped me so much.

Seize the day, as the say.

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Flying Solo with a Baby

Sonshine and I have recently arrived in England after our second international journey together, just the two of us. Flying solo with a baby is a very daunting prospect. I flew from Heathrow to Nagpur with a peaceful ten week old, last week I returned with an energetic 11 month old.

What a huge difference our 9 months in India made!

Long story short; I found that it was much easier flying solo with newborn than with an almost toddler. It wasn’t too bad though, promise.

Flying Solo with a Newborn

Last summer, once the weather in Nagpur had cooled down and I received the passport and visa displaying the most precious photographs of my tiny person, we booked our tickets to return home to India. The decision to fly to England during my third trimester to give birth was one of the hardest my husband and I have ever faced. I wrote and later deleted several hundred words on the complexity of our decision and the reasons why it was the best choice for our family. Instead of rambling about that, I will simply say that an international relationship or marriage comes with some difficult choices, especially when you have children.

The first weeks of my baby’s life on Earth were very special, we were able to make some treasured memories, surrounded by a the scenic English springtime. It felt so wonderful to see my family enjoy precious time with their nephew, grandson and great-grandson, who would soon be living thousands of miles away in India. As I attempted to soak up all those precious moments with my English family, I was eagerly awaiting the reunion with my husband and to introduce our baby to my Indian family.

There were so many emotions whirling around, I didn’t really have time to worry about flying to India solo with a tiny baby. I took some short train trips to meet friends and family to practice, just baby and I. I carried him in a stretchy wrap, a light diaper bag, and soon became a confident babywearer. My Sonshine would fall asleep immediately in the stretchy wrap, reminding him of the snug womb, and babywearing meant I was hands free to rummage through my bag or use the toilet.

Saying goodbye at Heathrow airport was heartbreaking, I took a deep breath and walking through security. I knew that we would visit again soon and that a long awaited reunion was only hours away. The butterflies started to flutter in my stomach again, my small person snug on my chest.

My 10 week old baby slept most of the way to Mumbai, I fed him during take off and landing to help reduce pressure in his little ears (there were two other nursing mothers in my row). He settled in his bassinet after throwing a couple of smiles to the other passengers. We were sat between a huge Marathi family on their way to visit family in Mumbai, and it wasn’t until we landed that the air hostess realised I was on my own! I was so relieved that my son was comfortable on the flight, there were a lots of babies on the aeroplane and they slept most of the way (this may have been because it was an evening flight).

We were at baggage claim in Mumbai and I had just asked a French gentleman to pull my luggage off of the carousel when I my husband surprised us. He had explained our situation and was allowed through to help us. I felt as if I was almost sinking into him with relief, our little love between us. I took our baby out of the wrap and handed him to his father and let them have some time alone, while I went to find our car seat. It felt great to home in India, together in our little family (including Alfonso).

We made it!

Tips for Flying Solo with a Newborn

  • Take some practice solo trips before you leave
  • Babywear!
  • Make sure you have reserved a bassinet
  • Feed on take off and landing
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help
  • Let the cabin crew know you are traveling alone (they might be more helpful)
  • Be aware of the location of a paediatrician at your destination, just in case
Waiting in the Middle (Soul Full Buckle Carrier)

Waiting in the Middle (Soul Full Buckle Carrier)

Flying Solo with an Almost Toddler

Nine months later, we have returned to England to attend my sister’s (Sonshine’s maushi) wedding and to visit family and friends! We have taken four overnight trips on Indian Railways, which he loved, so I wasn’t worried about flying.

The stretchy wrap I used almost everyday since he was born (and on our flight to India) had started to get uncomfortable as they are best suited to small babies. It was also impractical for an active little person who enjoys hopping in and out. We graduated to Soul full buckle carrier. It was so emotional packing the stretchy wrap away but this carrier is much more comfortable for a toddler, and so easy to pop in and out of! As it’s buckled instead of wrapped, it’s also so much cooler and more suitable for summer. 

At 11pm on the night before our flight, he took his first step. The next day my Sonshine was so determined to practice this whole trying to walk thing that he did not want to be in arms, at all. He also didn’t want to sleep, at all. Up and down, and up and down, exploring is now on the top of the agenda!

We flew from Nagpur to London, via Qatar. 

So determined to practice walking, he shouted during check in. He shouted during immigration. He shouted at the gate. It was 3am when he fell asleep and slept all the way to Qatar.

In the middle of our travels, we waited in the Middle East. Between our two flights, between our two families. Tears of sadness, tears of joy. The worst part, the best part. Leaving home and going home, in one exhausting journey.

My Sonshine loved the airport in Qatar, he bear crawled around in the play area and made some international friends. It was really lovely as someone recognised me as the English Wife and came and said hello to us, so Mummy made some friends too!

Our flight to London was nothing like our flight from London nine months ago. As he didn’t get a goodnight’s sleep, he was grumpy, and I am certain he missed his Daddy. He fought sleep for almost four hours, wanted to play constantly and “helped” me eat my meal before falling into a deep sleep on my lap.

Mouth wide open, snoring.

I was exhausted! I ended up being awake for 40 hours straight (even though our journey was only 18 hours).

It feels great to be home in England, especially during spring. Blackbird’s song, blossom’s scent and the mild sun’s warmth. This time last year I was here waiting for our little Sonshine to arrive, even the daffodils are making me feel nostalgic!

We made it!

Things to bring when traveling with an Almost Toddler

(I collected all these tips from you lovely readers via Instagram and Facebook, thank you for packing my flight diaper bag with me!)

  • A couple of brand new toys to keep baby entertained
  • Don’t forget the favourite toy or comfort blanket
  • A variety of snacks!
  • Bring extra clothes and diapers, just in case. Toddlers can get messy! (I used three changes of clothes!)
  • Remember to pack some destination weather appropriate clothes
  • Cosy blankets
  • A big pack of baby wipes
  • Baby’s regular medicine (paracetamol, teething gel etc.)
  • Download favourite music videos onto your phone so you can watch them using flight mode
  • Patience!!

Our Baby Jalebi Diaper Bag

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When Rs 500 & Rs 1000 Notes Are Void

Just when I thought the 8th of November could shock no more, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced something that left the subcontinent speechless. In four hours, at the stroke of midnight, Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes (86% of the cash in circulation!!) would be void. I must have spent that entire day with my jaw on the floor. Everyone crowded around the television, listening to the commentary on this radical move towards fighting corruption. That buzzy feeling of history being made, electrifying the air.

As soon as we found out, we (along with the rest of India) checked our wallets to see how much legal tender we had left. We thankfully had enough Rs 100 notes to tide us over. To add an extra twist, the first day of the notes being withdrawn from circulation was a bank holiday. When the banks did open, and the old notes could be exchanged, there were long queues and a general sense of panic.

For a week after the announcement, there were concessions (originally to the 11th, extended to the 14th) to try to avoid chaos and disaster and give everyone the opportunity to get some cash. Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would be accepted in hospitals, public transport, petrol stations, burials grounds and milk booths. Well, being unable to have chai, a disaster in itself.

Many are outraged by the inconvenience, restrictions on how much one person could withdraw daily and the waiting times at the banks. Many Tourists, who do not have Indian bank accounts, struggled to exchange their notes at airports. Those abroad with voided currency started to panic (if you are one of them, read this). Sadly, rumours and misinformation have spread like wildfire, leading to innocent victims.

Why take Rs 500 and Rs 1000 out of circulation, and why such short notice?

This was a bold move to tackle black money gained through corruption, tax evasion and to wipe out the fake currency from circulation. Last year, we withdrew a Rs 500 note, only to discover it was fake! The timing was strategic, so no one had time to invest their black money elsewhere.

I am no economist or political analyst, but this feels like a positive leap in the right direction, eliminating so much black money in one fell swoop. Yes, it’s been chaotic and inconvenient, and I am glad I wasn’t a tourist in India on the 9th of November. Our Rs 100 notes didn’t last long, yesterday we only had Rs 20, but our local daily needs shop gave us credit. Right now, all we can do is support each other, reassure anyone who has been misinformed and help those who can’t make it to the bank.

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Check out my Instagram and Facebook pages for daily updates and discussions!

Stereotypes of Western Women in India

The stereotypes of Western women in India can be summarised in a single conversation I had with a young man at wedding, in a very small city a while ago. This guy was studying with the intention of someday leaving India … Continue reading