Some want to have a nice dinner for their birthday; some want to go shopping, and this boy wanted to go swimming in a pool.
Swimming pools and India don’t really belong together. But for little boy’s birthday wish, mothers have to make possible everything, even in India.
Of course, our little green paradise with our small hut didn’t help in this situation. As we hadn’t been in the middle of nowhere in India, a few hotels with pool standard were around.
And so, we sneaked in a well-known hotel where we had celebrated New Year’s two years before. We pretended being residents, and swoops… we jumped into the pool.
It was hard to get little boy out of the water. He’s a fish and uses to play for hours being a real fish.
The offer of having some sweets with his older brother in his favorite restaurant took his pool session to an end. Thank Goddess Sweets!
“Mom, where did you put my swimming suit? Where did you put my wooden gun and my fishing net?”
Every half a day, I’m looking for something I put away a few days ago or more.
Two teenagers drop a lot of items at places where they’re not meant to be. And one has to be consistent as the boss of the house.
Living two weeks in this tiny hut in South India is a real salvation for a mother. First, there isn’t a lot of space to spread out things; and second, the number of belongings for the vacation is extremely reduced to the one at home.
I’d wish I could spend more weeks of the year with fewer items around my boys and me. I’m sure one could concentrate on more important things than looking for our belongings.
I admit it doesn’t have to be the monk style, but just a little bit more concentration on the essential of life.
This is India, too. You won’t believe that this picture hasn’t been taken in London, Paris or Rom. And it wasn’t a five star hotel. It was a coffee shop in the quarter of the Tibetan colony in Delhi.
How come that this coffee shop knew what is modern art in serving things?
I don’t know. But I know that I don’t like to get the same things all over the world like cloths or coffee shops.
I like to drink my coffee or chai for example at Clafouti in Varkala in a mug, which has always another color or shape every day.
The variety makes my day, not the sameness. How about you?
Spending two days in an Indian train might be unimaginable for Swiss people, and this with two kids who like to move every minute.
But no worries! There is so much going on in such a train: So many different people getting in and out, so many sellers of various sweets, drinks or different curry, so many breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and dinners.
And there was plenty of time to just be together and have fun with our Tibetan friend.
The moment itself became important; and one forgot the many hours to still be on the train.
If I lived my days in Switzerland like this, I’d be less stressed by the exigence of life…
Returning from India we stopped for a few hours in Abu Dhabi. This airport is a melting pot, which I think is very enriching: you can find so many nationalities, so many ways of dressing and so many different faces.
My boys feel very comfortable in such a surrounding. And I hope they will be without prejudice facing other cultures in the future.
As a kid I got to know a few Germans in Germany close to the Swiss frontier. They spoke, dressed and behaved like me. This wasn’t rather foreign.
When I finished school, all I wanted to do was going abroad. I spent one year in Paris, some month in England and in the States. I always dreamt of living abroad.
But I am still in Switzerland. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is my task to show my boys how to travel to other countries and to open their minds for other cultures.
Maybe… and maybe we will be taking off all three together one day. Who knows?
We didn’t have a lot of space in our friend’s kitchen because it was their living and sleeping room at the same time. But it felt extremely cozy and my boys loved it.
Nobody’s kitchen tasted better than Karma’s. Was it because the preparation and cooking took hours while we were talking, playing games, joking, laughing or singing?
We wouldn’t like to spend so much time on such a tiny space with our family. We’d very quickly get on our nerves.
It is wonderful with friends. You can choose them yourself and decide how much time you’d like to share with them.
And real friends don’t care either whether you live thousands of miles across the ocean. And they aren’t upset when you don’t call them every week.
Two days on this Indian train. An exciting journey from New Delhi to Kerala.
So many different people, old and young ones, talkative and silent people.
Being busy with themselves or interested in getting to know others.
The most touching picture I took with me was this flower garland. Someone fixed it to protect the travellers and to wish them a safe trip.
It is just one of these multiple beautiful rituals in India of caring, blessing, doing good to their beloved ones.
There are colors everywhere in India. I love it and I often find color combinations, which I had never dreamt of in Europe.
Wherever I walk, I’d love to take pictures and catch those colors. They are smiling at your face and you cannot do anything but smiling too.
Here in Europe, everything is grey in grey at the moment. It is wintertime. People dress in black, brown or grey; people look grey.
Sometimes, we smile a little bit. I try to, at least. Sometimes, someone smiles back. For a few seconds. And then, it becomes grey again.
Why don’t we live all in a colorful world?
Children don’t need a lot. A hot noodle soup in a tiny Tibetan restaurant in India makes them more than happy.
Back in Switzerland, it is much more difficult. There are so many more things. There is a school friend who has got his own iPhone; there is another friend who has his own computer in his room or there is even another one who has got already his own television.
It is difficult to teach children that one can be as happy as the others without these things.
In a lifetime, it takes many hours of discussions and re-discussions.
Probably, being a good example as an adult would be more effective but even more difficult.
Can I be happy with fewer things?
Green isn’t the color I like very much. But when I saw this lamp in India, I changed my mind.
It doesn’t often happen that I change my mind. I like to stick to the things I am used to.
Since years I keep this painted wooden elephant from India in my kitchen, the colorful metallic bird from Indonesia in the living room or the funny cotton camel garland from Egypt at the entrance door.
Do you know the feeling when you come back home from some weeks of traveling and you look at all these things you were used to before?
Don’t you have the impression, you look at them from outside even though they have been your close friends since a long time?
Changing the point of view, changes many things or views.
Sometimes, it is helpful to get a healthy distance to habits, too.
They play around; they have big fun.
The little one grew up in India, the older one in Switzerland. The one speaks Tibetan, the other one Swiss German. Both know a few words in English but not much.
The little one is living in a boarding school in Dharamsala, the older goes to a Swiss public school. The older one has around stuffed animals in his bed, the little one cannot imagine what this means.
The little one doesn’t have any memories of his mother because she left him when he was two years old; the older one calls about fifty times a day “Mama”.
Maybe, the older one will be traveling again to India as an adult with his girl friend or his brother. Maybe, the little one will be living in the Tibetan community in New Deli and running a travel agency.
Both boys will be having friends and no barriers to share time with foreign people.
Three weeks in India, four weeks back in Switzerland: four weeks of school, homework, getting up at times when one likes to sleep. Tough times.
But there are all the memories of our traveling in India.
Memories of rich experiences, of living two days in an Indian train, meeting so many different people, playing games on the mobile phone and eating ice cream with an Indian boy.
Or joking around with Tenzing, our “big brother” in a small hut which serves as living room, kitchen and sleeping room at the same time.
It is great to have all these pictures stored in our memory when daily life is difficult to stand.
Maybe this Indian boy hasn’t seen any Europeans before; maybe he is shy by nature. His father in his traditional dress took him to town to buy a few things.
Which world will he be living in in 20 years? Will it be the modern India? Will he be doing the bookkeeping or will he be developing computer programs for Swiss companies?
Or will he be living with his kids and with his wife in a small hut, with a water buffalo at the backyard?
Is it already defined how his future will be? Or are there many paths with a lot of junctions and side ways?
Many questions and many possible answers.
Tibetan medicine was completely new to me. But as the Tibetan doctor had his location just one floor below to our Tibetan hotel, we didn’t hesitate to ask for an appointment.
Little boy had a health problem, which could have easily turned into a big one without medication.
The Tibetan doctor helped very quickly and could even tell where this problem came from: too much sweets and unhealthy beverages. I was rather surprised because I tried already so hard to make little boy eat more fruits and vegetables.
I was even more surprised when he did a short check on me by pulse diagnosis and when he told me without knowing anything about me what were my major health problems.
But the most surprising was that little boy’s pain was gone after two days without antibiotics – just with these brown and black pills you see in the containers on the picture.
Three years ago, Ramesh was selling his beautiful stone carved statues and buddhas. One year later, he was running a yoga school, and this year, besides giving his daily yoga classes, he is earning money with a little resort in a marvelous garden – together with a friend.
For me, he symbolizes flexibility, and whatever he does, he does it with conviction, hundred fifty percent engagement and dedication.
One of his small bamboo huts was our home base in Varkala. It was simple but comfortable, including some lizards, cockroaches and ants.
Next year, Ramesh will expand his green resort. It shall include an Ayurveda treatment center. I am sure, he will keep on going his way, step by step, with the same dedication.
The best noodle soup we ate at her place. The Tibetan lady had opened her restaurant in New Delhi a few months ago. She cooks while her son takes care of the talking with the people because she doesn’t speak English.
Unfortunately, she did not want me to take a picture of her in the kitchen. It would have been a fabulous one, with her in this beautiful dress standing at her cooking pots, surrounded by her co-workers, vegetable cutters and momo makers.
Her restaurant was a small, modest location. It didn’t really fit to her. But it felt cozy and comfortable. I am sure, as soon as she has owned enough money, she will renovate her place.
And her delicious noodle soup will be mentioned with five stars on various travel sites.
I met her again: the 92 year-old Swiss lady Pia Steiner. She was still on the road on her own, and we had a nice India dinner and an even more interesting conversation together.
I could hardly believe that she still didn’t have any other companion than herself during her stay in India for seven weeks.
Her hearing keeps going badly but her mind is brilliantly awake. She had some small health problems a few days ago but she was taken care by an India doctor and the hotel staff.
After her visit to our village, the very sunny and holy place at the seaside, she went up into the cool mountainside because of the climate. This was another taxi ride of several hours alone.
I am amazed: she doesn’t feel fear. She believes that everything goes as it is meant to be.
Pia, keep going to be my inspiration!
Three o’clock in the morning… and we started our third Indian trip, we three of us. Many hands wanted to carry our three suitcases, and even more wanted us to drive to our first destination: Varkala. We decided to take the driver who did not push so much.
With the first suitcase, the taxi was already half packed. With the second piece, we could hardly sit, and the third piece did not have any free space any more. But the driver found a proper solution, on the roof, well fixed with a thick string.
The adventure could begin. And there was again this smell of India in the air which always strikes me and makes me feel at home. And the taxi brought us, two sleeping beauties, and one too excited traveller safely to our Tibetan friend who was still sleeping because we arrived much to early.
It didn’t start well this time. The Indian Embassy in Berne didn’t approve our photos although we used the same as last year.
We had to retake these burglar photos without smiling and looking straight to the camera and sending them again to Berne. And I was so glad when I saw the envelope from the Embassy with my handwriting in my post.
Oh, dear! But I only got my passport back. The ones of my boys were missing.
I wrote in German. I sent the same mail several times. I didn’t get any answer.
Another weekend passed.
I wrote in English. I wrote in big letters and in red: Missing passports. I got the answer that I could fetch them at the Embassy in Berne.
Oh, my god! No time to travel. I wrote again. I told them to send them. They told me they couldn’t because they didn’t have any pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes. I wrote that I was upset.
No chance, I had to send them the envelopes. Another three days without a sign.
I had to call. And finally today, I had them in my mailbox.
I know what it means when passports aren’t valid anymore. I stood at the airport with my two boys, and the airplane would leave in less than an hour.
Or I remember how it felt in Paris to get a working permit but not having a passport. It meant lining up for hours, calling, writing, talking to the Swiss Embassy and so on.
But I didn’t know how it feels when visas and passports are still missing three days before taking off.
I saw her at the Navratri Festival in Bangalore and was fascinated by the expression on her face. It seemed to me as if she doesn’t have any age or even as if her mind comes from ancient times.
Sometimes, people don’t look like their age.
I met children who had a look like an old man or an old woman, and I listened to an old woman who spoke to me with a brilliant glance of a 14-year-old girl.
Why is this? I don’t believe in reincarnation but it might be an interesting explanation.
Sunday afternoon in the South Indian zoo of Trivandrum: there are hundreds of Indian families with their children and two Swiss boys with their mother.
We want to have a look at the lions, crocodiles, zebras, monkeys and their friends. All the local people have the same purpose.
But, as soon as they discover the two blond boys, the zoo animals completely lose their interest.
“Can we take a picture, please”, they keep on asking.
“Oh, I am glad”, says my small boy at the end of our visit, “that we won’t live in India all the time. It slightly gets on my nerves to pose and smile every five minutes.”
Our favorite village in South India at five o’clock in the morning: before flying home to Switzerland we left our rests of shampoos, creams and shower gels in front of our friend’s door.
This was the occasion for my boy, still in his pajama, to sit down, to enjoy the empty main road on the cliffs and to wait until his mother has caught these special moments by her camera.
The moments of transition are always very powerful; and I remember them all: when I left New York, Paris, Istanbul, Marsa Alam, Fuerta Ventura and so on. I remember how I felt: sad, excited, happy, dreamful, anxious, angry, hopeful and so on.
And in Varkala, I remember as well the rough smell of the sea and I hear the aggressive ravens’ shouting.
Memories by all senses are the most precious and everlasting ones in life.
I met Sri Swamiji in Mysore. Before I met him personally, everybody told me his or her own story about Swamiji. What I gathered was that ten or fifteen years ago, he was a good friend for a small group of people, Europeans and Indians as well. His ashram was a tiny place where everyone quickly felt at home.
Since then, things changed. Now, Sri Swamiji is being followed by hundreds of people, Indians as well as Europeans. Everybody wants to have a personal talk to him who prefers to talk to his parrots. That’s why he is walking around in public with a parrot on his shoulder. It is some way like other people walk a dog; interesting thing about a guru.
One morning, a waiter told us that there would be fifty elephants in Varkala. Okay, nice dream but we didn’t believe him. Later during the day, another India man said: “You will see fifty elephants tomorrow. What a lucky thing!” Must have been a joke in India to tell the tourists about upcoming crowds of elephants. We laughed. The next day, there were the elephants, not fifty but about thirty-five and I was rather scared. I was even more scared when I saw the animal police with their injection guns ready to shoot at any moment of panic alert. But nothing happened and this parade became one of the most unforgettable moments in India.
I don’t know his name but I know his heart being wide open when boys start crying. He is a Nepalese waiter who left his family to earn some money in India. He saw Little-boy slipping, falling down and breaking into pieces his small, freshly finished soap stone artwork. He saw Little-boys’ tears running down his face. He had a look at the broken artwork and disappeared. Ten minutes later, he came back with a small shopping bag, sat down at the restaurant table and fixed the stone with glue without words.
She became our best friend in India; Karma was different than the other shopkeepers in Varkala. At the first time, we dropped into her shop, she didn’t tell us to buy this or that. The Tibetan woman just let us have a look around, and there were so many things to discover. The boys started passing by more often. While she was doing bracelets or earrings, they were sitting in front of her and getting interested in her art craft and her culture. She also told them about Dalai Lama and the Tibet. We got invited for tea, later for delicious momo. Last year, her business did not go well and she was talking about moving somewhere else in India. We would have followed her. But fortunately, she is still in Varkala, and our next visit to South India at Christmas will be like coming home – thanks to Karma.