Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Maya returns one year on....

Exactly one year ago, a three year old girl called Maya, with a mop of strawberry blond curls padded along the tiled floor of Bangalore Airport, away from India, and towards England. She clutched a balloon in one hand, her Daddy's hand in the other and a head full of experiences of her year in India.

And now, one year on, does she remember anything when she pulls out some Indian clothes from her dressing up box?

Or when I serve up a meal of  palak aloo and chapattis (the only Indian food to pass Maya's lips the whole time we were there)?

Or when I put some Indian music on?

Or when I light incense?

Does she remember anything at all, or have these memories fluttered from her head like long-forgotten butterflies?

Well, I decided to ask the little lady herself and find out....

Maya is now a very grown up four and a half year old school girl. Here she is on her first ever day of big school back in September, with little sister Lily:

When I posed the question to Maya, if she remembered anything about her time in India, she replied 'I remember the park.' The park in question was a patch of grass opposite where we lived, a bit pathetic really BUT to us in fume choked Bangalore, it was a little patch of green and peace. Every afternoon, when the sun had lost its strength, we would join the throngs to 'perambulate' around the paved exterior of the park (we were told on more than one occasion that we should skidaddle out of the central grassy bit as it was riddled with snakes!), Maya generally on her scooter and Lily taking her first tentative steps. Here's a picture of one of the many early evenings we spent in this park, often accompanied by an eight year old called Malama (who eventually inherited Maya's scooter) and her little sister...

There was a spot in the middle of the park where families often congregated and a large rock which the children enjoyed climbing.  Maya liked running around the rock

and sitting on top of it, pondering her kingdom from the top of her castle. She's still an observer; a thinker.

The other thing she said she remembered about her time in India was Aanya, her friend from Kidspace Montessori School. This doesn't surprise me - the two of them became great chums and Maya still enjoys making the below photo into a jigsaw puzzle that I had made for both of them when we left Bangalore.

When I asked Maya if she remembered anything else, she said 'No.' 'Really? Nothing else?' I coaxed. 'No,' she said again, 'That's It.' Conversation closed. Oh. I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed....silly, isn't it. There were far more important things to talk about in Maya's world, such as the upcoming Nativity Play at school, or what colours she was going to use for her new picture (Maya's latest obsession).

I let it go, but a while later I pulled out a small album I made of our time in India. I started flicking through it, and Maya, always wanting to know what I'm doing, peered at the book. 'Oh!' she exclaimed. 'I remember
that....and that...and that!' As I turned the pages, she pointed out various things she remembered and scrunched up her nose at the things she did not. 

I'd like to share a few of Maya's remembrances with you. As well as the park and her friend Aanya, Maya remembers...

Lily's yellow Rajesthani dress with the sequins
tropical flowers floating on water
fishing with Daddy in a lake
Ganesh, the elephant God
the gaping holes in the pavements
the colourful sarees
a beautiful Kathak dancer
eating from a banana leaf
learning chess with Daddy in Mysore at the Green Hotel
the jungle
Lily's 1st birthday
Maya's 3rd birthday and her tiger cake
the flaming red gulmohar trees
baths in buckets
sleeping on the train
school sports day, as it turns out, Maya actually remembers a huge amount. It made me think though, are these real memories? Well, yes, they are. They're just prompted by images, as so many things often are for us. 

It's hard to believe that this time last year, my little girl was singing Tweenkle tweenkle leetle star with an Indian accent to die for, wearing bangles on her wrists

and bindis on her forehead

 and experiencing her very own India from her Daddy's back

 and needing very little coaxing to wear utterly gorgeous outfits like this

(If I ever suggest she wear any of her old Indian clothes now, Maya gives me a priceless 'You are utterly barmy' look)

Here's the little lovely now...

and here she is again (yup, she ain't camera shy)

A fantastic four year old who loves colouring, tap dancing, yoga (seriously!), books, bedtime, things being 'just so' (at parents' consultation, her teacher commented that Maya's favourite thing at school is 'the rules'!!, baked beans on toast with grated cheese, train journeys, singing and the cream off the top of the milk.

And so, it's the end of adventuring Maya for now. But take a look at this photo:

You see the little nugget in the strappy yellow sundress, looking across at her big sister? This is Lily Catarina, and she still looks at her big sister...for inspiration, for songs, for drama and for chuckles. Yet she couldn't be a more different character from Maya. Here is a close-up photo of Lily in India...

(this was after Deepa had got her hands on her to oil to hair and pencil in her eyebrows!!!).

And here is a close up of Lily now, aged two and a half years:

Lily's been waiting in the wings, you see, to take centre stage on her Mama's blogging patform. And although we haven't the foggiest where Andy's work will take us next (Mozambique? Ghana? Kenya? Mali? Madagascar???), one thing is certain - that adventuring Lily will be raring to go. To give you a sneak preview of Lily's character, listen to this song. It's a song called Lily and is by a brilliant band called Pink Martini and whenever it comes on, Lily flings aside whatever she's doing, shrieks 'Lily's song!!' and hurls herself on to the dance floor to wiggle her little hips. She's feisty this one... this space.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Maya takes on Twickenham

This time one year ago, we were preparing to leave England for India. Boxes were being packed up, goodbyes being said and Maya, our two and a half year old daughter, couldn't possibly know what was awaiting her across the seas and skies in Bangalore. Now, one year on, we are unpacking many of those boxes in a different home back in England. Maya, at three and a half, often seems impossibly grown up, mothering me in a way that sometimes takes me utterly by surprise ("Are you cold? Put on a woolly jumper then." Or "Have you got enough tissues for your nose?")

Three months after we've returned, and is she missing India? Is she really? I have to be very, very honest and say no, I don't think she is. I've mentioned this before, but three year olds live in the present. Maya has thrown herself wholeheartedly into her new life here: the house, her kindergarten which she adored from the word go (what a contrast to starting her nursery school out in Bangalore) and she's even had a new lease of life on the food front, wolfing down anything in sight. Amazing to think, not so many months ago out in Bangalore that I felt it necessary to resort to a vitamin and mineral supplement syrup as she was on food strike for much of our time in India, only really eating carbs. Speaking of food, we chuckled last week when we went to our favourite South Indian restaurant for lunch and we were catapaulted straight back to the same old scenario in Bangalore with Maya only eating iddly's (steamed rice cakes), dosas (pancakes) and plain rice, turning up her nose with an almighty yeeeeuck! at all the gorgeous fare that Andy and I were salivating over. Lily, on the other hand, sat at the table, opening and closing her mouth like a little bird as I fed her mouthful after mouthful of all the spiciest food. She could not get enough of it!

But when I say that I don't feel Maya's missing India, that's not to say that she doesn't have memories of her time there, and some very happy memories at that. The most random of events still throw themselves up and she'll mention 'that man with the strange ears in the park in India' or a funny dance that Aanya (her best friend from school) taught her. She still calls aubergines 'brinjal', remembers the taste of chicoo (a sweet fruit that looks like a potato from the outside) and likes showing people photos of our Indian adventures. BUT. The head wobble has well and truly vanished. As has any trace of that Indian accent she sported, for example whilst singing 'Twinkle twinkle leetle star' and which I, quite meanly, encouraged for as long as possible.

Maya's Mama is really, really missing India. But it's important also not to look at our time there through rose-tinted spectacles and acknowledge that there were many things about living there that I found hard. There are things that I am loving about being back in the UK and other things that I'd gladly run back to Bangalore for - namely the weather! But I musn't be boring and moan about the British weather....Besides, spring is definitely round the corner and we've been preparing our allotment. As you can see from the photos above, Maya has enjoyed helping out and last weekend she did some raking and seed potato planting!

I thought I'd have had more time to indulge in this blog over the weeks and chart our return to England. But I don't, I really don't have time at all. I miss being able to write but I'm vaguely toying with another new blog at some stage. After all, we can all make time in our lives for the things we love doing. We have to. If I DO start a new blog, I ought to to do so before the end of July as this will herald another small family member in! That's right, I'm four and a half months pregnant, feeling rather large already and enjoying the sensation that the little wriggler creates every time s/he does a somersault. We like surprises, so we're not finding out, but as far as Maya is concerned, she is going to wheel her 'little brother' around in the buggy and he will sleep in her room (she's assured me that she's fine with it if we have a girl, but the conversation isn't worth having since it just IS a boy!!).

The purpose of this posting is really to draw Maya's blog to a proper conclusion, as I don't like leaving things untied. Thank you thank you for reading this and I will definitely do this again when we next go abroad, most probably for Lily. I want to leave you with some beautiful words I've taken from a children's book called 'Elephant Dance - A journey to India' that I bought for Maya before we left to help introduce her to some of the things we'd find out there. The words and images appeal directly to children, but this book has become very special to me also as some of the things the grandfather talks about are what I fell in love with in India.

Namaste and lots of love from us all

Maya, Rebecca, Andy, Lily and the bump

'Is it hot in India, grandfather?' asked Ravi.
'Yes, indeed Ravi.
The sun is a most fierce fellow,
hotter than a hundred cooking fires.
At dawn he rolls into the sky like a fiery ball,
then he uncurls and he is a ferocious tiger!

'Grandfather,' said Ravi. 'What is the wind like in India?'
'When she blows from the western desert lands, Ravi,
she is strong. Like a wild horse, she stamps and snorts.
She snatches the children's kites and storms away with them,
beyond the hills and over the ocean.
Sometimes the wind is a gentle one.
Then she pit-pats through the trees,
hushing the leaves to sleep.

'And what is the rain like?' asked Ravi, as they sheltered under the trees.
'The monsoon rain is like a curtain, silver like Anjali's bangles.
It cascades like a waterfall from the sky,
making many mirrors on the ground.
Raindrops scurry to and fro like little silver fish.
When the sun and rain meet
they make a rainbow;
s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g over the sky.'

'Is it the sane as the rainbows I see here?' said Ravi.
'A rainbow in India, Ravi Beta,
is seven silk saris hung across the sky to dry;
red as the watermelon,
orange as lentils,
yellow as saffron,
green as the parakeet,
blue as the kingfisher,
indigo as the deep ocean,
violet as the storm-sky before the thunder growls.

'Grandfather,' said Ravi, as he got ready for bed.
'Do you love me?'
Grandfather put his arms around Ravi. 'Ravi beta,
you are as warm as a newborn kid,
as soft as the frangipani blossom,
as sweet as the juice of the mango.

And I love you very much.'

Saturday, 9 January 2010


In the past month, Maya and Lily have gone from this.... this...

Our landscape has changed from this... this...

The trees around us were green and tropical...

...and now they are white and frozen and magical.

Walking behind Maya and Daddy looked like this...

...and now it looks like this

And what does Maya think of all of this? Well, whether she's there in the sunshine...

...or here in the snow...

...she's the best adventuress ever.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Maya enjoying the snow in Basingstoke

Finding the chocolates on the Christmas tree

Hanging up the stockings and putting out mince pies and milk for Father Christmas

A boxing day walk along the clifftops of Hope Cove, Devon

Returning from Devon to Basingstoke - worn out!

Happy New Year to you all! Wishing you all a fantastic 2010, filled with love and happiness and laughter.

What a whirlwind it's been since returning from India. Sometimes it feels like our nine months in Bangalore were a surreal, faraway dream . Children help us to live in the present and whilst Lily has been slightly more unsettled (I suppose she was just a wee one when we went out there and has no memory of life pre-India), Maya has jumped back into life in the UK with astonishing ease and enthusiasm. I knew she'd be happy to be back (she's an English Rose at heart, our Maya), but I wasn't quite expecting such a separation of that was then, this is now. It's admirable really, this ability to embrace our life as it is now with such gusto, without so much as a glance backwards to the heat and rickshaws and chai and cows and swaying palms......

....but is it really all forgotten?.....


Let's say there is something of a Bangalore hangover going on. For example, when I present most food to Maya, the first thing she does is cock her head on one side, eye me suspiciously and ask Is it spicey? Whilst she may not be making a connection with India in this statement, it still makes me chuckle and takes me back.

What else? Maya's little pink and gold bangles keep turning up everywhere in the most unlikely of places. It's funny, because she looks at them for a while and then puts them to one side. Maya has no interest in wearing them back in England, whereas in Bangalore she enjoyed donning bangles and bindis at least a few times a week. She just knows: That was India, This is England. And when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

There's also the comments that Maya comes out with out of the blue. Yesterday, for example, she suddenly said 'Where's my letter?' Which letter is that, I ask. 'My letter from Paula.' Paula was Maya's teacher in Bangalore whom she adored, and it transpired that she'd told Maya she'd write her a letter once back in England. But no sooner had she asked this, she was off, the question buried again for another day.

Yesterday, I made chai for the first time since getting back and suddenly Maya was there, by my side, being my helper in just the same way she always was in Bangalore, stirring in the sugar and spices and smacking her lips in anticipation. It doesn't quite taste the same over here though!

Then there's also the infamous head wobble. Naturally it's not as pronounced as it was a few months ago and a day will come when it ceases entirely, but at the moment the sight of our three year old wildly wobbling her head Indian style is too much to resist and I must confess that Maya's daddy and I are wholely encouraging it for nostalgia's sake!

On another note, we spent Christmas with my family (sans wandering grandparents who are still in Africa) at a beautiful place in Devon called Hope Cove in an old converted barn which was the biggest treat ever. Lots of running around country lanes, windy walks, amazing food, brilliant company (Christmas day was spent with some additional wonderful family friends), baaing at sheep and lots of excitement. We're now back in Basingstoke where the snow has all vanished finally. Amazingly, it became infamous overnight as being the most affected town in the UK when the snow fell recently. The snow sank all the way to our knees in the driveway and we very, very nearly didn't make it to Devon!

At the start of February, we'll be moving to South West London. Hooray, yes we have found a lovely little place to live and we're really excited about it. I've already missed the deadline for applying for a school for Maya for next September which seems to me utterly extraordinary but hey, no point stressing, we'll get the little lady in somewhere.

So all is good - we're all happy and healthy. Andy is loving his new job in London. Lily I think has been missing her routine a little from days in Bangalore and doesn't like having to wear so many clothes...but she's been brilliant and is getting cheekier by the day. Maya's Mama is also missing India....but I know I'll be back one day.

And Maya? The heroine of the blog? She is doing what most three year olds do so fantastically well. Throwing herself into life with boundless energy. Learning, questioning, taking things in, not missing a trick. And eating far too much chocolate over Christmas time.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


A beautiful Indian sky on our final evening

Daddy and Maya at Bangalore airport, leaving India

We are back!

Maya watched enough tv on the plane to last a lifetime (her eyes had gone an unhealthy pink colour by the end) and Lily did lots and lots and lots of pacing the aisles with one or the other blurry eyed parent in tow. I had a whole cup of orange juice chucked over me, but thankfully this was towards the end, so I only had to sit in a damp, sweet-smelling soggy puddle for the final hour, which I thought was pretty good going.

The first thing I noticed when we walked out onto English soil, far more than the cold, was just how dark is was already getting by 3.30 in the afternoon. And the first thing that Maya noticed as we hurtled round the M25 was that there were no yellow rickshaws on the road. Just as well, as they would have been flattened in an instant.

We're now safely at my parents-in-law, and here we shall be until we find somewhere to rent. Where we'll end up is still a mystery as we just can't work out what we can afford at the moment, and it's a difficult thing to admit that it's not much!!

Maya is in heaven - she's with her beloved grandparents, is living in her Peppa Pig spotty wellies and has a whole host of new (invariably pink) clothes to wear, passed down from cousin Daisy. And of course there are all the sparkly Christmas decorations, trees and Father Christmas's wherever you look so yes, it's a good time to come back.

I've had a good long think about whether or not to continue this blog now that we're back home, and I've decided I'm not going to. Now, it's not that there aren't plenty of adventures to be had back here in England. But the reason I started Maya's blog was to record her months in India. I've adored writing this blog for her and a part of me feels really sad to stop, but I feel that the original purpose of the blog has been achieved and it's drawn to it's natural conclusion.

HOWEVER....because the field that Maya's daddy is in is water and sanitation for the poor, it is 99% likely that after 2-3 years back in the UK we'll be heading abroad again for pastures new. Maybe Maya's writing will be good enough by then to do a blog on me (tee hee) or perhaps by then I'll blog about her little sister Lily's adventures in a developing country.

The other thing I've acknowledged is that I don't want to just put a full stop at this end of this post and say hey, that's it. So that's why I'll still be posting sporadically to let you know how Maya's getting on (and Lily of course), how Maya's mama copes without her chai and curries and where the devil we end up living on this funny little island. I have no idea how frequent these posts will be. I'd say infrequent, so if you'd like me to drop you a line to tell you when a new post is up, please just send me an email to rnarracott(put the '@' sign in here)

As I said last time, THANK YOU for reading this. It's a funny old thing, is blogging. I've always thought that I'm lucky if I get a handful of readers, so when I occasionally check the stats and see that I'm getting 30-40 hits a day, I'm flabbergasted. Now, I know that for blogging terms, this number of daily hits is nada, zilch, rien but for me...well, it's great and has far surpassed my expectations. On another note entirely, I was commended in a blog post competition for my post, Muddling through in the monsoon, which I was dead chuffed about. I follow the blog of the lady who won, Fran Hill. Well done Fran if you're reading this! Click here to see her winning entry, and you can also scroll down a bit to see mine.)

Ok, I'll stop jabbering now. It is impossible and completely inappropriate that Maya's mama should have the final word on Maya's blog. So here are a few questions for the little lady herself, utterly unabridged.

Mama: Hello, Maya. How are you?

Maya: Fine

Mama: How old are you?


Mama: What did you do today?

Maya: Play with Lily

Mama: Are you happy to be back in England?

Maya: (Big definite nod)

Mama: What things do you like in England?

Maya: Balloon. Car. Bunk bed. The puzzles.

Mama: What do you miss in Bangalore?

Maya: My skipping rope. That dress, not the other one Banglore, that one, that stripey one with the pockets.

(At this stage of the interview, Maya goes AWOL and when I say I have a few more questions, she exclaims 'Lily do it!' Hmm.....Eventually she is coaxed back.)

Mama: Do you miss any people in Bangalore?

Maya: Aanya. Only that.

Mama: Do you like travelling or being at home?


Mama: What would you like to tell people on your blog?

(Dances a little jig) Just don't want to say anything to people.

Mama: What would you like for Christmas?

Maya: I don't know, you choose. We will see. Will we see?

(Obviously depends what mood you catch her in - last week she put in a request for a bike, a plane and a puzzle)

Mama: Maya, thanks for letting us be part of your life in India through your blog.

Maya: No (very adamant face), I haven't got a life.

(Mama laughs)

Maya: Well, maybe I got a little bit life.

Yup, I'd say you've got a little bit life, darling Maya. In fact, you've got a whole lot more than a little bit life and you've got so much to look forward to.

And I can't wait to share it with you.

You've coped so very well with being dragged to the other side of the world. And then back again. You are my little curly haired starlet and I'm proud of you.

Your Mama


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Blighty calling

It's been a manic couple of days, packing up, seeing people, trying to fend off the encroaching ants that Deepa did so well to keep at bay...

We've moved out of our apartment and are staying with some french friends (airport hotel tomorrow night as we leave at stupid-o'clock the following morning) so I don't have my laptop, hence no photo which makes the page feel a little bare!

This will be my final post from India but no doubt I'll post something when we're safe and sound back in England. So here goes, off the top of my head, a few things that Maya and her Mama are looking forward to back in Blighty....

Maya is looking forward to:

the toys and bunk beds at Nannie and Grandpa's house, wellie boots, tights, sausages and baked beans, seeing her aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins, splashing in puddles, jumpers and coats and Christmas time...

(Andy has just peered over my shoulder and chuckled, making the point that Maya lives very much in the present and therefore isn't 'looking forward' per se to these things. I know what he means, but I'd say that if you bring the subject up about going back to England, her excitement is palpable.)

And Maya's Mama is looking forward to:

peas, toast, seasons, cold bright days, composting, apples, proper cheese (not paneer), a comfy bed, having a soak in the tub, blackberries, recycling, long walks, pears, log fires, cooking with an oven, making granola for breakfast, catching up with family and friends, libraries filled with hundreds of luscious books, pizza express (!), farmers markets, pubs (yeah right, when do I get the chance to go to pubs these days, but in principle I'm looking forward to a cosy pub with a roaring fire!), sunflowers seeds and oak trees.

So there you go.

Both the girls are fast, fast asleep. It's been a long day for them and we also went to visit Deepa which was difficult for us all. But so necessary.

Tomorrow we need to run a few errands and then, if we get everything done and all goes according to plan, we'll go and have a swim and lunch at the hotel we normally go to. And when we get a taxi to the airport hotel, I'll wind down the window and breathe in the scents of Bangalore, good and bad.

Thank you India for being our hosts for the past few months. It's been amazing. And thank you to all of you for reading this and being part of Maya and her Mama's adventures.

Night night x

Thursday, 3 December 2009

What will we miss?

Thanks to many of you for your kind emails about Deepa's son, Akilesh. We're going to see Deepa and her family on saturday and I'll relay to her how much she is supported from afar.

The days are whizzing past...just a few more to go...and we're bracing ourselves for the chill of an English winter. Here are a few things that Maya and her Mama are going to miss about India...

Maya is going to miss swimming outside in the warm. She was pretty scared of the water when we first came here but is now a little mermaid. She'll also miss the stready flow of ice cream. After all, every day is like summer here! And not just the icecream, she's going to get a shock back in England when she finds that not all teachers freely hand out chocolates and sweeties!

Maya will miss her school and her teachers and all of her friends, especially Aanya. It's amazing to think how far she's come since those early days when she really, really didn't want to go. Now, she adores it.

She'll miss Monkey Maze, the great soft play area where we've gone about once a week since being here.

And what about Maya's Mama? What will she miss? Ah, there are trillions of things... At the end of my big trip to India in 2000, I had to travel all the way from Ladakh (in the far flung north) to Chennai (in the south) to catch my flight home. I think it took about a week of solid travelling so I had ALOT of time. And I made four lists: What I'll miss about India, what I won't miss about India, what I'm looking forward to in England and what I'm not looking forward to in England. I seem to remember the lists being very long, but after all I had serious amounts of time on my hand.

I'm sticking to the positive this time around, and am also giving you just a selection. So, first of all, I'll miss the colours that you find everywhere, sometimes in the most unexpected places. Like the license plate on the back of the truck above.

I'll miss the music.

I'll miss the fragrance of frangipani and jasmine. I wish I could bottle it up and take it home.

I'll miss Deepa.

I'll miss opening my messy wardrobe in the morning, seeing the wonderful Indian fabrics and colours to choose from (well, I know I'll have that again in England, I just need to wait till next summer...and hope it's a good one!)

I'll miss the palm trees which always remind me I'm in a tropical country. Speaking of which, I'll seriously miss the climate too - there are many things about Bangalore I don't like but the climate is amazing. Never too hot and never too cold.

I'll miss the food. If you gave me south Indian food 3 times a day for months on end, I wouldn't get sick of it.

I'll miss the tropical fruits that haven't been flown half way round the world.

I'll miss the tailors, the cobblers, the men who go round on their bicycles calling for 'paper' and the chai wallahs. You know what, I even think I might miss the rickshaw drivers.

But before you think it's all doom and gloom, next post I'll write about what Maya and her Mama are looking forward to back in Blighty!