Travelling with kids: Training for the wedding season
Perhaps the most exciting trips that we have taken as a family are to big fat weddings in Chennai, in southern India. May and June are the busiest months on the matrimonial calendar, and this year is no different. Now that we live in Bangalore, not Abu Dhabi, the invitations are arriving thick and fast, and turning them down isn’t an option anymore.
This time, though, instead of a plane, the mode of transport will be a train. It’s less than seven hours overnight on the Shatabdi Express from Bangalore to Chennai, and it won’t just be our small family of three travelling, but assorted relatives and friends, occupying an entire carriage.
Dinner and breakfast, mostly consisting of chutney and idli (steamed rice cakes), thayir sadam (spiced rice with yogurt), and besan ladoos (gram flour and jaggery balls) will be packed in individual containers for each person ahead of the trip.
The Tamil Brahmin weddings that we have attended so far have been elaborate affairs, each lasting a week, and the railway journey serves as a kind of pre-party to the actual event – there’s festivity in the air, and plenty of entertainment, in the form of games, dancing and singing contests (I have heard that even otherwise-conservative nonagenarians join in the fun).
Having lived abroad all his life, our teenage son, Calvin, is excited about the whole thing – it promises to be like nothing he has ever experienced, and he is particularly looking forward to waking in his berth at dawn and sipping hot tea from tiny earthen cups, handed through the train’s barred windows by food vendors at the station.
On arrival in Chennai, immediate family members of the bride and groom’s party will go straight to the wedding hall, which occupies the ground floor of an entire building, at least two floors high, rented specially for the occasion. Once we step inside, we will promptly lose Calvin, because he’s immediately absorbed into the vast gang of his cousins – a noisy assortment of toddlers, children, teenagers and young adults, all dressed to the nines in glittering finery.
Besides the total lack of adult supervision and filling up on all the delicacies, Calvin loves watching the fireworks that are set off after the main ceremonies. Bagfuls of spinning wheels, rockets and spindly sparklers are brought to the courtyard for half an hour of explosive celebrations. Since Calvin is also terrified of them, he watches from afar, only deigning to gently whirl a sparkler or two. His rambunctious cousins, on the other hand, fearlessly dance among the whizzing lights, brandishing matchsticks and threatening to set off the more-dangerous fireworks that are restricted to adults.
Another Chennai wedding is fast approaching, and Calvin’s infamous band of cousins has already formed a group on WhatsApp to plan the much-anticipated train ride. For the first time, they have included him, too, and I can’t think of a better welcome for a boy who has finally come home.
Updated: June 28, 2017 04:00 AM