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Why Should We Take Our Kids To India?

Krithiga Subramanian Bothra, MPH

I truly believe that many of life’s greatest lessons are learned outside of the classroom, and this is certainly true of family vacations spent in India.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of lazy summers spent there, soaking in the culture and spending time with extended family.

Every wall of the house was a museum of family history, filled with portraits from the past.  There were stories of colorful relatives, like the great grandfather who practiced ayurvedic medicine, collected weight lifting equipment… and levitated! 

Large extended families provide ample playmates for your child.  No need to schedule playdates!  I remember having a ball exploring the “secret passageways” of my parent’s ancestral homes.  It was an Enid Blyton story come to life!   Cousins can compare and contrast their lifestyles, everything from school to sports.  And after the visit, they have instant pen pals!   Children enjoy all the attention from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles, not to mention the home-cooked meals and goodies!

You’ll probably get no better chance to immerse your children in their mother tongue.  Once, when my brother was five, he returned from India speaking our language to all our puzzled neighbors!  Though he soon switched back to English, the lessons were never forgotten.  Not surprisingly, young children pick up languages easily.  Take advantage of this while you can!  I had Tamil lessons one year – the teacher came to my house early every morning and taught me how to read and write.  To this day, I can read restaurant menus and road signs, which comes in handy when we’re traveling!

Once you venture outside the house, your child will see the India of contrasts, everything from opulence to extreme poverty.  It helps to give your children perspective and see how fortunate they are, that maybe that video game they MUST have isn’t so important, after all.  Some children return with a mission to help those in need, thereby stepping outside their comfortable cocoon.  What a great way to teach them about compassion and empathy.

Travel within India provides adventure with a fun geography lesson!  Trains are a great, kid friendly way to see the country.  Your kids can roam around and explore and even chat with their neighbors. It’s a good way to see the changing landscape and villages along the rail route. And there’s something really exciting about sleeping on the top tier of the train compartment!  

Children can enjoy visits to temples and palaces, learning about history and native arts.  Even small children can appreciate the hidden passages and colorful statues, which will surely lead to questions about the great epics. 

So you’ve decided to go… now what?  There are many benefits to visiting India with your children.  We’ve taken our children twice within the past five years and hope to plan another visit soon!  However, unlike a trip to D.C. or San Diego, a trip to India requires a lot of forethought and planning.  Watch out for the next article in the India Family Travel series: Getting Ready to Visit India.   

(Krithiga Subramanian Bothra is a health education consultant and mom to a five year old girl and two year old boy, both experienced little travelers! She is also a production assistant for Baby Hindustani. For more information visit www. babyhindustani.com. )

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