April 24, 2020

I grew up in Kallianpur, India, but now live in the UK. Once a year, during my children’s summer vacation, we visit relatives in India.

For me, holidays to India always start with a list. As soon as we let the family know that we have booked our tickets, the list arrives:

1) ‘Remember to get chocolates- Those Ferris ones, everyone likes them.’


‘Yes, those round spiky ones in gold wrappers with nuts inside.’

‘Oh, Ferrero Rocher you mean?’

‘That is the one. And get lots. The last time you came there were no chocolates left to give Walty Ab. He is still fuming. And I had to pay one thousand rupees - a thousand rupees, mind you - For a tiny box of truffles from that shop that sells imported goods to give to Mimi Voni. I had to lie and say they were from you. You know how particular she is. Although she only lived for six months in the Gulf twenty years ago, she has delusions of grandeur worthy of the queen of England. The only chocolates she claims to like are good quality cocoa dusted chocolate truffles with a hint of sea salt.’

2) Shampoo: ‘Get the ones smelling of apples and vanilla.’

(‘Don’t they get shampoo in India?’ My husband asks; eyeing the myriad bottles scattered around the suitcases, as I wrap duct tape securely around them so they will not split during the journey - It would be a disaster if shampoo got into the chocolate boxes - And begin the mammoth task of weighing the suitcases and juggling the contents so the weight of each one does not exceed 23 kilos).

3) ‘And Nimmi aunty’s boy – He is two I think, or is it three? Anyway, get something for him.’

4) ‘Something for Billu Ab’s grandkids.’

‘How many of them?’

‘There are three. Or four. Something like that.’

‘Are they boys or girls?’

‘Can’t remember. Can you not get something generic?’

5) ‘For that family down the road who are always giving you jackfruit when you come- Get jeans for the boys.’

‘What size are they?’

‘How should I know? Just guess.’

‘What age?’

‘Younger one is in fourth standard, older one in tenth.’

‘Yes, but what age are they?’

‘Nine and fifteen I think, but the older one is well built and the younger one is very skinny.’

‘Are they tall for their age, short?’

‘Just get some jeans, Renita.’

(And before my husband begins his, ‘Do they not get jeans in India?’ spiel, I interject - ‘These are foreign jeans. They have a sheen all their own, even if they are from Primark.’)

6) Handbags for Lethi Bai, Sevrin Teacher and Bijju Mausi

7) Sunglasses for Anthony Dattu and Victor Maam

8) Men’s perfume and t-shirts for Paulu’s sons

9) Makeup for Cathrin Voni’s girls

10) iPad

11) iPod

12) iPhone 11 Pro Max

13) Anything else electronic beginning with ‘i’ or having an apple in the logo

14) If there’s any space left, more chocolate boxes

Every year my husband implores, ‘Please try and pack reasonably this time.’ And every year, he sighs as he calls the taxi company to book a people carrier for the journey to the airport for: ‘2 adults, 2 children.’ ‘Then why the people carrier, sir?’ ‘Well… there are 4 large suitcases and assorted hand luggage.’

Every year, the journey to the airport is fraught. My husband, thin-lipped as he shares his seat with a giant suitcase and my handbag spilling over with baby clothes. ‘Baby clothes? We do not have any babies.' 'Not for us, for Aunt Chinnu’s cousin’s child.’ ‘Why in your handbag for God’s sake?’ ‘There was no space in the suitcases.’ ‘Have you packed any clothes for us?’ Both of us remembering our visit the previous year when we had to buy our entire wardrobe down to socks and toothbrushes as soon as we landed, from the local shop. ‘Um…Well… Um…’

At check-in, I discover faith again as I plead mercilessly to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints, to please, please, by some miracle make all the suitcases weigh 23 kgs or less, frantically remembering the shoes for Pedru Ab-‘his feet blister easily, Renita, the shoes in India are not good’- that I sneaked into the green suitcase, and the diabetic chocolates I packed into the brown one after they had all been weighed by hubby the night before and declared to be teetering closer to 25 than 23.

A frenzied reshuffle begins, as I open suitcases and stuff more items into already bulging backpacks, and my hubby slumps with his head in his hands.

Finally, the suitcases are through - Thank you Oh Great and Loving Lord - And we make our way to the plane overloaded and hunched under the weight of hand luggage digging into our shoulders and backs.

But… before we board there is the short but necessary detour to duty-free for the whisky: ‘Something to give both Fathers at the church and also the Pilar Fathers for all their prayers…’

And if you thought that was the end of the story…

On the journey back, the whole scenario repeats itself - But this time with pickle bottles presented by loving relatives, packs of jackfruit and banana chips, bafat powder, grated coconut, bhujia, pots and pans for the kitchen, a pressure cooker, a spice grinder… ‘Why not take that mixer, those guavas and chikkoos from the fruit basket and the kitchen counter as well, for good measure?’ my hubby asks.

But in between, we have a fabulous time. The warmth of family, friends and total strangers, the amazing food, stories exchanged, gifts showered, love bestowed. The smell of spices, the pleasure of biting into a perfectly ripe mango, juice trickling down chins, the sun tinting faces gold, the noise, the chaos, the heat, the advice, the love, the glorious mess of contradictions that is India. Home.



By Renita D'Silva
Renita D'Silva grew up in Kallianpur, India and now lives in the UK. Her short stories have been published in 'The View from Here', 'Bartleby Snopes', among others and have been nominated for the 'Pushcart' prize and the 'Best of the Net' anthology. She is the author of 'Monsoon Memories', 'The Forgotten Daughter', 'The Stolen Girl', 'A Sister's Promise', 'A Mother's Secret', 'A Daughter's Courage', 'Beneath An Indian Sky', 'The Girl In The Painting'.

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Comment on this article

  • Anil Danthy, Shirva

    Sun, Apr 26 2020

    This is wonderfully epic and classy...though the narration is a real life situation, it's not easy to pen them...great indeed , and without any doubt has entertained the qurantined.... thank you.

  • Irita & Bhavna, Kallianpur/Mangalore

    Sat, Apr 25 2020

    Wonderful article re....beautifully written & so interesting

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Sat, Apr 25 2020

    God The Father on the desire to please only self threatens one's soul

    April 23, 2020

    Once again, I (Maureen) see a Great Flame that I have come to know as the Heart of God the Father. He says: "Every present moment is the opportunity to make good decisions for the future of the country and the world in general. Your decisions to avoid sin strengthen your own response to righteousness and makes clear the path for those around you. Avoid compromise of any sort. This is the best way to be a good example to your neighbor. These days, there is no small decision. You must do your best to avoid contamination of body and soul. The virus threatens you physically. The desire to please only yourself threatens your soul and therefore the heart of the world. Casualties of both kinds weaken your nation."

    "Make a conscious effort to live according to the Truth of Holy Love in every present moment. During these strife-filled days, every soul needs to live in the Truth to be the strongest influence for good as possible. Now, you do not see your enemy in the form of a virus. The time approaches when your enemy will be more visible and you must be strong spiritually to oppose him."

    Read 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 7-8+

    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

    * The Messages of Holy and Divine Love at Maranatha Spring and Shrine.

  • Renita D'Silva, Kallianpur/UK

    Sat, Apr 25 2020

    Just to say that I have taken several liberties with the truth. None of the people naned are real.

  • Hilda D Silva, Kallianpur

    Sat, Apr 25 2020

    Rennu very well written very funny.Enjoyed it.But there are many jokes and imaginative narrations because you are an author.

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