India has always been high on my bucket list of destinations. From the food to the culture, it was a colorful chaos I couldn’t wait to experience first hand. I even figured the infamously scary Delhi Belly might not be so bad as long as I emerged looking slimmer in my saree. We knew India was a no-go before the baby was at least one year old (see, we’re clearly more reasonable than people give us credit for), so at the mature age of 14 months we figured she was ready.
My main concerns about bringing the baby to India were mostly food related. Given she’s a human garbage disposal and eats everything in sight, there would be no holding her back from proper butter chicken and tikka masala. But making sure she could only reach good food in sanitary places was my number one anxiety. Surprisingly, I had nothing to worry about in this regard and we ate at both hotels and local restaurants recommended by our guides. The only issue became the volume of naan that had to be ordered to satisfy the little piglet we affectionately call our daughter*.
Unfortunately the real concern that I had known about, but majorly underestimated, was the air quality. Holy cow, is there a pollution problem in Northern India! You hear about places like Beijing and think to yourself, there’s not enough face masks in the world to get me to expose my child to that. But then you get to Delhi – a place that feels like an old nightclub fog machine has been turned on and then left on for about a decade. Even Agra had such a high level of smog it makes you suspicious that any crystal clear blue-skied pictures of the Taj Mahal must have been retouched by the Victoria’s Secret Photoshop team. Did we get the black lung from Delhi? Hopefully not, but we were slightly coughing and judging ourselves for this poor parenting moment. That being said, Jaipur was noticeably cleaner and I felt like less of a bad mom during our stay in the pink city.
The baby definitely attracted a fair amount of attention wherever we went. It could have been the fact that she was as pale as the white marble in the Taj Mahal, or maybe it was the car seat we strapped her into while other kids were piled into the back of a Tuk Tuk, rickshaw or scooter with much better survival instincts and grip. Given how many pictures people took of her I’m no longer worried about showing her on our social media accounts! We spent a lot of time stopping many well-intentioned hands from touching her chubby cheeks. Little did they know that I was protecting them as much as her when I stopped their fingers from getting too close to her mouth…this child can bite like a tiger, beware! People were curious and welcoming to our blonde haired, blue-eyed porcelain doll of a gremlin…I mean baby.
Aside from the child endangering pollution, bringing the baby to Northern India wasn’t nearly as scary as I had envisioned. Education in the schools is done in English so most people you meet speak English and are easy to communicate with. Even the signs around the major cities are primarily in English, making it easier to navigate than many places in Europe. That being said, it’s the first place we’ve actually questioned our parenting on the fly, and truthfully, I wouldn’t advise places like Delhi or Agra until the pollution dies down. Given there’s just a mere 1.25 billion people in India it should be fixed any day now. I’d say don’t hold your breath, but if you’re in Delhi maybe you should.
*After this was written we actually ended up getting food poisoning on the plane…leaving India! Oh, the irony! Thankfully this was one of the few meals the baby didn’t attend as she slept through the poisonous plane food like a champ.