“Vis­it­ing grand­par­ents is a jour­ney into an ev­er­ex­pand­ing shared his­tory”


India Today - - COVER STORY - By ASHIMA NARAIN, Pho­tog­ra­pher

Be­ing mar­ried to a very ac­tive Englishman (Matthew Spa­cie, founder of Magic Bus and a co­founder of Clear­trip.com) means that our hol­i­days have al­ways been… well, ac­tive. Matthew’s fa­ther is an ex-para­trooper, so even vis­its to my in-laws in­volve at least three out­door ac­tiv­i­ties daily, in­clud­ing cy­cling, hill walk­ing and an ac­tiv­ity of my choice which usu­ally in­volves sit­ting on the grass and eat­ing food, much to the hor­ror of my in-laws. It is not a com­plaint, but I thought it might be­come a con­sid­er­a­tion for us once we had three chil­dren in three years. I was wrong.

Last sum­mer we took our not yet one-year-old, our two-year-old and our three-year-old to visit their grand­par­ents in Leigh-on-Sea, in the South East of Eng­land for a month. It was the first time we were all trav­el­ling out of In­dia to­gether, and I was ex­cited for them to ex­pe­ri­ence where and how their fa­ther grew up.


Leigh-on-Sea is just 40 min­utes from Lon­don, and is a his­toric, charm­ing and small fish­ing town with peb­bled streets, a cock­leshed row and a beach that stretches for seven miles, link­ing sev­eral tra­di­tional English sea­side towns. It is where the Thames meets the sea— murky brown; and a walk on the beach can turn into a trudge in the mud. But this is where my moth­erin-law has swum ev­ery­day (ex­cept when it snows) for al­most 50 years; it is where my fa­ther-in-law would at­tract crowds when he be­came one of the first wind­surfers the town had seen; and it is where my hus­band would run to straight from school to join his fa­ther on the water.

Three miles down from the gen­teel Leigh is the big­ger and louder Southend-on-Sea. There is a pal­pa­ble snob­bery towards the lat­ter, but be­ing from Mum­bai I en­joy the cot­ton candy eat­ing crowds. Southend is also home to the world’s long­est pier, and my hus­band never lets any­one for­get that he once won the an­nual pier race as a child. From his tone as we strolled along the 2.8-km pier it was clear he ex­pected the same from at least one of our chil­dren.

Sum­mer meant long sunny days, with walks to Hadleigh Cas­tle, built in the 12th cen­tury and sur­rounded by park­land which now in­cludes an Olympic Moun­tain Bike course built for the 2012 Lon­don Games, and a visit to the rare breeds cen­tre where we met Misty, May and Mary, the Bagot goats, as well as Bey­once and Bron­wen, the Mid­dle White pigs. It did leave me won­der­ing if the Left White pig and the Right White pig were even rarer breeds that were kept else­where.

We played at the park, and on the beach, and punc­tu­ated our days with ice-cream runs. When the tide was low and the mud­flats were ex­posed, it was time for an ad­ven­ture at ‘crab creek’. Th­ese ad­ven­tures, were the ones that my hus­band had with his par­ents so he was en­sur­ing their le­gacy.

The beauty of vis­it­ing grand­par­ents is that each visit be­comes a jour­ney into an ever-ex­pand­ing shared his­tory. As the chil­dren grow older there will be newer dis­cov­er­ies made, in­ter­ests shared, se­crets re­vealed, and as to be ex­pected— ac­tiv­i­ties planned. Ev­ery trip back will be a first jour­ney, be­cause their age will al­low them more ac­cess to th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences. At 14 my hus­band got a sum­mer job at the Leigh beach as a deck chair at­ten­dant. To date he says it was his best job ever, and I know he hopes our chil­dren will also ex­pe­ri­ence sum­mers this way—in the out­doors, un­der the blue skies, be­ing ac­tive.

Ev­ery trip back will be a first jour­ney, be­cause their age will al­low them greater ac­cess to th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences.


FAM­ILY BONDS Ashima Narain with her chil­dren at the beach

ON THE GO Hadleigh Cas­tle was the ideal spot for long walks and cy­cling trips with the fam­ily

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.