Travelling with my girls. Alone.

We were in the mountains. Speeding away on winding roads when I knew something was wrong. And it wasn’t because Dylan was putting his heart and soul into singing “It’s all over now Baby Lou” on my ipod. I knew with the often lost traveller’s instinct that we weren’t on the right road.
We must’ve taken a wrong turn or something. The sun had set a long way back and it was pitch dark now. It always amazed me to see how quickly the light dropped in the mountains. The bloody traffic jam in Kathgodam had taken two hours to clear.

The driver, intent on the road, looked stranger than ever in the dark. The three of us had met him just that morning when we were getting into the hired car and exchanged a look. Not very friendly looking, was what we had agreed upon, silently.

Trying to stay calm now, I looked to see my daughters fast asleep, curled up with their legs and arms interwined around each other and I was suddenly more stressed than ever.

What was I doing so far away from home with my daughters in a hired car with a strange driver? I could see my dead mother shaking her head at me with that same look that said, why don’t you ever stop to think?

I hadn’t ejected myself out of Delhi. Delhi had ejected me. Slowly, insiduously, the summer heat and the constant 40 degree days had worked havoc with my mind. Everyday I would go to work and on my way back the mountains would flash by outside my car window. Then came the mountain breeze trailing after. Fresh and fragrant with pine. I’d get just a whiff and it would be gone. Leaving me sniffing the stale, air conditioned air inside the car.
I had to go just to stay sane but, alone? The husband was too busy to get away, the girlfriends were no, not this weekend, maybe, the next or the next. I was mulling over going alone when I saw my daughters troop in from the park. The older kid was seventeen, the younger one, eleven. I’d never taken a trip to the mountains with just the two of them.

Suddenly, it didn’t seem like going with the kids, they were young girls now. This would be an all girls road trip to the mountains. My first road trip with just my daughters. Their first road trip with just their mom.
And now here I was, lost in the hills with a driver who could be thinking of throwing us off a cliff and nobody would know. Fine parenting, indeed. I jabbed the phone number of the resort again to speak to the manager.
Sure enough, we had missed a turn.
We had to go back, way back and look for the turn again, I told the driver sharply.
The girls were up now, and pretty alert too, having heard the edge in my voice.

The driver, his scars glowing in the dark, turned around to nod and assure me it was all right, very normal to miss a turn in the darkness, Madam. Damn. I had done the due diligence on the taxi service, it came highly recommended by an uncle who had been using them for years. They had said they were giving me their best man. They had better be right.
There wasn’t a soul on the road as we turned around. And it had begun raining steadily.
The kind of rain that was going to go on through the night.
Catching the worry in my eye, my older daughter, waved something at me from her handbag, very discreetly. It was the pepper spray the office had given me when the Nirbhaya episode had taken Delhi by storm.
I had no idea she had brought it along. She waved it at me now, her eyes glinting a ‘don’t you worry, mom, I’ve got this!’ My younger one, not to be outdone, also rummaged in her bag and got out a small knife we’d kept for cutting the apples and made a not so discreet gesture to say, let him try mom, let him just try acting smart.
Too many Tarantino films, I was raising these girls on, I registered grimly to myself as I kept my eyes on the driver for any suspicious moves.

Ten minutes later, he had found the turn and deposited us safely inside the resort.

It was even more beautiful than it had looked online. We put our bags down in the gorgeous room that had been readied for us and plonked down on the bed, tired beyond belief.
And then slowly, the giggles came bubbling forth.
The older one mimicked the pocket knife gesture the younger one had used.
The younger jumped up on the bed and acted out the dead serious pepper spray look.
Soon the older one was on top of the younger one shrieking with laughter, and I was on top of both of them trying to get them to pipe down before the whole resort woke up, but also giggling out of sheer relief.
That’s when I knew I had acted on the right instinct, back in Delhi. Daughters were meant to be travelled with, from an early age. See new places, have new experiences and take some chances. The sooner they learned to look out for themselves, the better. The world was a nasty place to grow up in, sure, but the world was also full of the most interesting discoveries that only travel could throw up. Like the fact that most of our fears are lived out in our minds.

Travel Map: Delhi to Gethia, near Nainital – 314kms
Travel Time: 13 hours by road (including more than two hours spent in a traffic jam near Kathgodam)
Destination Hotel: Two Chimneys Gethia
Review: lovely, homely food served in a common dining hall. Very personal service. We were guided to the place and looked after personally by Suman, the lady who runs the place.

Writer – Sonia Bhatnagar (Guest KetchupMoms)

Sonia Bhatnagar is an advertising writer and Executive Creative Director with JWT. Sonia is always looking for an excuse to pack her bags and see someplace new. She loves a good read and hates to write when she can watch a movie or take a walk. But after having written, she sleeps grinning like a baby.

Comments (4)

Http://www.aboutvariousthings.com/ Posted on Nov 04, 2017

What a nice adventure a nd beautiful experience! Nice post, I will follow your blog as it`s bery interesting with useful advise. :)

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Md Posted on Jan 18, 2015

Road trips with kids are always very exciting.

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suman Posted on Jan 18, 2015

U r truly adventurous My girl-trips are always with my sisters, sister in law and my 2 nieces.... We had lost our way in ireland and the cruiseliner had left us at 6pm with dad and all the male members of the family onboard. I think they went thru hell thinking how " useless girls like us " will drive up to the next port and reach at 6 am the next morning." Except ofcourse my dad , who panicked the most but reassured everybody else by saying " I have raised my daughters like sons and they will not do any silly girlie things " (whatever that is supposed to be).... We got onto a bus, luxury bus...bot ourselves food,sang enof and more songs and one of us put an alarm for 5 20 am so that we were all fresh and awake to reach the port ...looking chirpy... Its another matter that we are still not forgiven for this stupidity....

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Sumeet Posted on Jan 18, 2015

Nice article. I need to drive to Someplace soon with my kids.

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