Today, I’m going to tell you about your Mamma’s love for travel. At the time of writing this letter to you, you had just returned back home to Cleveland from an all too short 2 week holiday in India. During this visit of yours, we had planned a trip to Kashmir for 1 week, for 3 reasons:
1 – To have you all to ourselves, away from the maddening heat and traffic and chaos of Mumbai
2 – To fulfill your Mamma’s wish that you get to celebrate your birthday with all your cousins here in India (your 5 adorable and most loving sisters – Anam didi, Alia didi, Almira, Zahra and Zoya)
3 – To realize your Mamma’s dream of travelling extensively, while we still can
Kashmir was, without a doubt, the most memorable trip we have ever made as a family. It was also our first since your Mamma took off on a journey of her own. We were a group of 21 people who wanted nothing more than to see you have a good time. It had all the ingredients required to make the perfect holiday– family that couldn’t be any closer, a destination that couldn’t be any prettier, weather that couldn’t be any better and most importantly, memories that couldn’t get any sweeter. There was just one missing link to the perfect holiday, and that was the physical absence of Mamma.
Knowing how fond Mamma was of travelling, was what pushed us to make this trip happen. You see, your Mom has always been someone who loved Mumbai like no one else did. This place was her life and she would long to come back home ever since she got married to Daddy and moved to America. However, after the first 3 annual visits to Mumbai, she took a call. A call to meet us – her family – somewhere across the globe – that wasn’t Mumbai or Ohio (America was allowed but only if it was Disney Land as one of her last few wishes was to take you there ;)). This was to be an annual family vacation system so we could spend at least a couple of months with each other every year. Unfortunately, life had different plans for her, but Mamma ensured that we stuck to our promise – Kashmir was proof enough of that.
Talking about Mamma’s undying love for travel takes me back to the year 2012 – when I brought back home my first paycheck. I went to Nana and Nani with the check and asked what they would like me to buy them. They said they didn’t want anything. When I insisted, Nana said that in the year 2015, both Bein and I should get him tickets to Shakespeare’s plays at Stratford- upon- Avon, UK. I immediately sent a message to Mamma telling her about what Nana had asked for and she said “Oh that’s great! Let’s make a family holiday out of it!” She was on it immediately and searched the internet for itineraries and other details. Ironically enough, the month she chose to make it happen was September, 2015. We all know which part of the world that date eventually took us to.
Her love for travel took her to Dharamshala, an NGO run by a Buddhist monk for the welfare of displaced children. They needed someone to make a short film on the work they do to show to some leading industrialists in India. It would be hard work and no pay and Mamma decided at once that she had to do it! When Nana went to check it out, he was appalled at the conditions of the people. He tried to talk her out of it. But she was determined. And as you must have already gathered from the previous letters, when it came to Mamma, it was either her way or the highway! The pizza loving girl thrived for 1 month on Rajma Chawal for lunch and Rajma Chawal for dinner. The cold coffee fan drank only hot water. She called it the best experience of her life.
Scaring the monkeys away at Matheran or fishing in the backwaters of kerala, partying it up in Goa or taking a ride with the jawans in the army bus in Manali, taking a road trip to Niagara Falls or flying solo to Cleveland at a 2 hours’ notice, playing 7 hands (and cheating) with the family at Panchghani or just chilling with cousins at Lonavala, if there was a trip planned, Mommy was sure to be at the center of it all! The last time she visited Mumbai with you, we got away to a beautiful place called Malhar Machi – about 4 hours away from Mumbai. Just the 6 of us. And Mommy said that was the absolute best part about her visit that year. Today, we’re so grateful we got to spend that time with her because little did we know back then, that as a family, that would be our last.
“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.”
This was another quote that Mamma would swear by. She invested in a DSLR 4 years ago so she could click beautiful pictures of you and all the places she would visit that were on her bucket list. Spain was one of them. When you’re a little older, we can plan a trip to Spain where you can click some great pictures for her. Because discovering her dream destination through your eyes will essentially be the same as discovering it from hers. When your mom was battling her disease, I received a message from her one night asking if I could help her build her own entrepreneurial website. One where she could talk about her story and encourage people to purchase her own leather products from. I asked her what she intended to do with the money that she would make. Pat came the reply, “I’m going to use it to take my 3 year old to Disney Land!”
Armeen, your Mamma has left us with way too many lessons. One of the most important being to make the most of every moment you have in life. Let’s not leave anything for tomorrow. If she had one regret, it was not travelling as much as she would have liked to. So take her with you. Travel should be an integral part of your life goals so plan to travel the world while you still can. If you don’t find someone to go with you, do it even then! Because you know you are never alone, you’re always carrying Mamma with you in your heart. And what better company could you possibly ask for ;)
There were many instances in Sam’s life when she was crazy as a coot, but the one incident Nana cannot get over is when she made her first visit to the United States of America. I’m going to close this letter with a recount of the incident in Nana’s words, as this truly epitomizes all her craziness and defines her to the fullest:
In April 2010, a volcano erupted in Iceland spewing tonnes of Ash over London and throwing our travel plans out of the window. 4 days later, British Airways called to say they could take a flight to New Jersey via Athens and would she be interested. The flight would take off in 2.5 hours. Sameera was with her Bandra gang and I thought we’d share this as a joke. But guess what? She asked me to throw in four sets of clothes in a small bag and meet her at the airport in an hour. When we reached the airport after 1.5 hours, Sameera coolly came in an auto with her friends, her trademark sucker in hand. With just about 30 minutes to go. One look at her and I screamed, “You are not going to the US wearing that!!” Tattered jeans, thin top and flip flops. Flip flops? “Dad….just chill! I’ll be fine. You take care of yourself OK? Bye!” was her reply.