This is really long. Just thought I’d warn you in case your time is valuable, like if you’re in the Special Forces and are about to take someone out, or you’re an obstetrician or midwife or something. Because those are the kinds of readers we attract. People with very little time to read fucking awesome stories. This, my friends, readers, other bloggers, is a fucking awesome story. I’m not saying it will be more engaging if you drink alcohol before and while you read this, but I’m also not saying it won’t be more engaging. If you think I’ve overhyped it, then clearly you didn’t drink enough. If you don’t drink alcohol for whatever reasons, I completely respect this decision, and applaud you for it. Breath heavily into a paperbag until you’re just about to pass out. And it will have the same affect without making you sound like a blithering idiot. I should clarify that drinking alcohol like James Bond will not do the trick. It has to be done with complete dedication to destroying your liver and braincells.
Also, sometimes, I swear. Sona never does. At least not on paper. We have a three-year-old daughter, who thinks saying “poopadoo” is a curse word. She’s feisty. Just because she’s a princess doesn’t mean she won’t eat your face off or demand the prince make her breakfast and bring her some toys to play with. Our Kahani means Our Story, but I won’t ever call it that for the same reason I will never say What is your problem instead of what is your funda. Or say chai-tea, or naan-bread. It’s silly. And I refuse to abide by any silliness. We generally don’t go over reasonable length of blog posts. But this is a page, a distinction I think bears a re-evaluation for anyone who thinks I’m rambling. Burbling. Or yapping. One day, I will write a short post to make amends. One day real soon. I suppose I should start now.
It’s difficult to imagine a time before our daughter, Kavya existed and our world didn’t revolve around her. But then again, it’s difficult to imagine a world when there was just me and no Sona. OurKahani began online and funnily enough, even after seven years, it continues to grow online through this site, social media, as well as our own websites. We’re both writers, are working on fiction, write for publications, and we also blog. Often we just sit side by side and poke each other on FaceBook, or tweet at each other. Sometimes we email to say it’s time for cha and a cuddle. Or suggest we hop the train and head on over to the City for some crispy, British Fish N Chips, or spicy Calcutta Street food – kathi rolls from the Village (the one in NYC, not in Asia). It’s one of the major perks of living ten minutes from downtown Manhattan and having flexible hours. Sona works fulltime as a freelance writer, I teach writing, fiction, and blogging, as well as do some freelance writing. We both have MFAs because we’re practical like that.
Our Kahani all began with a profile on a website called IndianDating.com in the early 2000s, a site for the non-committal. Not as committed as one of just a few sites at the time with the word marriage in it, and generally the folks that came on it were sketchy. Except me, of course. As the first paragraph has established, I am totally sane. I had gotten on it because of a messy breakup where the girl I was seeing (also desi) decided she wanted to “see what her options were” through this site, and find someone more financially stable than an English major. But didn’t want to break up with me until things were finalized.
After much silliness, we broke up and I did what I do best: left the country for the winter. Came back, left again, this time to teach ESL and backpack in China and South East Asia, as well as a few other countries that came along the way. My gut reaction to this girl putting up an ad was for me to put up one in retaliation. I had put something silly like, “Hairy Brown Male Seeks Girl With Functional Limbs (negotiable) and Fast Car, Bungalow, and Hella Good Gramer. Caste No bar.” I’d hidden my email address in the profile with shennanigans of the ywho variety, and miraculously Sona emailed me.
We started writing long, epic emails to each other. Pages upon pages about thoughts on old school Bollywood films, the awesomeness of Lollywood, and a lot of tangents, most of which never found their way to any linear narrative thread. Eventually we spoke on the phone, and spent hours on the phone in addition to long, epic emails. Take into account the time difference – Sona was working for People in NYC, while I sat around my house in California finishing my MFA, and it’s safe to say we were existing on fumes.
Sona and her sister were doing screenwriting at the time, and came down for some meetings, which was the first time we met. We clicked the same way we did online, and I still think she’s pretty, with a cute proportional nose, a lovely laugh, and the most kickass personality in the world. Kavya is the same way, although she is a bit naughty, which definitely didn’t come from me.
The Big, Fat, Desi Wedding, and a Six Month Honeymoon!
I flew to NYC for New Year’s a few months later. A bunch of stuff happened, our wedding planning got away from us, so we got married in Vegas in secret. Then let both sides of the family do what they wanted in planning the Indian wedding several months later, which was dramatic with Bollywood melodrama, colorful costumes, turbans, a dhol, bhangra, and a horse. But no juicy mangoes. Only kidding. Of course, there were juicy mangoes. Sons of bitches at the wedding venue refused to let us have the traditional Indian delicacy of chilled monkey brains though.
The next morning, we went on a short cooking honeymoon to Mexico, with a sidetrip to see a volcano and cemented the fact I have the most awesome wife ever, when we went to see Lucha Libre, the art of the Mexican Smackdown. We had such a brilliant time travelling together, much like the first time we got married, that we decided to give it another go. Unlike our marriages, which we did stop after three, we never really stopped with the Honeymoons.
And Then There Were Three . . . .
We ate our way through India for six months, and after we came back, we had to figure things out again, but the traveling never stopped. Nor did the itchy feet and wanderlust. We were right in the middle of planning a Greek Island hop by bus when Sona became pregnant. All by herself. We thought perhaps going up and down the narrow steps of Santorini by donkey is perhaps not such a great idea. Sona being pregnant, having that baby didn’t stop us from travelling, but it obviously put an abrupt halt to our website, which was supposed to be about documenting our travels “one honeymoon at a time.” You can’t still be on a honeymoon if you have a kid, can you? Trick question. Of course you can! As much as we’d like to just say we’re those people who can adapt and just roll with it, we’re not. Our site had already slowed down drastically when the hard drive which contained all of our India pictures from South India broke. And it’s taken us quite a while to figure out how to shift our site to a proper blog that reflects who we are now. We haven’t abandoned that newlywed excitement, but there is a new addition to the team.
We started IshqInABackpack in 2006 and the whole purpose of the blog was to document our first backpacking honeymoon together, and to keep our respective families in California and New Jersey updated as to our whereabouts. And for them to know we hadn’t fallen down a well (there are many cases of people falling down wells in India, apparently). If our families all had Facebook and twitter in 2006 like they do today, including my father, Pashaura Singh Dhillon, a 74 year old Punjabi poet and singer, perhaps we never would have taken the time to create this blog! But we’re glad we did. Now, travel bloggers are extremely savvy when it comes to social media and actually have a proper business plan for how they’re going to make it work financially and otherwise before they even leave their city. We totally winged it.
We’ve learned a lot travelling together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and working on our blog together while on the road. We’re very different travellers. Sona loves to shop. Clothes. Books. Bangles. Trinkets. Wooden Elephants. We even bought a Kashmiri Table from Srinagar and one of those ships built inside a bottle that I had to lug across railway platforms. She had to put up with my backpacker ways, of roughing it on trains, long local bus rides, staying in budget hotels, haggling with rickshaw drivers. But ultimately, it was the most amazing trip and we still long for days where the plan is to go roam around and eat street food, drink freshly squeezed juice out in the balmy nights, sit on a houseboat in Kashmir or Kerala. Or just sit next to each other and read for hours and hours. It’s an experience we cherish, and we continue to plot our next vagabonding travel with Kavya. But in the meantime, we’re more than happy to take shorter jaunts all with the goal of experiential travel.
When we returned from India, we had the inevitable “reverse” culture shock of having to adjust to everyday life again, and we quickly realized that despite some scary situations with local buses, the drama of haggling, and little tiffs between, like me not reacting fast enough to insects within Sona’s line of vision, and the “heinous” amount of shopping I felt I was “tricked into” being an active participant and/or bearing witness to, the fact was that we enjoyed traveling together. And we didn’t want our honeymoon to be over. So we kept the site up while we made the mundane decisions of life: where to live and what to do for money. It wasn’t long before the impractical idea of another extended backpacking trip to Greece started to form. We had to start thinking about setting aside a massive amount of money for normal baby supplies like nappies, formula, clothes she would outgrown within a week, more clothes, baby food, and an even more massive amount of money for insurance, a cold, hard reminder that we’re in America. So, basically, we blew our budget for about seven years of vagabonding in under nine months. An approximate figure.
But rather than reminiscing about that one backpacking trip we took before we started being responsible, law abiding, adults, we decided to pave our own path, and continue to discover the world one honeymoon at a time. Kavya is now 3 and has already seen both the East and West Coasts of the United States, ate herself into a frenzy in the Dominican Republic, seen an active Volcano and black sand beaches in Hawaii. We’re also looking at House swapping, while we think about our next vagabonding adventure. But first, we have our novels to finish, this blog to rebrand as a family travel and food narrative, with experiential travel.
On June 1, 2013, we will be participating in the 2013 WordCount Blogathon, where over a hundred bloggers will commit to writing 30 blog posts for 30 days straight. I even convinced Sona and my 73 year-father, Pashaura Singh Dhiilon, a poet to join up! We’re looking forward to learning from other bloggers, getting a hang of this social media stuff, but mainly just about writing about some fun things and bring travel with Kavya and sometimes by ourselves, to the forefront.
The exciting thing about Our Kahani is that it’s constantly evolving, as a good Kahani should. We hope through our travel stories, we can inspire others to go travel for long or short bursts, and that we will soon be able to take Kavya on some fun adventures and allow her to experience the world and have some stories of her own to tell. Every traveler I’ve ever known has been a rambler, so if you’re a fellow rambler, please say hello. You’ll be surprised (or not) at how many long conversations begin with that simple word.