Rosalind Miller is 35 and lives in North London with her husband and daughters, Rae, two, and Skye, 5.  

The way things were
At the point when we decided to go travelling I was very much in a transition stage. I was one year into my PhD and two years into motherhood, so I’d say I was still trying to get the hang of both. This trip was all about collecting data for my PhD and it was really important to me that I completed it. Our initial plan was to have kids when I finished studying (ha!) but the best laid plans and all that…

When I told people I was having a baby a lot of them assumed I was going to give up the PhD because ‘you can’t possibly take your child to India and do your fieldwork’. This almost made me more determined to make it work and show people that it could be done. I also saw it as a great opportunity for our family. To spend time exploring India a country that I had (and still have) an inexplicable obsession with… I was excited for my daughter to experience first-hand the smells, colours and people that had captured my own heart many years ago, when I first visited. I was also keen to show her a different way of life.

The long and short of it
Our trip was centred around my PhD fieldwork. I was studying the sale of medicines from pharmacies and drug shops and specifically looking at the rise of chain pharmacies in India. These are only present in big cities and in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad; we chose Bangalore. Delhi was ruled out because cost of living is so much higher and the pollution is also more extreme. Ultimately I chose Bangalore because I made links with a local organisation who were happy to host me during my time there. That, and the nice climate…

My husband took a sabbatical from his job as a lecturer and planned on writing a book during our time in India while I was working full-time

The thing about India is that it’s really hard to plan ahead! You really need to be there to make things happen. So as much as I would have liked to have made plans it just wasn’t possible. So we rocked up with our six suitcases and had a lot to do… The logistics of there move were in all honestly really stressful. I joke that the biggest achievement of this entire PhD was getting visas that extended beyond 6 months. We became regular visitors to the visa centre on Goswell Road in London and there were seemingly endless new forms required on every visit.

Finding a place to live was a big one; we visited what seemed like hundreds of apartments. It took some time to convince our property guy that we were not working for Goldman Sachs and did not have the same budget as a lot of expats. Furthermore, we did not want to stay in a community of expats closed off from the rest of the city. Our persistence paid off and we ended up in a lovely apartment within the most lovely community of families. Our daughter made so many friends there and we are still in touch with some of them.

Childcare was for me THE most important and time-consuming thing to set up. My husband took a sabbatical from his job as a lecturer and planned to work on writing a book during our time in India and I was working full time. This meant we needed to find morning childcare for our then 2.5 year old. I visited pretty much every nursery in South Bangalore before finding the right place. She even completed a week at one pre-school before we pulled the plug because it just wasn’t right. I found a lot of the pre-schools to be focused too much on academic learning which is not what we wanted. We just wanted a lovely caring environment where she could have fun and eventually that is what we found. Our daughter loved her key workers during her time there and we were so sad to sad goodbye at the end of the trip.

Another world
In India there is never a dull moment. The simplest things can be a challenge and the never ending bureaucracy could be frustrating. I was also very busy organising a large study of Bangalore’s pharmacies. So there were definitely times of stress and exhaustion. But it was also just so exciting. Even going to the shops to buy vegetables was an adventure. We enjoyed exploring the city and the weekends and did as many trips out of Bangalore as my work would permit. We also loved the sense of community at our apartment. There were so many kids and a common playground where all the kids gathered after school. I came to love the knock at the door and expectant faces looking up at me asking ‘Auntie can Skye come out to play?’. Seeing the kids have so much fun together led us to the conclusion that we should probably have another child – a playmate for Skye and I returned to London three months pregnant!

It took some time to convince our property guy that we did not have the same budget as a lot of expats, and did not want to stay in a community of expats closed off from the rest of the city

Highs and lows
The best things were watching Skye adapt to the new environment, getting my research study underway, and the travel opportunities for us as a family. We also created some lovely new traditions of our own, for example every Friday night we went out to eat at a local restaurant on our road. Kids were welcomed to be running around until 11pm, and there were live singers every week.

It sounds like a small thing but wearing flip flops every day for almost a year was my dream and I miss that every day! As I do the awesome travel opportunities we had on our doorstep. We also miss the families that welcomed us into their community. And the no need to organise play dates because friends were just a knock away. 

In terms of what we missed about London, it was mainly friends and family, obviously. And the ease of doing anything; no need to haggle for a taxi / auto / everything we wanted to buy. Public transport and getting around is logistically so much easier back home, and Bangalore traffic and pollution can be hard to deal with. Being very fair-skinned and very blonde, Skye was somewhat of a celebrity and sometimes the constant attention was wearing.

Life lessons
I suppose above all the trip taught me there are always ways to make family adventures work and kids are way more resilient than adults. While it’s fine to try to make plans, in some countries you have to let go of trying to control everything and just go with the local ways… Things in India can take time, in those moments it’s about trying to keep your cool.

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