My mother went to India. Well, I sent her on a tour for two weeks as a birthday gift. The real gift was that I let her come back! That’s a little joke.
She went on the trip through Explore Jewish India, a tour led by a journalist I know, Rahel Musleah. Rahel interviewed me years ago for Hadassah magazine and we’ve kept in touch. I knew she was an Indian Jew—yes, they exist!—and I knew she led these tours, but I wasn’t sure my mom would like it.
My father died three and a half years ago and while my mom is a very strong and brave woman, her experiences in life had been with my dad since she met him at 16, over half a century ago. I was not sure if she would feel confident enough to go alone on a trip like this. She did not know anyone else on the trip, and I was pretty sure she might refuse the gift.
To my pleasure and surprise, she was thrilled and unbelievably excited. Four months after her birthday, she got on a plane by herself to Mumbai. It was an even longer trip than to Israel.
In the weeks leading up to her trip, I helped her pack and unpack. She is the queen of preparedness, but her suitcase basically looked like she planned to move there and never come back. We pared down. She insisted on wearing a different outfit every day; this is not a woman who believes in “mixing and matching,” which is highly recommended for a trip of this sort. Indeed, in every picture, she is in a different stylish linen outfit. She likes to always look her best; a trait I did not inherit since I wear pajamas out of the house regularly without thinking twice about it.
I felt nervous for her to leave. Like protective nervous. She is kind of a bubbly distracted type, and I worried about her getting to her connecting flights and was worried she would get sick there and I worried she wouldn’t play well with with the others. She can be very…outspoken and I worried she would offend someone or something. I decided to turn her over to the Universe, and I was sad to see her go.
Long story short: She had the time of her life. She got along well with everyone, noting that she was glad I reserved her single rooms since she can get overstimulated by lots of talking (she likes to be the one in any group doing most of the talking and if others also like to talk, I’ve noticed she can get bristly from overstimulation). She texted so many pictures that she ran out of data on her phone!
But what I saw in 85 percent of the pictures was something that was proof she was having a good time. I saw her teeth. My mom is very self conscious about her teeth and rarely shows her teeth in pictures. Ever since she was a teenager, she rarely shows teeth when she smiles. She has lovely teeth but she has issues with how they look, I guess.
Anyway, her smile was so genuine and so big in these pictures she would send me. It made me feel so relieved and happy. She deserved a good time. A worldly time. A time to get to know people outside of her comfort zone. They all bonded. They became fast friends. No one got sick. Rahel took them to six cities and they visited the synagogues in each city. They went to the Taj Mahal. They rode an elephant. (I did not approve.) They baked bread, and they ate in people’s homes. They spoke to Jews who are the last of the Jewish community. They learned about the political climate Jews have lived in for the thousands of years they have been in India.
My mother found India to be incredibly friendly and hospitable. They stayed in fancy hotels, but they also observed the poverty and struggles of many Indians. They learned about the caste system and saw it in action. It was powerful and moving, my mother said. I can only imagine. Maybe one day I will go on a tour with Rahel Musleah. Until then, I will share some of the wondrous images from my mom’s trip with her permission.
And she’d be mad if I didn’t tell you to pay attention to her adorable outfits.