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Ruth’s Blog: India - Going back to my roots

My mum’s passing prompted me to explore my heritage more thoroughly. Although I had previously visited India twice before with Mum, this was very different.

A little bit of family history:

There is a synagogue in Mumbai, called the Gates of Mercy, which was built by my great (x3) grandfather as a ‘thank you’ for saving his life.

It was built in 1796 after The Tipu Sultan captured the 6th Battalion in the Second Mysore war in 1783 and subsequently became a huge part of my family for many years.

My parents were married there in 1958, so it felt very apt to have the opportunity to visit and honour their memory there.

Mumbai is a city like no other and one of my favourites in the world; it is in my veins. The contrasts, colours, tastes, sounds and smells, the traffic, the women in beautiful saris - it offers a multitude of experiences for each of the senses.

This trip was a mind blowing, tumultuous rollercoaster of emotions, laughing until our stomachs ached and crying tears of sadness whilst remembering and celebrating our parents’ lives.

Seeing where they were married the first time that I visited was something special; however, this time was more poignant, finding it very special to say Saturday morning prayers in the synagogue built by my forefathers.

The hospitality shown by my cousins sums up the people of Mumbai - nothing was ever too much trouble.

Visiting the slums in Kalva will never leave me and I was excited that some of the women have been able to start working on initiatives that will help to sustain themselves.

Having the opportunity to watch school kids sitting quietly on the floor, legs crossed listening attentively to their teacher made me smile as well as feel extremely humble and fortunate, especially as I had chosen to stay a couple of nights at the iconic Taj Hotel where I had previously treated my mum when last in Mumbai. It is timeless elegance right by the Fort and I don’t think I would want to stay anywhere else.

We walked loads but when we did need taxis, they were easy to find and relatively cheap.

I felt like I got into the heart of the city on this visit. It is noisy, hectic and crowded and the roads can be a little hairy at times, but this is all part of the charm of such a populous place.

The food was as amazing as I had remembered it. I grew up on curry and absolutely love it. The traditional thali is a firm favourite, with a choice of several different foods. Vegetarian options are plentiful and an interesting fact - it’s illegal to eat beef in Mumbai.

No trip to India is complete until you get to see the white marble mausoleum - the Taj Mahal - in all its splendour, and all the gorgeous gardens at Agra, built by the Mughal emperor in 1632 for the tomb of his favourite wife. We took the train for an easily done and memorable day trip from Delhi.

India holds a very special place in my heart for obvious reasons, but it is an experience that I would encourage adding to bucket lists with an array of very different adventures awaiting in one of the world’s most unique destinations.

Whether it’s epic fortresses and tigers, house boats in the backwaters, yoga in Kerala, visiting the Himalayas, or just watching some live cricket, then India is the place for you.

If you have limited time, then consider the Maharajas Express which proudly boasts that it’s “the most lavish way that any traveller can experience India” and has won the ‘World’s leading luxury train’ award for each of the last seven years.


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