Anyone who has ever had a blog has made it their New Year’s resolution to “write on the blog more.” I won’t do that. I’m not a big New Year’s resolution fan (for the same reason as everyone else who says that). That said, I have taken a breather from the blog, and from the project as well. It’s been nearly 3 weeks since I’ve posted, which is my longest break yet, and I’m ready to get back into it. It was good to take a mid-Watson holiday break, though, especially after an overwhelming 14 meetings over 8 days in Bangalore. And for the holidays, my parents came out to visit me over Christmas, New Year’s, and my birthday two days later! I swapped out project meetings and solo exploring to travel around India with my parents, enjoy the holidays with them, and show them what my life in Mumbai has been like.
We started in Kerala, a southern coastal state in India, where we explored the backwaters, the Malabar coast and beaches, and the town of Kochi. Kerala’s backwaters are a main feature of the state, where houseboats in intriguing shapes (see above) cruise along the calm waters, surrounded by rice paddy fields and occasional homes. After so much time in India’s most cosmopolitan cities, Mumbai and Bangalore, it was good to see a more rural area. Though I didn’t celebrate Christmas with carols, snow, a tree, or gifts this year, it still meant the world to me to wake up on Christmas morning with my parents (a Kerala Christmas! I’m trying to make a ‘A Christmas Carol’ pun here but it’s not working so well).
After the backwaters and some beach time, my parents and I briefly visited the city of Kochi. Kochi is considered to be a “Tier 2” city compared to the “Tier 1” cities of Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, for example. A port city, Kochi has Dutch and Portuguese influence from historical colonialism, and parts of it felt a bit European – a feeling that I haven’t gotten anywhere else in the country.
After Kochi, we flew to Agra to see the Taj Mahal (of course a must do, even though I’ve tried to avoid touristy stuff on the Watson. It was different with my parents, though). We first saw it in the evening from the back, and it was beautiful in the sunset. The next morning, we couldn’t see a thing! The morning fog was so thick that you could only see the Taj Mahal if you were standing right next to it; otherwise the white marble blended into the sky. A few hours later, the fog cleared, but the grounds were packed with people; millions visit the site every year, especially over the holidays.
On our way to Jaipur, Rajasthan, from Agra, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri. It’s a small city that a Mughal emperor created in the 16th century. He wanted it to be the seat of his empire because a prophet there had correctly predicted the birth of his son, but the capital was abandoned after just 15 years (after the emperor died) due to water shortages. Now it’s a mystical place made of red sandstone and intricate carvings, with a huge white marble tomb for the prophet.
Finally, we went to Jaipur, where we spent a few days seeing the City Palace, the Amber Fort, and Jantar Mantar, an astronomy park created by the Maharaja Singh in the 18th century and featuring the world’s largest sundial. That was my favorite stop on the trip; the astronomical instruments were just beautiful.
And that’s all! After a few days back in Mumbai, and saying goodbye to my parents there, I’m traveling solo again. I’ve returned to Kerala, and I’m having lots of project meetings here – more to follow on all that. The first half of the Watson is almost over, and that was the longest I had ever gone without seeing my parents; the second half will break that record again. I’m so glad they visited me, and I think it’s important that they got to see me on the Watson, safe and doing well. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year’s!