When my wife, Jess, and I announced we were taking our babies with us on a three-and-a-half month meander through India, the reactions ran from "You're crazy!" to "But they won't remember anything" to "Don't you know they can die over there?" Eight weeks into our trip, our kids have not died. In fact, our six-month-old son, Rohan, has learned to roll over and sit up and has said his first word ("Mama") over here. Our 18-month-old daughter, Gwen, thinks that 2,000-year-old Jain temples were carved for her to play hide-and-seek in.It's not like we just jumped on the plane and showed up. Before we left, we made lists of health questions and interrogated our pediatrician to the point of fatigue. Our son's formula alone filled a 72-inch duffel. Two more duffels we filled with 350 diapers, 800 wipes, 70 ounces of SPF 50 sunscreen, mosquito nets, deet-free organic repellent, Bio Gaia (for diarrhea), powdered Pedialyte, medical records, emergency-travel-insurance cards, clothes, bibs, toys, binkies, blankies, and ga-ga's. (Don't ask.) While Amundsen opted for dogs and Scott for ponies, Jess and I have brought a Sit-N-Stand LX double stroller.
Our small caravan attracts more attention than any passing camel train. Indians love our children, barraging us with endless requests to kiss them, take their photographs, bless them, decorate their foreheads with tikka, pass them around the train from lap to lap. Even in cosmopolitan downtown Delhi, we were mobbed like Bollywood stars.
Though it's true that the days of Jess and me riding on top of the bus are on hold, the journey goes on inside it. Often we skip the temples for playtime in local parks. We nap in the hot afternoons and, at bath time, keep the water out of the children's mouths. Our sightseeing checklists always begin and end with hydration. At home, Jess and I had sketched out a languorous journey that took in only those sights with reliable infrastructure and emergency facilities. But the children have handled India so well, we've gone farther afield than we'd planned. We passed on the 12-hour Jeep ride from Jammu to Srinagar in favor of the30-minute flight, but while unpacking in our woodstove-warmed houseboat at last, with the surrounding Himalayas covered in snow, we understood that life with kids can include all this. "These are the golden years," an elderly man whispered as I tucked Gwen in next to me on the overnight train to Jaipur. "Later they do not always want to be beside Daddy." I know this trip will be hard to match; the kids will be this little only once, after all. Even now, Jess and I are thinking of the days when we'll tell them what we didhow we took them to India in diapers and crossed the vast country on these rocking trains, the two of them asleep in our arms.