When I was still working in Nicaragua, my mother told me she wanted to travel with me as soon as I got back to Sweden in September. She wanted us to go to Istanbul together, but as she would have two entire weeks of vacation, I had her reconsider and think bigger, and she picked India and the Taj Mahal. I had already been there in 2010, but this was going to be very different. First of all, I was going to let my mother lead and plan everything – it was her trip. Also, she wanted to see everything. More buildings, less spirituality. I was going to let somebody else decide where I would be going and not travel alone for the first time, she was going to have to trust me on the safety issues and discover the hardships of India. It was going to be a challenge for both of us.
Kolkata, or as many say, Calcutta, was our first stop in the country after a really convenient Emirates flight. We landed under heavy rainfall and found a hotel on Sudder street where travellers often choose to live due to its convenient location. It wasn’t really tourist season in September as the monsoon period had just started, so we were almost alone in the hotel apart from a group of very nice Japanese guys that we spent an evening with. During the days, we basically walked around looking at monuments my mother wanted to see – and ate. My mother had no issues with trying food in different places, so that was wonderful. She was already loving the Indian cuisine after one day and I was thrilled. On our second day, we met Bose, a guy who insisted on showing us around for hours. My mother was nervous, “Why is he so nice? Are you sure this is the right direction? Where is he taking us?” but she finally gave in when I told her to try to let go of her fears and trust her instincts instead, and Bose was indeed harmless and genuine – he took us to his favourite places and showed us his secret shortcuts and little temples. He made sure we weren’t harassed by vendors and refused accepting even a soft drink from us. In the end, my mother kindly forced him to accept for us to pay for his lunch. The way a Polish mother does best. We had enormous plates of Chicken Biryani, we spoke about culture, Indian history and Bose’s plans for the future, and we had a lovely time.