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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

My top 5 tips to make long journeys more fun for kids

Vacations are here, or rather, almost here. While some schools are on the verge of closing, Samhith’s school has just begun the new term – yes; like the ICSE schools, only, his is IB! So, we have another month to go before we look forward to the holidays.

We have already begun planning our summer trip, even though we are still not too sure if it is actually going to happen! Meanwhile, all around us, all we can hear are about the holidays – where someone is going, what they are going to do there, and of course, how they are getting there…. While most people seem to be flying these days, there are still a few like us who prefer trains. Yesterday, while we were on the topic of vacations, someone asked me how on earth I managed my son in the train, and why I did not fly.

The answer to the latter is easy –

1. Flights are expensive – Yes, they are, even with all the low-cost carriers around!! I would rather spend the money traveling around wherever I am going

2. Flights are boring – all airports look the same – there is nothing personal about an airport. The only interesting things are the planes themselves. The sheer beauty of the flying machines never fails to give me a high!!!

3. It gets over too soon!!!! Yes, the longest part of a flight is getting to the airport and again getting from the other airport to wherever we are going. The flight itself is ridiculously short!

Of course, I didn’t tell her all that……

As to why I prefer trains, the answer is even simpler. With trains, my vacation begins right when I leave home. The journey itself is an adventure, lasting at least 20 hours, passing through various states, small towns and villages, meeting new people along the way, observing the similarities and differences between us and them… the list is endless……..

About managing my son, the answer is not so easy, but I hope it will be useful to other mothers like me……..

So here goes – 5 things I do to keep Samhith engaged while traveling:

1. Books – books are what kept me engaged when I was a child, and they still help with my son. We carry his books to read along the way, but also pick up comics and magazines along the way. He now looks forward to getting his favourite books on the train, and it keeps him occupied for hours!

2. I see/I don’t see – this is one of our most favourite games when we travel. What started as an attempt to make him more observant, has grown into a full-fledged game he plays with everyone – not just our family, but even those he meets on trains and buses!

This is simply a game where both of us look out of the window and look for something out of the ordinary – like a bird or a scarecrow or a fruit on a tree – and call out before the other person does… the one who notices the most things first, wins.

3. Stories – make up stories with what you see out of the window…. For example, if you see a farm, the story has to be about a farmer, and the crops you have seen there. You just can’t imagine the kind of things he has learnt this way. Some of the stories he has come up with are amazing!!! He never does that when we are at home!

4. Shapes – yes, shape identifying is something for very small children, but what stared out as an attempt to teach him shapes has turned out some very interesting results….. We look out at the view outside, and try to define a shape to all that we see…. Sometimes, we draw the shapes on a piece of paper, and the result is an interesting drawing, which also helps him remember the scenery we passed through.

5. Leave him alone – when Samhith was a toddler, I used to be scared to leave him by himself even for a minute, afraid that he would run out or fall down. Now that he is 5, many trials and errors later, both of us have learnt our lessons. He knows what he can and cannot do, and I know enough to leave him alone.

He climbs up and down the berths by himself, playing with the other kids, hangs from the handles, using it like bars, or swinging on it, runs up and down the coach with other kids and enjoys sleeping by himself on the middle berth. The best part about train travel, especially during the holidays, is that there are lots of kids around, and people are most often extremely understanding and helpful. No one minds him getting in their way once in a while, and many a time, I have met people only too happy to talk to him. That way, the journey becomes much more fun, both for us as well as them.

There were times, when Samhith was a baby, when we have had some nightmarish journeys, when he vomited for the entire duration of the journey, once we even alighted at an earlier station because he was getting too sick. Thank God, those days are now gone. He enjoys these journeys as much as we do, looking forward to the breeze in our hair as we zip past fields and mountains, passing a river, and dropping a coin in it for good luck…….

Yesterday, when I was confronted by the question – “Why don’t you fly?” I was rather irritated, but today, I am thankful for the lady for providing me a topic to write a post about. What a pity, the lady doesn’t read blogs. If she did, I would send this to her………..

This post has been posted in response to Darren's challengeto write a list post in the 31 Day Project.


  1. Anu : Your experience in handling kids is seen in this post. I missed some pictures on this one to make the whole post more exciting.

  2. Hi, very nice guidance there. Just keep those kids to be entertained, and that's fine.


  3. Some useful tips for new parents. :)
    Nice write up, Anu.

  4. Anu, useful tips for sure... but most of them can only be used while travelling by train. Sadly when we are on holiday, time is a constraint.... so flights seem the easier option.

    But this time.. I'll get on atleast one train for sure!!

  5. the "I see" game sounds like a wonderful idea. I think I will start playing it - particularly with children out in nature. there is so much that nature has to offer us but which we dont see because we are trained to find interesting things on the television or on our computer screens...

  6. Totally agree with u abt flights! I love travelling by trains while I get bored in planes. Sadly, the usual love for flying, flights, the wonder of the machine, got jaded with my years and years as an airport colony kid :(. I'm amused each time Sriram runs up to the terrace of my parent's home to watch a flight land or take off :)


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