We all want different things from this trip. My 14-year-old, Zara, henceforth referred to as Child 1, wants to be compensated monetarily for being taken away from her hectic social life in Mumbai and subjected to things like mountains, valleys and other apparently hideous forms of nature. Child 2, Rania, at nine years of age is still innocent to the seductions of the material world and simply wishes to accompany her mother somewhere. As for me, having spent some time in the tea gardens of Darjeeling as a child, I am keen my daughters experience a different kind of a holiday, one that does not include Swiss ski resorts, London high streets or Orlando theme parks, where we have flocked year after year like devout pilgrims. I decide that we will spend a week in West Bengal’s tea estates, just us girls, and we—they, especially—will love it.
It is a languorous drive to Darjeeling on an unusually narrow road, through spotless mountain villages, anked by gardens of tea. I expound to my children upon the inglorious ways of the British Empire. Child 1 isn’t impressed. “Ya, ya, it’s all green and stuff, but why are you so excited about it?” she asks. Her eyes light up briefly when the driver offers us cakes and sandwiches, but soon she lapses into her previous unmoved state. When I request the driver to take us to the hotel via Darjeeling’s iconic Raj-era Glenary’s Bakery & Café, near the Mall, the girls squeal with delight. “There’s a mall here?” Child 2 asks gleefully. I consider banging my head on the dashboard and then tell them, equally gleefully, that it is the name of a road.