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joshuarubin May 29th, 2003 22:05

taking a baby to india
my wife and i are taking our 11 month old to india. we plan on staying in one location (dharamsala) for a few months in order to make the trip easier for our daughter and for ourselves. We are very excited to go for an extended period of time (upto a year) but we still have concerns. sometimes we even reconsider the whole trip. our main concern is our childs health. does anyone know a pediatrician in dharamsala, or a good one in delhi (email and phone numbers would be a great help). should we bring one of those 3 wheel mountain strollers (especially for the rougher roads)? any other tips? things to bring? nice clean apartments to rent in the dharamsala area, mcloed ganj (sp?). thanks for your help.

steven_ber May 29th, 2003 22:55

There are some things I would like to advise, but need to know.

Have you been to India before?

joshuarubin May 30th, 2003 00:35

I have been there twice before and my wife has been there 3 times. still, we have nevere been there with a kid. any advice would be appreciated. thanks

edwardseco May 30th, 2003 09:55

Boy, this is wide open (but in the tactful manner of Stephen). I like the idea of one location. There are the very obvious risks. On the other hand one correspondent was going there with her husband, a doctor. How much risk can be minimized is an interesting question. I would suggest being very aware of dehydration. I took Pedialyte in the liquid form and tons of other stuff. Whatever is left over can be given away. When its needed things go fast. I like the idea of checking out hospitals and doctors beforehand as you have very little time with an infant. Thank God for the widespread use of disposible needles in India. It took one more concern off me when I saw mine on IV in the hospital..

maree May 30th, 2003 10:40

An English writer, Joe Roberts, went with his wife and baby to Calcutta for a long trip and wrote "Abdul's Taxi to Kalighat: Impressions of Calcutta", (2001). It might be in your local library and it's worth a read. Not all plain sailing but they all survived the experience. Sorry I can't give you any information on doctors...tried to do an internet search but couldn't find anything much.

indiamike May 30th, 2003 16:36

For medical care I would try Sai Mahima Shukla Nursing which specializes in child care.

They are in lower Dharamsala in the Ram Nagar Clinic

Tel: 225268

steven_ber Jun 1st, 2003 14:31

Hi Josh

I am doing a reply that is not directed at you, I hope my reply will be useful for anyone considering taking a child to India.

The fact that you and your wife have experience of India, have the right attitude, are thinking and planning ahead, are thinking of health issues, will probably make the trip successful, Dharamsala would be a great place to start with a good climate.

The following is just my opinion, others may disagree, feel free to add comments.

I have done 2 replies so that a direct link can be made to the following post for anyone considering taking a child to India.

steven_ber Jun 1st, 2003 14:35

Taking a child to India.

Before I start, 3 things,

1, if you have no experience of India, DON’T take a child, India is not just another country it’s another world, you need to know what you are letting yourself (and your child) in for.

2, a holiday of less than a month with a child under the age of 8 (depending on the child) is not worth the potential risks.

3, at home, for a couple of weeks, every single thing you do with/for your child, or everything your child does, think how you/child will do this in India, EVERYTHING.

Before you go, a long talk with a doctor is advised, ask about symptoms for thing like malaria and dehydration, inoculations should be spread out, checks made to see if the child has a nut or penicillin allergy and always remember that some children have medical problems that lay dormant until activated, asthma for example would be easily triggered in India.

All tablets, medication, should be bought in your own country, I read many reports in 2001/02 about the high percentage of tablets in India that are ‘fake’, whilst we can take the chance, it’s a lot more dangerous for a child.

Have a good think about what clothes/shoes your child will wear in India, the effect the heat (or cold), humidity, monsoon, sun will have.

A favourite teddy, doll, toy, game boy, chess set would help your child settle, if your child is a teenager chances are they will miss the ‘instant gratification’ of computer games, and be lost without their ‘best friend’, their mobile phone, if your child is of school age, what about education?

How is your child going to react to a long flight, a ‘mad’, busy airport with strange ‘brown’ people everywhere talking in a funny language and “why does he keep moving his head like that, mammy?” or people shouting ‘rickshaw, taxi, hotel? The heat, smell, chaos that is India? The poverty, jetlag, people doing ‘funny’ things with old teapots? How are you going to answer all these questions?

Getting around, some people can take 8 hours squashed in a hot bus and being thrown around, but it would be a lot harder for a child (or parents worried about their child), trains are a lot better, but often slower and can be difficult to book.

Pushchairs, all but the most rugged 3 wheel pushchairs would be a waste of time, I wouldn’t take a pushchair, the streets can be too chaotic and when there are pavements they are normally uneven and have big holes in them, also, in India the pavement is often used for overtaking, for a baby a ‘baby carrier’ that straps onto your back or front would be a better option, for a toddler a set of reins would be useful.

Consider how you would treat cuts to hands/knee’s when a child falls.

Children are naturally very active, dehydration in hotter places could be a problem, though bottled water and fruit is widely and cheaply available, some re-hydration salts would be useful.

Every new town you visit you will need to find a good English-speaking doctor or hospital, this would make travelling to a new town every few days ‘hard work’.

Your child will probably find it difficult to sleep away from home with the new surroundings; they may find it more difficult than adults to adjust their ‘body clocks’.

If you have a young child, it would not be a good idea to leave them with a child-minder, ‘first signs’ are an essential indication that all is not well with your child, the best signs that all is not well are probably; a change in the smell of your child’s urine, a change in the look of your child’s eyes, an unexpected mood change, all these things will be naturally spotted by you, but not by a child-minder.

Toddlers have a habit of picking things up off the ground and putting it into their mouths, (we were all a lot more healthy when we ate mud and worms) its frightening to imagine what they might put in their mouths in India.

Food, hmmmmm… the biggest problem. You know your child and what they will eat, it’s going to be hard in India, if I were going with a baby/toddler the first thing I would take would be ‘bisto’ gravy, local vegetables are normally good, buy a cheap pan and boil the veg. (potato, swede and parsnips were the favourite with my children) use the boiled water for the gravy and mash it all up together (delicious).

You can also ‘stew’ some fruit (apples, pears etc) for desert, kept in a fridge in an airtight container, both dishes should be good for the following day.

Older children, pizza and MacDonald’s and er.. more pizza and MacDonald’s.

I'm sure I have missed out a lot, anything else I remember I will add to this post.

Other people's experiences would be welcome.

edwardseco Jun 1st, 2003 23:37

An extremely well thought out post Stephen. You aren't just a person that loves rail schedules like me. This follows closely my experiences with 4 trips with child (one without any serious illness). You can get antiseptic sprays and the Purel waterless wash liquids that are handy. First trip out my people washed down the floors twice a day with Dettol they were so concerned for the sona baba. But when you leasy expect it... One day on the train I turned around and found my little fellow gumming happily on the window bars..

Midnite Toker Jun 2nd, 2003 00:07

Very informative post, Steve - I join edwardseco in the applause.

I've only ever looked after other people's children in Goa, but even this short period of contact turned up a few things. The sun really is dangerous to little ones - they will happily rip off their hats when they go playing with other kids out of your sight, so make a rule that high SPF sunscreen has to be put on exposed skin as well. Something like 80% of all skin cancers are started before the age of 18 - I'm sure most of us can remember horror sunburn as children, and that was probably in temperate areas. Another rule to consider is that shoes must always be worn outside the hotel.

The sea, if you are by the coast, is a source of terrific fun for kids as well as an obvious hazard. You should have some plan in advance for how you'll let the children go swimming. My own personal opinion is to allow them to do it without parents presiding once they're older (say over 15), but make sure they are with someone you can trust - fishermen can be hired for an afternoon watching over kids bathing, but be totally sure those fishermen can swim and are attentive.

Lastly, simple toys are best, because if the child wants to play outside somewhere with them, fancy stuff will make more of a barrier with local children. And finding a common language in play could be one of the best bonuses to come out of taking your child with you.

joshuarubin Jun 2nd, 2003 22:11

thanks for all your advice. I have been able to get in touch with an american phycisian of indian origin. she volunteers at the delek hospital in dharamsala. she mentioned that there are western pediatricians at the hospital who rotate there (it is all volunteer) as well as local physicians. We have given our daughter all the immunizations upto this point and can get future ones at the delek hospital. we will not take any malaria meds, and from what i understnad dharamsala and most of HP do not have malaria (this is another reason we chose this location). still thinking of the 3 wheel stroller for the baby. i do not think it is too busy in dharamsala, and in delhi we will stay in cannaught i think, which has sidewalks and such. we usually stay in paraganj area, but too much with the baby. ok, thank all. any more comments are welcome.

vistet Jun 3rd, 2003 03:22

Another option for a softer landing in Delhi : stay in Manju ka Tilla, the Tibetan settlement. Buses to Dharamsala start from there as well.

jackthemac Jun 3rd, 2003 06:46

I would avoid a stroller, and instead bring one of the backpack type child carriers . The stoller will be difficult, especially in upper D.sala. You need to bring a carrier that can be worn.

Baisab Jun 3rd, 2003 16:52

My experience
In September 2001, I went for a month's visit with my wife and my son who was 1 + 1/2 years old.
We had our doubts before going (me being in india 3 time before that, my wife once), and of course we heard a lot of "U R crazy" and "U R brave" remarks, but it turned out so wonderfully we are Oh so happy we decided to do it. It is a great thing to do as a family.
Previous posts were great so I will try not to repeat.
We also tried to stay in one place most of the time. Our month was 2 weeks in Vashisht and 2 in Goa. We flew from place to place and never boarded a train nor bus on this trip (flew Mumbai-Delhi-Bhuntar-Delhi-Goa-Mumbai). On sight, we rented a Jeep and driver for 2 days up north for a small parvati valley trip. It was a great worth of the money. Make sure to specifically ask for a good, CAREFUL english-speaking driver.
In Goa we rented a car for ourselves the whole 2 weeks.

Up north be aware of the hazzard of falling from a balcony or even from the side of the road down on the mountain slopes. The indians are not too good at thinking safety. Our room in vashisht had a balcony with a drop which was about 5 stories high, and my son could just walk through the safety bars. We had the owner install a chicken wire!
Other 2 things that worried me were the road and electricity.
The roads in India are extremely dangerous and drivers do not always care too much about anything walking on the sides.
Improvised electric wires are also common, as well as High-Voltage cables on roof-tops etc. I extensively used my own isolation tape in the 3 roomes we stayed in.

Bring your own diapers - Indian ones are not so good. If you are going for a long time, consider washable ones (environment friendly), or letting the baby hang around naked (great in Goa).

As for food, we did not have much trouble. Breastfeeding is a hugh advantage for nutrition, as well as for calming, putting to sleep, flights and general adjustment. simple food such as indian bread (all kinds), eggs, plain rice, fresh fruit, toast, curd are available in most places. We bought some cornflakes as well, and breakfast was fixed. Always good to have some crackers or biscuits with you.

The longer your trip is planned for, the more toys and books you should bring, as it gets boring for the child to be oferred the same thing over and over again (we should have taken more than 4 books).

If you fly up north, be aware that some of the flights are in very light-weight plains, which allow only 10 KG baggage per person - and they mean it. We had more that twice the permitted weight, and if not for a good-hearted indian family who literally gave up their baggage and offered to send it by land, we would not have made it. This leads to another thing:
The indians are very familial, and love babies. This makes a trip with a baby a great fun, as you get special treatment and a lot of reactions, mostly pleasant. The real difference for me was seeing indian women open up, comimg close and in contact.
If requests for a "picture with the baby" are too much - Just say NO.

Be prepaired for a few rough days in the beginning - it takes time for the baby to calm down and find his/her ways to relax and feel good and safe, and for you to calm down and find your ways of feeling good about your child's safety and well being. Not to mention the logistics of the first days until you settle in and are less busy and more available to your child. Once this stage was over for us, everything was easy and comfortable.

Take a camcorder with you, if you can.

We have bought a small anklet with a bell and put it on my son. It was great to hear he is around even when not watching.

If I remember anyting else, I'll post.

Good luck!

wickedwaterwitch Sep 19th, 2004 02:57

Would it be that stupid?
My word, would we really be that stupid taking a baby to India if we've never been before? My son is 7 and is half Indian and he would be coming too (but not his father, we're divorced). We want a luxurious, short trip - 2 weeks or something, and the main thing I want to see is the Taj Mahal. Is it madness? TIA, all opinions appreciated.

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