Travelling to Mysore with Children – Part One
By Stan Byrne
David and I get a lot of questions about travelling to Mysore with children. We have done it once with our daughter, Mercedes when she was 17, and twice with our son Holden when he was 7 months and 2 years old. Many people travel to study at KPJAYI, and bring their children. I am definitely not an adventurous traveller and I hate flying, especially with my son – it is certainly out of my comfort zone. But I have had great experiences in Mysore with my kids, and if I can do it – you can too!
Vaccinations are such a personal decision, many people prefer to use homeopathic and naturopathic medicines instead. Whatever you decide, you should speak to a medical professional that you trust. Holden is vaccinated for the usual stuff. There is polio and tetanus risk in India, which was a big part of our decision to vaccinate. We didn’t vaccinate him for Hep A or B, but that might be something to look into. Hep A can be transmitted through dirty hands touching your food, Hep B for children would be a contaminated blood transfusion. We knew a student who picked up typhoid in Mysore and it didn’t seem at all fun. There is only a very small malaria risk in Mysore.
Rabies can be a concern, but I have noticed on my last trip that there are very few monkeys compared to previous visits. The dogs and animals are all very sweet, but we never touch any animals in India and I don’t let Holden get very close to them. I don’t want to be killjoy, because I really love animals, but I would advise any parents to do the same.
The flight from North America to India is gross. Here is a list of what we have found to be most helpful on the flight:
- Lots of books and quiet colouring activities.
- I wrap two or three presents with tons of tape (unwrapping kills at least 10 minutes)
- I never bring any toys with wheels or that can roll. Anything very small is also not great because airplane seats swallow things.
- Tons of yummy snacks are key, because airplane food is an abomination and even a toddler that only eats white foods with ketchup knows this.
- We don’t watch television at home and I am pretty uptight about how much screen time my son gets. On the plane, however, anything goes. He seems to understand that there are different rules on the airplane and he doesn’t bug me to watch stuff once we land.
- We sit at the very back or just in front of the galley. There are usually extra seats at the back of the plane that you can snag to spread out. If there is no one behind you, your child can stand on her seat and muck around a bit. Also, it is really good to be right next to the bathroom and to a ready supply of juice for bribes.
- We plan our stopover in Heathrow because the food there is good and they have a great playground for older and very young children.
The good news is exercise is the best thing for jetlag. If you are practicing, you should get on schedule pretty quickly. In terms of your kids, when we arrive in Mysore it is early in the morning and we try to spend as much time as possible outside and walking around. I don’t let Holden nap for the first two days and I basically just run him around everywhere. We go to bed very early and that seems to do the trick.
Accommodation in Mysore:
In Gokulum (where the shala is located) there are many nice apartments to rent. You won’t have any trouble finding a place to live quickly. In high season (January/February) it can take a little longer. If you have small children, I would recommend finding a place with a generator. There are daily black outs in India, lasting for hours. This isn’t a huge deal in the afternoon, but we find the overhead fans great for sleeping and blocking out noise at night. If the fan goes out, it is really hard for little ones to sleep in the heat with the constant sound of beeping horns and banging pots. And yes, people will be banging pots next to your window at 2 in the morning. You cannot drink the tap water, brush your teeth in the water, make your tea with the water etc. When you arrive, ask about a bottled water delivery.
I hope you found this useful. Please let me know if you have anything valuable to add. In my next post, I will discuss finding care In Mysore.
Travelling to Mysore With Family- Part Two
by Stan Byrne
Once you arrive in Mysore with your family, it is nice to get settled so that you can get down to the business of practicing and napping. Below, I have tried to include everything you might need to know about setting up your home.
You can find diapers, wipes, bottles, cribs, toys and anything else your heart desires for your child or baby in India. I brought a lot of books from home, but there is a pretty good bookstore with a wide selection of children’s books.The toys seem to go though different safety standards in India – so just warn your kids before they garrot themselves.
Sharath and Saraswathi are very understanding about travelling with children in India. Sharath told me to come whenever was convenient and that allowed us to switch off during practice.
When you arrive in Mysore, speak to other parents about great caregivers who are available to work. We met an incredible person, and we knew several people who had great experiences with other local caregivers as well as international yoga students looking to subsidize their shala fees.
There are many small and great schools around Gokulum. Most schools will accept temporary admissions, but there is an adjustment phase to a new school to be aware of. Many Indian children are very independent at an early age, and it is beautiful to see. When we brought Holden to India, he was not toilet trained (like most of the children in his class in Toronto), but all of his peers at school in Mysore were. Teachers and most adults are more physical with the children, even children they do not know, and this was a bit shocking for Holden. In many schools there is corporal punishment.
I am not trying to pass judgment on any style of child-rearing, just to say that a change in disciplining style can be very disconcerting for your child. Because of this, I think it is worth it to really investigate the school you are thinking of sending your child to and communicate your expectations to the head teacher. If your child is quite young, I would hire a caregiver (or go yourself) to deal with any disciplining issues that come up and help with potty time.
We make almost every meal at home in India. It is hard to eat out all the time with children, and Holden would often get mobbed in public places so it was easier to stay at home. You can find rice, barley, pasta, chapatis, veggies, beans and lentils almost anywhere.
1. Bring must-haves from home. We love certain foods that are hard to get in Mysore like nori and miso, so we brought them from home. It really helped provide some variety.
2. I wash all the food and cook it in bottled water, just to be safe.
Travelling to Mysore with Family – Part Three
This is the last in my three-part blog about travelling to Mysore with your children. Here I cover acquiring a vicodin addiction and even worse – travelling with your teenager.
I usually get a cold in India, but if you follow some basic rules you should avoid most stomach bugs:
Wash your hands. All the time. We made up little handwashing songs for Holden because we were always scrubbing them. Once you get into a little routine of handwashing, it won’t seem like a big deal.
Keep your shoes out of your apartment. Especially if you have a crawler, you need to keep all footwear out of your living space.
Stay contained. The more you travel the more you expose yourself to illness. We eat at home all the time and frequent the same two restaurants for a treat. Boring, yes, but you are a parent so you must be used to being boring by now.
If your child gets sick, visiting the doctor is affordable and accessible. There are modern hospitals and doctors very close to KPJAYI. Sharath and Saraswathi can advise you if you need help finding a good doctor. If your child needs medication and you know the type you can get anything at a pharmacy in India without a prescription. And if your kid is driving you crazy you can fill your prescription for vicodin, no questions asked!
Travelling with a Teenager:
India is pretty full-on all the time, and while you don’t have to bug your teenager not to eat the mothballs in the sink, you might have to accommodate for a stimulation overload. Being away from friends, stomach bugs and unreliable wifi can make things a little challenging. Our teenager really liked Mysore, and preferred it to the inconsistency of travelling around the country. Once we had settled in our apartment and she had her own room, lots of time to sleep and a daily practice with Saraswathi, she felt more comfortable. She took sitar lessons, and she told me recently that practicing and getting private classes was very rewarding. Sharath and Saraswathi were very sweet to her and Saraswathi in particular took very good care of her in class.
Travelling on your own with your child to Mysore:
We have friends who are single parents and who travel regularly to Mysore. They seem to do it beautifully. I’m not sure if single parents are used to carrying the full load of parental responsibility and so travelling isn’t much of a change.
I have noticed that parents who leave their partners at home can struggle a little to manage all the work involved. Personally, I wouldn’t make the trip without David. At home I have family, a great daycare, friends, and the comfort of our own home to help me. If you do decide to go on your own to Mysore, I would recommend before leaving, setting up an apartment with a generator and a nanny or caregiver to help you out on a daily basis. After all, you want your focus in Mysore to be on yoga, not on being exhausted and burnt out from your kids.
I hope you found all this helpful. Please leave a comment if you have been to Mysore and have any suggestions!