Travelling together as a family is important for world peace but the main reason we had to get our bags packed and get into the car was that it was really too cold at home.

For the last few days, my husband had been spending all his working hours researching the six types of portable room heater technology available in four markets within a 5km radius of our home. He had measured the length, breadth and high ceilings of our misshapen home and was calculating how hot and cold air would interact after he had installed a medley of new heaters in strategic positions, and all I was doing to help him from my place near the dual-rod carbon heater was to tell him where all the draft comes from (everywhere).

We were late leaving home because we had invited a friend to join us at the last minute, and by the time he arrived with his bags and we got on to the Expressway to drive from New Delhi to Gwalior, I was already missing Gwalior terribly.

Our children loved the bathroom at the heritage hotel in Gwalior when we finally got to it. Our room was set amid 17th century cenotaphs and old temples and our balcony opened to a fruit-laden guava orchard with peacocks and puppies scampering on their morning walks. My husband was overawed by the detailing in the restoration work and could not stop expressing his admiration.

“I don’t understand what Papa finds so nice about this place," nine-year-old Aliza said to her elder sister.

“It’s nice because it is very old," Sahar explained to her with a certain expression on her face.

“I like the cheese salad," said Aliza, consoling herself.

“I like the bathtub," added Naseem, our youngest child.

“Why have I not seen this in a film before," our friend wondered as we drove past the imposing Jain statues carved into the hillsides on our way to Gwalior Fort. Gaurav is a young cinematographer.

Besides our primary motivation to escape winter at home, we had also chosen to travel the Gwalior-Jhansi-Orchha-Panna route by road because Sahar had been there on a school trip in October and I am a very me-too kind of person. I wanted to experience with my daughter what she had enjoyed with her friends and teachers.

“This is where I bought green chips, Mamma," Sahar exclaimed as we got off near the gate of the fort. “There was a man selling cotton candy right here."

We moved on towards an ancient well and the fort elevation decorated with rows of yellow ducks. Sahar showed us spots where her friends and she had played pakdampakdai (tag), dog in the bone and a game called knock-knock-chicklets.

As we turned the corner from where the entire city of Gwalior is visible, I spotted a woman selling imli (tamarind) and phalse (wild blueberries) alongside packets of paan masala. I bought 5 worth of raw tamarind wrapped in a newspaper cutting and sprinkled with salt.

“What is your name?" the woman asked our six-year-old daughter.

“Naseem," she said.

“What is your name?" I asked her.

“Meera," she said.

“Wah!" I said, thinking of Meerabai, the mystic poet.

“Are you Muslims?" she asked Naseem.

Naseem looked at me for the answer.

“Say yes," I said. “We are Muslims."

“Naseem is a lovely name, said the imli-seller, as Naseem tasted imli for the first time.

“You must be Pathans," she said. She liked us.

“Umm, we are Mughals, actually," I said. I made Mughals sound more like muggles to feel less like an imposter.

I ran to my husband to report the conversation to him. “I made your mother proud," I said to him. Ammi often reminds her granddaughters that they are Mughlanis.

This is my policy in life. Adopt every identity you run into. Be everyone. There are so many selves to be.

Aliza was running around with Gaurav’s still camera. She took photos of graffiti on the walls of the fort. Tourists who had carved their names on the stone for others to read. I didn’t ask her why she wanted to document this modern intervention in medieval architecture.

We were distracted by parakeets. A squirrel darting close to a group of birds to get its share of lunch.

“Where did you see the Sound and Light show?" I asked Sahar. She couldn’t quite remember. “My friends bought gifts from here." She pointed out a curio stand.

Afzal introduced me to chana jor garam. “I have only heard of this from the movies," I told him, just so we could all see him roll his eyes at me.

Aliza insisted on sitting on my lap for long stretches of the road trip. She had a stomach upset and this position was best for her to be able to use the remote on the car stereo.

“What is your weight, Ali?" I asked, readjusting her on my lap.

“30kg," she said. “But I was wearing my jacket and shoes and sweater when I checked." She turned and looked at me for reassurance.

I want to hold on to their childishness, celebrate these moments of their innocence and ignorance. I want to underline that it is okay to not know your facts. It is important to know your feelings and be able to express them before they mutate into skin allergies and asthma attacks and migraines. I want them to always have the confidence to ask for help and receive it when they need it.

We are back home now and I have sat next to my beloved heater all night and typed this for you. I need to drink water, but the kitchen is cold and I am lazy.

Okay, okay, I’ll go drink some water now. Thank you for the company.

Natasha Badhwar is a media trainer, entrepreneur and mother of three. She writes a fortnightly column on family and relationships.

Also Read Natasha’s previous Lounge columns

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