The groundnuts I bought in Mandawa were very good. I must have been hungry. The man who sold them to me had light eyes just like my husband. I stared at his face. Thick, hard lines. He did not answer my small talk in Hindi. He spoke Shekhawati.

We did not bathe every day. We admired clean bathrooms. And washrooms. The sand, shrubs and horizon when we chose to take a break on the highway instead of waiting for a toilet.

The middle child cried for home. She said she would never go on a holiday again. We slowed down. Later she said she loved Jaisalmer. She wished it was closer to her home. On the last day everyone was sad it was the last day.

We ate a lot. Sometimes we ate very late. It was not a good idea to stay hungry for too long. The parents debated about this. The mother learnt to spend money on food rather than shopping.

The children bought pens studded with tiny mirrors. The mother thought they were common trinkets. The children were in awe of their new-found treasure. They bought notebooks bound in covers made from Banarasi silk saris. The youngest got a smaller notebook to draw in. She carried her crayons and colouring books everywhere. Her lilac bag had once been her mother’s favourite. It pleased her mother to think about those travels, with the same bag strapped across her chest.

They read slogans on the back of trucks. They counted camels. And donkeys. A white horse. Deer and nilgai (blue-bull antelope). A rabbit dashed across the road. A pair of peacocks on a roof as they drove through Fatehpur. We must come back here again.

They asked a lot of questions. “I love it when you ask me questions," said the mother. She turned around in the car and answered. The father drove like he was a seat belt-wearing superhero. He never seemed to get tired or sleepy.

Songs from Gulzar’s film Lekin... play in the car as they drive through the desert in Rajasthan. The mother says she is looking for the ghost of the desert. The father says he is looking for Dimple Kapadia. The children sleep a lot in the car. They narrate their dreams when they wake up. Stories.

“Where are you from?" everyone asks us.

“We are from Delhi," we say.

“Are you from Delhi, proper?"

Sometimes we say yes. Sometimes we name other places.

“Aam Aadmi Party has spoiled the mood," says one man near Jaisalmer Fort. “Prices have gone up too much. This country needs Narendra Modi."

We nod with him.

“Delhi," says a young man in a shop. “Aam Aadmi Party has changed the game there. We are all Aam Aadmi. This is good for us."

We nod with more enthusiasm.

The children sit down to rest on whatever they can find in the shop. The men talk about the country. The mother buys more gifts from the shop than she had intended to.

“I want lip balm for myself," says the 10-year-old. She gets a green lip-balm stick with a key chain attached to it. Later they buy small locks with tiny keys from Mandawa. They discuss how they will lock their secret diaries and hide the keys. The parents look at each other, marking this new stage in their lives silently.

Everyone loved buffet breakfasts. We got tired of tandoori rotis. We discovered bajre ki roti. We ate lots of butter. We saw baby camels and royal cenotaphs. We were the last people in the evening to enter the Jain temple in Bikaner.

“I have just changed out of my costume," said the priest apologetically.

“We are sorry we are late," we said. Two of the children had ice-cream cones in their hands.

“Never mind," he said. “Children are excused."

He took our friend’s smartphone, flipped the camera to self-portrait mode and placed it on the floor in the centre of the temple. He showed us how to take the best photos of the murals on the ceiling. He took photos of us, for us. We noted down the names of the galis, chowks, bhujia shops and havelis he told us about. He knew more than the Internet. I should have taken a photo of the Jain priest. He had big hair and a bigger smile.

An ochre sky framed silent windmills dramatically as the sun set in the desert. In the streets, we looked at people and people looked at us. It was a fair exchange. Rajasthan hosted us with warmth and care.

My home looked beautiful as I shut off the burglar alarm and opened the door on our return. When you find yourself at home in the entire world, you can also find the entire world in your own home.

“Take breaks. Go for lots of holidays," a friend had once advised me very seriously. “Come back home and live your own lives, but go on as many holidays together as you can." This must be what she was talking about.

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

Write to Natasha at mydaughtersmum@livemint.com

Also Read | Natasha’s previous Lounge columns

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