Last week I came back from a trip to India. The purpose of the trip was to ‘shop till we drop’ for my youngest sister’s wedding outfit (s). If you know Indian weddings then you know that this was no mean feat.
Let me set the scene. 3 sisters, 1 fiancee, 2 mother in laws, 1 father in law and a 15 month old baby, shopping in India in 40 degree heat, visiting the states of Chandigarh (my hometown), Amritsar (my maiden town), Jalendhar, Patiala, Phagwara and Ambala. Yes we found THE outfit but my omg……it was hardwork.
So, by the time this visit happened I had been following the Gluten Free diet with Amrit, my 4 year old who has Coeliac Disease. Infact my entire household is Gluten Free. We do not allow Gluten products into our house for fear of accidental contamination. As I planned my trip to India I considered what I should do. Should we all go as a family or should I go /with the baby? We decided (took us almost a month) that I should go with the baby as 1) Amrit and my husband would get bored with the shopping and 2) Preparing safe food for Amrit would be impossible when we would be out of the house all day returning only to put our bags down and sleep.
This was most definetly the correct decision. Whilst we stayed in fantastic homes, what to eat was the last thing on our mind, instead of the first but where to eat was critical. It is all too easy to get ill on a trip to India with dodgy food/water/ice. We were careful and only ate at home or established franchises.
I felt really torn, guilty even. For the last 4/5 months I had only sought out Gluten Free foods and now in India I was waking up to the smell of fresh paranthas, followed by yet more roti and then roti at night. This felt like Gluten Overdose. Although I did not feel ill from this gluten, I could tell that my body struggled with the change in my diet overall. Being Gluten Free back home meant that I was used to more variety in my diet, more creativity and more thought. A lot of the time in India we ate at McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Nandos and the like. This was food we felt we could trust !! However even here I would have just fries or rice and chicken. I could tell that by eating Gluten I was putting on weight. This was another driver for me to be Gluten Free.
One thing that surprised me was the shock I felt at being able to eat ‘anything’. I thought I would be happy about this but I was not. After a few months of ‘choosing’ what to eat, I actually prefered things to be that way and missed having the choices. I did realise that it would have been very difficult to feed Amrit with the amount of travelling that we were doing.
When we went to Chandigarh I spoke to a family relative whose Nephew also had Coeliac Disease. They had told me about him over the phone and I had bought with me a goody bag of Gluten Free treats for him. I remember thinking how lucky we are that Amrit has so many options and access to information and education to enable her to lead a healthy and happy life. They told me that this little boy was not doing well on his diet. From what they told me I suspected that contamination was not taken seriously and eating out was just scary. Labelling of food is not very good (if it exists) and shop keepers would say anything to sell a product. I told my relatives all I knew and told them about my website. Hopefully that might help.
As we drive through India I saw wheat being harvested and I will place some pics on my website. Funny to think how something that looks so friendly, calm and natural can infact harm so many people.
India was a eye opener for me as Amrit’s mummy and I know that when we go back with Amrit in the near future I will be more prepared. This was like a fact finding mission. We are lucky to have a place in India we can call home and that the people who live there will adjust to meet our needs. Being Gluten Free in India is not impossible, rice can be enjoyed with nearly every dish. Most curries are gluten Free. The risk is from contamination. By that I mean making rotis over the rice pan, placing your cooking utensils on wheat flour which is always nearby or cooking your curry with oil previously used for frying your samosas. Again if you consider all of this before hand, then you can work out a way around it. Check out the support section of my website, theindiancoeliac.co.uk which has more information.