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Indagare Global Conversations Talk with Melissa Biggs Bradley and India Hicks

Last Friday, Melissa Biggs Bradley kicked off her Global Conversations series with interior designer and entrepreneur India Hicks from Harbour Island. The highly entertaining hour-long Zoom chat covered life during lockdown, raising kids on the island, the creation of India’s lifestyle brand and helping with the relief efforts in the Bahamas following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. Those on the Zoom chat also got a glimpse of her Harbour Island house (complete with pets—or at least her dog Banger, dozing—and photos of stylish rooms), plus a sneak peek of favorite family snapshots and a preview of Easter dinner planning. Here are the highlights of the conversation. 

See more Global Conversations, here. Stay tuned for the full recording of this conversation, coming soon.

How are you surviving lockdown? “The Bahamas, to begin with, was a little more relaxed… and then they got very tough, very quickly. I applaud that. I think it was the right thing to do. In fact it is quite draconian here at the moment. We have four days of the week where we are simply not allowed out, not allowed outside of the house beyond the wall of our garden or the front porch of our home. Then we have three days where we are allowed out to go to the grocery store and then we have to come home. We are allowed a little bit of exercise, but we are not allowed to walk our dogs.… Just yesterday there was an announcement from the government that no one is to be on the street without a face mask and that now is law, you are stopped by the police if that happens….It’s sensible. Here on Harbour Island, there is no confirmed case….The government is taking it very seriously and rightly so….There is no inter-island travel at all…. There is no DHL, there is no Amazon delivery, there is nothing. We are completely cut off for all intents and purposes…it has to be at-home remedies, which again highlights what happens when something gets serious here…. One of the challenges of island life would be that right now, yes, my goodness, I am so incredibly blessed and lucky and thankful that I am able to have palm fronds and the sand and the ocean and I know that there is  beach there and I have space around me, but it is a risk that we took in being here, because there is no serious medical situation that could be helped right now. I keep telling my kids, Please, let’s not fall out of a tree right now….”

What is helping you stay sane? Humor is enormously important at the moment. It has been amazing to see the response globally of each country’s wonderful sense of humor coming out…I think Italy really led that and not only humor, but the emotional side of supporting one another, of being neighborly, of being part of a community…. But I had a shit day last week. The fact that I wasn’t in control is difficult, just not knowing. All of us are suffering from the unknown. But we are given guidelines. What we do know is the things we can do: We must stay home, we must flatten the curve, we must listen to the authorities. We must pay attention. We must set an example.”

Tell us about the Bahamas and your experience after Hurricane Dorian. “I’ve lived in the Bahamas for a number of years…but Dorian was unprecedented. Never in living memory has the Bahamas seen such unbearable destruction. This country is small and fragile. Dorian ripped two islands apart to such a degree that people had no idea where to begin again. People had nothing left at all but the clothes they stood up in. It was a mess….It opened our eyes to what we could do as a community and as a country. Dorian was a lesson to us all about not taking life for granted, ever—and, as with Coronavirus, things greater than we can control are happening in the world at the moment and we have to be cautious. I am very aware of having gone through a devastating hurricane—what will happen when you layer coronavirus on that? What will happen to small countries like this? We need to start thinking about that….How are we going to be able to help the local communities on the small outer islands to survive? It will be difficult for these countries to survive, because this is a country that lives on tourism. Hurricanes and coronavirus are not good for countries such as this….I also saw amazing acts of kindness. I became part of the advisory board of Global Empowerment Mission (GEM). They are setting the example of how you can help in the aftermath of a hurricane, after fires in Australia, saving koalas, COVID-19…they are involved in many places. It is an agency that is setting the example of how you can help. It is extraordinary what an agency like that can do and the relief they can bring. They know what they are doing.”

What do you miss most during this quarantine period on the island? “I miss movie theaters, museums, and licorice.” She also admits with great candor that one of the worst things about lockdown is that “Cooking is a shit show. I like to bake and I like to decorate cakes, but I can’t deal with the oven!” 

And what about the podcast with your mother… Along with taking care of her five children, who range in age from 12 to 23, India is also producing The India Hicks Podcast (available on iTunes) with her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, who, she says, is really the star of the show. “Her comedic timing is just perfect, so I just started posting little snippets of her and then it grew from there. She was confused—why would people want to listen to her? It’s terribly informal—mostly we just sit and chat….And then I started realizing how valuable her experiences have been. I realized how fascinated people were in that generation and she has a lot to say.” 

India in Brief

What are you reading right now?“I’ve just read The Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner, which is highly amusing and very thought-provoking and again just an example of someone who kept going—and there are funny bits in that. I would highly recommend.”

What are you watching? “We all had to do Tiger King—it is pretty sensational when you think that’s Florida right there, just across the ocean, and that’s going on! And the Night Of on HBO. Isn’t it fantastic?”

Favorite memento you brought back from your travels? A shark’s jaw that she and her husband David came across at a market “in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Kenya. We were just so riveted by it. It was quite fresh. We packed it in a suitcase. I’m sure you’re not able to travel with a shark’s jaw in your suitcase nowadays, but we brought it back here to the island. We slightly measured the growth of our children by them holding the shark’s jaw around their little faces….The point of this is don’t actually travel with a freshly caught shark’s jaw, because your suitcase will stink for years.”

Favorite destination for relaxing? “I don’t do relaxing terribly well, so I don’t necessarily think I am going to go there to relax. I think I am going to go to Costa Rica because my kids can surf and I love the mountains. Or I think I am going to go to Iceland so we can hike, fish, and see whales. But I don’t really go anywhere to relax—so probably, my bath!”

Favorite destination for exploring? “I have been very lucky to explore a great deal, firstly, when I was modeling I went round the world and saw amazing places that I would never otherwise have been able to see. And I took a year to travel with a backpack and saw amazing countries—Burma and Nepal—places that are best seen with a backpack. And with David we have always traveled a lot with our kids. Life is an adventure we need to take full advantage of. We did do an amazing trip to Iceland… I just felt there was something very, very powerful about it. What I love is we stayed at this remarkable tiny hotel, called Eleven Experience Deplar Farm—absolutely sensational, the surrounding views. Everything about it was sensational. You have a wonderful girl who shows you to your room and then you realize she is actually an Olympic skier. Everybody in Iceland has all sorts of different jobs. You’re an Olympic champion, you’re also working in a hotel. I love that about it as well. It’s a tiny country and a tiny community and just amazing people. My attraction is that it is quite wild—and a country unto itself.”

What’s always in your carry-on? “A battery pack—that’s not fun, I know, but the idea of being connected…with five kids in different places, I always need to feel connected to my five kids.”

What is the first place on your travel wish list, when this is over? “I want to go back to England—to go and see my Mom. She is turning 91 this week!”

To help the Bahamas rebuilding effort, donations can still be made to non-profits that are continuing to help in the relief efforts, including Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) or IDEA Relief, two organizations that India has worked with during the relief effort. Read Afar’s article on Indagare Global Classroom,

For the full lineup of Indagare Global Classroom, see here. 

– Melissa Biggs Bradley on April 13, 2020

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