The collection of photographs from India, a tiny selection of those I have, is eclectic in nature, as is the country. I spent a total of 7 years in this fascinating, maddening place, adding up all the 3 and 6 month stints working there. The main areas I visited were in the North and West, and in the South; I do not have much to show for the middle bits. The diversity – desert to jungle to city and village is a reflection of Indian geography and society. Read more . .
Some corner of a foreign field that will be forever. . . . France ?
I’m feeling a bit out of my depth here, it must be admitted. I came down to Pondicherry last night on a bus with a driver who knew nothing but full throttle, recalls Bob Cranwell, so my arse and brain are almost entirely numb. Also 18 extra passengers crammed in the aisles, and I jest not, under some seats.
An evening in, drinking McDowell’s gin mixed with Limca, a sickly sweet fizzy lemon pop which is essential to mask the greasy taste of the gin. Ah, though, thought Bob Cranwell, not bad for 35 Rupees a half bottle (beer in hotels costs Rs30 a bottle). Normal soapy sort of taste; should do me two or three days. Tsk. Only, finding it was the problem – directions and distances being as pliable as they can be in India. Read more . .
Before your start reading this, I’d like to say a couple of things. This is a departure from the other pieces you can read about on the AE site in so far as it is not about actual events, the events portrayed are generalised to form a picture – Bob Cranwell
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As an aside (before I’ve even started !), I’ve had an attack of synchronicity – today I got through the post a card from my opticians, reminding me of a sight test due (I have them every year, sometimes more often as I have glaucoma in the family), and also later a brief conversation with a new guy working for Scottish Water who has taken on my old job and my old van, too.
Podcast version here
As might have been expected, India burst in on me like a storm. Sometimes it’s the proverbial wall of heat when you’re coming off the plane, or the overwhelming chaos of rank and sweet smells and eye-jarring colours, but most often for me it’s the milling mass of humanity which ambushes you.
I’d read somewhere, (I think it was in Trevor Fishlock’s brilliant compendium of essays called India File), that the elephant god Ganesh, or the Taj Mahal in Agra are usually seen as emblematic of India, but the true motif of India is the crowd.
Podcast version here
I must have heard this much quoted phrase repeated many times by local guides over my time in the Indian subcontinent, and attributed to various people about a number of different places. I could have looked it up, but hesitate to pin it down; in a way it seems better that the idea can be applied by anyone to that which brings enduring pleasure. Read more . .
Ticket to Delhi: Even being understood was part of the trickiness, as I found out myself when wishing to travel from Agra, where I’d been staying with my girlfriend, back to Delhi to meet a new group. Now Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal must be one of the worlds most visited cities and anyone flying in to Delhi would make the detour wherever possible. Read more . .
I went to eat in a small ‘French’ restaurant in the town, apparently bought and run by the son of a former governor with allegedly embezzled funds sent from Delhi to fund the former statelet. A French couple entered and ordered their Sunday lunch in French, getting a rough replica of what it might have been at home, but no wine. Read more . .
Chennai / Madras.
From outside the hotel traffic noise begins to filter into my mind around 6.30am, though I’d known of and had felt people moving through the city all night, sporadically waking and sleeping in time with passing truck horns. It seemed that it took until this time of the morning for the air horns, cycle bells, mendicants cries to reach a critical level of continuous cacophony that would remain at that level until around 11 that night. Some cities are said to never sleep, but Madras does sleep, although never long enough in my humble opinion.