five weeks in the north

February 21, 2008

I probably can’t be bothered writing a linear account of the five weeks I’ve just spent travelling in the north of India, and I’m sure you (who are you?) can’t be bothered reading it.  So I’ll try to keep it as short as I being me can, though probably won’t, or can’t… 


Indore – bonus round #1

As we (Flo, Celia, Erin, Gautier and Francois) set out for our trip up north, India was in the throngs of Diwali (think Christmas + New Years x homemade firecrackers).

In practical terms this meant that there were absolutely no seats left on direct trains from Pune to Delhi.  A tourism officer at Pune Train Station suggested that we take a ‘short’ bus trip to Indore and then get on a train from there to Delhi.  So we bought the tickets to Indore, expecting a three or four hour trip up to Indore and then a night train into Delhi 

The bus trip was sixteen hours of potholed roads and erratic driving.  Erin and I shared a double sleeper (not sure what ‘sleeping’ had to do with it).  The bus bounced along those roads with so much abandon that it felt like trying to sleep in the back of a rickshaw.  Twice during the night I heard a muffled scream and thud and looked up to find Erin on the floor – the bouncing having bounced her right out of bed.  From my vantage point there was something kind of comical in the image of Erin’s almost magical teleportations (now you see her, now you don’t) though I believe Erin would care to differ. 

Finally our shaky legs touched solid ground in the city of Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh.  By this time MP had become a running joke with our group – think the ACT of India, but with far less to do.  Even the ever-optimistic Lonely Planet seemed to struggle to find the silver lining when describing this part of India:‘Despite the fact it cuts a huge swathe across central India, Madhya Pradesh doesn’t figure much in visitor’s plans’.  This coming from a group of people who describe Pune as ‘a thriving centre of academia’, ‘interesting’ and ‘well worth a day or two’ – lies!

N.B.  I do love Pune, but as a tourist, seriously don’t bother, and even as a student – don’t expect much resembling ‘thriving academia’. 

LP was right about this though – MP doesn’t figure much in visitor’s plans, and for this reason our group of six westerners instantly became the biggest attraction in town.  Cars would slow down and people would giggle and stare as they passed us.  So we spent four hours wading through the dust and curiosity of Indore until our train arrived to finally take us to Delhi (via another sixteen hours in transit).  


Delhi – public transport heaven 

My strongest memory of the three days I spent in Delhi is the metro.  Descending the escalators into the Delhi underground was like being teleported (again!) into a cleaner, more efficient European rail system.  I was almost euphoric the first time I caught it – here was a vehicle that took me where I wanted to go, at an affordable price, with no attitude.  This euphoria can only be understood in the context of five months spent dealing with rickshaws on a daily basis.  I believe I’ve aired my rickshaw woes on this page before, but here’s a refresher: noisy, smoky, exposed to the elements, manned by sadistic and petty people. 

So my first few days in the north of India were spent riding the metro system with a big grin on my face, pretending I was in a country that made a lot more sense, in which geography and maps mean something…that was until I encountered the drawback of the metro – it gets crowded, and when it gets crowded the cowardly pervy weasels of this country muster enough fake bravado to go for the grope. 

Translation:  there were hands on my bottom that weren’t mine and the magic of the metro was dulled.  


Varanasi – the madness that is India 

Shortly after arriving in Delhi Erin and I split from Team France and eventually from each other, Erin going west to Rajasthan and me going east to Varanasi. I had been looking forward to doing some solo travelling – having not travelled very much with others perhaps I am yet to develop that all important skill of compromise.  So I bought a ticket to Varanasi and then consulted my LP to do some preliminary reading.  I was confronted by a plethora of ominous adjectives under the Varanasi ‘Dangers and Annoyances’ heading.  My favourite was the evocative first sentence of the section asserting that: ‘predatory touts and rickshaw-wallahs here pounce on visitors like starving tigers pouncing on a defenceless dear’. I began to fear that I’d made a mistake in choosing Varanasi as my first solo destination. 

When I arrived at the chaotic Varanasi Station at 4:30am I was brimming with all the half-forgotten high school self-defence techniques and strained confidence that I could muster.  In reality it was not much worse than any other Indian city that I’ve visited, and the poor rickshaw driver was probably more afraid of me and my edgy assertiveness than I was of him (that’s what I was hoping on the drive to my hotel anyway). 

Unlike most places on my trip there’s no one image of Varanasi that has remained with me above any other – the whole experience was crazy, a personification of the madness that is India.  I’m sort of at a loss to describe it.  Maybe this excerpt from my diary is the best I can do… 

Public/private separation doesn’t happen here.  People live, eat, die, shit, procreate on the streets.  It’s strange to watch as a watcher with western sensibilities.  When do you look away?  Today I saw people perform the last rites for their father/uncle/friend.  They set him on fire and I watched from a few metres away.  I felt like an intruder and kept asking the Indians milling around if it was ok for me to be there.  The question seemed to confuse them.  To treat something like that in the west as a spectacle would be regarded with abhorrence.  In some ways here these things are inherently a spectacle.  I love being here, the city is living, the culture is alive and not the fossilised pantomime that you get in so many of the tourist centres in Europe.


Agra – Lucy the Mosquito Mercenary 

I had a return ticket to Delhi from Varanasi, though while waiting for my train at the station I ended up talking to a Scottish couple (Pete and Claire) who were there to catch the train to Agra, leaving at a similar time to my own.  At the last minute I decided to go with them to Agra instead of heading back to Delhi so I went and exchanged my ticket for one to Agra.  The only problem was that it was still Diwali season and there were still very few seats available on any train.   Although nothing is easy in India everything does tend to be in abundance, or at least if not in abundance then possible, somehow. 

Example:  if there are no train seats left it is possible to buy a ‘general’ ticket – this buys you a place in the train but no seat – this explains those stereotypical pictures of Indian trains with people hanging out of doors and windows and squashed into baggage compartments. 

So I got on the train with Pete and Claire and my general ticket, optimistically imagining that some sleeper seat would become available. It didn’t. As I was accumulating newspapers in order to make a clean (or at least less dirty) spot on the floor of the carriage to sleep Claire offered half of her bed to me.  This was a really touching gesture.  For those of you not initiated into the world of Indian second class non-AC sleeper trains – the beds are narrow enough for sleeping to be a precarious performance of balancing skills even for one person. 

In spite of the inevitable complications of sleeping head-to-toe on one of these skinny planks it was an offer I couldn’t really refuse and as Claire said we became very close friends very literally. (This was a source of much interest to the male passengers on our carriage who quickly began to mill around us with their insidious camera phones until we were able to chase them away).

Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal, the reason why Claire, Pete and I, (and any other tourist) found ourselves there.  I couldn’t really be bothered articulating the experience of seeing the famous structure.  It was what you’d expect but not, it looked like how it does in the pictures but not, it was exciting but not. 

I think the memory that will stay with me the strongest from Agra is the half hour spent killing mosquitos in Claire and Pete’s hotel room…it’s more exciting than it sounds…actually no it’s not, but bear with me…or not. 

There is a prelude to this, or a context, or an intro or something:  Pete and Claire had just spent ten days of silence in a Buddhist meditation course in Bodhgaya.  They hadn’t converted to Buddhism, but they had enjoyed the course and had gotten a lot out of it and were trying to live by at least as many of the teachings of Buddhism as they could remember and/or harmonise with their lives.  Part of this was a teaching that involved conceptualising every living thing as an incarnation of your mother (the theory being that you love and respect your mother and treat her well, and if you treat every living thing with equal love, respect and kindness then our world would be a very happy place – though maybe not considering some of the mother-child relationships we’ve all encountered). 

After seeing the Taj Mahal Pete, Claire and I went back to their room to watch a movie on their TV.  The room was full of mosquitos.  Being homesick and loving children Pete and Claire were having difficultly with the idea of squashing these hundreds of reincarnations of their mothers between their hand and the wall.  Not having done this Buddhist course myself, I felt considerably less attachment to these mosquitoes and absolutely no guilt at killing them (particularly considering my experience with Dengue fever – which I’d hope no mother would want to give to their child).  I became the Mosquito Mercenary on behalf of these diligent sort-of-Buddhists. 

Unfortunately my killing techniques were neither efficient nor accurate and Pete and Claire put their pledges on hold and finished the mozzies off for me.  We then sat down to drink beer and watch Robocop on cable (though with Pete and Claire in the lotus position so it was ok).  


Jaipur – my ‘home away from home’ 

Pete and Claire were set to go on to Jaipur from Agra and I decided to tag along.  Unfortunately I had booked no accommodation ahead, which would normally not be much of a problem except that there was an India vs. Pakistan cricket tournament going on in Jaipur at the time. 

Consequence: no spare rooms, anywhere.  I rang literally ever hotel in the LP but to no avail.  At around the same time mum gave me a call.  I vented my dilemma to her and abracadabra…take the magic of internet, an enterprising mum and leave to sit for thirty minutes and poof – accommodation booked in Jaipur for me. 

As a twenty-two year old, getting my mum to book accommodation for me from the other side of the world was not necessarily a high point, but it was higher than the prospect of spending another night in Agra (I’d already spent an extra night there grudgingly writing an essay that our Gender Studies teacher popped on us mid-holidays, but that’s another story). 

The catch was that the accommodation was actually a homestay situation, right in the burbs of Jaipur – basically a family with a big house and extra rooms who occasionally rent them out to foreigners.  I don’t think they needed the money, they just wanted to add a bit of colour to their monotone middle-class lives – they seemed very exhilarated about having me to stay at such short notice, they literally said that it was ‘very exciting’ for them. 

This family was a nightmare.  They have a website and wanted me to leave comments on it, recommending it to other travellers.  Here is the response I drafted: 

‘Homesick?  Travel weary?  Missing the tough love of mum and dad back home?  Why don’t you spend a night at Guesthouse Suburbia!  It’s your Indian home away from the home that you came all the way to India to escape in the first place.  It’s got hot water, central heating and two cold-as-ice daughters who are guaranteed to make you feel like a worthless slug from the moment you walk through the door, if not since your birth.  Each room comes complete with prying and domineering mother and a childlike father who barely graduated from nappies when his wife began wiping his ass for him.  Not only that, but all your meals are provided freshly cooked from the malnourished maid onsite – even when you don’t want them!  But never mind because mealtimes here are a ritual not to be missed.  There is no better way to get an insight into the life of a twenty-something independent Indian women shackled by culture and tradition.  And just try to swallow your dry chapattis as mother Puja interrogates you from the head of the dinner table.  No question is too sacred – income, virginity, god – the sex, religion and politics rule has been thrown right out the window!  And don’t bother leaving the table until you’ve consumed every morsel of painstakingly handmade barfi, mithai or ladoo.  Don’t like them?  Who cares!  One withering glance from father Aniket will have you snorting them up your nostrils rather than spend another moment under his disapproving gaze.  All transport to and from the dwelling is arranged by mother Puja and her fleet of rickshaws on 24-hour call.  Though this is not for convenience of course– there is a rickshaw stand right down the road.  No, mother Puja needs to know your ever move and she has her rickshaw cronies on the case.  Don’t try to hide anything – Mr rickshaw-wallah is watching, and information tips well.  So for that authentic taste of home away from home just dial 1800-SUBURBIA.  Alternatively, when you leave the train station take a right out of the city, keep travelling until all the houses and streets begin to look the same, take a left at the tennis courts and it’s the door with the ornamental swan shaped doorbell.’

So I am exaggerating and it was far better than another night in Agra – but you get the idea.  


Pushkar – reflexology tripping 

Pushkar is the home of the annual camel fair which attracts a few camels and every tourist between here and Mongolia.  Us tourists wander around gazing at the eccentric exhibit of Indian desert life, the camel owners wander around gazing at the eccentric exhibit of western tourist life and everyone leaves feeling happy and enlightened and like they’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime-experience.  Except the camels, who I have discovered have no personality whatsoever and just plod. 

In Pushkar I decided to get some reflexology.  I had no idea what that really meant, but these things are so cheap here that I’ve started exploring some of the alternative remedies available. 

For ninety minutes a girl pummelled my feet, hands and ears, probing pressure points and releasing chakras.  Unfortunately I have been cursed with extreme ticklishness and so the session was fairly trying for both of us – me because I got to the point where I was collapsing into spasms of laughter every time she even looked at my feet, her because she quickly began to run out of polite ways to say ‘keep still, I’m not even touching you’ in English. 

We both endured and I left the place feeling wonderful.  For the next few hours I floated around the camel fair experiencing oneness with my chakras or something.  Finally when it began to get dark I returned to my hotel and had dinner and a lassi and proof read my brother Max’s essay for English (it was a very nostalgic dinner of ‘texts’ and ‘composers’, metaphoric journeys and changing selves). 

As I was approaching the conclusion I began feeling strange – dizzy and disconnected with reality.  I just managed to pay the bill before returning to my room and collapsing into a deep and long sleep, fully clothed.  When I woke up the next morning the feeling hadn’t left me.  For the whole day I wandered around the fair feeling overwhelmingly lethargic and unable to connect with what was going on around me.  I had no idea what was happening to me – I began to think that the reflexology had somehow unscrewed some brain chakra and was sending me crazy.  It was incredibly disconcerting. 

It was a week later when I met three Alabaman girls who informed me that what had sent me into this haze was not the reflexology but the lassi I had had with dinner.  The menu said ‘special lassi’ which I, in my naivety, had assumed meant served with lots of interesting spices or something.  It did have interesting spices in it, but also lots of bhang and I had accidentally gotten myself stoned.  


Jaisalmer – Daniel the globalised-glocalised guide extraordinaire 

In Jaisalmer I decided to take a two night and three day camel safari in the Thar Desert.  It was the most uncomfortable three days of my trip (maybe even including when I got food poisoning). 

I keep trying to invoke a glimmer of outdoorsiness in myself but it won’t take.  I always think I’m on the verge of overlooking the dirt in my hair and the strain of the elements, but these glimmers of optimism only ever occur at mealtimes – once the food is finished I descend back into grouchy dreams of showers and clean sheets, or more masochistically – soft cheese, red wine and modern art galleries. 

According to my diary here are my first impressions of the desert and my ‘safari’ companions: ‘Crocs, socks and sandals, the nickname ‘Bug’ – bad sign.  This place is like desert with regrowth – it’s all shrubs and tumble weed.  I want the golden rolling sand dunes of cliched travel posters.  There’s even sand between my teeth and I can’t feel good about it.’ 

In the end it wasn’t as bad as all that, I warmed to my companions – even Bug had her moments.  And I’ve got to admit that it was fun to sleep under the stars, and eat meals made from scratch and cooked over the camp fire – but the meals were my saving grace. 

My strongest memory from the days I spent on camel-back is of our guide – Daniel.  Arts and social sciences love its jargon and globalisation studies (my major) is particularly fond of inventing awkward words to describe various things.  The word globalisation itself is the best example – and no one can even define it conclusively (I should know I did a whole course on it). 

In globalisation studies there is all this talk of the globalisation-glocalisastion dichotomy.  I don’t really know what that means, but I think if I had to personify this dichotomy somehow it would be our guide – Daniel.

He’s twenty-two and lives with his family in a tiny mud hut in the middle of the desert.  He is illiterate, but can say ‘camel’ in eight different languages.  He has never lived with electricity but he has a mobile phone (courtesy of his boss) that is almost glued to his ear – chatting constantly on speaker phone with the other camel guides in the area.  He’s never left his province and probably never will, but he’s familiar with Japanese commands, Parisian swearwords (oh the joys and omnipresence of that pervasive word –  ‘putain’) and Dutch lullabies.  He’s never seen a movie or watched TV but is constantly singing classics such as ‘Hey Mickey’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ – though with his own interpretation (‘hey Mickey hey Mickey you’re so nice you’re so nice Mickey Mickey you’re so nice hey Mickey…’). 

He was the most eccentric, charismatic and animated guide I could have hoped for, and the most confusing mix of isolation and international exposure – globalisation and glocalisation (?)


Bikaner – food poisoned and bed bound 

I travelled from Jaisalmer to Bikaner with an Irish friend (Kieran) I had made on the camel safari.  We visited the famous ‘Rat Temple’ which is what it sounds like – a temple dedicated to and infested by rats.  It was smelly and strange, though with not as many rats as I was hoping for (in my mind there were Indiana Jones-style swarms). 

I am proud to say that I had the good fortune of having not one but two rats climb over my foot (I think they were mating).  I had an almost overwhelming urge to kick them off, until I remembered that they are holy rats and that having them climb over your foot is apparently very auspicious.  Though I’m sceptical, you’ll see why…

Later that day Kieran and I were eating lunch in a hotel in the city centre when we had the following ominous conversation:

L:  (reading LP) Wow it says here that you can do a camel safari all the way from Bikaner to Jaisalmer.  It takes fourteen days.

K:  Can you imagine fourteen days on a camel?

L:  Sounds like hell, I’d rather get food poisoning. 

Finally, a phone call with Dave later that day retrospectively seemed to put the final nails in my figurative coffin. 

Dave and I are meeting in Vietnam in just a few days now and we were talking about what Dave should bring:

L:  Have you thought about bringing any medical or first aid things?

D:  Ummm…

L:  Well just so you know, I’ve already got a gastro kit from the Travel Doctor in Sydney so I wouldn’t bother with another one of those, I haven’t had to use it at all.

D:  Ok I’ll write that on my list: Lucy has gastro. 

I promptly got food poisoning. 

The next few days I spent bed bound and food poisoned and lonely and feeling sorry for myself.  Though at least I was able to do it in style – when mum found out that I was sick she went and booked me a few nights in a beautiful hotel that had been the old governor’s mansion before his great grand-son converted it into this funky guesthouse.  The manager took great care of me, got me a doctor and encouraged me to eat a bit of curd and banana or tea every day.  The doctor prescribed me five different types of antibiotics to take three times a day for the next two weeks and tried to give me a needle – overkill for a bit of food poisoning I thought.  I fought him off and once he’d left I asked the manager to take me to a homeopath instead.  The manager took me one his own motorbike, stayed with me to translate and then, for the next three days took every opportunity he could to corner me and discuss alternative remedies.  I was happy to oblige seeing as my only other interaction during that time was with the television – my transition to telemovie expert and closet fan was far too smooth and I enjoyed the distraction the manager offered.  


Amritsar – communal kitchens and immaculate toilets 

This was one of my favourite cities and, like Varanasi, I can’t really give one reason or lasting impression – it was the whole atmosphere, the spirituality and the foreignness of it. 

It was one of the cleanest and most organised places I’ve ever been to in India.  Even the toilets were clean – I almost took a photo of them the first time I went in.  After five months of rancid, blocked and overflowing squat toilets these sparkling, immaculate western-style loos complete with toilet paper and soap had me close to tears. 

The Golden Temple complex (Amritsar’s main attraction) not only features the temple but accommodation, food and amenities – all provided free to anyone, Sikh or otherwise.  I slept in the dorms they reserved for foreigners and enjoyed the hostel atmosphere that made me reminiscent of my time in Europe.  But the weird thing about the accommodation was that outside of my dorm room was a huge open air courtyard in which the majority of Indians were sleeping, underneath huge doonas but still exposed to the elements (and Amritsar was freezing at night).  It didn’t seem right that the tourists were put up in beds under ceilings while the people who had travelled there for spiritual reasons and not just curiosity, not just because they could (like me), were made to sleep outside.  It’s not like we were paying for the difference either – it was all free and donation is optional. 

To be white in India is to be treated with a weird and incongruous mix of deference and objectification.  I’m often pushed to the front of queues, given copious cups of chai or the best of whatever is on offer (food, accommodation etc.), yet at the same time my white skin and my gender seem to lead many women and particularly men to the conclusion that I am a decadent, immoral slut, or just not even human, merely an object to grope, laugh at or undress with their eyes. 

Anyway, in Amritsar mealtimes were a big novelty, with a 24-hour free communal kitchen serving dhal and chapattis to anyone who felt hungry.  Unfortunately my stomach was still feeling unhappy following the food poisoning so I could only bring myself to eat there once (the other times I stuck to banana and curds). 

The whole thing was an amazing production though – as you enter you pass scores of volunteers sitting together gossiping and peeling onions or shelling peas – this food is then taken to huge kitchens at the back of the building where it is added to industrial sized pots and stirred with massive paddles until its ready to serve. 

After having entered you’re handed a metal plate and bowl and ushered through to a huge hall filled with neat rows of hundreds of people sitting on the floor.  Marching up and down the aisles are men armed with buckets of different types of dhal, rice and curry.  With huge ladles these men scoop huge servings of food onto your plate, with perfect aim even from up to a metre away.  You can see what type of food the man is carrying by the colour of the food splashes up his left leg.  Alternately other men stalk the aisles with huge plates of chapattis, flinging them at you frisbee-style. 

After finishing your meal you’re herded through an exit at the other side of the hall, past a row of volunteers who grab your plate and bowl, and send it along a huge line of more volunteers who methodically scrape, rinse, clean and dry your plate and bowl and ferry it back to the man at the entrance.  The whole process, like the toilets, had me completely mystified – I had never seen such efficiency and order on such a large scale in this country, ever, and I probably never will.  


Attari – the ruffled peacock feathers of vehement Indian patriotism 

An hour’s drive from Amritsar is Attari – one of the overland border crossings between India and Pakistan.  This place is a popular attraction among tourists and locals for the nightly theatrical border closing ceremony.  And it was amusing, though a little frightening too. 

On the Indian side the guards were dressed in the most incredible uniforms complete with head gear that resembles the open tail of a red peacock.  For about half an hour a dozen men in these elaborate costumes march up and down in front of the gate that separates India from Pakistan, ruffling their feathers, puffing up their chests and kicking their legs up past their ears.  Meanwhile they actually have a crowd-warmer who marches around in front of the crowd with his microphone, starting chants, demanding applause and basically stirring the crowd into a patriotic frenzy.  It was a little frightening. 

As a (cynical, anational) Australian I generally associate such blind patriotism with racism and intolerance, Cronulla riots-style.  And although everyone was very well behaved I felt kind of uneasy as I passed a huge billboard declaring ‘WELCOME TO INDIA – THE WORLD’S LARGEST DEMOCRACY’. 

The sentence is true, in a factual sense, but the day to day workings of politics of this country seem to hold only a tenuous relation to democracy.  But how can you recognise or question that when you’re too busy chanting about your country’s superiority and your unconditional devotion to its cause, whatever that may be?  


Chandigarh – is poo 

Basically Chandigarh is poo because out of all the cities I’d visited in India this was the first one where I didn’t see even a single person smile and I had a miserable time there. 

The attraction of Chandigarh is that it’s India’s only planned city.  The map in the LP showed a network of streets on a grid, it showed order, it showed something that I had never seen in any other city in this country and I was excited to see it in the flesh. 

But it was poo. 

As usual I hadn’t booked any accommodation ahead.  I arrived in the city at 6:30pm and though it was already dark I figured this would give me enough time to find a room before it got too late. Three and a half hours and eleven hotels later I was wishing that I’d never bothered with the city of grided streets – it felt cold and impersonal and uncaring.  I missed the organic India of erratic lanes, snaking streets and everything in abundance.  I’ve never bothered booking accommodation ahead here because there will always be someone willing to get you what you want, for a price, but never a very exorbitant one.  The un(der)employment and poverty is such that an enterprising nature can be a big bonus and I think that it’s for this reason that you can get almost whatever you want, whenever you want it – if the person you ask doesn’t have it then inevitably his (it’s never ‘her’) brother/uncle/friend/father will (the glaring exception for this rule is a rickshaw after 11pm in Pune, but that is because I believe rickshaw drivers are of another breed entirely, a breed where perversity and sadism even overrides all, but I won’t get into that again). 

I began to feel like the Virgin Mary – Jesus being my burdensome backpack, Joseph my rickshaw driver and my donkey the rickshaw.  No one wanted us to stay (not that Joseph or the donkey were invited), and no one cared that the likelihood of my sleeping in the train station was growing exponentially with every refusal.

Finally, at hotel #11 the manager decided to help me out, made about five phone calls and finally found me a room.  I was so deeply grateful and exhausted I almost cried.  The hotel room was about ten times more than I’d normally pay, but at that point I was beyond caring.  I vaguely wondered why he made me pay half of the money before I left for the hotel but that echo of a thought was very quickly drowned out by the prospect of food and sleep. 

When I arrived at the hotel I realised why the manager had been so emphatic about my paying half the charges up front.  The hotel was filthy, noisy and a little frightening.  My room was right by the reception and I could hear every cough and movement of the guy behind the desk, all night.  What worried me even more was that they didn’t even ask to see my passport.  Almost everything in India requires a passport and visa number if you’re a foreigner.  I had never stayed in a hotel, no matter how cheap and dodgy, that hadn’t wanted a copy of my passport.  My tired mind began to grind into overdrive and the x-ray vision of my imagination began to spy unbelievable acts of criminality and perversion occurring in the rooms neighbouring my own.  Before I went to sleep I made sure to map out an escape route, position a makeshift weapon near my bed and tuck my money pouch and passport into my pyjamas, ready for a quick escape. 

In the softer light of day the next morning I realised that the hotel was less threatening than my exhaustion and imagination had made it seem the night before.  Nevertheless, I made a quick escape from the hotel and the city as soon as I possibly could and got on a bus for Shimla.  


Shimla – is not poo 

This was the last stop on my trip before returning to Delhi and then Pune.  If I could have I would have stayed there for weeks.  Shimla is right up in the hills of the ‘sub-Himalayas’.  Cars are banned, rubbish bins are plentiful and utilised, the air is clean and the people are relaxed and friendly. 

I didn’t really do anything during my few days there, just read and wrote and drank expensive (but real!) coffees, and it was lovely.   


So that was my five weeks in the north of India.  I think I’ve set a new record in verbosity and long-windedness for myself.  It’s a bit more detailed than I’d intended and a bit more linear than I’d promised and if anyone has actually reached this point then you have all of my respect and gratitude and sympathy.


4 Responses to “five weeks in the north”

  1. subi Says:

    It was good reading your blog. Being from India I can understand the ups and downs of your journey. Would appreciate if you can write more.

  2. greatescapes Says:

    I like your photographic eye, always finds a frame to enclose the subject interesting…

  3. Sujit Choudhury Says:

    Really its well written and its content can inspire one enough to make a documentary. I wish you make another trip to east and north east India and write one more jarring note like this. But the question is that ‘how can we change this scenario’.
    Keep your good writing…

  4. Robin Says:

    Well, what a wonderful story! Such a pleasure to read, I can certainly see why Miss Lucy features under CBM’s ‘likes’. Not that I couldn’t see it before, it’s just that my sight now has greater depth.

    Great writing style, flowing intelligent words without a trace of pretension or self indulgence. Just how I like it.

    Well done Miss Lucy.

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