When Keith and I visited India in 2006 we had dinner with Ahmed’s family.
Keith and the men folk went off together and I was left with the women and children. We were presented as husband and wife. The house had been tidied and arranged for our visit. Asmat’s English was very good and in the course of conversation she asked me how Keith and I had met. I said we had gone to high school together. Her face broke into a huge smile. “Ah” she said “So it is a love marriage!” From then on we were known as Mr and Mrs Keith.
I’m sure I rode the train in India when I was a baby, but December 2006 is my first memorable train trip in India. Ahmed’s brother arranged for my ticket – Train number 241B, Coach A3, Seat 15 Lower Bunk.
On the way to Allahabad
It was an easy trip on the lower bunk. I left New Delhi in the evening at 9:30 and slept all through the night on the way to Allahabad. Kusum and Geoffrey were there to meet me at the station. Of course it arrived later than scheduled. My return to Delhi was equally pleasant.
When Peggy, Barbara and I took the train in 2012, we had a different experience. We had arranged for someone in Delhi to buy our train tickets to and from Allahabad. It was to leave Delhi at 9:30 PM. As we embarked I noticed this train was not at all like the one I had taken previously. I had travelled in a car with two tiers of bunks, this compartment was a triple bunker – all inhabited by men, who viewed us curiously. Our beds appeared to be on the uppermost of the three bunks. Peggy looked visibly disturbed. That was when the kind Mr Singh, who was on his way to join the army in Allahabad, volunteered his lower bunk to Peggy. He also gently made up the bed for her. She reclined for the night – and oh, what a night….. One fellow watched his tablet –and Peggy – for the evening. In fact all the men in the car were watching Peggy.
Peggy was a subject of some curiosity
Barbara was bundled up , fully clothed, with her scarf covering her face, using her backpack as a pillow. As she stared at the wall, a cockroach scuttled by.
Barbara’s travelling method
At stops along the way vendors would walk through the car with various things to eat – a pail of curried peas, something wrapped in paper – Barbara stuck to her power bars.
Of course the train was late. When I woke it was stopped by a railway bridge and children were selling food from the tracks. As I stood at the end of the car a cupboard door slid open and a smiling lad popped his head out. He was a worker and that was his couchette!
We arranged for a car and driver to take us through Rajasthan for a few days. Our first night in Pushkar we stayed at a hotel recommended by the tourist association. It had seen better days. The mattresses were wooden and everything was more than slightly shop worn.
Our door key
Bicycle man in Jodhpur
It took a lot of maneuvering to lock our door.
After that experience we would stay in places recommended in Lonely Planet.
Jodhpur, The Blue City
The Cozy Inn in Jodhpur was at the top of a steep hill that was impossible for the car. Ravi, our driver, nervously watched us treck up the hill with a promise to meet in the morning.
Our room at The Cozy Inn
We found a sweet refuge with clean cozy rooms, a rooftop restaurant and a book exchange.
There is a great book exchange at the Cozy Inn
It was there I found “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga. What a treat it was to read it while still in India! Well written with an insight into the intricacies of the caste system.
I guess I liked the quote from the book – I wrote it down – my other favourite aphorism is “Life’s a journey, not a destination”. Ain’t it the truth?
This is such a handy little book. It fits in a pocket and is a firm writing surface. There are ribbons and elastics to mark a page or keep everything together.
As I look at the first page with telephone numbers and peculiar codes I’m forced to think back. Some mention of Rupees and phone. London Paddington. Heathrow.
Was it gate 5 or December 5? That must have been England in 2012 or 2014. I know Keith and I had phones for India, so the K and R are our respective numbers.
mr and mrs Keith Taj Mahal
I must have tried to phone Canada too – those prefaced numbers are so complicated – but so rewarding when the call finally goes through! But there’s an Indian phone number and some code, then some more phone numbers – ending with a London cel number.
Fish and Chips on Brighton Beach
Bullock in the market
Well, I bookended England with India on one trip – hmmmmmm. What is that reference – in pencil – to comix? To quote Robert Browning “When I wrote it, only God and I knew the meaning; now God alone knows.”
When I googled the strange codes 3801 – CS Photography it all came back to me. Of course! I taught Photographic Nude at Langara for a number of years in Continuing Studies.