India 1 - 'A Package to India'

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February 10th 2013
Published: February 8th 2013
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'A Package to India'

12th February 2013

It was 1956 and I was home on leave from the Air Force for the week-end. An Indian gentleman knocked on our front door that day, enquiring after my 1939 Hillman advertised for sale in the local paper. I had never met an Indian gentleman before. The Doctor didn’t haggle. We exchanged £100 cash for a hand-painted black Hillman Minx with dodgy cable brakes, rust holes plugged with fibreglass and a dicky head-gasket.

A few years later my father sold our suburban semi-detached in Wembley, to the west of London, to yet another Indian, another Doctor - and moved to Norfolk, leaving behind a burgeoning Indian society.

As I now tread the featureless aisles of London’s Heathrow Airport with Janice and my younger brother Mike, I sense a passing, backwards through the mirror, watching the Olde England I once knew as my home fade into the distance in ever diminishing shades of grey as I depart for another, more colourful, world.

The grey haired nomads are heading for India. And Mike, (aka keep smiling) a knowledgeable lover of all things Indian, will be our guide. He is largely responsible for our itinerary and our packing list:

A Package to India

We shall land in Mumbai on the Arabian Sea to the thud of a humid blanket
A parachute jump in a steam-filled bath, the pulsing heart of an eight-armed goddess
A deodorant-stick and sun-tan lotion, a few short-sleeved shirts and light cotton undies
This Gateway to India, the heaving throngs, the Raj of the past and the poor and the present
The Muslim, Hindu, the Buddhist and Christian, the Islam, the Jain and followers of Sikhism
A hat for Sikh Temples, string belt for the Jain - and top of the list, a sun-hat for Sundays

The Marble palaces of Udaipur, sparkling lakes and time to discover the old walled city
The Mughal emperors and Vishnu temples, an Indian wedding - now what should I wear?
A jacket or jumper perhaps that would do, a shirt with a tie and a clean pair of shoes
Eat with the right hand and cleanse with the left, raise them together in silent greeting
The Adinath temple in Ranakpur, a meeting with friends at the Kumbalgarh Fort
Take cameras and lenses and memory cards, the laptop and charger to bring in the news

The Thar Desert’s shifting sands, forts and bazaars, and henna art for ladies’ hands
A night in a homestay in old Jodhpur and a cookery lesson tonight for sure
A first-aid kit might not go amiss - a plug for the sink, and for music, the iPod
Marble Palaces, blue-washed houses, herbs and puppets and sweets and spices
Then off to Nagaur for the Cattle Fair, camels and cows, the donkeys and flies!
Malaria tablets to be perfectly safe, take an Alarm clock - and remember the tripod

To the pink-city of grand Jaipur, the Amber Fort with an elephant ride
Things astronomical, the Jantar Mantar, the sun and the stars all viewed from afar
Hotel with a pool so remember the trunks, a notebook and pencil, a clothes-line for washing
This capital city of Rajasthan, the ‘Palace of Winds’ the grand City Palace
The Jaigarh Fort and Galtaji Temple - The Monkey Temple, (The Galwar Bagh)
Lotion for suntan, a poncho and floss, the list of good restaurants for drinking and noshing

The roar of the tiger at Ranthambore, the langur the leopard, the jackal and boar
The chill morning air, the afternoon heat, from sunrise to sundown the challenge is set
Warm gloves and a scarf would not go amiss, a poncho, thick socks and binoculars too
Keoladeo’s a must for the birds and the beasties; the ibis and cranes to name but a few
A jeep to see wildlife at Chambal Reserve, the python, the croc, the wolf and the mongoose
Tee-shirts and spare trousers, boots for the hike, flip-flops for temples (and also the loo)

That Agra moment, the Taj Mahal, the classical dancing the mystical music
The tagiyah, the turban (the pagri or safa), the dazzling Saris and Sawar-kameez
Pyjamas for homestays and the loo in the night, a torch would be good to give us some light
Holy cows and lunatic traffic, buses and rickshaws and camels and trains
The Shiva the Vishnu and even the Devi, the four-headed Brahma, and ancient legends
Remember spare glasses and Mobile-phones, and addresses for cards to post overnight

Beware Delhi-belly, or so I’ve been told, for Delhi will lure you, both New and the Old
Chicken bhuna and peshawari nan, vindaloo and tandoori to swallow
Eat with the locals, diarrhoea tomorrow, Immodium-Plus, loo paper to follow)
The melange of buses, rickshaws and cars, three-wheeler ‘tuk-tuks’ and Holy cows
This Capital City, of slums and shanties, shadows of Lutyens, the Raj and high-rises
Anti-bacterials for cleansing the hands and an opener for bottles - I’ve one you can borrow

Trains will transport us from Delhi to Shimla, that summer land to the Raj and to Kipling
Into the foothills of the great Himalayas, snow on the mountains of Himachal Pradesh
A blow-up cushion for the narrow gauge railway and add an umbrella, in case it rains
The spices and cow dung will tingle the nostrils, colourful costumes will dazzle the eyes
Encounters with con-men will often abound, wodges of Rupees exchanged for our Pounds
Remember a money-belt for cards and for cash, spare wallet for coins and tickets for trains

Up in the hills at Dharamsala, the Buddha, Tibetans, and the Dalai Lama
Monasteries, monks and red-robed nuns, The Mall, the Bazaar and the Vice Regal Lodge
A bottle for water, a razor and foam, toothbrush and toothpaste and add a spare comb
Then on to Amritsar and the Golden Temple, the Sikh community’s holiest shrine
A side-trip to Wagah to witness the sham astride the border with Pakistan
The laptop for blogging, I nearly forgot, and then via Delhi, we’ll soon be back home!


Passport copied and Visa stamped, eye-shade and ear-plugs, a good book to read .................

Jet Airways Flight 9W117 - ‘Stand-by for take-off!'

Join us as we begin our 35 day journey north, from Mumbai to Dharamsala and Amritsar.

And may Ganesh go with us.

For my little brother, Mike's, take on our five-weeks in India, go to: Keep Smiling

David and Janice

The Grey haired nomads

Todd will come too (if there’s room in the case!)


8th February 2013

I'm so pleased that Todd might be coming too
I've never seen Todd in the flesh!, so please find room for him!
9th February 2013

Dear me, you're more than ready for India!
I soooo love this. Will you wax poetic all throughout the 35 day journey? That I've got to see (or read). You're tops, y'know! Have a great journey.
9th February 2013

The most poetic view of India I have ever read...
looking forward to reading about travels in India from your rose colored...or should I saw slightly tinted... glasses point of view.
17th February 2013

We reckon you're very brave to go to India, but how fortunate to have your personal guide. We're looking forward to some very colourful photos. Travel by barge in France will seem very tame by comparison, but I'm sure we'll discover new secrets of the area.We'll be following the blog with interest. Safe travels, Love Jan & Trevor
19th February 2013

Sounds like Mike is an excellent guide to all things Indian
What a great adventure you are having. Excellent.
7th March 2013

I'm just now getting around to reading your adventures
I love this blog and the way this is starting out. Eager to read about your 35 day journey.

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