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Published: February 8th 2013
Mumbai-Udaipur-Ranakpur-Jodhpur-Nagaur-Roopangarh-Jaipur-Ranthambore-Keoladeo-Fatehpur Sikri-Chambal-Agra-Delhi-Shimla-Dharamsala-Pong-Amritsar '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)
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!)
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