normal nagpur

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July 22nd 2005
Published: July 22nd 2005
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The time has finally come for us to move on from Nagpur -the most normal Indian city we have visited so far.

By normal I don’t mean at all that the last few weeks here have been a disappointment - in fact quite the opposite. By just being somewhere off the tourist trail (Napgur gets just one page in our lonely planet guide) you learn about what normal, everyday, Mr and Mrs India and their family get up to.

I now know that many Nagpurians have Christmas carols as their mobile phone rings. I know that Army lorries are used here as school buses. I know that when stray dogs are hit by speeding 4X4’s, nobody reacts. I know that plumbers and electricians charge well under £1 for a couple of hours work, and if they’re called out and nothing much needs doing they’ll be happy with just a cup of tea. I’ve seen a council road crew cut a tree down so that it fell into power and phone cables, leaving our block crippled. Somehow the power came back and a local security guard stole the tree to sell as fire wood but the mangled cables are still hanging there, days later. I know that Nagpur is the absolute king when it comes to cows that don’t give a monkeys about traffic. I’ve seen a family of 5 block a dual carriageway, I’ve seen a group of over 10 scattered about on a major junction, most asleep, other deliberately walking against the traffic. I’ve been to 6am yoga classes (too much chanting and not enough stretching). I’ve listened to a talk on India mutual funds (fund managers acknowledge the Indian scams and scandals always make huge dent in returns). I know that when most Indian plates, cups and bowls are made of steel and when you buy them the name of the top lady in the house (Tanuja Bocquet in our case) is engraved on every piece. I’ve tried Paan, a vice as popular here as smoking. It’s a mix of spices, incense and a few things I didn’t recognize, wrapped in a leaf and chewed for hours (or seconds in my case). The taste is indescribable, so I won’t try, and the amount of saliva produced is shocking. The pavements and walls of India are indelibly stained red by the paan juice spat frequently and with great power by all those partaking - male and female, young and old. I struggled to get any pleasure from my paan experience, in the same way that I am struggling to learn to enjoy the Indian custom that is ghee. Ghee is boiled fat that is spooned in great quantities onto almost everything on your plate. It also has some religious uses and is the Indian equivalent to the great British cuppa.

I’m happy that 4 weeks in Normal Nagpur has shown me details of India that individually seem insignificant but together start to define what India is, in a way that no guide book can.


22nd July 2005

Hi David, I just read your Nagpur experience. For you it may be strange experience but for we Indian what you have written is perfectly normal. I have tried "Paan" few years back and I felt almost chocking. But the Ghee is good. I like it but it increases Cholesterol. Now you must change your name from David to Indian name Dravid (The famous Indian Cricket Player)- well I am just kidding :) I really miss your photographs of Kolkata and Nagpur trips. My best wishes to you and Tanuja. Regards, Pankaj Roy

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