Monday, August 13, 2007


I'm now back in London and mountains, monasteries and 12 rupee lassis feel a world away.

After I wrote last from Dehra Doon I spent a couple of days in my friend Nandu's village and loved it. Nandu's family has gained two buffaloes and a cow since I last visited and are now selling milk to the whole village. Throughout the afternoon, people would turn up from all the nearby houses to collect their milk and have a chat.

While I was there, I took a day trip to Rishikesh to see old friends, get more clothes mending done and go for a haircut and shave plus face and head massage (for just over a pound!). Catching up with old friends was great, particularly an old lady who I wrote a short biography of for an assignment when I studied there years ago.

Yashuda's family migrated from Calcutta 30 years ago and she sells flowers on the ghat. When I arrived there, another flower seller recognised me and told me where to find her. After a happy reunion, she packed up her stall and invited me to her place for tea (and lunch which I declined - I had already recieved several other offers!).

Yashuda and her husband live with their four children (and their respective families) in a four room house. In addition, they have a steady stream of visitors staying with them from Calcutta. I felt terrible that they didn't have any tea ingredients in the house and someone was despatched for milk, tea and sugar as soon as I arrived.

If Rishikesh and Dehra Doon were all about seeing friends, Delhi was all about eating and shopping. After the limited range of food in the mountains I went a bit crazy. I'd been craving yoghurt and on my last day there I managed to drink 9 lassis! I feel very much at home in Delhi and have several favourite hotels and restaurants.

The lassis in one shop were so good that I didn't care when the guy making them added tap water and scratched his toes before throwing in a handful of ice. A little bit of dirt from the air had settled on top of the yoghurt and there was a hair in my glass but I was enjoying the lassi so much (my 2nd at that sitting) that I forgot to take it out!

This trip definitely was my best holiday in India yet. Not getting sick made a huge difference. I can't believe that all these years I've thought India made me sick when it was actually just the rotis, naans and parathas. Travelling to such a beautiful area really made the trip. It was the perfect combination of relaxation, exercise and scenery.

But meeting fantastic people was the best part. I had so many invitations for chai, meals and accommodation (many of which I politely declined) that I struggled to spend any money at all. Apart from expenditure on presents, I think I spent 200 pounds or less in a whole month. And I didn't bargain at all for anything!

My Hindi hasn't improved much over the last few years but I think my general conversation ability has. And conversation is so much easier in India where it's perfectly acceptable to ask all kinds of personal questions of a complete stranger! I also realised that having much more liberal religious views (than when I first went to India 8 years ago) has made relating to people so much easier.

I'm really going to miss the interaction and sense of community. I spent five minutes chatting to the lady in the dry cleaners today and she named all her celebrity clients (I'm in good company!). I wasn't so successful in the post office where I freaked the staff out a little with excessive friendliness. It's going to take a while to settle back in!


j a s o n said...

Are the flowers still alive?? I fear my one day of black thumbed watering may have killed them...

Knuffy's Owner said...

I've just finished reading a book called "Daughter of the Ganges" which reminded me of you. It's about an Indian girl who was adopted by a Spanish couple when she was 7 and then went back to India for the first time 20 years later.

pip said...

Good to hear about your travels & safe return.