The human body might fly at the speed of a rifle bullet — and a bolus of dodgy curry slightly faster — but the soul, as we know, travels at a camel’s pace. Britta and I are finally back from our adventures in India. At some point, I’ll write something deep and possibly meaningful about the holiday, but for now I’ve uploaded some photos to Facebook (sorry they aren’t on the blog, but they’re really intended for close friends; if you want to see them, go ahead and register with Facebook (it’s free) and ask to be my friend.)
Some abiding moments:
Walking into a restaurant in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, and suppressing a smile as literally all busy breakfast conversation ceases. Britta and I took our seats in the silence and tried to explain to the waiter that we didn’t need knives, forks or spoons. After about fifteen minutes during which we demonstrated familiarity with finger-eating, the conversation of our fellow patrons resumed. Other interesting reactions: a boy on a bicycle staring, open-mouthed, as he passed, almost colliding with a bus as a result; babies pointing at our absurdly pale complexions; children too shy to say hello up close but plucking up the courage to shout “How are you!” when they’re about almost out of earshot.
Taking a “short” (two hours each way) motorbike ride over potholes and through murderously anarchic Indian traffic until we reach the Indian ocean and spend the day with a ten-mile stretch of beach all to ourselves. Thanks to Mr Spielberg and his friend Bruce, I didn’t enjoy the water overmuch.
Having the very enthusiastic students of Nagarajan’s college interview me for their fiction magazine (which has been running for twenty years).
Staring slack-jawed at the way vehicles behave on Indian roads. Bus drivers pootle at Mach 1, lorries rattle at a slightly slower speed (with people perched on top), autos (rickshaws) make crazy zigzags, because lorries and buses feel free to kill them. Horn use is constant.
Punting through the titanic, submerged mangrove forest to the east of Nagarajan’s village — the same forest that absorbed most of the energy of the Boxing Day tsunami and, thus, prevented thousands of deaths, including Nagarajan’s.
Sitting with Britta in “tea chairs” as we gazed around the ball room of the Maharaja’s summer palace in the mountainous city of Ooti.
Christmas Eve on the shore of the Indian Ocean with the full moon at our backs.
Today, I ate paella with my fingers, but it isn’t quite the same. There are essays to mark and emails to answer. England, baby.