India, baby

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.


Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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