North India August 2012

Posted Tuesday February 07, 2017 by Hazel Durbridge

So I am back and full of things to say about India. We went to Mother Theresa’s place in Kolkata. One thing that I read about her was that for about 15 years or more she felt in a really dark place about her relationship with God, but decided that what he was doing was replicating how he felt on the cross so that she could understand his isolation – I think I’ve explained that properly, but I just thought it was interesting. She did not have doubts about her faith. She accepted her sense of aloneness as a spiritual test.

I have tried to summarize the India experience in to something readable and not too long. The geography of it was flying in to Delhi then an overnight train to the far west near the border of Pakistan – deserty Jaisalmer (on the old spice route and definitely my favourite town/city of the trip) nearly 2 weeks in the state of Rajasthan which is where a lot of the palaces and forts are, then to Uttar Pradesh – Agra (Taj Mahal) and Varanasi and West Bengal (Kolkata) getting steadily more humid as you travel east. We were just outside the tourist season so it wasn’t too busy. It rained. It was overcast some days, but the guide was insistent we covered up for cultural reasons so it was not a sunbathing experience anyway.

FP was 22 years older than most of the group, me 12. There was a 41 year old gay Vietnamese guy from Canada who should never have travelled in a group as he insisted on doing his own thing, even refusing to get off the train at one point because ‘it was a backwater!’, a 41 year old teacher from Bristol who we spent quite a bit of time with, a 37 year old gay woman from Australia with ‘Issues’ and all the rest were under 25 – mainly women, 3 men plus 3 male guides in total (2 were training). The young ones were without exception from very well off families, most public school educated apart from the daughter of a Labour MP. Her and her boyfriend were the only other couple. He was from Harpenden and they were both studying at Oxford. At least 3 of the girls had obvious eating disorders (which makes you realise how common it is) – 4 were Brits, 2 were Canadian and 1 was Swiss. The group did not ‘bond’, but there were no big fallings out and I enjoyed the interesting mix of personalities. God knows what they made of us but it was fine. We kept up OK. It was paced with regular rest breaks and we had more stamina and stronger stomachs than many.

Basically you never stayed anywhere more than 3 nights. You arrive, have time for a shower and a rest, than you have an orientation tour. After that you choose which activities you want to do. We did everything apart from the trip to Macdonalds for a Maharaja Mac (veggie) and I didn’t do the cookery classes, painting or yoga. Lots of visits to palaces, forts and temples (the young ones got bored with these and went shopping instead), an overnight camel trek, a Bollywood movie, a nightclub, dressing up in saris and Indian finery for a night in a posh restaurant, boat trips, tuk tuks, rickshaws, buses, getting up at 5.15am to be the first in the queue to see the Taj Mahal which I think is more exquisite in real life than the pictures. Endless yummy food. No wine and even no beer and meat in the two holy places. The accommodation was fine, though to be fair I think as a couple we ended up with pretty much the best rooms in all the hotels we stayed in – even the honeymoon suite once. I’ll put some edited photos on Facebook out of the 700 odd we took!

It was dirty and smelly in some places, but not as much plastic debris as in Cameroon because many places have banned plastic bags. The cities are a car honking transport/animal (cows, monkeys, chipmunks, camels, skeletal mange ridden dogs, horses, rats, voles, elephants) nightmare, but vibrant beyond belief. It was just awesome, engaging and a wonderful 3 weeks period. I loved India.

We were exhausted before we left and at each other’s throats with the DIY, but it is lovely to come back to. The bathrooms and kitchen look amazing, but I ran out of money and the carpets and kitchen flooring are going to have to wait. I had my tooth out and totally underestimated how painful it was going to be. I was on heavy painkillers for about 4 days.

FP’s daughter has bought a one way ticket to Australia with her boyfriend for September which is very exciting so we are going to see his children at the week-end and then back to work Monday. My immediate plan is to raise money to get an implant for the gaping chasm in my mouth!! Otherwise all is well.

I look forward to hearing your news.

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