India 2012

Bangalore – Delhi – Jaipur – Lucknow – Faizabad – Allahabad – Bhopal – Hyderabad

My second trip to the subcontinent, and first venture up North!

Rail Rage and Hindi: India Take Two (Tue 14 Feb 2012) - I battle to book grumpy trains and incensed hotels, I’m insured against mad dogs and bone up on strange scripts. Friends, relations, colleagues, For those who haven’t heard, I’m going to spend most of 2012 in Asia! On Tuesday 28 February I fly with Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur for three nights, then on to … Continue reading Rail Rage and Hindi: India Take Two
Pushing through the Surf and Bracing for Take-off (Mon 27 Feb 2012) - I pump up my phone, poison my shirts, and ponder what books to pack in my case; I count my southern blessings and brace for psychic assault. A friend compared the pre-departure chaos to getting the boat through the surf as you launch out into the deep.  Or planning an extended tramping trip, wrestling to … Continue reading Pushing through the Surf and Bracing for Take-off
Trusting the Companion on the Way to Malaysia (Fri 2 Mar 2012) - I take wing on a prayer and verify Biggles, leave camera, guidebook and Gucci behind to find playground, housewives and life. So much has happened since my last communication, it’s hard to remember that for many back home it’s just been a few more days at the office. Last Tuesday morning, after a night of … Continue reading Trusting the Companion on the Way to Malaysia
Tackling Delhi Traffic and Defeat in Connaught Place (Mon 5 Mar 2012) - A patchwork of first impressions: angry lost drivers and clunky ambassadors, Sikh chants and honking, striving to keep up morale and washing up in McDonald’s. I arrived in India on Friday 2 March and appreciated Bangalore’s new international airport, all clean glass and trouble-free, unlike the grubby confusion I faced in 2007 at the interim … Continue reading Tackling Delhi Traffic and Defeat in Connaught Place
All the World’s a Stage: Charming Chandni Chawk (Tue 6 Mar 2012) - I master the Metro and moon around markets; I evade ear invasions and am caught out by cobras, but refuse to be chicken-hearted. After a slightly shell-shocked start to the capital (see previous post), my first full day was fab.  I escaped Americana with finger-licking fare at Indian eateries, and I mastered the Metro: bag … Continue reading All the World’s a Stage: Charming Chandni Chawk
Rioting Colour: Movies and Mayhem on Holi (Thu 8 Mar 2012) - I’m bombarded by colourful threats and left red-faced; I’m rejected by Bollywood but star in cricket; I meet a pimp and hot chicks, pink drunks and purple pups. Today was International Women’s Day.  Newspaper articles honoured female Indian leaders and deplored on-going problems.  A recent Hindustan Times survey found 91% of Delhi women have experienced … Continue reading Rioting Colour: Movies and Mayhem on Holi
Avian Nonviolence, Gandhian Gimmicks and Simple Inspiration (Sun 11 Mar 2012) - I have pity on birds and respect for Gandhi; I query his quirks and ponder his paintings, follow his final steps and lament his lost legacy. India is 75% Hindu.  Businessmen chant mantras with prayer beads on the Delhi metro, worshippers bow and ring bells at temple entrances, everywhere you look are roadside shrines and … Continue reading Avian Nonviolence, Gandhian Gimmicks and Simple Inspiration
Martyring Freedom, Mourning Tigers, and Sikhing Indira (Mon 12 Mar 2012) - I visit gurdwaras and a Prime Minister’s shrine, compare Joan of Arc to black widows and find a hollow tiger. I’ve entered two golden-domed Sikh gurudwaras in Delhi, one adjacent to my hotel (see my 2007 introduction to Sikhism here).  After removing shoes, washing hands and stepping through a shallow pool to rinse my feet, … Continue reading Martyring Freedom, Mourning Tigers, and Sikhing Indira
Maroon Seats and the Pink City: by Train to Jaipur (Wed 14 Mar 2012) - I wake up the station, witness squalor and splendour, and try to find words that aren’t too dull; I scale a city wall, see monkeys in mansions, and paint the town pink. Yesterday I rose before 5am in Delhi, munched a muesli bar, and woke up the guy at reception who was slumbering on a … Continue reading Maroon Seats and the Pink City: by Train to Jaipur
Astronomical Playgrounds, Aladdin’s Fort and Sculpting God (Fri 16 Mar 2012) - I fight off vendors and mark off the heavens, gear up for war and assault a fort, find Aladdin’s silken cave and survey the birthplace of gods. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur form the tourist “Golden Triangle” so it’s not surprising that in Jaipur I saw many ambulant copies of Lonely Planet, and was more harassed … Continue reading Astronomical Playgrounds, Aladdin’s Fort and Sculpting God
Clowning Beggars, Mapping Scams and Moral Hazards (Sat 17 Mar 2012) - I navigate nameless Indian streets, bump into pushy opportunists and well-schooled brats, survey a circus of histrionic scams, and contemplate cardiac disease. Most Delhi streets had big green labels in Hindi and English.  Outside the capital, I’ve found street signs are often in local scripts, if there are signs at all.  To make things worse … Continue reading Clowning Beggars, Mapping Scams and Moral Hazards
Mouldering Might: the Fallen Cities of Delhi (Sun 18 Mar 2012) - I remember Rome and meditate on mausoleums, get lost in the Middle Ages, find myself in Paradise and reflect on ancient poems. Delhi has been called a “City of Cities”.  It’s like an old house with multiple layers of wallpaper peeling off to reveal past generations or, in Hindu terms, former reincarnations.  At least 8 … Continue reading Mouldering Might: the Fallen Cities of Delhi
Shiite Chandeliers and Under Siege in Lucknow (Tue 20 Mar 2012) - I’m assaulted by squadrons of mosquitoes and chatty locals, flee a labyrinth of exhaustion and find a crystal fairyland, stiffen my upper lip with heroic memories and capture a comic prize. In past centuries the city of Lucknow was a centre of courtly poetry and Shiite culture, ruled by the Muslim Nawabs from Iran.  Now … Continue reading Shiite Chandeliers and Under Siege in Lucknow
Village Hindi and Leprosy Vocations (Fri 23 Mar 2012) - I learn about leprosy, enter a biblical world, and chalk up greetings with village women; I meet mechanics and woodworkers, seamstresses and PowerPoint pupils, radiant wrinkles, springing physio, and biochemical remembrance. My great Auntie Maisie was effectively my third grandmother and spent her life serving The Leprosy Mission (TLM – see leprosymission.org.nz).  My sister and I … Continue reading Village Hindi and Leprosy Vocations
Myths and Mayhem: Monkeying with Rama in Ayodya (Sat 24 Mar 2012) - I recount an epic of kings, monkeys and 10-headed demons that hijacks ships and kills thousands today; I condemn riotous Lego, compare rival faiths, note interest rates in a religious bank and sample the Ramayana. 7 km from the Leprosy Mission center in Faizabad (see my previous post) is Ayodya, a small town that I … Continue reading Myths and Mayhem: Monkeying with Rama in Ayodya
Gandhis and the Ganges: Academic Idols in Allahabad (Thu 29 Mar 2012) - I dust off university memories and swot up ragging, study two prime ministers, follow Gandhi to the Ganges, and watch clay idols diving. It’s only 150 km from Faizabad south to Allahabad, but the bus took over three hours.  A Leprosy Mission worker queued from before dawn to reserve me the best of the cracked … Continue reading Gandhis and the Ganges: Academic Idols in Allahabad
Chilling in Mosques and Boiling in Bhopal (Mon 2 Apr 2012) - I sleep on a train, study at a madrasa, rage at litterbugs and relax in mosques; I walk from the coast to the Himalayas in a few hours, sweat like dogs and play chess with Krishna. The Leprosy Mission and Allahabad Bible Seminary had looked after me for over a week.  On Friday I set … Continue reading Chilling in Mosques and Boiling in Bhopal
Bollywood, Buddha, and the Stupas of Sanchi (Tue 3 Apr 2012) - I bus through golden fields and climb a pilgrim’s hill, I trace out carvings of Buddha’s life and fly through Delhi at the flicks. Centuries before the great Hindu epics were written (see my Ramayana post here), the Buddha lived in northern India (see my introduction to his life here).  In 262 BC the emperor … Continue reading Bollywood, Buddha, and the Stupas of Sanchi
Gemstones and Biryani: Stinking Rich in Hyderabad (Thu 5 Apr 2012) - I travel first class to the Taj Mahal, check what has changed in the City of Pearls, and steal a glimpse of its riches; I melt down in the fatal heat and perk up with a favourite meal. The trip on Tuesday night from Bhopal (see here) 15 hours south to Hyderabad was my longest … Continue reading Gemstones and Biryani: Stinking Rich in Hyderabad
High Security Easter: Hanuman, Cops and Christ (Fri 6 Apr 2012) - I remember the death of Christ and encounter the birth of a monkey god, cross barbed wire beset with flags and escape the clash of orange and green. On Wednesday evening, sudden gusts whipped dust into my eyes and gloom descended over the Charminar, before the first rain I’d seen in weeks.  I took shelter … Continue reading High Security Easter: Hanuman, Cops and Christ
Corrupt Grammar and Apostolic Essays (Sat 21 Apr 2012) - I arrive at the college and start to teach; I’m confused by seasons, depressed by marks, inspired by students with biblical lives, and make myself at home with peanut butter and books. I caught my third overnight train from Hyderabad to Bangalore – back in second class, with egg biryani for dinner – and on … Continue reading Corrupt Grammar and Apostolic Essays
Poetic Police and Snooty Ooty: Speeding and Chilling in the Hills (Sun 29 Apr 2012) - I enjoy police ingenuity and avoid traffic incidents, look for tigers and find green tea, cool off at altitude and see men with attitude. Alongside the hawkers of souvenirs and sunglasses and socks who patrol Brigade Road, the tourists and touts and teens, a flood of vehicles pours down the hill, monitored by traffic police … Continue reading Poetic Police and Snooty Ooty: Speeding and Chilling in the Hills
Bangalore Memories and Beastly Mortalities (Fri 11 May 2012) - I revisit memories of Bangalore and reflect on what has changed, travel back to colonial times and encounter fatal hazards. Over Easter I stayed at the church guesthouse where I’d been in 2007.  This time the verse on my wall was God’s promise to the Israelites wandering in the desert – and to me as … Continue reading Bangalore Memories and Beastly Mortalities
Travelling in Time and Blossoming Books (Sat 12 May 2012) - I go bananas in Bangalore bookshops and recapitulate my reading life; I’m drawn to many strange new worlds but hardly know this land of wonders. On my final weekends in Bangalore I went big game hunting for books, including some rare out-of-print species from an anthology I bought at Easter, Travellers’ Tales: India.  Thanks to … Continue reading Travelling in Time and Blossoming Books
Olfactory Overload and Market Mélange (Sat 19 May 2012) - I breakfast on spicy crêpe, follow my nose to market, and cook up Indian aromas; I practice Hindi and bypass heatstroke, dodge dentists and float through floral fantasies. I began my penultimate Saturday in Bangalore at the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, where steam from metre-wide vats of sambar clouded my camera lens as I entered.  It’s … Continue reading Olfactory Overload and Market Mélange
Prophet’s Tooth and Sarasvati’s Lute: Chasing Calendar Icons (Sun 20 May 2012) - I visit mosques of the world and unearth relics of Mohammed; I collect a pantheon of cartoon gods and choose a winning goddess. In between my encounters with fruits, flowers, and primal colours that make even Disney look tame (see previous post here), I found a vendor of Muslim devotional items.  When I asked if … Continue reading Prophet’s Tooth and Sarasvati’s Lute: Chasing Calendar Icons
Wedding Socks and Matrimonial Codes (Mon 21 May 2012) - I attend an Indian wedding and account for a marrying vendor of socks; I crack the code of matrimonial ads to reveal the eligibility of Ph.D.’s, pigments, and beards. Weddings are big in India.  I’ve heard several processions with banging crackers, pounding drums, tubas and trumpets and loud raucous horns.  I’ve stumbled across two in … Continue reading Wedding Socks and Matrimonial Codes
Matrimonial Marvels: Part Two (Tue 22 May 2012) - I investigate more matrimonial mysteries like fasting and cleanliness, divorce and detectives, north and south, the minute of birth and the height of Mars. After getting over the codes of caste and colour and class (see my first matrimonials post here), I was drawn into higher mysteries of the ads in my New Delhi Hindustan … Continue reading Matrimonial Marvels: Part Two
Biblical Power Plagues: Sweating in Suburban Bangalore (Thu 24 May 2012) - I find churches of every persuasion, marvel at Bangalore’s IT boom and measure its electrical bust; I’m as hot as James Bond but wet as a frog when it comes to catching snakes. The surrounding suburb seems like the Bible Belt of Bangalore.  I’ve found no mosques, though heard a distant prayer call at night … Continue reading Biblical Power Plagues: Sweating in Suburban Bangalore
Batting, Baking and King Chilli Pork (Fri 25 May 2012) - I’m inducted into the creed of cricket and cringe as bandits attack; I’m thanked with pink icing and farewelled with pork. As well as power cuts and oppressive heat, summer brought the 76-match IPL cricket series.  The Indian Premiere League is apparently the second-highest paid sporting association after the NBA.  Players earn on average US$4 … Continue reading Batting, Baking and King Chilli Pork
Schoolboy Souvenirs: Poster Children of India (Sun 27 May 2012) - I go back to school, learn how diverse India is and how to keep it neat and clean; I swot up biology, geography, history, and find 17 reasons to return. A few hours before my flight to Malaysia, I crouched at the entrance of Sagar Gift and Fancy Stationery.  I was sorting through a stack … Continue reading Schoolboy Souvenirs: Poster Children of India

Sketches of Travel in the East