Sunday, 5 October 2014

At My Back

It is taking me a little time to adjust to the concept of Indian time. I suppose I am used to setting a plan and sticking to it. Things don't quite happen that way in India. Even the trains have a unique booking system. We were supposed to travel to the Punjab by train. We had our tickets but, unknown to me, they hadn't been confirmed. Unfortunately, a public holiday meant that our tickets were not confirmed so we had to make alternative arrangements. 

Don't panic Mr Mannering. Our host had everything in hand. He 'phoned a friend' who sent his car and armed bodyguard to collect us!!  I was a little worried about the length of the journey and what state the roads would be in. Only time would tell. 

Getting out of Delhi was not as easy as we expected. The roads were very busy ( when are they not?!). We had the added problem that our driver and guard rarely came to the city. We were lost. Fear not. They stopped at several random places eg middle of the dual carriageway, on a bend and on a slip entry. On the last one, the tuk tuk driver told us to reverse and turn. Hmmmm that sounded familiar. 

During this frantic part of the journey, I saw something unusual right on the side of the motorway - two elephants!! Just like the bus. You wait for one for ages for one and two come along at once. A wondered how they got there. Quick as a flash I replied, 'On the trunk road.'  Oh come on, my joke's not that bad!

Once out of Delhi, we sped along on perfectly fine dual-carriageway. The scenery was flat all the way but it was fascinating to watch the workers threshing corn by hand or the water buffaloes wallowing in the water. 

The peculiar method of overtaking became a familiar pattern. Honk your horn, choose which side and go for it. Ignore rules regarding hard shoulders, lanes, traffic lights or any other you know in the Highway Code. Traffic police don't seem to exist here and anything goes. 

After several hours travelling, we pulled into a service station for lunch.  Accompanied by our driver and armed guard, we entered and made our choice. On the next table were a group of nuns. Nuns and guns. What a combination ?!

We waited patiently for our food. None was forthcoming. The waiter came over and asked us to follow him. I wondered if we had lowered the tone and were being ejected. Just the opposite. The owner had recognised that we were VIPs. He wanted to express his thanks by giving us our own room to rest in. Not just any old room. One with an enormous bed, ensuite, tv, table and chairs. Fresh water and our food was brought along. We ate and relaxed for the next two hours.  That time really did fly. 

We were off again. A fell asleep. I was relieved she did because during a traffic snarl, we realised there had been an accident. A young man on a motorbike had tried unsuccessfully to traffic-dodge at a crossroads. Someone had covered his body with a blanket but they had not covered all the gruesome remains. I have been cured of rubber-necking forever. 

We stopped at a town to pick up our host's son from his college. We still had a further hour and half to his home. I was a little concerned that he had that journey every day. I learned later that he stays as a paying guest with a family during the week, coming home at weekends. 

As we drove through one town, our escort - the one with the big gun- asked if we would like to call at his house for a drink of tea. N very bravely declined. I'm not sure I would have had the courage to refuse a man toting a rifle 

After nine hours travel, excluding the break, we arrived at our Host's home.   We said farewell to our driver and guard. They asked if they had served us well. They requested that we gave a good report to their superior. As a practised mystery shopper, they would have received almost top marks. A deduction for the loud music on the car stereo though. 

I expected we would just rest all evening but this was not to be. Our host wanted to show us the celebration at the Temple. We were, once again, treated as honoured guests with red stoles draped around our necks. Special places were made for us on the front row carpet. Others were relegated to the second division. 

We sat cross-legged, listened to the choir chanting loudly and watched the ants scurrying around. My rear padding was aching. I did a little shuffle. My movements had been noted and a place was made on the front step/stage. Now I was in full view of everyone. Ever felt 'odd one out'!

The chanting over, we formed an orderly queue to pay homage to the God. We received a blessing. Everyone else was given water. I was special. I got a banana!!  Where's Hubby when you need him?

Service over we returned home for a tasty but exceedingly spicy meal. Choto, the family servant, seemed fascinated with me. He could not stop staring and smiling.  

That must be it for the night, but no. The family had other ideas. All aboard one car and a scooter for a special treat - ice cream from the equivalent of Laddies. Being a little uncertain about the local variety, I played safe with a Cornetto. I didn't hang around eating it though. The heat soon had the scoop dribbling down my fingers. Oh for a wet wipe. 

Treat complete I expected to return home. No, one more treat was arranged. We visited a large park where a stage had been erected. Our host is a famous tv reporter, so he had no trouble taking us backstage to meet the cast. They were equally pleased to see us. Indeed, everyone was pleased to see us and quite a crowd gathered with cameras and mobile phones to take our pictures. 

Once again the front row was cleared so that we had a clear view of the onstage action. The costumes and makeup were so vivid. The acting was so exaggerated. It was fun. I really should read the story of Lord Ram. 

We didn't stay for the whole play. Our host recognised that we were drooping. It was such a pleasure to fall into bed after such a long yet pleasurable day.

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