Monday, March 27, 2006

For all her faults I love her still

Well, I'm back in Blighty after 9 weeks in India and I thought a short retrospective might be appropriate.

The subject line was originally in my mind for Indian Railways. Her faults being: too few trains, too slow, not at the times you want, too often late by hours but then look at her virtues: once on, what a relaxed way to travel, quiet (apart from the interesting series of vendors' cries), cheap (my sleeper from Trivandrum to Goa (20 hours) cost less than a single from Paddington to Liverpool Street on London Underground - 20 minutes), comfortable, rocks you asleep, a place to meet actual Indians [not touts, rickshaw wallahs, Kashmiri salesmen etc. but a cross-section of those who can afford your class (that's one reason I go sleeper not A/C)], amazing computerised reservation facilities, something the Raj brought India that we needn't feel guilty about!

But of course I could be talking about Bharat Mata, Mother India herself. Without doubt she has faults, some of which have appeared in the posts of this blog, and new ones are appearing (the love of the horn by the newly motorised classes must be one) but still, for me and other Indiaphiles, the virtues outweigh them. As I may have said before Incredible India is actually very Credible - you can see her workings, her cogs whirring, the glugs and gurgles of her digestive system, and she seems utterly authentic. Not too many people in India have the time or energy to be phoney (Kashmiri handicraft salesman excepted) and in this sense at least the feeling is one of honesty (same exception applies). Of course, the traveller is frequently at odds with those who he has to make use of (rickshaw wallahs) or who approach him anyway (touts, beggars) but after all they're only trying to make a living.

For myself, I feel a bit of a flop this time in that I revisited so many places rather than striking out to more new destinations. There were reasons (cold weather kept me out of the Himalaya, dates to keep drew me south) but I regret that there are places in Madya Pradesh, Bengal, Gujarat, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and well as all the North-west that are crying out for a visit.

Another time, maybe . . . for . . . . I love her still.


Blogger Nigel said...

You love her but yet forsake her for another railway in a more distant continent... Such promiscuity is understood when you are returning to a familiar far eastern lover.

We who have just shared a coffee with you in King Edward Rd are jealous of the warmth you are travelling towards. Think of us sniffling and coughing in a damp, dark, dreary English winter!

Looking forward to hearing travel tales from the region. N & C.

Sat Jan 19, 10:32:00 am GMT  

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