Bilbo Baggins said that stepping out of your front door was a very dangerous thing – you never knew quite where you’d end up. One typical Scottish day, grey and raining, with my partner Davy and two year old Elly, I stepped out of the front door of my sister Lynne’s place at Dunjarg and set off down the very muddy track to begin a pretty long journey. We were off to India.
Since the India idea had been sown, it had germinated and fairly quickly grew to reality. We had sold the house and got rid of everything. I held a jumble sale in the house, gave things away and loaned things to people. Years later, I’d go into people’s houses, recognize something that I used to live with and ask: “Did I give you this or lend you it?” But that day, we had two bags and I have many times thought of the wonderful freedom of that moment. All we owned was what we carried, we had no home and nowhere to go back to, just a destination and it just happened to be on the other side of the planet. We caught the bus into Dumfries and then the train to London and flight to Delhi, which we almost missed because there was a big queue in the woman’s toilet. Not for the last time, my name was called as the ‘last remaining passenger…’
(A little note on the photos here – none of them are mine originally. I’m writing this while I’m in China and what photos I do have are in a box in Bulgaria – sometime in the future they’ll get scanned onto this page)
I should add that there was someone else with us. Since deciding to go I had become pregnant. We were under a bit of pressure at the time from all of Davy’s relatives, and from most of the people that we knew in Castle Douglas, actually. It wasn’t so much about going to India but the fact that we were taking a two year old child with us (as if we’d go without her?) Part of the whole plan was to bring the children up somewhere different. So when I thought I was pregnant, I couldn’t stand the hassle of people freaking out so we thought we just wouldn’t tell anyone. However I did actually need to confirm that I was pregnant. I couldn’t go to the local Health Centre – no secrets there. Nor could I go into the local chemist to get a testing kit – from there it would have probably taken all of ten minutes for the news to spread. I had to go 25 miles to Dumfries to an anonymous chemist. After all that, it was confirmed that I was definitely pregnant, but we didn’t think this should change our plans. Thousands of babies are born every year in India so, we were sure it would all be fine and we’d sort it out when we got there. So there were actually four of us who set off on that journey.
We flew the flag with British Airways. It was a good indicator of our changing fortunes that when we left India a couple of years later, we flew with Aeroflot, who may have a poor safety record, but without exception had the best airline food I had ever tasted.
But back to the beginning. When we arrived in Delhi, the airport appeared to be some kind of big shed with birds flying around – a little bit different from Heathrow. We took a bus into the centre –to Connaught Circus. It was about 5 o’clock in the morning and as we drove through the suburbs it all looked so beautiful. There were not many people around and we caught glimpses of gorgeous, exotic buildings with verandas and bougainvillea flowing over the walls. Things were starting to get a bit more lively as we got to Connaught Circus where we took a taxi to Pahr Gang. Davy knew where he was going so I just soaked in everything, pretty much in silence. The flowery suburbs had given way to the impressive buildings of the city centre and now we were heading out in the other direction and the scenery changed quite dramatically. I watched the people of Delhi getting ready for the day: washing, eating, cleaning their teeth, spitting, feeding babies – all the stuff that you normally do, but it was all outside on the street.
We slowed down at a busy crossroads. With so much going on, it was hard to take it all in: someone getting a shave, a dead dog, a boy carrying a tray of tea, a machine squeezing mangoes, a man squatting beside an enormous wok stirring milk, children running around, big white cattle just sort of standing there, a woman feeding a baby, a man standing by a clay oven making chapattis, some old men sitting on the edge of some beds talking and drinking tea….. We turned a corner. More life just going on in front of me and then the taxi stopped. I was quite taken aback to realise that we had arrived – on this street with a dead dog and some cows. I probably hadn’t spoken much since we got off the plane – I don’t think I had the words for what I was seeing and I wanted to make sure that it was all real. We dumped our stuff in the hotel and went for a wander around the streets. I didn’t speak for the next hour. Davy had a shave, we drank some fresh mango juice, Elly was attracting lots of attention and this teeming life was just happening all around me. I had never been in the midst of so much activity before and I was seeing it in breathtaking technicolour, complete with smells. I don’t think it’s possible to describe the smell of India – it needs to be experienced so that you can keep that memory in the smell file. But you can’t open those files on your own – the key is some other smell or hint of one, somewhere, sometime that instantly takes you back to that market in Delhi.
But while I was trying to absorb and make sense of all of these images and sensations, I kept remembering that I wasn’t on holiday. I had come to live here and I had never seen anything so alien in all my life. I was going to bring my daughter up here (oh, and I was pregnant of course – think about that later). Davy didn’t speak much – I think he knew what was going on in my head and he said later that he was a bit worried at that point, but after about 45 minutes I took a deep breath and thought, right, we live in India. It was a long way from standing at the bottom of Allendale Road in Newcastle when I was 7 and wondering what was on the other side of the River Tyne and, of course, it wasn’t a destination but it was pretty interesting stop along the way.
As soon as I relaxed and started thinking positively about my new life, I realized that I couldn’t breathe.
If you ever go to India – don’t arrive in May. The word monsoon usually makes us think about rain (more of that later), but more significant is the pre-monsoon period. If you cast your mind back to geography at school and all the stuff about winds around the oceans, you might remember some swirling arrows that come west across the Indian Ocean, then sweep up the west coast of India bringing the monsoon. But what brings them there in the first place? Wind is used by nature to fill in vacuums and, this is the key bit, there is a great big vacuum sitting right over Delhi and the central plain of India. As the heat builds up, the pressure changes and the winds get sucked in. Then the rain falls and the crops are watered and everything grows. But going back to that bit about the heat and the pressure – it basically boils down to a complete lack of breathable air. There is no breeze or any air movement at all – everything is hot including the air that you are trying to breathe. Years later, my friend Mel asked me when was a good time to go to India, after she had already booked a flight for June. Very bad idea – but she didn’t believe me till she got there.
It’s really easy to panic. The air going into your lungs is hot and doesn’t appear to have any oxygen in it at all. Even moving in a car just means you get hit by hot air, there’s nothing refreshing about it all. You can see why the British quickly decided to leg it up to the hills and, after a couple of days, so did we. It took a few hours to get the tickets then we headed off to the station for the overnight train – the Jamu-Tawi express. Our train apparently was about three hours late and other trains, due in the afternoon, hadn’t turned up. I later discovered that this was quite unusual and that Indian trains are generally punctual but that night, the platform and indeed the whole station, was teeming with people. We found a space on the platform, spread out a blanket and waited like everyone else; but after a while I needed to go to the toilet – my first experience of a public toilet in India and not one I will forget – ever.
On a normal day, I expect this was just a regular toilet area with about four cubicles; but at that moment every toilet was full, and I mean full, and the floor was a carpet of neat little piles of poo. In order to add to the piles, you had to delicately tiptoe around and find safe passage for your feet and then squat. Everyone turned to face the wall as they used the facilities, the idea being that if you can’t see someone, they can’t see you. This works really well and is often the only way you can get any privacy. I had many interesting and varied toilet experiences in India, but that was a pretty powerful initiation.
Eating, shitting and sleeping are things that are done in ‘private’. On a train once, going past a factory, I saw about fifty men squatting down to eat their food – each was facing the wall in one big line, and at dawn you will frequently see lines of bare bums as their owners pretend that no-one else is around. For private sleeping all you do is pull a shawl over your head. First you lay a blanket on the ground, then surround yourself with whatever possessions you have, then cover all of you and your stuff with a shawl or sari length and just go to sleep. Everyone will walk around you and no-one will bother you.
The train, when it came, was fine. It was my first steam train and the beginning of a very close relationship for me with Indian trains – that must have been my grandfather’s genes – he was a Fireman on the main London to Edinburgh line. All the train routes have their own number like the Kalka-Howra Mail Train was the ‘25 up’ and on the way back to Calcutta (Howra Station) it was the ‘26 down’. Some of them were a bit special like the Pink City Express which actually is pink, all over and inside. It goes from Delhi to Jaipur – the Pink City. We had been given a tourist train timetable which was exciting at first but then I realized it was a very abbreviated version and was limited to main cities. I then discovered the real train timetable book and it became my little bible. I know it’s a bit sad, but I love train timetables. When I’m on ‘Desert Island Discs’, my book will be the ‘Thomas Cook Train Timetables for the World’ – this is a real book and its published every month.1 You can plan journeys from say, Newcastle to Ulan Bator via Casablanca. What else would you do on a Desert Island? For anyone who is familiar with the wonderful BBC Radio 4 and Desert Island Discs, my luxury item would be Ray Mears.
I eventually ended up with a bag of train timetables, most of them well thumbed editions. But with Indian trains you don’t just look at the departure time and the arrival time – you need to see how many pages, and therefore how many days it actually takes to get from A to B. It took, in those days, 52 hours (or about four pages), to get from Delhi to Travandrum on the southern tip – and Delhi isn’t even in the far north. Still there is nothing boring about long train journeys in India. In fact I can’t imagine being bored for one minute in India. You might sit down to rest in some busy little market place with just the usual stuff going on – and then an elephant walks around the corner. Walking down to the shops one day in Lelupul, I watched the winter migration of the herds of buffalo and sheep from the high pastures. I sat for an hour and watched something that had been happening in the same way for hundreds of years, and they were just as fascinated by me.
Every time a train stops at a station people run up to the windows to sell things, usually food or tea in unfired clay pots that you throw out the window when you’ve finished. For about four or five stops you’ll be offered the same things and then the train moves into a different area with more rain maybe, different soil or different traditions and so the food changes and the local delicacy of that area would be for sale. But there’s more to the food system than that. At some point in the journey a steward takes your order for lunch – the choice being veg or non-veg. I loved being in a country where vegetarians are in the majority- you never had to worry that something was sneakily cooked in meat stock or that you might find some threads of meat amongst the rice – no – this was real dedicated non meat eating. So, having made your choice, the steward jumps off at the next station and phones the order through to a station a couple of stops down the line. All the meals, on Thali plates, are loaded on and brought round. You have about three stops to eat it and then the plates go off at the next stop. I once asked for a cup of tea at a tiny little hill station and got a tray with a bone china tea set complete with sugar lumps.
A word on tea – chai. It was the catalyst for the beginning of the British Empire and is available everywhere in India – tea, but not as we know it. Chai is made by putting some water into a pan, throwing in a big pinch of small leaf black tea per person, the same amount of sugar, a good dollop of milk and then boiling it for about five minutes. It’s then served in glasses, which do not break with the heat, but they do burn your fingers.
We had a plan to find breathable air -we were heading to Daramsala. On the first evening in Delhi, sitting having a chai, Davy recognized a face in the crowd and we got chatting to an old mate from Galloway…as you do. The alternative world, the hippy or new age world, is quite a small world and people tend to do the same things and go to the same places so it wasn’t really too weird to meet someone you knew in a bazaar in Delhi. We actually bumped into a few old friends and acquaintances over the next two years. I met a woman I had worked with at the Dole in Newcastle and a guy I worked with behind the bar in the Old George, but one day, in Goa, as Davy was delivering an apple pie, he met a guy he had last seen in Gibraltar ten years ago. This guy had been on his way to Australia then and now, on his way back, he immediately recognised the 6’5” Scotsmen who baked pies and cakes. Very small world.
Some people told us that Daramsala and MaCloud Ganj, just above it, were the places to go, so off we went. The journey took a few days as we were slowed down by the fact that my digestive system was catching up with what I had been eating. I didn’t see any point in purifying the water as we couldn’t do that for ever, so we might as well get acclimatized. Sadly, you can’t time that process and having a dose of the shits on a train is a bit of a hassle especially when the ‘toilet’ is a big hole on the floor of a moving train with just a rail to hold on to while you squat.
It’s hard not to keep coming back to the subject of toilets and in fact, shit in general. It is useful to be able to actually see your waste product when there is a very good chance that you might have contracted hepatitis or something similar. So taking a look at your little pile of shit and just checking its colour and consistency is a really good health check. For example, one of the first indicators of hepatitis is that your shit goes white and your pee is black. Simple, basic and useful.
Toilets in India. Hmm – everyone you meet who has been there will have a few toilet stories and as toilets don’t exactly exist, those stories can be very interesting. I’ll just tell you my favourite.
When we were settled in Lelupul we made friends with the local Rhana – rather like the village Squire. He had a big house down on the floor of the valley. It had a square stone entrance room and upstairs were a number of rooms build on a wooden verandah that went round the whole building. We had been invited for tea which was lovely and then I asked to go to the toilet. I was taken along the corridor and ushered into a room as the door closed behind me. I was standing in a completely empty room. Lovely wooden walls and floor and plenty of light, but nothing else. Then I saw the hole in the middle of the floor. It was about a metre square and there was nothing at all to hold on to. When I looked down through the hole I saw that about ten metres below was a forest of huge prickly pear bushes – King Cobras’ favourite place. I’m often struck by the kind of information that I consider useful in foreign places, like knowing where King Cobras live but it just confirmed that I did not want to fall down that hole. I somehow managed to stand over the hole and had the scariest pee I ever had. As soon as I got back to the tea room, I whispered to Davy to go to the toilet but its not really the same for men. Enough of toilets, although they may sneak into the story later.
The first thing that you can’t help noticing when you arrive in Daramsala are the snowy peaks of the Himalayas – very big, very high and very close. Everything was either up or down here and the little streets were quite steep. On closer inspection, later, on a picnic up beyond Macloud Ganj, I could see houses and even small villages dotted around these mountain sides. I couldn’t figure out how people got there or what they did and how they lived. I couldn’t imagine living in a place like that but I was soon to find out.
The Dalai Llama lives in Daramsala along with most of the Tibetan refugees who fled the Chinese invasion. I never actually got to see him but I did get really into Tibetan food. There are lots of noodles and dumplings – Momos and most things are floating in some kind of delicious soup. There were also lots of things in yoghurt. I had got over my Delhi belly by this stage and, as there wasn’t a ton of chilli in everything, it was easy and lovely to eat.
We rented a house just out of the town on the walking path up to Macloud. There were two houses together and next door was a music teacher. He taught sitar and tabla and he had a lot of pupils. It was lovely having music around all day and I got to closely examine a sitar. I hadn’t realized that you only actually play one string. The sitar students seemed a bit more advanced than those learning tabla; they just seemed to tap out the same rhythm all the time – it’s going through my head again now – tum, titty, tar tar, tar tar, tar tar…..
Out the back of the house was a water hole. It must have been a spring and it fed into a neat pool about three metres square. I would watch the women going there with their children and their washing. They would put the child down somewhere and then just carry on talking and washing. The children never moved. They just sat obediently and quietly. I could not figure out how they did this. How can children sit still? I learned more about this later after Alex was born .
There were a lot of Europeans around Macloud and there was a hippy market amongst the trees on a Sunday morning. It felt a bit too familiar to me and I wanted to be in India and not hanging out with the same kind of people I’d known in Galloway so, after a couple of weeks, we headed to Simla which as the crow flies is not very far away but you have to go around a portion of the Himalayas so it took a couple of days. This was fortuitous as it happened, because we stayed in a guest house in some small village and met an old Indian guy who just happened to be looking for someone to live in his house in return for harvesting his apple crop. This was worth exploring so we set off with him but first a few words about Simla.
We didn’t really have a plan about where we were going to go in India. We knew we wanted to find somewhere to settle down for a while and I guess we both felt confident that the right opportunity would present itself. I didn’t know then that this was called ‘the Universe will provide’. But the only definite kind of thing was that I wanted to go to Simla. I can’t really say why, it was just one of those magical names that was calling out to me.
Coming back to the lack of air in Delhi, I can always imagine some Victorian official of the Raj saying ‘go and build me a summer capital in the mountains somewhere’ with an imperious wave of the hand. I imagine some exploratory regiment trekking up the Himalayas and eventually seeing this ridge between two peaks and thinking –‘ah, that’ll do’. Its one of the maddest places to build a city. I guess it’s changed beyond all recognition now although I’m very curious to know how the gradient has been conquered, but in the early 80s, it was breathtaking in its madness.
I’ll try to describe it, starting at the top. There’s a wide ridge that runs for about a mile between a few forested hill tops. They’re actually mountain tops but the whole thing is at about 2,500 metres so its relative and at that point, they are just hills. The road winds from one hilltop to the other and in the forests are the big posh houses where the government officials lived.
On the open part of the road, across the ridge, it’s about the width of a dual carriageway. This is The Mall and during the Raj, it was the main socialising point where people strolled along in the cool of the evening. White people, that is. Indians were not allowed up here. After Independence, Indians carried on the tradition of promenading along the Mall and hanging out at Gossip’s Corner. But whilst the people on the Mall are interesting, that pales into insignificance when you look up and cast your eyes north. There is a little low wall on which you can sit and then there is an open vista for miles and miles that is just snowy peak after snowy peak. I can’t imagine that there is a more breathtaking view when you walk out of a shop
than that one.
And talking of shops, if you then turn around and look at the south side of the Mall, you could be on Blackpool promenade in the 1950’s. There was a row of houses and shops that could be anywhere in Britain but there’s a tourist air about them. I don’t think you’ll see another row of houses like that anywhere in India – I wonder if its still there? But while you are gazing at this relic of the Raj, cast your eye further east and there is a church – a typical English church with a spire, and right next to it a Tudor-style black and white house. What a wonderful interchange of cultures – England now has wonderful Asian markets and The Raj left a country church.
So, you’re standing on the ridge, mountains on one side, England on the other, and there is a sheer drop over the little wall on the north side. Somewhere down there are houses but I never found out how to get there. On the other side, behind the row of shops, is another world –the Bazaar. Any bazaar in India is fascinating: shops selling wonderful, colourful exotic vegetables, some of them unrecognisable. (Have you ever seen ginger when it comes out of the ground? It doesn’t look like it does in Tesco), A daba is a place to eat where maybe you have to sit on an old box and eat off a table made of…..anything; toy shops selling awful, dangerous toys such as little cars made of metal with sharp bits that will cut your finger off and loads of stationary and school book shops. In these shops there would often be someone to write letters for you if you couldn’t write yourself. There’d be sari and jewelry stores and of course bangle shops which were my favourite. If you go into one of those accessory shops in a UK high street and it looks impressive and sparkly, imagine something a hundred times more sparkly, glittery and blingy. Even better, they are colour co-ordinated. All the bangles come in sets and the shops will be lined from floor to ceiling. There isn’t a front window – one side is open to the street and you sit inside on a white sheet to get fitted.
The streets of the Bazaar in Simla are narrow and winding but what makes this Bazaar unique is that the gradient of the streets is about 1 in 2. It is built up the side of the ridge and there were two places in particular where it was impossible to put your foot flat on the ground – it was so steep. At the bottom was the train station and one of the bus stations. The other bus station was on the other side of the ridge and to get to it you had to either walk up and over, or go through one of the scariest tunnels ever. It wasn’t very long but water dripped from the roof and there were strange and bizarre things growing down from it – I didn’t get close enough to examine them. Best to take a taxi through there.
There are porters everywhere in India – you always get someone to carry your stuff. They usually hang around stations and balance ten suitcases on their heads, but if you think that’s impressive, they’ve got nothing on the porters in Simla. Davy is Scottish and the general name that is used, in Scotland, for anyone whose name you don’t know, is Jimmy or rather ..Jimmeh. So finding a porter for Davy meant standing at the corner of a Bazaar
and shouting ‘hey Jimmeh’. Consequently we ended up referring to the porters in Simla as ‘the Jimmies’, but that was not any way a derogatory term because these guys were awesome – a correct usage of that word. They didn’t look particularly strong, in fact they were often quite skinny, wearing a variation on rags and sometimes bare feet but they were indomitable when it came to carrying stuff up that steep Bazaar. If it was a really big load, like a full oil drum, three of them would strap themselves together with rope, hoist the drum on their backs, tie it on and then walk in step up the windey streets. Everyone just got out of their way because they walked bent over at a 90 degree angle, and once they started I don’t think they could stop or they’d fall over backwards. I often wondered how physically different these guys’ hearts must be from mine. They’d probably grown up at high altitude and been carrying stuff up and down mountains all their lives.
I loved Simla and I felt that my instinct to go there had been right. We stayed a couple of days in a hotel and then ventured a little further north. The ridge carries on as a road and weaves around mountain peaks – remember they are just hills up there – so one minute the snowy peaks are to the left, then the bus goes around the corner and the view is down a deep valley to the right. About 20 miles north of Simla, at a joining of three valleys, is Fagu. There is no town or even a chai shop but there is a lovely little lodge. This really is a relic of the Raj. It’s a low building, all wood, with rooms leading out on to a verandah. The furniture is Victorian, each room has an open fire and the staff, who all wore complicated turbans, called me Memshab. Sorry, but I loved it.
There was a lawn in front of the building and to the north, of course, were the usual snowy peaks but on the right
was a wooden bench under a couple of cedar trees. There was a pretty steep drop down but the view was along a very deep and very long valley. It seemed to get dark down there very early and I wondered who lived there and what their lives were like. I didn’t know it then but I would spend most of the next year down in that valley, looking up towards Fagu.
We stayed at Fagu for a couple of days mainly because it was so enchanting and one morning I decided to stay on the lawn and read while Davy and Elly went into Simla to do something. I settled down with my book on the lovely wicker garden seat with a blanket around my legs. The only thing missing was the gin and tonic, but tea from a matching set served by a lovely guy who called me Memshab was a good substitute. I did keep forgetting that I was pregnant and sometimes the tiredness just came on in a wave. Sitting there in the truly magnificent setting, drinking tea on another continent, wrapped up and warm with a good book was idyllic. Then a bus came around the corner and 45 Indian tourists piled off, chattering and laughing. They saw me and all 45 of them stood around in a circle and stared. I got my first taste of being a tourist attraction and the spell was broken.
We moved along the road a little further to Theog. The road from here goes north to dangerous places near the Chinese border. We did venture up there once on a day trip to Narkanda which wasn’t really very exciting but you couldn’t go much further because it was an army patrolled zone. I chose not to think about the fact that we were so near to a contentious border.
The other road out of Theog veered off to the right and went down, and down and down to the deep valley. But first, two chance meetings.
Rajinda Singh was one of the best things that ever happened to my ego and self confidence. He was the Typing Dentist who lived in a cave. We were staying in the Government Guest House in Theog, and at about 8 o’clock one night, three guys came knocking on the door. They asked if we had any dollars to sell. It transpired that one of them, Rajinda, was about to go to Sofia to represent India in the World Speed Typing Championship. We, of course, didn’t even know that such a thing existed but we sat and listened in amazement to this guy’s plan for his trip around Europe. He had about 2 weeks, including the competition and he planned to go to Hungary, Poland, Italy, Spain and Slough. The concept of the Iron Curtain didn’t deter him – he said that he was Indian and he expected to be welcomed everywhere. Hmm… We sold him some dollars as at the time it was only allowed to take a tiny amount of rupees out of the country. We gently persuaded him that his schedule was a bit ambitious and introduced him to the idea of airline baggage allowance – his typewriter was an antique manual thing that weighed about the same as a wing of a plane. He obviously didn’t believe us but nevertheless we became friends and his waiting room became one of my favourite places in India.
He won The World Championship by the way.
Rajinda’s friends were all educated professionals: lawyers, doctors and teachers, and they would just hang out in the waiting room and discuss the world. Much to their initial amusement, I joined in. I learned loads about Indian politics and I found that while I didn’t have the education that they’d had or a level of expertise in any specific subject, I did have a very wide general knowledge – in fact far greater than theirs, given all the years of watching TV, listening to Radio 4 and reading the Guardian. So, as Rajinda said to Davy, he was such a lucky man to have a wife who could speak with such authority on each and every subject – usually only a couple of sentences but it was enough to impress. It was great – I loved spending time with these great guys. They hung on to my every word. But while all the talking was going on, Rajinda would be typing. He did about five hours practice every day just for fun. He typed all his friends’ documents at dictation speed – and all with that antique machine.
He asked me one day if he could look at my ‘stoppings’. It took me a moment to realize he meant the fillings in my teeth, then I followed him into the surgery. You didn’t need an anaesthetic in that chair –you just had to look in front of you. There was a large window and the view went rolling down the very steep sides of the valley in front, huge pine trees up the sides and little clouds – the clouds were below us! And then you took your eyes up and there were those snowy peaks again. It was a bit weird looking at that incredible view while someone had their hands in your mouth but I’m pleased to say the NHS dentists passed the test.
We couldn’t figure out where Rajinda’s house was. He said it was attached to the surgery, but where? Then one day we were invited for dinner, where we also met his previously invisible wife. We went through the back of the surgery and he opened a trap door in the floor. Down we went to the house and it took a few minutes to register that the walls were a peculiar shade of grey because it was actually a cave. It was quite bizarre, like most things about Rajinda, but mainly because the ceiling, also stone, was very low. I could barely stand up and Davy, being 6’5”, had no chance. Actually Rajinda was quite tall too, maybe that was why he spent so much time upstairs.
In his spare time, Rajinda made false teeth. If I ever go back to India, I hope he’ll still be there.
There was an old guy staying at the guest house. He lived in Manali and had come over to check out his property. He was of the generation who had been around during the Raj and he regretted the demise of law and order as he saw it. We chatted on explaining that we were looking for somewhere to settle down for a while and we had just sort of wandered into this area. It was obviously our karma to meet him because it just so happened that he had a house ‘near by’ and he would be very grateful if we would live it in and take care of it for him. All we had to do in exchange was harvest his apples and take them to market. ‘Near by’ turned out to be down in that deep valley and half way up the other side – Lelupul – our home to be for the next year or so….. and a whole other story.
1This journey took place in 1983 which was obviously pre-internet. The original Thomas Cook Rail Timetable has sadly ceased but there is now an online version named European Rail Timetables.