Between 2007 and 2009 Carol and I lived in India where I worked a musician and Carol ran her own restaurant. After spending years working in Social Care we both decided we had had enough and needed a break; another sad catalyst was losing our grandson Xander at the age of 4 months which we felt to be a wake up call – he had been denied life so why on earth were we not living it more fully?
I have many memories of this time, most happy, though some sad, and this page is dedicated to that time in my life. As with many of my other pages this one is a work in progress which I add to as my memories return.
Mumbai 27 November 2008
Wrapped in the white skin of an Englishman
Lies a heart and a soul
That grieves alongside
My Indian associates
My Indian family
My Indian friends
Colour doesn’t separate
Nor will it ever for me
Today I grieve
For your India
For my India
For our India
And the next day
And the one after
I will again give thanks
For our beautiful land
And keep alive the memories
The shared times
In my heart
In my soul
Of those lost
Cruelty rules the unforgiving streets
The stench of abuse pervades the baking heat
Women and children rifle garbage and filth of weeks gone by
watching their menfolk drink another bottle dry
Hopeless migrants hang from trees and hang from ceiling fans
Another woman dies on fire her sari caught in a hot oil pan
Meanwhile pavements disappear beneath a sea of skin and bone
of dalits, untouchables, don’t go there, they dont have a slum to call their own
Remind me Lord why they are them, why I am me, and how it came
to pass through eyes so blessed by You, my vision brings me only shame.
THE PRIVILEDGED NECK
In the part of India where we lived was an Indian Naval base and it wasn’t unusual to see Naval Officers being ferried around by chauffers in the back of an old Ambassador.
When an Indian Officer got to a certain rank he qualified to have a pair of curtains fitted along the back window to protect his priviledged neck from the baking sun.
On one occasion such a car overtook me on the road to Panjim and the curtains at the back indicated a senior arse was sitting on the back seat. Strangely, however, the curtains were only half drawn. It seems that a less senior officer was travelling with the senior officer but his neck wasn’t as priviledged and had to bear the brunt of the midday sun.
SAFETY HELMETS FOR TWO WHEELER DRIVERS
There’s a law in Goa stipulating that when someone drives a scooter or a motorbike on Highway 17 they must wear a safety helmet. Their passenger(s), regardless of how many, need not; in fact the wearing helmets is nothing at all to do with safety.
Failure to wear a helmet when driving a two wheeler attracts a fine if caught. The chances of being caught are quite high because the police have a canny knack of hiding behind trees and just walking out onto the highway in front of helmet-less riders. The amount of the fine depends on how wealthy (or poor) the offender looks, how green the offender appears, and what time of the month it is; the last week before police paydays usually attract a heavy presence of their officers on the highway.
The locals are quite an innovative community who rather than spend a rupee if they don’t have to will make-do-and-mend, and it’s not unusual to see home made substitues for helmets. My favourite example was seeing a guy overtake my car one day with half a football on his head 🙂
Palms to my right, blue skies and sun above, the Arabian Sea to my left and warm sand under my feet. What a wonderful world.
The ‘hearse’ was a blue van with bench seats up each side at the back for the mourners to sit on, while the deceased lay on the floor between the feet of the mourners.
Looking closely I realised that the double back doors of the hearse were ajar as it drove up the road and out of the back stuck the feet of the deceased. It seems he was so tall that they couldn’t shut the back doors.
Further on the van stopped and the driver got out and tied a rope from one door to the other. They also took the rope around the ankles of the deceased lest he slid out of the back. I didn’t think it proper to photograph that.
Running out of petrol in India is never really a problem; a push is never far away.
More efficient than anything I’ve seen in the west.
MY INDIAN CAR
I’m not especially a car person but the car I had in India I was particularly fond of. It was a brand new jet black Suzuki Zen Estilo Lxi and gleamed in the sun.
On one of my dozens of visits to Kiran Niketan I parked in the playground as usual and then went inside to do a singalong session. After the singalong I came out and drove home.
As I got out of the car at home I noticed the mother of all scratches across the drivers door; on closer inspection it seemed to be someone’s name!!
I immediately rang Sister Lygia, the School Head, and spelled out the name scratched on my door, demanding to meet the little fellow at the earliest opportunity. Sure enough they apprehended the culprit and I shot off to the school to confront him.
I was sitting in the School Heads office working out how to put the fear of Jesus into the boy when in walked the culprit……. A little girl! Not just a little girl but the tiniest little girl in the school. After a serious grilling by the nuns it seemed the little girl had not wanted me to leave after the singalong session and felt by scratching her name on my car a part of her would be always with me.
It seemed that the little girl was so ashamed after being spoken to by the nuns that she kept her head facing the floor. She knew she had done wrong and had said sorry so there was nothing more to be said. All I could do was take her hand and smile. My reward was her raising her head and smiling back at me. Priceless.
I never did have her name polished off the door.
Sundar Bacha Kiran Niketan
With Pooja at Bogmalo
In the tree house at our restaurant Limeys, Velsau
With Carol at Limeys
With Carol (The ‘real’ Patrow) at Limeys
I don’t think either of us ever thought in a million years when we married in 1975, as a pair of skint youngsters, that come 2008 we’d be running a restaurant in India. Hey…never say never!
A very favourite photograph; with one of the most beautiful animals in the world.
Cruising up the Mandovi River
Always a river boy, after the Tyne the Mandovi has always been one I feel so at home on.
You can drive in India
If you don’t expect other drivers to use indicators and you don’t mind them pulling out from side roads in front of you without warning, then you can drive in India.
If you can cope with other drivers using their horns incessantly, often for no apparent reason – other than they are going round a corner, then you can drive in India.
If you don’t mind everyone using a full beam at night because there are no street lights, cats eyes or white lines, then you can drive in India.
If you are happy to share the roads with hundreds of pedestrians, given there are no pavements, then you can drive in India.
If you enjoy negotiating pot-holes, piles of garbage, and all manner of construction materials dumped on the roads, then you can drive in India.
If you are also happy to share the roads with all forms of wildlife, in particular cows, dogs, and the occasional elephant, cool, then you can drive in India.
If you don’t mind being pulled over by corrupt coppers whenever the fancy takes them for no other reason than the fact that they’re broke and are after a bung, then you can drive in India.
If you are not particular about other road users being well oiled with alcohol, then you can drive in India.
There are some plusses. A tenner in the tank will probably take you more that 400 kilometres (assuming you can bear driving 440 kilometres). And repairs are extremely cheap which is just as well because the chances are you are going to need a few. Oh yes, and don’t park your car under a coconut tree.
If you got it flaunt it