DELHI DESIGNERS – we are models of Indian hippy clothes for a day! 1977

[For a day we became models and advisors for a small Delhi clothing business that was selling to the hippy market in Germany.  The best part was being invited into an ordinary family home with a view over the rooftops and given a delicious Indian lunch.  And there was good news to follow …]

THURSDAY 16TH JANUARY, 1977

Had breakfast [in the YMCA] with Bali, the Sikh.  Went to his room and Nikki tried on different fashions – very attractive and original designs.  Took us to his “factory” – his own family house in side streets of Delhi.  Lots of family help in the business.  Went to room at top with nice patio – great view over street below and roof tops of Delhi.  Nice white-washed walls.

Nikki tried on loads of clothes and I gave advice!  Lots had to be altered slightly – brother, cousin and designer all there too!  (I tried on nice maxi cheese-cloth dress for fun).

Afterwards we had tea on patio, then lunch below – sister-in-law made lovely meal of curd, curried cauliflower, curried tiny beans, chapatis and salad.  Then Bali directed us to B.A from his house.

No news.  Back to hotel – reading when phone went – B.A said tickets should be here tomorrow!  Nikki has money at High Commission if necessary!  Celebrated with sundaes at “Kwalitys”!

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DELHI YMCA – witches, hair washing and Whisky Galore, 1977

[The YMCA continues to be our home as it becomes increasingly obvious that Asian Greyhound have never sent tickets for our return home – paid for the previous September.  But eccentric ballerina’s, a clothes sale and Whisky Galore keep up our spirits.]

TUESDAY 4TH JANUARY, 1977

We were joined at breakfast by one of the “witches”!! (Two bony women with scraped back black hair, pencilled eyebrows and tight-skinned, gaunt faces, who sit in garden too – Nikki calls them the witches).  She was Aussie with cultivated English accent; loved London and the Arts (!) – a ballerina also feeling “the call of India”.  Runs her own company and has a theatre room in the Sydney Opera House!  Very easy to talk to but we can imagine a Prima Dona.

Into B.A – Nikki got telegram – her parents in touch with Asian Greyhound – said sent ticket on 20th Dec! (Supposed to be in Kathmandu by 14th!)  She sent another saying to buy ticket as desperate.  Went to GPO – no tickets.

Read!  Bored silly again.  Went into B.A in evening. Nothing.  (No shops open but had found chemist, so washed hair in afternoon for something to do!)  Sale still on – succumbed to temptation and tried on half of garments!  Had great time tossing clothes all over the place! (Bought 2 tops again).

Waiters in a bad mood tonight – ours was rude and refused to change a note for us, as well as ignoring us and serving us last!  Bed early – reading “Whisky Galore” now!”

STILL IN DELHI WITH NO TICKET HOME … 1977

[Another day of fruitless searching through post office mail and waiting for telexed replies to our messages home via British Airways.  I escaped to the world of Cathy and Heathcliff …]

MONDAY 3RD JANUARY, 1977

“Into B.A in morning – no messages.  Went to Delivery GPO – man at desk asked for intimation again but let us up this time.  Nothing came – checked American Express mail too. 

Read [Wuthering Heights] in garden most of day.  Sale on in hall [at YMCA] – had pleasant half an hour going through tops and dresses – we bought 2 small tops!

Bed early – nothing else to do.”

DELHI YMCA – reading, sleeping, eating and being preyed on by the CHILDREN OF GOD, 1977

[In the sanctuary of the YMCA we slept and read and ate, waiting for news of tickets or contact with family.  Temptation came in a strange form – young wide-eyed converts to the Children of God (a cult that believed Jesus was coming within the next 20 years) who wanted us to go and stay with them.  We’d never have to worry about the next meal or running out of money again – they would look after us.  We’d heard rumours about free love and that they’d been kicked out of Kathmandu for proselytising, so politely declined.] 

SUNDAY 2ND JANUARY, 1977

Big breakfast – cornflakes, poached eggs, toast and coffee.  Phoned B.A to see if any telex – but no reply yet.  Sat on veranda and wrote diary!  Feel better staying in nicer place and not wandering the streets of Delhi.

Sat in small garden below and had coffee.  Read all afternoon.

“Children of God” came and talked to us in lobby.  Strange but cheerful.  I still reserved opinion – don’t like the St Paul approach having it [religion] rammed at me.  Theirs is a new order they say – will have nothing to do with the old – I don’t agree there because rejecting too many people out of hand.  They don’t believe they’ll have a problem of age because Jesus is coming within the next 20 years.  Their group was thrown out of Kathmandu for open preaching; in India they are taking over Mission Schools etc.
(Subsequently had 2 more of them pushing pamphlets at us in the streets).

Supper – Indian food again, then went to bed before 9.0!”

HOGMANAY IN DELHI – from doss house to posh house! scruffy overlanders join the jet-set, 1976

[The Hogmanay search for tickets goes on – we bump into a friend from the bus trip but he’s got no money left either.  Then somehow we stumble into the world of rich Sikhs and the Delhi jet-set and suddenly it’s party time – in rotting jeans!]

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

“Went back to register mail place – nice man allowed us to look through mail – nothing.  Rang up Old Delhi post office – but nothing either. 

Back to British Airways – met Ian [elderly Swaggie from bus trip] on the way!  Fell out of scooter rickshaw and rushed up to him crying and gabbling our story – so relieved to see someone we knew!  Poor Ian couldn’t understand at 1st!  Couldn’t help because no money left – flying out that night.  Went to B.A. – Telex back [from Asian Greyhound in Windsor] saying Mrs Flynn away till 4th Jan, but no details!  Ian and nice Brum girl came in.  Asked them what they thought of telexing home for money for 2nd ticket as B.A. suggested.  She said A.G. could easily cancel and refund 1st ticket and Ian said they must! 

Felt doubtful because Mum and Dad not on phone [on Skye for New Year], could only give Granny’s address and number.  They encouraged us to go ahead – so B.A. sent off telegram.  Other alternative was to wait and see if tickets come – but money running out and if with Ariana or Iraqi – wont be flying till at least next weekend.  Felt at our wits end.  Had to cash more money – asking rickshaw man for Ivory Hotel – in fact was Imperial I meant.

Sikh came up and asked us what wanted.  Said would walk us to Imperial Hotel becuase going that way, then said cold so must have a coffee.  Doubled back to open air restaurant – lovely Xmas tinsel streamers etc gleaming in dark.  He invited us to party for New Year’s Eve with Embassy people etc!  We only had jeans to wear (mine just about rotting away!)  Said it didn’t matter.  Took us to Imperial – really posh – his relations ran it!  No cheque service till Monday! 

Dropped us at Mrs Calaco’s to get ready.  Nice American occupying 4th bed in the room – he felt lost, wondering what people were doing for New Year’s Eve.  Went to Palace Heights to see if Gary and Beryl were there [friends made in Kathmandu] but they didn’t turn up – so met J.B. Singh who took us out in taxi to posh part of New Delhi – full of Embassy people.  Took us to his uncle’s house – uncle is a member of Mrs Gandhi’s gov! and very high up in Sikh religion – pictures of him with parliament and a painting of great religious conversion with him on elephant!  He’s 86 – was out to dinner in poshest hotel in Delhi.  Cousin came down – a real character – Indian playboy grown to fat; talked all the time about his trips to Europe, his girlfriends, the jet set in Delhi – said would take us to loads of hotels and parties and have better time than at home!

He waited for his father to bring car back while JB took us to a really posh hotel  – Akbar Hotel – very modern and plush guards on the door dressed in red uniforms and medal ribbons.  Everyone in gorgeous saris and smart suits.  Sat in one of bars and drank cinzano red!  Nearly £1 for each drink – super!  Waiter dropped tray load of glasses.  Cousin (called Pixie) finally came and took us in his vast smooth car – which he drove as badly as the taxi drivers – to another party.  So spent 12.0 and beginning of 1977 in the back of this huge Buick!”

HOGMANAY IN DELHI – a ticket hunt that leads to mice at Ma Calaco’s, 1976

[It’s Hogmanay but Delhi is a long way from the Isle of Skye.  Nikki and I are on a search for tickets home, existing on coffee and toast and running out of money.  It’s going to be a long last day of 1976 …]

Nikki on the bus

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

“Both woke early and checked out.  Wandered around Place, nowhere open.  Found hotel so had toast and coffee there.  Then got rickshaw to Post Restante (one of million that we got that day!) 

At P.R. bombshell hit us – no chit saying we had registered mail.  (Got letters for Di and Rob).  I asked if could check reg mail – sent to a different building.  Asked again at big school where to go – nice priestly looking men; boys playing cricket.  Found place eventually.  Asked to see reg. mail – bloke wouldn’t listen because we had no chit from the post office.  Both broke down and cried!  So he relented and took us up to nice middle-aged man in charge of the mail.  Let us look through the book.  Nothing come the whole of December for either of us (although Asian Greyhound had telexed Kathmandu that Nikki’s had arrived and mine on its way 2 weeks ago).

Told to come back at 4.  Decided to check p. restante under name Asian Greyhound – wouldn’t let us when got there.  Decided to go to British Airways and see if booked with them.  Nice [Sikh] man very helpful, sent telex to A.G. asking for details of tickets – we don’t even know the company flying with, let alone the date!  Told to come back later.

Went to Ariana [Afghan Airways] – but they’d moved.  So trailed over to new building – asked if booked with them – had no record of it.  Went to Iraqui Airways – sent upstairs (like following clues to a riddle!)  Nice man but no record of our tickets, said would telex on Monday if not arrived.

Exhausted, fell into restaurant and had coffee and omelette.  Hardly spoke felt so miserable – both on verge of tears all day.  Set off again – tried Indian Airways and Syria-Arab Airways but no luck – tickets don’t seem to exist!

Decided to find accommodation.  Shirley had given us address of Mrs Calaco’s, Janpath Lane.  Booked in – she turfed 2 weird blokes out [of room] and gave us their beds.  Filthy bare room, dark, with 4 beds in and nothing else.  Beds made of huge frames and canvas strapping for mattress.  Given 2 grotty sleeping bags because had nothing.  Both lay down – Nikki had sore throat and headache.

Watched mouse running over opposite bed and onto window ledge by bloke’s food etc.  Both burst into tears!  Never known such despair – and on Hogmanay too!  Funny Dutchman came in and brewed up some tea – said there were loads of mice and proudly showed us a trap he had made!”