Linda runs an award-winning book blog and today gave me the chance to talk about my latest novel, IN THE FAR PASHMINA MOUNTAINS and what inspired it ….
[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”!
[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!”
[It’s New Year’s Day and rather than wander the streets we decide to take refuge in the YMCA in the hope that money will come and we’ll be able to afford it. It comes with “a nice institutional atmosphere” (we must have been feeling low) and comfort food – liver and cabbage Indian style and milk jelly. It’s here that I read Wuthering Heights for the first time and am completely bowled over.]
SATURDAY 1ST JANUARY, 1977
“Decided to move out and spend money on room in YMCA because can’t be long till money comes through. The American said he’d gone to bed at 9.0 last night! Said goodbye and left.
Back to B.A. – no telex from London yet. Went to park and ate our grapefruit and some bananas. Lay in sun – I slept while Nikki wrote to Chris. Avoided open air cafe! Went to YMCA and booked in double room Rs86 – between £5-£6 including breakfast. Nice institutional atmosphere! – i.e. pretty clean, nice lobby, little balcony opposite room overlooking small courtyard with chairs and tables.
Sat and had coffee in lobby – nice American from Mrs Calaco’s came in and chatted with us – he’s thinking of changing rooms because the Dutchman snores so loudly (Nikki says surprised he doesn’t choke himself!) Walked into centre with him. We went to B.A again! No telex. Man gave us tea in back office, talked of his New Year. Insisted on NY kisses and hugs as we left! Why is it that as soon as you talk they presume they can get fresh with you?!
Went and bought more throat lozenges and asprins, then bought “Wuthering Heights” [from second-hand book stall] and went and had coffee and a pattie. On way back met JB Singh – we thought we’d avoided him so well! Authoritatively arranged that we would meet him tomorrow at open air restaurant – though we said we might be flying out. We said too ill and tired to go to his cousin’s party tonight. I had sore throat today too. Finally disengaged ourselves – he thought we were still at Mrs Calaco’s.
Back to hotel at 7.30. Nikki went straight to bed. I went down to restaurant and had lovely Indian dish – basically liver, rice and cabbage – but done up in nice sauces with strange sounding names, together with dahl (quite spicy) and sweet chutney. Then had a milk jelly and coffee. Restaurant was fairly empy and quiet. Went to bed – read Wuthering Heights till just after 9 then slept till 8.45 next morning when knock on the door!”