TOILET GRAFFITI – MA CALACO’S, DELHI, NEW YEAR 1977

Our Delhi accommodation so far was a hotel that reminded us of a brothel and a hostel that was basically a doss house – Ma Calaco’s.  But she kept a motherly eye on us – providing us with old sleeping bags (I don’t like to think how often they’d been used and by whom) and turfing out two blokes to another room so we could have charpoys to sleep on.

It may have been basic but you can always tell a high-class establishment by the graffiti On the toilet walls:

GOD IS DEAD (VOLTAIRE)

and underneath

VOLTAIRE IS DEAD (GOD)

HOGMANAY IN DELHI – dancing to Abba with Delhi’s "trendy" then ending up in hash-filled doss house; 1977 begins.

[The New Year, 1977, was seen in rushing around in a Buik between posh parties in Delhi and dancing to Abba.  But Nikki was ill and all we really wanted to do was go back to Ma Calaco’s doss house and our hash-smoking room-mate – an eccentric but kind Dutchman who caught mice and made us coffee!]

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976  – Part Three

This party was full of the trendy young of Delhi – all in Western clothes.  Abba was playing.  Small room for dancing – Nikki and I both dancing with JB Singh.  Although it was the house of best friend Chris, he kept saying they only went to such a small party so others wouldn’t say they were too grand to come – some friends!  Nobody seemed particularly ecstatic to see them!

Nikki not at all well and nearly asleep.  Kept asking them to take us home but wouldn’t listen; said we had to go to another party first.  Nikki pleading with them by this time.  Stopped at really posh place – big party of about 100 people – but we sat in car while JB went into say hello.  Already Pixie telling him to look out for other girls – kept boasting that all the “trendy” people of Delhi were there – all properly invited etc.  Imagine if we’d walked into such a place with our jeans on!

Finally agree to take us home to Mrs Calaco’s.  JB insisted we’d meet next day at open air garden.  Dutchman and weird Yank who’d moved out for us, were in the room – stoned on hashDutchman quite amusing and cheerful though strange.  Long fair hair and long beard – made us some coffee. Fell into our dirty sleeping bags and slept.”

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!”