DELHI CAMPSITE – no money for the bright lights but happy with corned beef and salad

[Money – or lack of it – was beginning to curb my tourist choices, and reduced me to hanging out at the campsite.  But at 18 I was easily pleased – an ice-cream, a lift on a Harley Davidson and a camp supper of corned beef seemed to be all it took to keep me happy!]

Inscription in Buddhist temple, Delhi

TUESDAY 7TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

” They [Chris and Nicki] went off to embassy and we [Aussie Jan and me] went round emporiums of different states – nicely done up shops with regional handicrafts.  Got choker from Maharashtra and sandalwood letter opener/pen from Kerala.

Felt really shattered, so hunted down an ice-cream shop (best ice-cream ever – strawberry flavour) then piled into a Harley Davidson to the campsite.

Had a shower, hair wash – felt much better!
Sat in campsite cafe (on raised terrace) drinking coffee and chatting with Jan, Sue, Fred.  Lovely camp supper of salad and corned beef (no money to eat out or go to Son et Lumiere.  Caberet was on!  But too far out of town! sob sob)  There was a circus in town too.

Spent evening at cafe – big reminiscence of Durham, and Sunderland at Wembley with Di (owe her a coffee at House of Andrews!)

Others came back from Son et Lumiere – good music and lighting – and British Empire bashing in last 15 minutes!  Picked up Mike – mad Irishman working in Ceylon (VSO)”

NEW DELHI – RED FORT AND RED-HOT SCOOTER RICKSHAW RIDE

[It was chill-out time in India’s capital city and then a meander through the bazaar area, Chandni Chauk, and a hot-bottom ride into Connaught Circus in central New Delhi.]

TUESDAY 7TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

Had a lazy half a morning – coffee and actually cleaned my shoes!
Went into Delhi with Jan, Chris and Nicki by foot.  Walked up to Red Fort – I acted as official guide much to annoyance of real one who kept insisting he knew more than I did!  Had a coffee in the arcade.  (Red Ford built in 1600s by Shahjahan – put in prison by his third son who also bumped off his brothers to become Moghul)

Walked up to Chandi Chauk – very busy; amazing characters, people selling flowers of bright orange and yellow.  Women with baskets of mud on heads.  Great amount of drapers – cheap looking garments and loads of bright clothes.  Bazaar looked a bit too dingy.  Got scooter rickshaws to Connaught Circus – me and Jan got into a real heap – there was smoke coming up behind the seat and by me; my seat was red-hot!

Chris and Nicky took us to the Indian coffee-house up a lift – a real grotty cafe, but with waiters dressed in white with green cummerbunds and hats with parrot crest-type top.  Had 6 chips and a coffee!”

DELIGHTFUL DELHI – Mohguls, monkeys, levitation and a Harley Davidson!

[In a letter home I wrote that ‘Delhi’s a super place – drove around the new part – lovely broad steets and parkland.  Had a really good guided tour of the Red Fort’.  Little did I know that I was going to see a lot more of Delhi than I bargained for once the bus trip was over – and not as a tourist.  But luckily that 18 year old was oblivious to anything beyond the next amazing marble building or crowded bazaar.]

MONDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 1976

“I cooked porridge!

Took bus into New Delhi for a tour of town.  Really lovely broad streets and parks with big meadows and trees.  Drove up main parade road (crash barriers because used for processions on Republic Day etc)  Viceroy’s palace in front (hazy but impressive) and then past Parliament buildings and up Parliament Street to post office – 6 letters.

Very moving letter from Mum describing Chief’s [Dame Flora] funeral and cuttings showing Dad, Don, Rory, Tom and other familiar faces.  Felt I’d really experienced it.  All of them had carried coffin.  Felt upset – Di cheered me up by letting me talk about it.

Went to Nepalese Embassy for some people to get visas.  Saw round modern Hindu Temple – fascinating, mass of colour, almost garish.  Made me happy and want to laugh all the time.  Many statues of gods and goddesses.  Next door was a Buddhist shrine.  Elephant statues in the garden.

Drove to Connaught Circus and stopped for lunch.  Went and found a milk bar with Heidi and Di – dim lights, posh enterior and expensive prices – so had half a sandwich and a coffee for lunch!  Dodged back among bicyclists and richshaws.

Taken to “Ivory Palace” where we saw men stitching gold and silver thread on black velvet and carving intricate ivory pieces.  Lovely showroom of gems, evening bags, metalwork and ivory chess sets, jewellery, elephants etc – ivory sofa, chairs and screens that took 25 years to make by 2 men.  (This was near big Mosque).

Went to Red Fort (Di, Sally and Fran).  Got a guide who was very interesting about fort – Lahore Gate, “umbrella” bazaar, barracks, gardens, drum house and parade to audience house where Moghul Emperor sat on huge marble throne and listened to petitions etc. (used to be a marble way covered with canvas, lined with people).  Tiles behind throne of attractive birds taken by British but returned by Lord Curzon.  Lots of little chipmunks running about in the gardens.  Lovely marble buildings – delicate archways, inlaid jewels in shape of flowers etc.  Peacock throne base was in one of them – but throne now in Tehran.  Used to be a silver ceiling, channel of running water and big fountain in shape of lotus leaf.

Balcony looking over parks where Emperor used to say good morning to people.  Looked over this side of wall and saw a boy beating time while monkeys danced and jumped – threw him some “baksheesh”.  Then two boys doing levitation trick – one beating while other rises up under big white sheet.

Saw women’s winter and summer baths and a private mosque of the family’s.  On the way back were taken into a jewellers and I bought a little jade elephant (student’s price!).  Got a Harley Davidson back to campsite (motor bike had big carriage behind and above – very open).

Went shopping for dinner with Chris, Nicki and Di.  Couldn’t find any veg or rice (dark by now).  Man kept trying to sell us sandalwood necklaces in French!  Tried to get through to him and friends that wanted vegetables – they thought we wanted sandalwood tables!  Finally got through to him, so he took us off down dark narrow lanes, crowded out with kids and people and animals eating in the road.  Got to veg shop (men ironing in the back and veg in the front!)

Cooked for 20 – only about 13 around.”

EMERALD PUNJAB – palms, crocodiles, milk bars, bright green parrots!

[Now back in the Punjab after Kashmir, I was excited by everything I saw and aware that my grandfather Bob Gorrie could have been responsible for some of the trees planted 50 years previously.  One of his areas of expertise was the problem of soil erosion.  Trees were crucial in stopping this erosion from hillsides and from silting up fields and river courses.

His photo shows where ‘a big dam of earth and sand has been built by 14 villages each doing their share of the digging and carrying.  It is to keep a river in its proper place and stop it cutting away villages and fields.  It has since been planted up with a lot of trees which I had to arrange for.’]

SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Geoff on the rampage because us cooks had slept in!  Lovely sunrise and ball of fire through the trees.  Locals watching but at a discrete distance.  Puffer train went by.

Interesting day’s drive – oxen pulling ploughs in greeny-brown fields – some green quite emerald in colour.  Palm-like trees among the others.  Big hay stacks and smaller cone-like grey ones.  Bright green parrots flew across road.  Plenty of horn blowing at slow oxen and carts and public buses.  Stopped to shop in village.  Medicine man sitting with bottles and baby crocodiles!

Next stop at a milk bar by a very pleasant garden – lawn and lots of flowers, 2 coloured umbrellas – part of a new dairy complex (project mostly in Punjab and nearby state).  Really nice cold milk drink – supposedly pineapple but tasted like the last one which was chocolate!

Stopped for lunch at cay shop – great little fellow collecting cups – big smiles, great concentration for job!  Builders nearby – wooden rough logs as scaffolding.  Very dark skinned workers.  Bill got left behind – Shirley only realised quarter of an hour after we left!  She suddenly shrieked “Where’s Willy?”!  Bill drove up in a truck a few minutes later!

Interesting countryside – little mud huts.  Great crowd by the road and going along parallel railway – great collection of trucks by side of the road – probably a local village fair – people streaming in on the area.

Reached Delhi after dark – through old city – great bright lights everywhere – big circus and old bazaar lit up.  Cooked on compound of campsite in middle of town.  Great meal!”
[My cooking team was Chrispin, Nicky and myself]

India Gate, New Delhi

BACK TO JUNGLE INDIA & ROUGH CAMPING – "Drive slowly your family needs you."

[My letters home had been full of ‘the great hospitality aboard the Golden Bell’ and the ‘superb meals’ cooked by Noor’s father, but now it was back to reality – the bus and camping rough and watching out for reptiles in the long grass!  I obviously wasn’t adapting well, as that night I went to bed without supper – I assume it was my choice and I wasn’t banished for inferior cooking]

SATURDAY 4TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Left houseboats early – given pack lunches – father came through for tip.  Noor saw us off.  Nice morning – sunny when leaving of course.  Felt like beginning of term to get onto empty bus again!

Valley looked nicer in sunlight.  Snow quite low down – fallen since we’d come.  Passed huge army convoy all having a pee at side of the road!  Climbed up to pass again.   Lovely gorge on other side – trees again on steep sided mountains.

Signs on roads like, “Drive slowly your family needs you”!  Made good time – reached Kud again where ate picnic lunch at cay shop on terrace.

cay shop at Kud

Hills smaller, trees more dense.  Hydro-electric station.  Lovely purple hedgerows.

Drove quite late and camped on bit of old road – tents all in a row (Charge of the Light Brigade style!)  Geoff said keep out of long grass – snakes!!  Went to bed early without supper – so tired.”

Monitor lizard found in my grandparents’
 garden in Indian foothills, 1930s

FREEZING SHIKARA TRIP – "ARTIFICIAL" OVERLANDERS SAVED BY CHOCOLATE

[Me and Noor on his shikara]

[Life on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir might have been an echo of the Raj but we were seeing it in the bone-chilling winter.  I recall wistfully in a letter home that ‘it must be idyllic in the spring or summer drifting around the lake in a shikara …!’  As it was, the monotonous brown of bare trees and dead vegetation was relieved only by snow covered peaks and the blue flash of a kingfisher.  After an hour of sitting freezing in an open boat, we aborted a trip to the Moghul Gardens across the Lake, and asked to be taken home.  Noor, our host, abviously thought us a bunch of wimps and declared us ‘artificial’.  Only the familiar and welcome cry of ‘chocolates! macaroons!’ and the sudden appearance of the chocolate seller’s shikara, lifted morale.
I observed in a letter home: ‘you can get everything off these passing shikaras from shawls to vegetables.  I think some of them are telepathic, because you just had to murmur that you’d fancy a chocolate and they’d be there outside the window!’

This experience was used as a setting for a tense moment in my mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH]

FRIDAY 3RD DECEMBER, 1976

Porridge! Omelette!

Taken by shikara to woodwork factory deep in middle of the Lake past slummy looking houses – very quiet up narrow canals – lots of vegetables growing.  No carving being done because still a holiday – very ornate carvings of dragons etc. 

Loads of us in little shikara on way back – one fella carrying bits of mutton – cut them the first day, give them as presents the next.  [This was still the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha] Taken to bank, then me and Neva had a short walk up to bridge – most of shops closed.  Lovely lunch of fish, tomatoes, chips, carrots followed by apple in pastry (very smoky taste).

Very cold trip in shikara to see Moghul gardens  Stopped at post office on a houseboat on the way.  Really freezing, so asked them to stop at small floating restaurant (government owned) and had cup of tea.  (Saw Maharajah’s house in distance, old king’s dwelling on mountainside and fort away in opposite direction.  Snow on hills in front.  Got them to turn back.  Had a go at paddling!  Stopped the chocolate man and had macaroon!  Noor said we were “artificial” for not wanting to go on (but would have been caught in the dark if had gone all the way).  Saw 2 blue kingfishers on fence by water.

Thawed out by stove.  Hot shower and good meal – felt better.  Noor pestered me to sell him my shorts for 5 rupees, so finally agreed.

[Neva and Julie in shikara]

Women wear great head gear – veil pinned at back of head and hanging quite long.”

EID AL-ADHA THE KASHMIRI WAY – CURRY, CUSTARD and FIRECRACKERS, 1976

[Our Overland stay in Kashmir coincided with the three day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) that marks the end of the Hajj to Mecca.  It commemorates the trials of the Prophet Abraham who was asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Sheep are killed and the mutton shared out with family, friends and the poor.  There is much visiting and we called on our houseboat hosts and shared macaroons.  In a rather Scoto-centric way, I likened this to First Footing at New Year.]

THURSDAY 2ND DECEMBER, 1976

Moslem festival – killing of sheep for each family; like their Xmas.  They have a three day holiday.  Had lie in till 9, then as well as the usual 3 course breakfast, we were presented with cake and macaroons by Gulam’s little girl – very solemn kid with lovely brown eyes.  Today they’d been made up and she was in a wide green dress with a hanky pinned to the front and little red shoes. [a letter home reports that ‘she was a big friend by the time we left!’]

Had a really lazy day sitting around writing letters and postcards.  Outside heard them all singing in the mosques – place deserted until 11.30; all go to mosque (only Noor left).  Saw the father going off in shikara.  Watched them all streaming back from mosque – festive air, fire-works (bangers) going off all the time.

Lovely Kashmiri meal cooked by father – 2 different cooked dishes of mutton in lovely masala sauces, cauliflower and rice.  Followed by banana and custard.  Had cold beer when Geoff and Fred popped in.

Went to see Noor’s father and Gulam’s wife and son in houseboat behind ours – really cold and bare – each room exposed to the outside – big open windows.  Rocked a lot.  Proudly shown each room (4 of them) then a fire at the far end and kitchen area at the other.  Pointed out Koran and photos. (Noor showed photos of his wedding – him in turban with a necklace of rupees.  Loads of family.  He had painted nails which showed he was married recently).  Apparently family visit each other during this festival (like New Year First Footing).  In kitchen, dangerous looking contraption – electrical wires in a bucket of water.

Later on we went and called at Geoff’s boat and had tea with Ian – the only one in.  He’d been ill and not out at all.  His news was that fares going up at home.  Went to “Pandora” – Chris, Nicki, Shirl, Bill, Janice and Ann.  Saw Nicki’s lovely rug.  Big argument about how much to tip the houseboys – Shirl believes part of their job to receive a tip.

Had another jeweller in that night – no business.  Hot shower.”