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 – samosas with postmen, Tamla Motown and Indian whisky to drown bad news, 1977

[Thanks to the help of the B.A staff, word was finally filtering back home that we were stranded in Delhi.  But they feared that the reason I hadn’t heard from my granny was that she had died.  Worse still, they couldn’t confirm if this was true.  My grandmother, Sydney Easterbrook, had gone out to India from Scotland in 1923 to marry forester Bob Gorrie, and they had lived there until the Second World War.  Granny was one of the inspirations behind my trip east.  Now like the elderly enigmatic Mrs Moore in Passage to India (another inspiration for going to India), it was possible she was dead.

So we ‘attacked’ the whisky to drown our sorrows …]

WEDNESDAY 5TH JANUARY, 1977

“Happy Birthday Ank! [youngest brother Angus]  At breakfast a Sikh came to our table and asked us to model his clothes, so could guarantee right size – he sells to boutiques in Germany – we certainly meet all sorts in this place!!!

Went to B.A – nothing.  Went to GPO – they’re so used to us, today we were given sweet tea and chapatis wrapped round potato samosas (potato in batter)!  Cheerful fella warmed chapatis over small electric fire!  Must be the only tourists to have done this – probably the only ones to penetrate so far!  Nice middle-aged man gave us address of Foreign P.O and told us to try there in case mail had been insured. 

Off we went in a rickshaw for miles, racing with traffic far beyond the confines of Connaught Place!  Hassled away with Indian and weren’t understood very well – 2 blokes helping – said had no access unless we had registered number etc.  Discovered this wasn’t foreign mail!  Went to building behind – same story.

Back to centre – cheered ourselves in record shop by listening to Tamla Motown L.P!!  Then found really good Penguin bookshop and browsed in there for a while.

Back to B.A – telex for Nikki telling her to go and check GPO!  Several for me – no reply from Granny.  They in touch finally with parents.  Dad sent cheque for ticket – then horrible news that Granny may be dead.  No confirmation – felt very upset.  Can’t stop thinking of it – what can be happening at home?  To be stuck in this place because of Asian Greyhound inefficiency and to have no news from home!  Very anxious and miserable.

We attacked the bottle of whisky bought for New Year – drank half of it before supper – took mind off worries.  Went down to dining room giggling and wearing new tops.  Waiter in good mood tonight.”

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!”

NEW YEAR’S DAY IN DELHI – YMCA liver and jelly, and a dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights restore morale, 1977

[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!”