Archive for the ‘India Diaries’ Category


Small front gardens in Assam , northeast India :This is colourful bungalow land.. A low rise legacy of  low level living.

DSC01290We very much enjoy this road side feast of colour and pretty pastels. Imagine turquoise,pink and green painted bungalows and many front gardens reaching beyond just the necessity of vegetable production and seemingly gardening in colour with plants for beauty’s sake.We even see some topiary !

DSC01322Or maybe it is just the exuberant growth of the Assam climate that  gives us this voluptuous array of flowers.Certainly it seemed very out of the ordinary for the typical Indian garden  which has more to do with vegetable and fruit production, animal husbandry – pigs, chickens , cows roaming in happy abandon and still the washing gets hung out to dry …..



for practicality’s sake tin roofs of course are still the norm DSC01327but that rusty patina has  a certain charm….and are of course the perfect drying place for those oh so hot chillis.

It is a step beyond the normal indian garden for sure .. where has all the rubbish gone ? Assam is pristine and glorious and quite the little eden to revisit in the future….DSC01724




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Cutty Sark..Ship ahoy in the bedroom

have you ever felt like you have spent  a night on the high seas ?…..so  what about beds ?.. many nights , and not particularly Arabian were spent with Paul in a double bed in Cornwall …it was a Queen size I imagine , as Paul seemed incredibly and hotly close ! .. the bed was one of those .. you know the sort.. where you roll into the middle  of a box of sardines and it’s  like climbing Everest getting out of the wallowing hollow….being on the crest of a wave  one minute and all sheets ,ropes and tackle the next… and we wake on an unknown shore …and during the night watch .. five bells ?! ….groping around trying to find the door /hatch doesn’t help as you feel like a marooned sailor… Robinson Crusoe it is not…


Twixt Twin and never the twain shall meet  

Twin beds of course are another matter altogether… you are marooned on your desert island disc of a bed , becalmed in a lagoon of loneliness and single shipwreck. There are advantages of course to this solitary state.. the unadulterated luxury of a duvet that is yours and yours alone.. to deal with as you fancy.. the flexibility to enjoy the bounteous quiltliness or throw off its oppressive dominion… but there is an ever more present danger .. the inability to influence anyone of a snoringful persuasion from afar… no means or wherewithall to subtley nudge or knee the snoring heap beside you .. no ! instead you must endure the siren call of the snorer and like Ulysses. avert your ears and long for the lap of a distant shore and the ever present  seashell roar.


And a bit about goats….

because goats can sleep just about anywhere , any how ,usually on a dung heap but mostly in doorways as these next two pictures illustrate. Their bony little legs all folded and any which way.. dusty and scarecrow like they are fascinatingly unconcerned about their beds and where they will sleep. So a lesson learnt from our friends the goats !

indiangoat2note the casually extended leg  and distinct lack of concern about being next to an open sewer !


note the same leg extension and strategic positioning in doorway…

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match box tiger

match box tiger

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Bundi : town of wonder , town of delight, town of stepwells deep and mysterious .. almost as deep as the sewer the car drove into as we rolled into town…

down , down deeper and down

down,down, deeper and down

Arriving at the aptly named Paradise Hotel , mini havelli extraordinaire  ,the perfect Gin and Tonic in our hands we wondered at the strangely caged terrace bar and to the strains of Massive Attack  dj’ed by a crazy indian sounding like Guy Ritchie (Reservoir Dogs, Snatch movies learnt off by heart) we watched the blazing sunset over the walls of the stupendous palace and castle under whose shadow we cowered. But then the DJ leapt to his feet with more speed than befit a gentleman of his build  , pulled out an antique hand gun and fired off a shot across the bar at a large monkey which had crept down from the roof , opened the bar cage door and was about to nip in for a quick sharp half or at least the better part of a pizza he had his eye on… uproar , commotion and some consternation among bar guests ensued. Monkeys ! who’d have ’em ? Fortunately neither monkey sticks (to beat off the furry primates  )(as suggested by our jovial hotelier)  nor handguns, were required on our visit to the palace the following day ! And if you have ever tried to walk up a near vertical cliff face in flip flops forget it .. it’s like a lethal cousin of the cresta run ! On reflection , the monkey sticks would have come in handy as impromptu icepicks or grappling irons …

monkeying around

monkeying around

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Or Countdown to Likely Death in Udaipur (not Venice)

Sussex Prairies could do with a tuk tuk.. one covered in flowers to gad about in on garden visits and other such peaceful excursions .The sort of tuk tuk with attitude and that certain je ne sais quoi that comes hot foot from the mean , narrow, twisting ,convoluted streets of Udaipur. Possibly even the sort of tuk tuk belonging to Crabs our tame tuk tuk driver when we are in town.

Now I am sure you are wanting to know how he comes to have the name of Crabs (we had unfairly wondered if this was due to any slight medical affliction he may have had now or in the past ) but no , this he assured us was not the case but then proceeded to explain the derivation of his name in a series of madly contorted couplets, possibly originating in a pop song and ending on a whimsical limerick.. quite unintelligible but utterly captivating .

As were we , captives I mean , once we had boarded his washing machine styled wagon. Haring through the night street beset by errant cows, weaving motorbikes, inevitable dust, grit , wayward rubbish mountains, wedding parades (AFW alert !) and crazed white horses (without groom). It seems that there is a sort of etiquette of road users at night. Do not under any circumstance put on your lights , if you do put them on, make sure they are  at full beam to blind any oncoming driver… the horn (used liberally) (note to self : How long can horns even last in India having been blown at every minute of the day ?) when blown actually activates the headlights… like dervishes we careered through the night …on corners(of which there seemed to be many) only one wheel felt like it was on the ground…you see double after such a ride and it was nothing to do with the Kingflsher beer this time.

wedding band cart (quiet one)

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Intestinal flora and fauna : the ugly truth .

There is probably one thing you can continure to drink with impunity throughout any stay in India and that is Lassi. Simplicity itself, it is a gorgeous yohurt drink, and when made properly can be a smooth silky frothy yoghurt shake of a thing .. when made in a slapdash way can be a watery torpid soup.So it is simple and can continue to be made back at home . Take some yohurt , blend it up with milk and drink it. Even when the dangerous bacterial bacillus get you down in India ,(an inevitable consequence )  a lassi is pretty much the only thing you can face across the breakfast table. This time around our trusty driver Prakash treated us to the best lassi ever bought from a suspiciously tidy little kiosk in Jaipur (the oldest lassi maker in the world I think) . Served in a beautifully conical handcrafted terracotta pot it was amazing ! struggled to bring the pots home and I can see them here on my terrace strangely foreign and bereft of their colleagues.There were piles of them in the shop towering like mini towers of pisa !

lassi come home

Of course there are different types of lassi available , from the sweet and salted to the rather more racey “Bhang” variety . The Bhang version being the same thing blended with marajuana.. which is readily available in some rather wacky Bhang shops and a certain dubious pizzeria in Pushkar. I am not sure where the “bhang” comes from .. but is probably the description of your eyeballs after you have partaken of the same and bang goes your life from henceforth. Talking of the pizza parlour (too grand a name for it although it had a rather authentic looking pizza oven  ) we were treated to the rather dodgy way of getting around the delicate issue of  an alcohol ban within the town limits.Cerveza beer arrived wrapped in a tin foil shroud accompanied by a tea cup from which to drink it. This same thing happened on our trip last year when in Jodphur we were invited to order “coffee” (kingfisher beer) and it was served in mugs.We also got on rather well with a very miaowy cat here which rather liked L’s pizza crust.

Another beverage to which we are particularly partial when in India is the wonderful and strangely spicy Chai.It is an exotic tea with a difference created by boiling  cold water, milk, sugar,tea and spices in one pot (of dubious  cleanliness ) and creating a murkily opaque super sweet concoction.In earlier times this was served in a cute little terracotta cup which one would dash to the ground after drinking and all would be well with the world and ones constitution. The ground would be littered with vicious shards of terracotta but hey !! Today it is often served in eerily unclean and gloomy looking cups with a most unhealthy pallour and certain charming grubbiness.The trick is to avert ones eyes from the insanitary kitchen arrangements . No ill effects from the various chai pitstops although we did have to visit a charming pharmacy in Pushkar for cough medicines , lozenges and cold remedies. Here are the  pharmacy boys in situ !

say aaahh!

say aaah !!

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the main culprit

There is a place called Du Du. I saw it advertised on a rare traffic sign. But the sort of du du I want to talk about is the kind manufactured in copious quantities by the entire cow population of India as they wander to and fro through people’s lives,houses,rubbish tips and market places. The cow does many things and is a sacred beast granted. But it makes a prodigious amount of poo.Now I have discovered an ancient and  crazy art  which I believe is as yet unexplored and un tapped. Namely ,the fashionable and scary art of making solid poo  igloos . Chris Ofili the artist famed for working with elephant dung could learn a few tricks here. On the outskirts of every village /small holding/collection of huts/houses/plastic bag tents/grass wigwams there is the same thing : and it is beautiful.Imagine a solid block of poo crafted into a huge monolithic and dense sculpture . Entirely made of cattle dung (maybe goat and sheep too ?) it is dense,not smelly really (but everything is relative) and carved with simple and delicate patterns. Sitting like a dried out block of parmesan I wonder how you deal with it on a daily basis. Do you slice off cake like slices  for fire lighting ? do you hack off a chunk like a block of ice ? or is it just some crazy currency and the sort of hedge fund of rural life ? certainly its worth for gardening is high and a golden ingot like that would be much sought after by us gardeners for growing our bananas !

Gold dust

the cow pat scenario is much easier to get to grips with (unless it is wet,sticky and stuck to the bottom of your sandal) you can see these frisbee like things drying in the most unlikely of places but then why not ? these are the perfect firelighter of choice. Dry and crisply dehydrated you will see them stacked at crazy angles and in bonfire type heaps ready for action.Collection of said pats might be tricky one would think in the wet state, but with a blazing indian sun i guess you only have to wait a while until you can scoop it up and carry the dinner plate sized thing back to your treasury.

Firelighting cow pats ready for action

walking in any area of India is fraught with danger as you hopscotch between the poo.On my last trip i inadvertently got out of the car in a village and stood straight in an open sewer. Not an experience I would wish to repeat. The evil residue stubbornly refused to be washed or scraped off my shoes.This time it was the car itself that fell into a sewer. Driving quietly into the quaint little town of Bundi we were checking out the likely accommodation venues and suddenly the car lurched to one side and there was a hellish bang. Scrambling out of a car leaning perilously to one side it was obvious that the open sewer previously covered by an (insubstantial paving stone , had caved in and we were stuck in a rut ! the car tilted drunkenly into the filthy maw. Unspecified horrors floated by. Paul managed to commandeer  some wiry but slim indian onlookers  to help him manhandle the thing out. on dry land the car did not seem to have sustained any damage . Apart from a charming fragrance of course.

if i just stand here.....

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