Almost 4 weeks in India have left me with many thoughts. I took a shed load of pictures but it is the pictures of the mind, the smells and the experience that say everything. I will be reflecting upon these senses for many days to come.
The first thing I must do is to thank Elaine so very much for making it possible for her now elderly parents to have such a wonderful experience. We have seen a country, met some of it's people and eaten and drank of it's wonderful fayre all at the same time of visiting one of our 3 daughters in the place that she calls home for the next year or so.
We had a most wonderful time and now we are considering all that we have seen and are trying to formulate everything and to conclude with what we have learned from the experience; seeing and experiencing should always result in lessons learned!
The first thing that comes to mind is the people. Over the years I have had many friends from India, from my visit to their country and living for a short while in their culture has made me understand and appreciate them so much more. They are truly a wonderful people who live in a land that is to say the least confusing. Everybody and everything is so noisy, I was convinced back here in the UK that I had gone deaf whilst travelling from Heathrow to Cornwall. I cannot recall hearing a single horn blown, the traffic was ordered and people were travelling along in sequence. It is all so different.
The rules of the road seem to vary from one state to another but the impression that I got was the bigger the vehicle and the louder the horn the more authority you had ever other road users. The result of that being the most vulnerable are in the most precarious position. Pedestrians are relegated to lower class citizens, I am sure that to the driver they are expendable and if they get knocked down then it is their own stupid fault for being there. Horns are sounded, brakes ignored and here I come get out of my way. It is all so very different when the local bovine beast gets in the way. everything stops with great urgency for the highly exalted cow.
Sadly my camera was not at hand as we passed by a local restaurant with a great crowd of people outside. There was a great commotion because the restaurant had been invaded by a herd of cows that were looking out whilst the people were looking in. Cows in the restaurant and beef is banned from the menu! How confusing, it is not a matter of the lunatics running the asylum as appears to be the case in Britain but a weird theology that exalts brute beasts to a status way above that of man. More about that in a later blog!
Our trip started with an amount of uncertainty. Everybody told us not to arrange anything until or visa had been granted. With this advice adhered to we began to experience the side of India that is in my opinion most unsavoury. Indian officialdom stinks far more than the open sewers that offended my nostrils so often!!!!
It seems that if we were to come from any other country then a visa costs 35 pounds but because I am British it it fair to charge me in excess of 100 pounds. That rubs against the grain especially as the add on's such as photographs slightly larger than passport size and hence 10 pounds each rather than 2;50 for 2, and also postage courier service for return of passport that I paid 2:50 for but through the honourable embassy cost me 12:50 each. All in all the bill for visa's was way in excess of 300 pounds. Then came the phone call that tried to tell me I had not paid for postage for Pam's passport, thanks to records and an over-inflated price paid for postal orders there was a back down from them and the passports and visas were safely in our hands. I had been granted a six month multi entry visa and Pam a 3 month single entry visa. How on earth does that happen? We were about to find out as we entered into the land.
Our whole trip was absolutely wonderful but it was blighted by officialdom all of the way. Heathrow airport was great as was our step off point in Doha but then we entered the chaos of Mumbai. Immediately common sense, reason and structure was missing and so at 2:00 am we were introduced to officialdom gone mad. My guess is that there are 10 people to every job and so many are paid to be awkward, but we survived and were largely free from the silliness that is obvious.
It was interesting to watch incidents on the street and on the road and a policeman sitting with his stick that was more like his magic wand watching everything and everybody except the incident where his assistance was required.
But my main concern came as we hired a car and driver to travel around the North of India and up into the Himalaya. Gov (our driver) was a wonderful young man but the target constantly of unscrupulous policemen who knew that he was a taxi driver by his distinctive yellow number plated. We were also a bit obvious by our distinctively pale skin and so we were stopped many many times by roadside cops. each time they scrutinized Gov's documents he paid them some money and off we went.
Eventually we managed to extract the truth of what was happening, he was being charged a local police tax which seemed to range from 2 pounds to 5 pounds simply for the privilege of being stopped by a local law enforcement officer. There was as you might expect the required receipt to make sure that the tax paid was bona fide:
India this corruption angers me and it ruins your reputation. You have a wonderful and colourful people, they are as the bible describes people without shepherds. The government is accountable to God Almighty and on the day of judgement you will be held accountable for the many millions you are abusing in your system. The British are accountable for all that they are and have been but that does not make you any the less accountable for the mess that you are making of your country. will not always agree with your politics or your religion but I would love to say that you are as honourable as your people but sadly you fall very short of their mark.
Thank you Indian nation for a wonderful time and thank you Indian officials for nothing!