Beloved India

I have been facing some difficulties in completing the write-ups of our Tamil Nadu trip. Frankly, the intensity of the experiences combined with such a complex historical and cultural perspective, all ingested at a time when I was far from well, have been difficult to sort into a set of coherent images. This is not to say that I don’t think it is going to be worth the effort – absolutely not! It was a pivotal stage in my exploration of the subcontinent and I know I shall always recognise it as such.

After all, I remind myself, my writings on both Mexico and the 2009 trip across China were several years in the germination and that didn’t do them much harm. Some places live on in my memory so vividly that they are almost part of my consciousness so that, for example, every fresh horror reported from Syria or Afghanistan is overlaid with my personal repertoire of sights and sounds. And made all the more painful for it.

There is no such sadness tingeing my thoughts of India though; rather a wonderful sense of belonging and a delight in all the beautiful experiences to come. Maybe I won’t complete my account of the Chola Temples until I sit on my houseboat listening to the gentle lapping of the waters of Srinagar Lake in a few weeks time because – yes – I am going back.

My friend Kundan is travelling out to a wedding in Gujarat in May and, while Grahame is going to be busy, I have managed to get a flight on the same plane so that I can join her. Yesterday I took my exquisite Tanjore silk sarees to a tailor in South London so that I could have my blouses fitted (they looked a bit silly with jeans but it was just a measuring session). Gujarat will be hotter than Hades in May so, while my friends busy doing the circle of family visits that surround such an occasion, I have booked a little side trip to Kashmir to try to catch up with an old friend in the gem business. Oh dear: more stories to tell.

This morning a surprise package arrived from Tanjore. The seventh elephant! You cannot experience the culture of the South without getting a feel for the riot of colour and movement that is such a part of everyday life and especially of temple adornment. I’m afraid I fell under it’s spell before I even got there; six years ago in Singapore’s Little India I saw a set of carved wooden Ganesh statues and knew that one day I would HAVE to have them.

Well, Grahame patiently accompanied me while I tracked them down on our trip in January (and this is all while I am supposed to be unwell, remember)….but the set that was finally located for us didn’t quite have the colour range that I remembered. Could one of them be repainted in green? “Of course, Madam”: a dealer will say anything to close a sale, won’t they? Or so I thought.

We duly left India with an orchestra of only six Ganeshas taking up one whole suitcase (luckily I travel with plenty of disposable thrift shop clothes) and promises that the seventh would be delivered to the Bala Mandir in Chennai for my sister to collect in July. Yes, it sounds a bit over-complicated, doesn’t it? But India will often surprise you and and the lovely Mr Ravi of the Yathav Bronze factory kept in touch with photos and updates and finally decided that it would be easier to send the missing band member all the way  to me in Worcestershire. The children have told me I am not allowed to open that parcel until they are there to see it.

1 Comment

  • ET says:

    Just looking in, Nicola, and glad to see you are as active as always – health and joint issues aside. A real traveler will never stop and I know you are one.
    I am still steeped in 14 hour days, but the semester is almost over. Light at the end of the tunnel and time for me to plan the next destination. I got at least that far: Myanmar. Yes, I said Indonesia… I guess things change at the last minute. It’s the nature of things. 🙂

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