Friday, May 22, 2009

From ‘Cobra Road. An Indian Journey’ by Trevor Fishlock

‘I have lived, loved and hope to die in Bombay. In Delhi you are who you know. In Calcutta you are known by the books you have read. Here what you do is who you are.’

……….The plane landed at the Indian Air Force base at Bhuj…………..’The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war,’ said a little Christmas-cracker sermon on a notice I passed on the way out. There must be a sub-caste of pencil-suckers turning out these beloved maxims.

Gopal (Godse, brother of Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi) was found guilty of conspiracy…………Nearly 50 years after the assassination, he said…….’It’s not as if we went to Delhi to steal Gandhi’s watch. That would have been truly sinful.’

India has a way of magnifying, intensifying and distorting emotions and incidents, and you have to wwatch for the signs that you are becoming unhinged. Once of the early symptoms is shouting.
V.S.Naipaul recalled that, during his first exploration of India in the 1960s, ‘I was shouting almost as soon as I entered government offices.’
…………..A friend admitted that after a long spell in India he found himself raising his voice to an airline clerk in Ottawa, until his wife soothed him, saying:’Darling, its all right. It’s Canada, not India.’

From Simla station – ‘Ticketless travel is a Social Evil’, said a sign – I took the little train down to Kalka to get a connection to Delhi. Monkeys scattered and grumbled as we wound through the tapestry of forests, villages, streams and temples, through scores of tunnels and over hundreds of bridges. I looked down on blue and yellow houses, their red roofs speckled with the yellow of ripening corn cobs. The train stopped at neat, brightly painted toy stations, gay with flowers, where notices informed me that ‘The Allah of Islam is the Same as the God of Christians and the Ishwar of Hindus’.

Khushwant Singh reflected and said (on Gandhi) : ‘Some things he did were asinine, but were part of his humanity. When it came to the great issues, what was morally right and wrong, he never deviated. He has become a national mascot. But he remains a point of reference. People still ask: What would Gandhi have done?’

A disco tape was played at Maximum Thunder level. Since I was the only diner, I asked one of the waiters to turn it off. He looked astonished. For five minutes there was peace, but the waiters were decidedly unhappy. The music returned, seeping in at first, then bursting through like a wave. It was as if the waiters had a fear of calm or silence

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