Thursday, September 29, 2016

From ‘Of Sadhus and Spinners. Australian Encounters with India’ Edited by Bruce Bennett, Susan Cowan, Santosh K Sareen, Asha Kanwar

The Mohammedan Mother by John Lang

The scenery is more beautiful than that of Simlah, for Mussoorie and Landour command a view of Dehra Dhoon which resembles (except that the Dhoon is grander and more extensive) the plains of Italy as seen from the ascent of the Simplon.

I have seen a storm on the heights of Jura – such a storm as Lord Byron describes. I have seen lightning and heard thunder in Australia: I have, off Terra del Fuego, the Cape of Good Hope, and the coast of Java, kept watch in thunderstorms which have drowned in their roaring the human voice, and made every one deaf and stupefied: but these storms are not to be compared with a thunderstorm at Mussoorie or Landour.

Black and White by R. Francis Strangman

All spoke at once – not to each other, but apparently to everything and anything inanimate which happened to be near them (For in India it is always so when ten or twelve are gathered together.)

Mrs James Greene by Ethel Anderson

Indian men do not admire Englishwomen – white women, that is to say. Their pasty faces, they assert, look anaemic and unwholesome; beside the honey-coloured and flawless skins of Indian beauties they lack brilliance. Their hair, too, seems dull and lusterless in contrast with the satin-sheened oiled and raven tresses of zenana belles. Their figures (they consider) are bad; their heads, hands, and feet are too large. They have, in short, no grace of movement, no subtlety of rhythm in dancing, no charm of expression in their colourness, washed-out eyes.

Indian men admire above all things bravery in a woman.

Meeting Mister Ghosh by Haydn M. Williams

He darts hither and thither along the map of his rhetoric while we all strive to retain, though half-lost, some of the more lucid pronouncements: ‘Take toilet paper with you if you travel by train. Ignore beggars and lepers. Respect habits of prudery among the women. Watch out for pickpockets. Buses are overcrowded, but sometimes one has to ride on top of one. If you hit someone ‘with your motor’, don’t stop but abscond! Do not torment or injure cows. Note that there are seats reserved for women. Avail yourself of a rickshaw should you be trapped in a flooded street. Watch out for deep holes in the streets of Calcutta.’

A Foot in the Stream by David Malouf

We leave the city at last, but the stream of pedestrians does not diminish as one might expect. It thickens, moving in both directions at the side of the road…..all moving at the same easy pace, in the stately, straight-backed style that makes walking look so good, so natural. There are no slounchers or shufflers here. They walk with purpose, and it is this that makes these crowds so odd to the Western eye. Where have they come from? Where are they going? They suggest some important rendezvous up ahead……the stream never thins out. It might go on like this right across the country. The whole of India seems to be on the move between its borders, endlessly tramping, even when we are far out in the countryside.

Occasionally, at the edge of the road, a casualty. One truck is tipped forward with both its front wheels removed; it has been brought to its knees. Another, further on, with its off-wheels missing, is an elephant on its side, this is not just fancy or ‘a way of putting things’. One feels here that machines, in joining the animal forms of transport, have entered a single stream of creation that includes, men, beasts, birds, insects, trees. The inclusiveness of the Indian, and specifically the Hindu view, subtly blurs in the mind as in the eye our usual categories.

Hindoo Holiday by J.R.Ackerley

The other guests left this morning, and just before starting Mrs Montgomery gave me final advice. ‘You’ll never understand the dark and tortuous minds of the native,’ she said, ‘and if you do I shan’t like you – you won’t be healthy.’

Monsoon by Inez Baranay

I was afraid the rest of India would be like Bombay airport, but Bob has told me that nowhere in India is as bad as Bombay airport. It certainly was the most crowded, confusing, chaotic, dirty, noisy, hustling place; the beggars outside: the shantytown slums around it…….

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