Friday, 29 January 2016

India - first impressions


Garlanded. Shawled. Drummed into the village. Blessed with flowers. Smiles, crossing all language and cultural barriers.

Photo :CSI St. Mary's, Pudukkottai

Photo: CSI St. Mary's Pudukkottai

Photo: CSI St. Mary's Pudukkottai


A cacophony of car, bus, tuctuc and two-wheeler horns. Hindu prayers transmitted by loudspeakers into the streets at 3am. Muslim prayers of varying loudness at 5.30am. Dogs barking. Tamil voices.


Saris and chudithars of every colour and hue imaginable: diamanteed, gilded, embroidered, glittered, sequined, patterned or plain.

Impossibly high stacks of fresh oranges, ping-pong-ball-sized gooseberries, red-gold pomegranates, red bananas and green coconuts. The glitter of (fake) gold jewellery and the gleam of (real) silverware in a store. Flourescent pink candy floss, announced by a ringing bell. A rainbow of rangoli powders on a cart.


Petrol fumes in the street. A pile of rubbish, waiting for the invisible sweeper to clear it away. Madurai jasmine and rose at the flower stall.

Incense in both the temple and the Roman Catholic churches. Spices as you walk past the street vendor.


Garlanded roadside shrines. Sandalwood-streaked foreheads after morning prayers. Dash-board crosses and Jesus bumper stickers.

Neon lit crosses on church roofs. Green and orange garbed pilgrims, barefoot for 200km, walking their prayers to their gods. Tinsel garlanded shrines on vans, bright with lights and loud with song. Peacock-feathered kavadi burdens carried on the dark shoulders of half-naked young men. Towering stone edifices that have stood for a thousand years.

New churches, loose-wired and unfinished as the community raise enough rupees to complete the job.


Beautiful striped and green tea gardens, in which hidden dangers lurk: leopard, king cobra, wild dogs, elephant, sloth bear...

Four species of monkey in a day. A black and yellow Hornbill, gliding effortlessly into the trees above us. Butterflies and birds in the college campus. The deadly embrace of the Strangler Fig. Poinsettia bushes, five feet high. Porcupine poo. An elephant's footprint in the earth, the size of a dinner plate, then seeing the tusker in a clearing on the other side of the river. The chattering call of a red whiskered bulbul.


Fried okra. Chilli chicken. Dhosa. Idli. Coconut chutney. Fried fish. Biryani. Chicken fried rice. Chai - sweet beyond belief.

Sticky-sweet orange Jelabi. Banana fritter. Tender coconut juice. Bread omelette. Paratha. Mutton stew. White rice. Raita. Curd.

And so many other things besides...but they are blogs to be written at another time.

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