I said I would blog, and I haven’t. I haven’t because the act of sitting down and churning out a coherent account of everything that I’ve seen/done/felt/breathed/eaten whilst seeing/doing/breathing/eating it is spectacularly inconvenient. And dull.
So, I’ll cheat, and sum up five weeks (six?) in a few paragraphs.
In five weeks I’ve covered a fairly hefty amount of ground. From the crushing madness of Mumbai to palm-fringed Kochi, to hippe-choked Varkala to moody riverside Alleppey, to cool green Munnar to ear-splitting Madurai, to French-Indian Pondicherry to tourist-ravaged Mamallapuram.
And Chennai for twenty-four hours, which I don’t care to remember.
Already it feels like my former life is another world away, and I suppose it is. But me – I’m the same. I still run every morning, which has been both exhilarating and harrowing. Try belting up Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road in central Calcutta at 7am; it’s a dance with cycle rickshaws, Ambassador taxi cabs and mangy dogs. And the source of much hilarity for the locals.
Mostly, I walk around. Eat things. Walk some more. Sometimes I take photos (check me out on Instagam, yo)
I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with curry. Curry is what it is, and it is everywhere you are at mealtimes, and between mealtimes, and long after you’ve lost your appetite. Curry is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Curry is yellow, or brown, or red; it’s oily, or watery, or lukewarm or boiling hot. And it’s always, always spicy.
India has changed since I was here six years ago. But then, so have I. My last three trips (pre-30) were comfortably aligned to the backpacker route: Rishkesh, McLeod Ganj, Pushkar. I loved being able to traipse around India in colourful harem pants and take photos of monkeys and temples, talk crap with other travellers over Kingfishers each night and then sit down to fruit salad and muesli each morning.
Perhaps my 30s have hardened me. I’ve somehow retuned with a steely dislike for the silly foreigners swathed in their sarees/beads/dreadlocks, zipping around beach towns on scooters or chewing pancakes in Western-menu cafes. Most of them are European; most of them don’t smile back. The few I have managed to speak to are older, alone; drifters, like me. In between careers, faffing about.
India’s good for that.
It’s become my daily quest to go where [other] foreigners don’t go. The grubby restaurants patronized by hoicking Indian men; grungy hotels with betel-nut stained walls; streetside chai-wallas and fish-fryers and pani-puri stalls; anywhere with a bit of grime and a lack of pale skin.
I have lots more to say, but it’s all in my head and it’s mostly in a jumble. I’ll straighten it out into sentences and shove it into a Word document, and do the blog thing. Maybe tomorrow.