Not long back from a trip to India. My third trip to this country and on this occasion I went with my Mother, Sister and Brother-in-Law. My Mother having been born in Calcutta (Kolkata) had never been back since she was 4. We made it to the jute mill and the 'bungalow' where she used to live, recreating a vintage photograph she had with her father. It was an emotional trip in many ways. I loved seeing inside the offices which felt like stepping back in time. The filing cabinets and tables all felt as though they had not changed since the 1940s. The Indians we met were all extremely polite and accommodating and I wonder what my Grandfather would have felt if he had seen it again too. We also visited my Great Uncle's grave in a war cemetery in Kolkata. I think we are the first family members to have been able to visit. In common with all graveyards tended by the War Graves Commission it is kept in a very good condition.
From Kolkata we moved into the hills by Darjeeling and stayed on a tea plantation in the Scottish sounding Glenburn. There was very little traffic by comparison with Kolkata although a four wheel drive was a necessity to get anywhere on the steep and potholed roads. On hearing the local rock band's music echoing across the hills I sought them out, said hello and shot a video on my Go-Pro. There are no overweight villagers as life there involves trekking up and down a series of steep steps and hillside tracks to get anywhere and the people in the hills look more like the Nepalese than Indians in the cities. Tough but friendly people it is a very different side of India to that in the cities.
Darejeeling is a wonderful town, described aptly by my Brother-in-Law as like a frontier town and indeed it has that atmosphere of a meeting of worlds - traders, trekkers and tourists. In the centre a large computer screen was showing cricket, India's uniting religion. Elsewhere a myriad of streets and houses form this bustling and large town perched onto steep hillsides which was crossed most easily by jumping on the 'Toy Train' a narrow gauge railway that runs through and across the streets and belches smoke periodically whilst tooting its horn. I could have spent days here alone but our trip was brief although the oldest shop in the town did benefit from our visit.
India is a country that hits you in all senses. The colour, the smells, the tastes, the sound, an amalgam quite unlike anywhere else. As if it were not colourful enough, during the celebration of Holi powdered paint adorns many Indians giving the impression of a living Jackson Pollock paintings.