The North-East of India

 

Hornbill Festival

I have just spent the past two weeks in the North East of India, an area that not many Indian tourists visit let alone foreign tourists. I loved it so much that my original one week trip was extended out to two weeks.

The countryside is spectacular, the people unfailingly friendly, hospitable and kind, and the food delicious (even the more, shall we say “exotic” dishes which I will discuss in a later post.)

The main focus of the trip was the annual Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, a celebration of all the tribes, where they get together to showcase their customs, costumes and food. It is spectacular and I highly recommend anyone traveling to India in the first week of December to make sure it is on their itinerary.

I travelled with The India Trail, run by a couple of young guys passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the region. They are very professional and can organize a wide range of activities to sort all interests.

I will write in more depth soon but in the meantime here are a couple of photos from the festival.

Hornbill Festival

Post-Trip Blues

Khonoma Village, Nagaland, North-East India

Khonoma Village, Nagaland, North-East India

Back from a long trip. Happy to be in familiar surroundings again, the comfortable bed, hot shower, regular food. More than 3 changes of clothes to choose from.
Busy unpacking, washing, cleaning, catching up on sleep.
Back into the routine.
Days pass slowly.
But something is missing.
That aliveness, that intensity of living, it’s not there anymore.
Flashbacks of events, people I met, experiences, pop into my head randomly throughout each day.
I wake up in the morning, excitement and anticipation missing. A dark mood descends upon me.
Like a junkie I need my fix but my drug of choice is travel.
I have to get away again.
Where to next?

5 Star service in the Lodge from Hell!

Luxury AccomodationI lift up the pillow and a nest of beetles scurry away from the light.

I do the same with the next pillow, sending more beetles scuttling away in to the darkness.

I quickly brush them away before The Boss spots them and throw my own clean bed sheet over the whole bed, pillows and all.

The pillow is the same shape and consistency as a bag of cement and within 10 minutes I have a throbbing headache.

The bed too short for my height so I am forced to lie at an angle with my feet hanging over the side. The room bathed in a dim glow from the fluorescent yellow street light outside the window as I listen to late night wedding revelers returning noisily to the rooms next door, shouting at each other in Tamil despite their proximity and the late hour. I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night.

Earlier that evening after a fruitless search for some quality accommodation in this small rural town we finally settled for the best of the rest and took a tiny room in a lodge down a noisy side street. It’s wedding season and everywhere is booked solid in a town that is not big enough to warrant a hotel of any kind.

The room qualifies as luxury accomodation as it has AC and a TV. One thing it lacks though is hot water. With hand signals and a few words in English and Tamil we explained to the owner that we wanted hot water to bathe in and he explained that he would supply us with an immersion rod, an electric element which you suspend in a bucket to heat the water. It needs to be suspended using a wooden stick so that you don’t get an electric shock but it is surprisingly effective.

Immersion heater

By 8pm it hadn’t arrived so I climbed down the narrow stairway to what functions as the reception. The lodge owner was still there juggling calls on his two cell phones.

“Hot water, hot water” I asked him.

“9 o’clock coming” came the answer. “Fresh piece.”

As good as his word, at 9 o’clock there was a loud banging on the door.

The elderly watchman, barefoot and clad in a white vest and dhoti, handed me a plastic bucket, a wooden stick and a brand new immersion rod still in it’s box.

Closing the door, I looked at the price stickers still on the bucket and the immersion rod box. The total cost was Rs650.

The rent for the room was only Rs600!

The Boy who grew Wings

The village boy who grew wingsIndia is a land of stories. Some of them make you angry, frustrated, and cynical. But there are just as many if not more, that inspire you, fill your eyes with tears, and restore your faith in the strength of the human spirit.
This is one of those stories.
Imagine a boy, born to a poor farming family in rural India. A childhood running barefoot through the fields, playing with friends in the shade of a Banyan Tree, swimming in the muddy village pond, an idyllic life for a child but for the parents struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table, a tough hard life.
As he grew older and finished his education he looked further afield for ways to support himself and to care for his aging parents. He travelled to a big city in another state. The language, the culture different but unperturbed he looked for work, eventually landing a job as a waiter in a restaurant. His hard work paid off, his rudimentary English improved, and over time his income increasing. Still a paltry salary but with careful living and long hours of work, it was enough to send a small amount home to his family each month.
Over the years he became popular with the regulars, his ready smile and helpful attitude endearing him to the customers. In conversation one day he spoke of his dream, to go beyond waiting tables and to train in the kitchen, gain skills as a cook, and maybe, if he was lucky, eventually get work on a cruise ship. He had found a school that would train him but the fees meant it was beyond his reach and his dream would remain unfulfilled. His father was ill and what little savings he had managed to accumulate were spent in hospital bills and replacing his father’s lost income.
His story touched a chord and one day some of his regular customers presented him with money to go towards the course fees. With tears in his eyes he reluctantly but gratefully accepted the donation, scraped together the balance needed and shortly thereafter handed in his notice, leaving to join the cooking school.
Six months passed and he appeared back in the city, a changed young man, seemingly more confident, English more polished, his way of dressing more modern, looking more like a young IT professional rather than a waiter from a village.
Proudly displaying his certificates and coursework, he explained that he would return to his village for a while to see his family, to take care of outstanding debts and obligations and would then seek employment with his new-found skills.
A month later, now with tears in their eyes, his benefactors listened as he conveyed in a breathless, excited phone call his great news.
No-one from his village had ever been out of the country. No one from his village had ever flown in an airplane.
The next day after a total of four connecting flights he would arrive in Italy, where he would be joining the kitchens of a P & O Cruise Ship sailing the Mediterranean.

The World is Mine

 

IMAGE: The planet Earth as viewed from space. Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

IMAGE: The planet Earth as viewed from space. Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

My post  “The Toilet Angel” (Part 1 and Part 2)seemed to affect a lot of readers profoundly and prompted a lot of discussion and comment both on the blog and privately. As Carissa at Everydayasia.com commented “puts into perspective her own mild hurdles”
One of my readers sent me the beautiful poem below which I thought I would share with you. I don’t know it’s origin or who the author is so if you do please let me know.

The World is Mine
——————–
I saw a very beautiful woman,
And wished I were as beautiful.
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch.
But as she passed, she passed a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs; the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy,
The lad who sold it had such charm,
I talked with him, he seemed so glad,
If I were late, it’d do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me,
“I thank you, you’ve been so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks like you.
You see,” he said, “I’m blind.”
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes; the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street,
I saw a child I knew.
He stood and watched the others play,
but he did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said,
“Why don’t you join them dear?”
He looked ahead without a word,
I forgot, he couldn’t hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two ears; the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go,
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I’d know.
With loving family & friends to enjoy life
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine,
I’ve been blessed indeed, the world is mine.

The Toilet Angel – Part two

Read Part 1 first

The next day having reached Pondicherry we were sitting in one of our favorite restaurants waiting to place our order.

We spotted our regular waiter crossing the restaurant on crutches.

“What happened to you?” we asked.

“On the way home from Pondicherry on my motorbike one evening I was hit by a drunk driver.

I spent 2 months in hospital but the doctors couldn’t save my foot”