In April 1970 I set off by myself for a tour of India. I was supposed to join my father at a Conference in Nepal, and there were friends of the family in all the big cities, but I was supposed to travel and tour all by myself. I was keen on the plan, since I had had some experience of travel previously, in Madras in 1968 and in 1969 in Malaysia. In both cases I did much on my own though I stayed each night with friends of my parents. On this occasion I was still 15, and now cannot understand how my parents were persuaded to agree to the plan, since it involved long journeys and many nights on my own. But they did, for which I remain eternally grateful.
All Saints College (Trichy)
20th April 1970 – 1.00 pm
Arrived safely. Jaffna customs were nice but in Trichy I declared 12 Dollars and the man said only 8 were allowed. He was most fierce at first but he wasn’t really so bad because in the end he told me to keep it undeclared and exchange on the black market. In return for which he borrowed (?) one of my films. Luckily he didn’t know about the 125 though he greedily examined Cynthy’s cake. Exciting though. Same porters! (as in 1968)
I went to Vythialingam’s. He was out but the sons remembered me. Their English was deplorable. They also told me that Mrs Charles was at Vestry School where I went and found she wasn’t. The Principal there, luckily, knew she was here. The bus people were very helpful. They look on my three bags with sympathetic derision, expecially when the string broke off K.S.U. I hope I can repair it.
I had lunch here, it was awfully hot and I couldn’t finish. At the moment I’m relaxing under a fan in the room we had last time.
The tyre’s flat. Obviously I have a bad effect on this bus!
We haven’t moved yet, I have been sleeping on and off sprawled across a 3-seater. By the side of the road a row of Indians squats in mute acceptance. The moon is full and behind them the trees are in profile. On the other side while half asleep I saw the hills far away redden at sunset. 2 hours ago I was in misery. Now it’s nothing but a pleasing diversion. I only hope we’re in Madras before the train leaves. Also for an iced coke beside me. But you can’t have everything.
21st – 8.45 am
We finally left at 10 and arrived here at 4.30. Kunji’s friend was waiting! I felt really bad. He took me to his quarters and I fell asleep again. At 8 I went to the station. No Regina! The train, however, leaves at 10.30. Mr Dayanand said he could go with me to Regina’s house or perhaps Egmore. I don’t suppose it will be any use but still..……. Even if I don’t find her, I’ll go and ask him to meet her and get the money and send it on.
3 Kiln Lane – Bombay 7
HELL IS A 3RD CLASS INDIAN UNRESERVED RAILWAY CARRIAGE.
There was I, thinking of a compartment reserved for 6, in one meant for ten, full of 25 (excluding the luggage racks which included me). 26 HOURS of it – next time I must have sleeping tablets, if ever. I couldn’t eat a thing except Glucorasa or Chocolate Biscuits – just drank and drank and drank including water once in desperation. Train started while I had got off in one station and I just managed to get into another carriage. Luckily by then I knew the people enough to have put them on guard though I was a bit nervous since the shirt I was sleeping on had disappeared (while I was awake and drinking tea). When I got back though everything was safe and everyone sounded relieved. They were all very good really since I got 1/4 of a rack though there were people on the floor even when I got in, 5 minutes before the train started. Most of the time I just lay expiring like a dying swan with my head in one direction and my body twisted and my legs curved onto the opposite rack. Sleep was patchy though until about 4 am when I got ½ a rack. I slept till 10. It was awful when you just had to sit and do nothing. I veered between fits of depression and elation. It was thrilling in a way though never, I hope, to be repeated. I also composed idiotic limericks until even I no longer found them funny. Traveling without anyone to talk to and without being able to read for a whole day is terrible. Only 1 person in the carriage could talk English and he wasn’t at all interesting. He was shocked to hear I’d spent 250 Rupees to get to Trichy when I could have come by train. Talk about a sense of humour! But the train was only 10 minutes late for which one must be thankful.
Bombay is nice but so huge! I think I’m terrified of crowds. I hope to leave around the 28th but it depends on Ajantha and Ellora. Mohan has fever at the moment. He works very hard at the printers.
95, Sundar Nagar
I’m in Delhi at the moment, leaving tonight for Allahabad. 3rd again but reserved! I had a lovely trip to Delhi, by plane, stopping for a day each in Ahmedabad, Udaipur and Jaipur. The train-time table triumphed over my conscience. The connections were terrible.
I went to Ajantha and Ellora from Bombay. By bus and train, unfortunately, since Mohan was too busy. They thought that I would be in Bombay much longer. The caves were beautiful. If I start on the details I’ll never stop so I’ll give them when I return. I got back to Bombay on the 28th and left early next day. I got to Delhi on the 1st night and phoned. Palitha is in Japan and the driver had gone but I got to the house by taxi. Everyone is so nice. On the 2nd I spent the WHOLE MORNING getting my concession form, train tickets and so on. Indians can wait for ages. I can do nothing, but waiting is annoying. That afternoon and the next day I went round Delhi and yesterday I saw the Taj. It was marvelous.
I’ll be going to Allahabad, Benares and Patna. I got a flight on the 10th tentatively and hope to join Thatha on it. I got my Nepalese visa with help from Mr Goonewardena of the High Commission. They wanted at first 50 dollars currency but he phoned them and they waived it. Anyway, now it’s all right. I only hope their customs are all right.
Arrived here on the 10th, on the same flight as Thatha though I only discovered him at the airport. Had a nice journey up from Delhi, relatively speaking! One day in Allahabad was a dead loss since the fort I wanted to see is an army camp now and only after much hindrance was I allowed two feet inside to see the base of Asoka’s pillar. Sangam – where the Ganges meets the Jumna – was utterly squalid. In the evening, at the Y.M.C.A. I watched Indians playing bridge, swearing at everyone else round the table after every game.
Varanasi was lovely. The Bentleys were really nice, the whole missionary community there struggling against the idiocy of India. He took me for a row along the river and drove me to Sarnath but even without all that I felt I could have stayed there for ages. Everything seemed unreal.
I got to Patna on the 9th night and stayed at the Student Centre. Cyril Hans is very nice. He popped up at the airport next morning after finishing his service.
I am staying at Jungle’s though at the moment I am in Thatha’s hotel room. The UN office is just next door. Yesterday while walking up through the town I felt feverish so I slept practically the whole evening and night. I’m quite all right today but I’m not doing anything. Day before I went cycling. Lovely journey through all sorts of roads but the temples I ultimately got to weren’t that impressive. The Hindu stuff loses its glow after one has seen the Moghul monuments!
I am trying to return as quickly as possible but, since it will be pointless getting straight to Madras from Puri and missing Hyderabad, it will take at least 10 days. I don’t know anything about the train time tables, which is annoying. I’ve already cut 2 places off my list and maybe I’ll have to cut off more. Not that I’d mind, since they are not that exceptional. But I certainly cannot travel non-stop in these terrible trains, reserved or not.