Everything Everywhere TM
by Paul Singer
The more observant
amongst you will have noticed that in late October I was blogging from the
relative comfort of our hotel room in Delhi when, suddenly, it all went very quiet.
This was not as a result
of me having been swallowed by a tiger in the jungle, or bitten by a ferocious
mosquito, as some might have imagined. It was not even the result of having
eaten McDonalds in a strange land or, worse still, being admitted to hospital
with Delhi Belly after eating street food.
No, the enforced
interruption to blog transmissions was a result of there being no internet almost
as soon as we stepped outside that hotel.
Despite the recent
rebranding of Orange to "EE" - alleged to mean "Everything Everywhere", and my
subscription, before I left the UK, to their latest animal-themed package (I
forget if it was a Dolphin or Kangaroo, now), there was no sign of anything
resembling phone signal, let alone 3G.
Instead of Everything
Everywhere, perhaps they should have called it Nothing Anywhere as our
experience was not unique when travelling across India. Local people with old
Nokia phones costing less than a banana were merrily chatting away with one
another on some local network whilst those of us with Blackberries or fancy
iPhones, could not even dial 999 (or whatever the Indian equivalent was) even
if we had wanted to.
To be fair, it may not all
be the fault of EE, however, when you consider the local wiring situation (see
So what now follows is a
very much condensed version of our amazing journey across one of the most
fascinating and unique countries I have ever visited.
We travelled by Jeep,
Car, Train, Boat, Plane and Elephant. We saw incredible wealth and even more
incredible poverty. We ate food we would never have even touched, let alone eaten,
in the UK - and lived to tell the tail (cheap joke about the mystery content of
dishes in Indian restaurants!).
I took over 2,500
photographs which I fully intend to use to bore my friends and relatives into
total submission if they ever threaten to bring out their holiday photos.
Most of what you see and
experience, however, simply cannot be captured by photos or video alone. The tastes,
smells, noises, the vibrancy and the warmth of the people is just not capable
of being recorded.
That having been said,
some of the sights are best illustrated by photos so I have decided to share
with you all some of my photographs (not all 2,500, you will be pleased to hear!).
Not so much Vidal Sassoon as Vijay Monsoon!
A street barber in Old
Delhi will shave you for 10 Rupees (about 15p). If you want the blade sharpened
and cleaned, beforehand, it's 20 Rupees, apparently. I passed on the experience fearing that my
holiday insurance might be invalid if I voluntarily agreed to have my throat
slit by a complete stranger with a rusty blade!
For the very brave, a swig of water from the
We were treated to a
boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi, at dawn. Apart from people carrying out ad
hoc cremations on the bank, and washing in the river, there were even people
prepared to drink the holy water. We passed on that and stuck to Perrier,
although we did dip our forefinger into the water and dab a drop of it on our
forehead for good luck. I've not won the lottery yet so I'm thinking that maybe
the good luck was not getting any serious infection from putting your finger in
the filthy water, without protection.
Forget Colgate - try
a twig from the Neem tree!
man is brushing his teeth with a twig from a Neem tree. Reputed to have
medicinal qualities, the local people prefer that to toothpaste and you don't
even need water so it's totally portable - as long as you can find a Neem tree
nearby, that is.
Be careful if you
order Number 69 in a restaurant in India!
this is not Indian porn. It's part of a range of carvings depicting scenes from
the Karma Sutra, to be found on the erotic temples in the village of Khajuraho.
There are others involving children, elephants and horses but those have been
censored to protect the more innocent readers of this blog (please email me for
A wood spider prepares her lunch - a tasty
I did promise not to do
a David Attenborough with photos of creatures from the jungle but this one
begged to be included. Whilst we were happy to view this scene from the safety
of a jeep, we weren't quite so thrilled to find a close cousin of this spider
in the bedroom of our tree-house retreat that same evening!
restaurant doesn't have a door on which to display
on the Doors" which is probably just as well!
This restaurant in the jungle has air-conditioning, apparently,
although I am not sure that gaps under the plastic bags which form the walls
actually counts as air-conditioning! We passed on having a meal here despite
the obvious attraction of the unusual local décor.
of room on top.
We hardly ever go by train in the UK so to go from zero to a 14
hour overnight train journey from the depths of the jungle to Agra was perhaps
a little ambitious, in hindsight. We had an inside cabin with beds to sleep on
- except the "bed" was more like an ironing board fixed on the wall about 6
feet off the floor, and another group of people had similar "beds" underneath
us. At least we weren't on the roof,
hanging off the side or between the carriages - but we didn't get to sleep a
single wink that night.
made of bamboo held together with old rags.
Health and Safety doesn't mean that much in India. This makeshift
scaffolding over a main road in Jaipur is barely held together with old rags
and yet men work high above the ground balanced on nothing more than a bamboo
I thought I'd finish with a (rare) Indian joke:
An elderly Indian man was on a flight to Bombay but, when everybody
was given their in-flight meal, he began spreading out his own home-cooked
meal. The man sitting next to him was an American who was curious about the
"Excuse me, what is that drink?" he asked.
The old man picked up the yogurt-based lassi drink and said,
"Milk of India!"
Then the old man took out several pieces of chapattis and started
"And what is that dish?" asked the curious American.
"Wheat of India!" replied the old man, proudly.
Finally, the old man took out some dessert.
"What is that?" asked the American.
"Sweet of India!" replied the old man.
After the meal, just as everyone was settling down, the old man
broke wind, violently.
"What on earth was that?" asked the American in disgust.
The old man replied, "That's Air India!"