I'm back! I know, I know. Your days have felt rather lonely and empty without me, haven't they? Well, put down that e-book and listen, I will enthrall you with my adventures in the far and exotic lands of Hindustan.
It was great. Very great. Even though I was there for about nine days I did get to see a lot of the things on my list and hopefully it'll all give the next book an authentic 'Indian' flavour. Amongst the highlights were:
1. The sheer BEDLAM. Varanasi especially is a city where the cacaphony is inescapable. The city's filled with thousands of temples, mosques, barking dogs, and the endless chatter of life. People in the old city live cheek by jowl and they all shout.
2. Monkeys. There were a surprising number of monkeys in Varanasi. No breakfast is safe. Bizzarely, they were going to be a feature before I got out there but their going to be crucial to the plot now. THERE WILL BE MONKEYS might be the new title.
3. The burning ghats. Unbelievable. Publis cremations on the steps of the river with people just milling around, cows and dogs sniffing around the remains and all under the shadow of the temple of Shiva. Never experienced anything quite like it.
4. The trains. Never experienced anything quite like these either. No wonder India invented Yoga. You need to be triple-jointed to get in the top bunk, that's for sure.
5. The food. I so stuffed my face. Embarrassing really.
6. The poverty and the mad drive towards modernity. You've children working on building sites, stirring the cement that'll be some new towering hotel for the coming Commonwealth games. But there are no easy answers to any of it.
7. The gods. Vishnu and Shiva. Hanuman, Kali, Rama and many more. Shrines tucked away in the corner of alleys, all garlanded and small plates of offerings at their feet. People pause automatically to offer prayers almost while they're still taking calls on their mobiles. It all blends into one.