Interlude – The first travel – Should auld acquaintance be forgot…

Today, as Mr Bob is too busy enjoying the local Saigon Beer to bother writing a new letter, here is a random snippet of his last travel blog from almost three years ago while adventuring in India. . .

Thursday December 30 2010, Old Delhi.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot. . . .

Today I saw a couple of famous objects. Items that I’ve spoken of by name probably a hundred of times over the last 10 years or so as a euphemism, but that I’d never dreamed I’d one day find myself face to face with. I suppose I expected that they didn’t even exist anymore but here we are; a pair of brown, ox-leather chappals (sandals), formerly belonging to one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. That’s right boys and girls, it’s Gandhi’s flip-flops!

And assuming that no one had the foresight to clip off and preserve Hitler’s moustache from his bloated corpse, it’s difficult to imagine a more iconic artifact of twentieth century history. Every object that Gandhi owned when he died is laid out in the room I’m standing in, and it wouldn’t fill a Tesco ‘bag for life’. But it’s the sandals that interest me most; maybe because they’re synonymous with the man himself or maybe it’s because he probably wore them at the head of the famous Salt March, and certainly did on the day he was cut down just 30 feet or so from this spot.

Gandhi Smriti; the memorial garden and museum that now stands at the site where a great man’s long journey of peace came to an abrupt and violent end. It’s quiet. Not empty, there are people everywhere around but it’s startlingly sombre and no one speaks a word. Such an atmosphere of mourning, a stranger might think he’d died 3 days ago not 63 years. In India people still just refer to him as ‘Bapu’ (Father). It’s also the first place I’ve visited that isn’t entirely geared towards fleecing tourists; there’s no entrance fee (at the Taj Mahal for example, it’s 10 rupees for Indians, 750 rupees for foreigners) and there are no touts, rickshaw wallahs, unofficial ‘tour guides’ or people selling overpriced plastic tat as souvenirs to gullible Americans. It could just be because they don’t expect tourists to visit this place, but I like to think it’s because India doesn’t want to cheapen the memory of their most famous holy man by cashing in on the site of his death. Whatever, I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. A good experience all round.

So, the history buffs among you will have already worked this out but for the rest, I’m back in Delhi. With some gentle cajoling (and some less gentle kicking), I got the bike and myself back here in one piece and it’s once again in Lalli’s shop for what I can only describe as a postmortem. Everythings broke, but Lalli’s like a dog with a bone and has drafted in extra workers just to make sure it’s all fixed and ready to go again tomorrow. And I don’t mind in the slightest, it’s given me an opportunity to see some of Delhi’s sights that I missed the first time around.

I’ve checked myself into another bargain basement hotel filled with hippies, backpackers and general eastern casualties. It’s a fair place, especially now that I’ve been upgraded (see below for details of my latest cunning scheme. . .) and I’ve met a couple of english speaking travellers so at least I’ve got two or three people to get drunk with tomorrow night. Should be leaving town again and picking up my trail on Saturday I think, new year, new quest and all that. The next place on my intinerary is the fabled city of Udaipur but as that’s over 700km from Delhi, I’ll probably have to make a couple of overnight stops along the way.

On to the new scam then; it was a spur of the moment thing but seems to have paid dividends. Quite late last night I was sitting in the bar/restaurant/web cafe of this hotel and typing away on the laptop with a letter to someone (if you didn’t get a letter yesterday, it wasn’t you, alright?) when one of the hotel owners materialised behind me and asked if I was working, I might have had a drink or two last night so was feeling just the right combination of ballsy and daft so I told him yes, I write a little freelance for a couple of travel magazines. At the time, he disappeared with little more than a raised eyebrow but I’ll be buggered if he wasn’t back 10 minutes later with a jug of coffee. Complimentary, he said.

Yeah yeah, I know, a little unethical and about as original as the “pull my finger” gag but it got me a free drink last night and even better, when i returned from my wanderings this afternoon, a nicer room had miraculously become available, and would I prefer that one instead at the same price for the next two days? you know what matey, I think I just might. Probably get rumbled in no time but hey, what can they do? hehe.

In conclusion, all is still well in the orient and I’ve visited a couple more touristy spots today so I’ll upload some pictures later. Apologies for the quality but it was foggy today (and raining, oddly). My New Year’s wishes to everybody, try and force down that one extra drink on my behalf won’t you?

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