Our train pulled in to Amritsar Junction at first light and I awoke to the sound of coolies and rickshaw wallahs battling for the attention of the passengers. I shoved my way, elbows first, off the train and towards the exit of the station. Here I was greeted by a breed of Cycle Rickshaw that was new to me, one which involves a precarious balancing act, as the chair is just a solid dome atop a cart. After an ungainly struggle, two of us were seated, determinedly clutching o
Hopping on the Mewar Express back to Delhi is usually an adventurous experience. Every other passenger is keen to ascertain where I am from: “from which country you?” and why I am here. However, last week when I got on the train, a slightly intimidating bunch of teenage guys from the next berth were being untoward and annoying, and repeatedly proposing marriage.
My saviour came in the form of a charming, well-spoken and evidently intelligent boy named Chetan. From Mumbai,
As someone who spends a great part of her time fussing about finding good coffee, Delhi can present a bit of a challenge. All too often I am greeted with the poor excuse for a cup of coffee that is half a teaspoon of Nescafé in lukewarm water. Sadly, despite the numerous plantations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over 80% of the beans grown in India are exported. Numerous cafés and restaurants in Delhi have cottoned on to the delight that is good coffee, but until rece
I crossed the Ganga at sunrise. Well, I say sunrise; it was more that misty white haze that conceals even the least special of highway towns. There is rarely a glorious, celebratory sunrise in Delhi or the plains that surround the city. Day creeps in apologetically in muted, chalky tones. The canopy of smog mars any clarity and the thick air is damp, even in winter. Along the highway to Nainital, skeletal trees are interspersed with pylons, half-finished concrete homes and
This week I met up with Dharamveer, a charming and intelligent guy who is one of seven co-founders of Zostel, India’s first hostel chain. He praised his co-founders and chatted about the fact that together they make the perfect team. India is currently a country full to the brim with budding entrepreneurs, but as Dharamveer said to me, ‘everybody can have an idea; it’s the execution that matters’. Zostel really have got this execution element so right. Having begun their re
On a summer’s day in Punjab in 1957, thirty three year old government roads inspector Nek Chand decided that the regimented and conformist attitudes of Chandigarh mentality suited him no longer. He began to create an illegal and secret sculpture garden on government land behind Sukhna Lake. He constructed interlinking waterfalls, pathways, walls, steps, miniature auditoriums, pools, caves, platforms and statues, totally out of scrap. His creativity extended to the use of c
Explorer’s Nest in Jaipur, Rajasthan, is a quaint, homely and charming little homestay tucked away in a quiet colony in the centre of town. The owners are Arvind Grover, a retired Lieutenant Colonel and his wife, Shoma, a thoughtful and interested woman who is a professor of Botany. The little guesthouse is remarkably cheap but certainly has everything that I need; hot water, speedy wifi and a lovely roof terrace on which you can sit and watch the world go by. Each room is
William Dalrymple is a busy man. Alongside others, he masterminded and now directs the Jaipur Literature Festival, which is held annually in the Pink City and attracts such literary Gods and Godesses as V. S. Naipaul and next year, Margaret Atwood! I first discovered his writing and work when I moved to Delhi some years ago, when my mother gave me his second book, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. As an homage to both moving back to Delhi and returning to the Lit Fest, I have
1. First of all, leave early, allow extra time, and prepare to be late; you will be pleasantly surprised when you reach your destination on time! 2. Unless it is outrageously hot, take sleeper instead of AC3 for overnight train journeys. Not only is it half the price but AC3 actually becomes too chilly in winter and the atmosphere of the cheaper carriage is far nicer: people actually talk to you and chai wallahs and numerous shouting merchants squeeze up and down the aisles d
One hundred and seventy kilometres south west of Patna in Bihar, in a small village named Atraulia, a very modern sect of Hinduism is emerging. This community devotes their worship to one-time cricket champion Sachin Tendulkar. Now retired, Tendulkar has been dubbed one of the greatest batsmen of all time and is the only player to have achieved more than 30,000 runs in international cricket. This year he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s most prestigious civilian award.