poem: India 2007

India 2007

Of all the cultures said to be the one
Most likely strong enough to face the west
And not go under: India! So big
And complex everywhere you look. First Changi,
The airport, huge as well, almost a city
En route to India; we stayed by chance
In Singapore’s red light ‘endroit’, with lots
Of working girls, each carrying in hand
Her parasol. Then on to Delhi, vast
Again but unlike Singapore chaotic.
We sought to go to Rajasthan by train
But Happy Singh soon set us straight: ‘You need
My car and driver – forty bucks a day,

That’s all!’ And we concurred, the size of Delhi
Somewhat beyond our expectations. BJ
Our driver zipped the little Tata in
And out of fearsome traffic, found the huge
Red Fort, Old Delhi’s crowded lanes, the wires
Above us thick with monkeys. Next the tomb
Of Humayun, the first of many vast
Yet intricate and ornate Mughal graves
And forts, then Qutab Minar, mighty tower.

The finest tomb of all is found at Agra:
The Taj, of course, is white and perfect, brings
A tear to to eye and lump to throat, but air
In Agra’s foul and yellow, full of smoke
That’s burned by factories, and kilns
For bricks – they dot the countryside.
Half-stunned by Taj Mahal we lost ourselves
In Agra’s winding lanes and reached BJ

At base quite late. Next day we’re off to Jaipur,
And pressed to buy from BJ’s mates. It’s all
Part of a deal we felt we understood.
An Indian wedding fills the street outside

Our inn; such colour, brass band, noise, and groom

Bestride white horse, fine clothing plastered thick
With paper money; wild the dancing, off
They go along the street to stop outside
Another joint. And so we travelled on
To cities, desert towns, and each beneath
Its mighty Mughal fort. The roads are packed
With camels, goats and dogs and cows and even
Elephants at times. We sleep in ev’rything
From dodgy inns to palaces with suites
Of rooms the size of houses; now we know
How maharajahs lived. These desert lands
Are where they test their nuclear bombs; and force
Is everywhere displayed for Pakistan
To get the point. Bikaner’s next, then on
To Jaisalmer, past forests not of trees
But wind machines to make clean power. We come
To Jodhpur next, then Pushkar, holy town
Of spivs and beggars bold; they lead us to
The sacred lake and try to get our cash.

Next Bundi’s ancient murals and a wealth
Of lemur monkeys, bold and unafraid
Of us. More forts at Chittorgarh and then
Udaipur; that’s the end of time with BJ
But not before a subtle threat to make
His tip more grand. Or were we spooked? It all
Depends on how you read some strange things said.
We fly to wondrous temples carved from hills,
Ellora Caves they’re called, World Heritage,
Aurangabad close by. At local fort
We’re mobbed by crowds of kids just wanting pics
Of them with us. A train to Mumbai takes
Full seven hours, and look! the traffic’s calm
And ordered, quite unusual here so far.
Chowpatty Beach unlike the beach at home,
So many folk you hardly see the sand,
A thousand picnics and a hundred kites.

So now the prize: a week of rest in Goa;
The train’s a classic trip through tunnels long
And mountains broad. It’s thirteen hours at least
And wallahs stalk our carriage selling food.
Oh what a lovely place is Goa! Beaches
And lounges, docile dogs and vodka late
In day with mango juice; and fine fish curry,
The beach shack cooks it just so well. The life
In Goa seems without the pace and crowds
We’ve grown so used to. Bangalore our last
Remaining stop; the airport’s quite the loudest
Of loud and crowded India. Bye-bye.

 

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