My last day in India has been spent around the Jangli Maharaj Road or Revenue Colony area of Pune. It’s a student area full of colleges, it has an old sunken temple carved from stone as if it were scraped from the very ground, there are vegetarian restaurants nestling across the road from McDonald’s where the students are getting a taste for Silicon Valley cuisine, the usual haphazard Indian streets where motorcycle seats are re-covered, sugar cane juice is sold and men stand chewing kat talking tough about Pakistan, how India is a tiger and the future is bright.
I am not too happy to leave, but it is time. I haven’t written an entry in my online diary for a month now because I lost my separation from India. In the beginning I was writing about a play, after a while I found myself a part of it, I’m not trying to be cool there, it’s just that I tend to leave my purpose hanging on a peg and pick it up when I leave the building, forget to be objective and wake up in the mud singing with the other 1 Billion.
However, I was a little pissed off when I got to the hotel I was staying at in Pune (The Bhooshan) because they told me I had booked the wrong night. Now I know how to use a calendar on an Internet booking site and what made it more fishy is that they started insisting on my paying another night instead of just shifting the booking. I gave them the hairdryer and they caved, suddenly smiling sweetly with soothing words. They did however, as an afterthought, add the 10% luxury tax that in theory should have been included in the online price.
However, this grumpiness transferred itself to my wanderings around Pune so that my normally jovial reaction to pushing and shoving, beeping horns and giggling schoolkids that think that long hair is a gender issue, was not a good one. I caught myself mid scowl and remembered where I was. India is a place where people move in disquieted herds, push in without eye contact to avoid confrontation, put up with the heat like animals at a waterhole, this place is colourful, surprising and alive in a way that a (who is that American painter who just sloshed the paint about) is.
Things are changing though and it could have a marked effect on little old Europe. Someone pointed out that the Stringent UK immigration laws are already leaving hospitals short of staff, but what happens when India becomes a place to move back to; all of the Surgeons, Dentists, Doctors, Engineers, all of the jobs that we turned our noses up in favour of taking fine art and drama will suddenly be empty, people will head back to the brave new India where the streets are starting to look shinier than those of London, where you can have good weather all year around (Pune) with the sun and sea that we exported as a concept has taken root in Goa, the locals now enjoy sun and sand and too much beer as if they read the manual updside down.
Anyhow I cheered up, I started to sing Noel Coward songs, or the bits of them I knew, I popped into a building and chatted with the guard about how old the colonial building he was guarding is (didn’t know), what purpose does it serve (Pune’s Met Office, the clue was in the neon sign outside that gave the high and low for the day, the high was 33.5 yet it felt cooler with a sea breeze). I jauntily passed people by greeting them as if I were dressed in a linen suit and was off to meet Holly Go Lightly, the fug lifted from my shoulders and I was carried by the lack of weight though the litter and the stones that are smeared in grime, paint, spit, rivers of blood and the very soup that carries every seed.
I took India for granted and didn’t really take much notice of her since being here this time, I arrived to spend time with my daughter and even though we spent winter in the very heart of India, Varanasi, perhaps I let both of them down, because both of them are worthy of more than ignorance. Then I went to Goa which is hardly India, Goa is like the hem of India’s dark, star studded skirt, a very pretty hem but hardly something to rest your head on, to contemplate eternity.
I am now typing this in a little staff restaurant near the customs department of Mumbai Airport. I arrived early and due to the present security alert was not allowed into the airport ahead of my allotted three hours, so I am biding my time. It is a god send, I met a German father and son who have just arrived fresh faced and wise eyed, then to here where the staff have been looking through my photo collection to try to get an idea of what The UK is about, a birthday party in London the Peak District in winter and Cornwall, not really a balanced account.
I’ll be in London in the blink of an eye, then it’ll be spring after another blink.