Exercising my prerogative as a freelancer to take my holidays out of season, in two weeks’ time I will be in an aircraft on my way to the India, where I will be spending almost three weeks travelling around the most fascinating place in the world.
This isn’t my first visit to the sub-continent. Last time I splashed out on a posh tour, first around Rajasthan to see romantic palaces and fortresses, the Taj Majal and crumbling riverside ghats, then south to Kerala to explore the mountainous regions and jungles, tea plantations and colourful temples. We swam in the warm, probably shark-infested waters, and sat on the black sand watching the fishermen pull in their nets. We rode elephants and saw traditional dancers wearing strange masks, hiked through a swamp in search of wildlife, sprinkling tobacco powder on our legs to keep the leaches from sucking our blood and sat on a balcony surrounded by rainforest and watched monkeys swinging. It was amazing! I can scarcely believe that I am going back!
Unfortunately, however, we didn’t have many opportunities to speak to many ‘real Indians’, only the guides who took us to visit the different monuments and attractions and the hawkers who tried to sell us things. Not even our drivers spoke English, which was a shame.
All of which makes me wonder how we are going to cope on this particular journey, when we will not have the benefit of English or Spanish speaking guides. This time we will be travelling by train. Everyone has seen documentaries about the train system in India and seen everyone hanging off the sides and roof. It is, apparently, the best way to see this country. All our seats have been reserved in first class compartments but, what is Indian first class going to be like? How will we know when it is time to get off? Will we find anyone who understands us? Actually, I’m not too worried. I am going to have an adventure, and the Indian people are so nice I am sure someone will help us to find the right compartment.
One thing I do know is that we won’t go hungry. As you probably know, the most popular food in my country, England, is Indian food, and I can read an Indian menu as skilfully as I can a menu in my own language. That is of course, if they write the words in script I can understand. I certainly don’t know how to read any of those beautiful curly letters and dots they use!