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Friday, 20 March 2015

A land of amazing contrasts.



Probably my last post concerning India but I cannot let this chance to speak of the amazing contrasts which are the make up of this vast nation.

  • It is the largest democracy in the world and yet the majority of it's population are illiterate.

  • It is a socialist state and yet it has some of the largest independent companies in the world.

  • It has possibly the highest price real estate in the world that sits side by side one of the world's largest slums.



  • There seems to be a pride in the slums.




  • There are multi millionaires living in the slum in Mumbai.
  • It is a largely matriarchal society but when a woman is gang raped and killed it is her fault for being out at night and for fighting for her honour and life.
  • It has some of the largest companies in the world and yet there are millions out of work.
  • There are super cars on the roads next to tuc-tucs and ox carts.  



  • It is a Hindu nation that freely allows the muslim call to prayer to dominate 5 times a day. I do not know of a single Muslim land that would allow the opposite.
  • One of the fastest growing economies in the world but yet relies on vast amounts of aid from Britain and other Western countries.
  • A nuclear power but poor electricity infrastructure.
  • A space programme but no decent roads.
  • A caring community until it comes to being on the road when the weakest is made vulnerable.
  • Beautiful scenery spoiled by rubbish everywhere.
  • Beautiful beaches covered in human excrement.
  • A police force that turns a blind eye to injustice.
  • Politicians who preach socialism that are infinitely wealthy.
  • Trains that would leave the average Brit cringing but are full of happy smiling people.
  • Gentle traditional music and Bollywood.
  • A cricket team that makes England look silly.
  • A people of peace and tranquility that do not know what quiet means. 
  • Even the flag is full of contrasts to reality: 
  • In the national flag of India the top band is of Saffron colour, indicating the strength and courage of the country. The white middle band indicates peace and truth with Dharma Chakra. The last band is green in colour shows the fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land.

 I could go on and on but suffice it to say, India has left it's influence upon me. there is so much to learn but yet so much to teach them also.

India needs much but I believe the gospel which apparently first arrived with the Apostle Thomas just after Jesus had risen to heaven is the most needed commodity.

But who will take it?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Agra, Simla and Manali: a holiday within a holiday.

It is just about a year ago from now that I was posting a similar musing. Then it concerned our wonderful holiday in Sweden and the Arctic Circle courtesy of Elaine, it was the holiday of a lifetime as far as we were concerned but again her fantastic generosity has given us a wonderful experience. We have seen things and met people that we would never have expected. We have been taken out of our comfort zone and planted in a culture that is a complete opposite to what we are personally but we loved it.

Sadly I was not able to make contact with the evangelical church that meets locally in Andheri West , the district of Mumbai where Elaine lives. We were therefore devoid of Christian fellowship but e-mail and internet provided much needed distant fellowship. I also took with me 250 books and read 11 of them, Kindle is the most amazing technology. As far as I am concerned it trumps tablets and the rest. A simple devise that is every book that I could ever need with 10 different versions of the bible available. Absolutely wonderful!




With this in place that gave us the opportunity to enjoy being with Elaine and Nicklas and to enjoy the holiday provided.

Last year the highlight of the time was to go to the Arctic circle and this year it was a plane ride to Delhi and from there to ride to Agra to see the Taj Mahal for which I have already waxed lyrical. A drive back to Delhi and the next day up to Simla. 


The Himalaya, what an amazing sight awaits us.



A very British town in the Himalayan foothills.


Very friendly traders wanting to sell their wares.
They were happy for me to photograph them! 


Not so friendly inhabitants.
They were not so happy at being photographed!!



Yaks that were photogenic but cruelly treated by their human owners.
Poor things.

Two nights in a lovely hotel in this town built by the British for them to set up Parliament for the hot Summer months. poor Brits could rule India but from a distance when it gets hot. Simla is the place where the Brits decided to give India it's much sought after independence and organised partition which meant that Muslims had to go to the newly formed Pakistan (East and west being opposite sides of India!!!) Hindus had to migrate to India with much acrimony and fighting. It is easy to blame Britain but there was also a power struggle for leadership between Muslim and Hindu leaders. The result was more than a million died after the withdrawal of Britain. Maybe the subject of a post sometime.

We were staying in a town that brought about the birth of 2 maybe 3 new nations (if you count East Pakistan which eventually became Bangla Desh.) It would be good to wind back the clock and maybe do things differently but that is impossible and along with most Indians it would be better to live in the light of fate that brings us up to this point. 

Interestingly I did not come across anybody who is negative to Britain ( I am sure there are many)!  We were accepted everywhere as honoured guests. 


The road to Manali was rough and steep and possibly the best road that I have ever experienced. our driver and now good friend Govind had never driven on such roads and so we had an experience together. He was fantastic especially when it came to snow which he had neither seen or handled before.




Before we entered into the snowy heights Gov assured me that he had warm clothing fit for the altitude: what you see is what he had. The poor boy almost froze before we discovered the truth. Thermals and hats and gloves later and a happier driver!


A fresh snowfall welcomed us and a wonderful 2 nights were thoroughly enjoyed.


A Tuc Tuc stopped by snow.



The view from our window.


It was impossible to remove the smile from our faces.
We really were on top of the world (ALMOST!)


Selling his wares.
He would have fitted well onto a Beatles album cover.


Samosas ready for baking.


Thanks both.


Idols; the problem with India.


A wonderful restaurant.
I could not resist the photo, music from my day.
LOVELY.


Even better fresh trout from the river Beas.



What more can I say?

The long, dangerous and wonderful road back to Delhi with a stop over at Chandigarh and our adventure comes to an end.


Landslide.


Get around it somehow.


Road repairs.
Where are the miles of cones and traffic lights?


I couldn't resist.


Beautiful.
But taken from a pile of household refuse.



Carrying your god to the place of worship.
My God meets me at the place of worship!


Kings of the road.
There are apparently approximately 2 million of these beasts on these roads.
I think that we probably saw all of them.

10 hours to cover 200 kilometers and bed in Chandigarh. Tomorrow was Delhi and back to Mumbai for a more sedate week.

My thoughts? 

We have seen many wonderful things and met wonderful people. This land needs the gospel that will bring true peace into hearts but it does not need our ways and culture. If this family based culture found the One True God it would be a truly amazing land absolutely full of wonderful people.



 Zoom in on the poster, this is what is needed in India and Britain alike.

P.s I thought that you might like to see me with an interesting man that I met at the airport in Mumbai.


Thursday, 12 March 2015

India

Almost 4 weeks in India have left me with many thoughts. I took a shed load of pictures but it is the pictures of the mind, the smells and the experience that say everything. I will be reflecting upon these senses for many days to come. 

The first thing I must do is to thank Elaine so very much for making it possible for her now elderly parents to have such a wonderful experience. We have seen a country, met some of it's people and eaten and drank of it's wonderful fayre all at the same time of visiting one of our 3 daughters in the place that she calls home for the next year or so.


We had a most wonderful time and now we are considering all that we have seen and are trying to formulate everything and to conclude with what we have learned from the experience; seeing and experiencing should always result in lessons learned!

The first thing that comes to mind is the people. Over the years I have had many friends from India, from my visit to their country and living for a short while in their culture has made me understand and appreciate them so much more. They are truly a wonderful people who live in a land that is to say the least confusing. Everybody and everything is so noisy, I was convinced back here in the UK that I had gone deaf whilst travelling from Heathrow to Cornwall. I cannot recall hearing a single horn blown, the traffic was ordered and people were travelling along in sequence. It is all so different.


The rules of the road seem to vary from one state to another but the impression that I got was the bigger the vehicle and the louder the horn the more authority you had ever other road users. The result of that being the most vulnerable are in the most precarious position. Pedestrians are relegated to lower class citizens, I am sure that to the driver they are expendable and if they get knocked down then it is their own stupid fault for being there. Horns are sounded, brakes ignored and here I come get out of my way. It is all so very different when the local bovine beast gets in the way. everything stops with great urgency for the highly exalted cow. 

Sadly my camera was not at hand as we passed by a local restaurant with a great crowd of people outside. There was a great commotion because the restaurant had been invaded by a herd of cows that were looking out whilst the people were looking in. Cows in the restaurant and beef is banned from the menu! How confusing, it is not a matter of the lunatics running the asylum as appears to be the case in Britain but a weird theology that exalts brute beasts to  a status way above that of man. More about that in a later blog!



Our trip started with an amount of uncertainty. Everybody told us not to arrange anything until or visa had been granted. With this advice adhered to we began to experience the side of India that is in my opinion most unsavoury. Indian officialdom stinks far more than the open sewers that offended my nostrils so often!!!!

It seems that if we were to come from any other country then a visa costs 35 pounds but because I am British it it fair to charge me in excess of 100 pounds. That rubs against the grain especially as the add on's such as photographs slightly larger than passport size and hence 10 pounds each rather than 2;50 for 2, and also postage courier service for return of passport that I paid 2:50 for but through the honourable embassy cost me 12:50 each. All in all the bill for visa's was way in excess of 300 pounds. Then came the phone call that tried to tell me I had not paid for postage for Pam's passport, thanks to records and an over-inflated price paid for postal orders there was a back down from them and the passports and visas were safely in our hands. I had been granted a six month multi entry visa and Pam a 3 month single entry visa. How on earth does that happen? We were about to find out as we entered into the land.

Our whole trip was absolutely wonderful but it was blighted by officialdom all of the way. Heathrow airport was great as was our step off point in Doha but then we entered the chaos of Mumbai. Immediately common sense, reason and structure was missing and so at 2:00 am we were introduced to officialdom gone mad. My guess is that there are 10 people to every job and so many are paid to be awkward, but we survived and were largely free from the silliness that is obvious.

It was interesting to watch incidents on the street and on the road and a policeman sitting with his stick that was more like his magic wand watching everything and everybody except the incident where his assistance was required.

But my main concern came as we hired a car and driver to travel around the North of India and up into the Himalaya. Gov (our driver) was a wonderful young man but the target constantly of unscrupulous policemen who knew that he was a taxi driver by his distinctive yellow number plated. We were also a bit obvious by our distinctively pale skin and so we were stopped many many times by roadside cops. each time they scrutinized Gov's documents he paid them some money and off we went.

Eventually we managed to extract the truth of what was happening, he was being charged a local police tax which seemed to range from 2 pounds to 5 pounds simply for the privilege of being stopped by a local law enforcement officer. There was as you might expect the  required receipt to make sure that the tax paid was bona fide:



India this corruption angers me and it ruins your reputation. You have a wonderful and colourful people, they are as the bible describes people without shepherds. The government is accountable to God Almighty and on the day of judgement you will be held accountable for the many millions you are abusing in your system. The British are accountable for all that they are and have been but that does not make you any the less accountable for the mess that you are making of your country.  will not always agree with your politics or your religion but I would love to say that you are as honourable as your people but sadly you fall very short of their mark.

Thank you Indian nation for a wonderful time and thank you Indian officials for nothing!