Saturday, December 12, 2009


Go with the flow down narrow whitewashed alleys punctuated with small stores toward voices raised in prayer. I am amongst small men dressed uniformly in white skull caps and long white shirts and loose white trousers. The moment is familiar from a dozen cities that I've travelled, cities in a dozen countries. Yet in my memory there is one incident that surfaces again and again. It is of crossing the frontier from India into Pakistan. The bus was crowded and I stood beside a man dressed similarly to the men I am now following to the Sufi shrine. I remember him as tall and slim, pale eyed and with clipped grey beard. And I remember mostly that he was a serious man - not that he was being serious but that he was serious in himself. Wise might be a better description but different from what I felt then on the bus or, more accurately, knew then on the bus. He questioned me politely as to where I was going.
"To Afghanistan," I said.
He said that Afghanistan was not a good place for me, that his village was a community of Sufis and that I was welcome to be their guest.
He was offering more.
He was offering a retreat and a new direction - and the opportunity to begin to learn whether I could begin to understand wisdom.
I was certain of this and certain that I should go with him - that doing so would change my life and give me at least the chance to be a better person.
I knew all this while I said to him that I had friends waiting for me in Afghanistan.
He made no attempt to persuade me.
So I continued deliberately in a direction I knew to be wrong and from which I had been offered an escape. It was a path that gave great pain to those who should have been foremost in my thoughts and it is a decision that I have regretted often and deeply over the years.
Yet this evening I feel an immense gratitude for having taken that wrong path. Had I taken another I would never have met Bernadette, never been the father to Joshua and to Jed and privileged to be adopted by Anya as her father. My joy in them in no way lessons the regret I feel for those I hurt.
This is rather a solemn BLOG. As I wrote at the beginning, perhaps more suitable for a book - or to be kept in private.
I expect an Email in the morning from Bernadette ordering me to expunge it...

Friday, December 11, 2009


Thursday after prayers and the devotees are singing at the shrine. Their voices swell and fade, swell and fade.


A young Frenchman arrived yesterday evening from Kabul where he works for the UN - this is probably immaterial information, however I was about to leave the hotel to pay respects at the shrine of the Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizam-ud-din.
A maze of alleys separates the shrine from Marthura Road. No need for a map, follow the flow of devotees. The flow is tranquil and, what joy, free of that curse of Delhi, pestering touts.


I have delayed writing of yesterday evening. I have delayed writing through concern as to what I should include. A book demands disclosure of the writer's thoughts. A BLOG is not a book and my wife, Bernadette, is in my head warning that I should keep it light. And no rants...!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My Footprint guidebook recommends a walking tour through New Delhi from the Broadway hotel: R350 including a great lunch. The tours no longer take place. Management at the Broadway hotel telephoned a guide: R2400, no mention of lunch.
So I walked without guide.
Study a map and advice comes from all sides. Some of the advice is accurate, some is useful, much is either incomprehensible or not pertaining in any way to my goal. However all is well meaning so relax and go with the flow...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


No partridge and the Moti Mahal suffers from having been excessively guide-booked in the 45 years since my last visit. I shall go on a walking tour of Old Delhi tomorrow and commune with ruins.


Most of a day spent toing and froing across Delhi in search of a Panasonic service agent capable and willing to fit a new screen to my damaged Lumix. My driver for some five hours was an elderly, very thin, kindly and helpful Sikh. His PukPuk was equally ancient. I had to push the time he stopped at an intersection with a rear wheel in a pot hole. Only faith and a few prayers got us up a fly-over. Fortunately Delhi is mostly flat.
And I am in the flow.
The flow is to banish all expectations.
Ming, in his monastery, should he read this, will be pleased with my progress (however temporary) to a state of acceptance...though he might frown at the partridge.


I ride to dinner in a rickshaw and pass men struggling with huge loads - not beasts but men of burden. My destination is the Moti Mahal where 45 years ago I glutted on a superb partidge. Does the Moti Mahal continue to serve partridge?
And why do I feel guilt as I pass the men with their loads? My guilt is of no help.
Yet I continue to feel, if not guilty, at least uncomfortable.
India, all ready...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


My neighbour on the flight from London intended becoming an extreme sports instructor - specialising in rock climbing. Early into this career he discovered the attractions of capitalism. He is married now with two young children at Private school and is an associate partner in a branch of IBM.
He keeps fit rough-water life saving.
My youngest son, Jed, is night portering at a hotel in Tignes this winter season and snow boards all day. He intends becoming a ski instructor.


I have a memory of taking a rickshaw in Bombay.
I instructed the driver, "Drive slow."
The driver nodded happily.
I emphasised, "Slow, slow, slow..."
The driver did a U turn and slammed into a pedestrian with a wooden leg. The leg snapped.
Today I was about to hire a rickshaw when a young man from the mobile telephone shop offered me a lift on the pillion of his motorbike.
Politeness made me accept.
Fifty yards of side street and ten near-death experiences separated us from the junction with the main road. The young man stopped at the T junction.
I abandoned ship...


Crossing a Delhi road near Connaught Circle. I am on the side of the pedestrian crossing closest to oncoming traffic. Terrorised, I shift to the outer side of the pedestrian crossing, felow pedestrians between me and the traffic.
A gentleman smiles and says, "No matter where you cross, death is Fate..."


This evening's meal awakened a memory of 1960s Bombay (as it was then) and a Parsee Bombayite recalling great food at a restaurant in Bombay's Muslim Quarter. Neither he nor his friends had eaten in the Quarter since Partition. Four of us took a cab. The restaurant existed, though with few patrons. Tables were in tall-backed wooden booths similar to those in a workman's cafe on Chelsea's Kings Road in the early 50s, bread and dripping, bubble and squeak, massive white mugs of tea. The cafe is long gone.
As for the restaurant in what is now Mumbai?
I'll make enquiries in hope of discovering food as delicious as it was back then.
As for this evening, I chewed a while on unchewable chunks of mutton and mopped up a divine brain curry with a mediocre nan.
The curry remains within - no mean feat given a drunken driver weaving an unsprung rickshaw on Delhi's humpity and cratered roads...


I took a rickshaw across town this evening for dinner at a Muslim restaurant behind the Jama Masjid mosque. The driver was moderately drunk. I told him not to wait. He waited. He stopped at a bottle shop on the return journey for a small bottle of 999 Rapidsmash whisky. He showed me the label. I may have mis-remembered the name. He wants to drive me tomorrow. I shall hide....


I have been travelling round Delhi in motor rickshaws much of the day in search of solution to my camera. Here are a few observations on Delhi traffic. Right of way goes to the most determined. A gap opens, go for it - left or right lane is immaterial and red lights are for wimps. Side mirrors are obligatory yet would survive a few minutes. Car drivers fold them in while on rickshaws they are on the inside. What can the rickshaw driver see in his mirrors? His passengers.


I am in Delhi!!!!!
Flew in with BA, arriving 0125 this morning. Car from the Jyoti Mahal hotel met me. Great room, HOT WATER! Bliss...
One small problem - the flight attendant dropped my computer bag. The screen on my camera is broken - fun given that I am writing for BA in-flight magazine! So off now to the BA office...
But my telephone functions and I know how to use it.