On the way back…


As I write I am sitting in Delhi Airport. A 5 hour drive to get here which was fairly uneventful beyond the usual camels all going the wrong way down the motorway, trucks with no lights looming out of the dark, stray dogs everywhere and the small fires lit by the truck driver who all huddle in small groups wrapped up in filthy shawls against the chill spring morning.

I had to get up at 4.30am to be ready to leave. The usual platoon of staff were all up, too, hoping for tips. I know all their life stories, how much they earn, what they send to their families, how much they would like in tips… I confess I find it irritating rather than endearing, so just to wind them up I gave the tips all in one bundle to the hotelier to pass on. I know he will, I just do not feel like Lady Bountiful so early in the day.

By 8.30am I was awake and hungry. We still had a 100 or so kilometers to go and I asked the driver to stop somewhere. He knows I like bhuria chai (good chai) so he pulled over to a famous truckers stop where they are renowned for their parathas.

Of course all the customers stop in mid mouthful as I glide past and head for their divine toilet. How long can I really hold my breath for? And can I pee standing….? Minutes, and yes, of course I can.

Sitting at a rickety table under an acacia tree on a crooked plastic chair I arranged myself. Water was brought in a lovely red plastic jug, black with grime and the table was diligently wiped with a cloth that musty have just given the toilet a once over. Squirrels tried mating under my table and the sparrows were having such fun.

The driver was thrilled that I took it all in my stride and personally wiped down the newly delivered, wet, greasy plate. Once it was gleaming it was mine. The obligatory swarm of flies had discovered his bare arm and all waited there, patiently, knowing that food was on it’s way. A couple of mangy curs came and hung out, too, great long black nipples dangling from their exhausted bellies. One of the dogs had lost the ability to pull in it’s tongue and it just lolled there dribbling, hoping that the site would induce me to give up and throw my breakfast at her. But I held fast. Declining the fly ridden chutney I just went straight for the most delicious paratha, dripping in fresh ghee, filled with hot potato and sliced chilli. It was delicious and I was transported away from the roadside cafe with the endless flies and sounds of horns into a culinary bliss which did also require constant waving with my hands to stop my food being engulfed in flies.

I got up from the table feeling so very much better. Only one dog had the patience to wait till the end and I threw her my crust.

I do love India….