India, India

Indian rail image

I promised to say more about my trip to India, especially on the wildlife. There is too much to say. My foremost interest was the birds and they were utterly fantastic, the numbers, the colours, the variety. At this time of year India has not only its resident birds, but many winter visitors, some familiar to the British birder (Hobby, Tree Pipit, Little Stint) and others less familiar from Siberia (Siberian Rubythroat, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Stork). I was interested to see many Indian birders. At the main wetland reserve, Bharatpur, most visitors go round in rickshaws (the rider/drivers really know their birds) and I saw one very attractive young Indian woman with binoculars leap from her rickshaw, guided by the driver, to see the Siberian Rubythroat.

 

Sinerian Rubythroat

The tiger reserve – Ramthambore – was similar in that there was a mix of European and Far Eastern tourists with Indians among the visitors. This is obviously good for conservation. We did see a pair of tigers, but since about twelve vehicles – jeeps and boneshaker ex-army trucks – were clustered round them, there was a bit of circus about the drama. The leopards sighting was entirely different. No-one else was there. The leopards – an unusual unit of dominant male, young female and hanger-on male – seemed unaware of us. I don’t think we felt like peeping Toms when the couple proceeded to have sex.

The politics? In the small towns and villages, I noticed many banners hung up with head-and-shoulders pictures of series of people, maybe ten to a banner. I had my suspicions, but I asked the tour leader. They were for local elections. Bad point: the party lists were either all-male or had one woman included. Good point: in a village, I saw a poster for what appeared to be an independent candidate whose appeal, judging by his symbol, appeared to be agrarian. He included his website address and email.

Oh, I haven’t even started.

Back to literary matters next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The silence is ended: India

Yes, it’s a long time since I’ve posted. Like a lot of bloggers, I find after a while the motivation flags. Also I’m being more cautious about posting my poetry. And like most people, I’m a bit lazy.

A poetic post of some sort will come quite soon. But I felt I should post about India.

I’ve known many people in the UK of Indian subcontinent origins and one in the US. I suppose because of the colonial link most British people have India in their consciousness somewhere and maybe not just consciousness: it was a shock to many to find that the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly was Anglo-Indian (European-Indian mixed race). I’d wanted to go to India for some time; after all, I’d been to Africa and North America, but not Asia at all though I’d seen it from Istanbul and Lesvos.

I was to travel with the nature tours group Naturetrek, but the tour was cancelled because the numbers weren’t enough. I booked on another tour nearly a year later…and the same thing happened, but an alternative tour just a bit later (February 2016 instead of November 2015) was OK.

It was aimed at wildlife with a bit of culture and architectureTaj group

(some Indian government building in the background there. Come on, I’m in that group, so which one?)

A few impressions:

Delhi’s fabled traffic is less disorganised than it first seems. The huge noise is partly because, in passing a slower vehicle, you’re supposed to sound your horn to warn the other driver. There are far fewer accidents than you’d expect and few cars show signs of damage. In India generally, there are few real driving rules and very few traffic lights, but drivers are not aggressive.

The contrasts are huge. Posh hotels with plenty of prosperous Indian guests are not far from people living in groups of old tents by huge expanses of rubbish (trash) and stagnant pools. Then again, Delhi International Airport is well-organised and well-provided and the trains are rather impressive with the latest technology on some telling you precisely where you are (not only the next station, but how far away it is) and we arrived at one station, among the people sleeping wrapped up in robes, to hear a cultured female voice over the intercom informing us that the train was four minutes late: “inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”)

Advertising is everywhere. The most popular products, judging by the amount of advertising, are EDUCATION, CEMENT and BEAUTY PRODUCTS in that order. One company in the second category had the slogan “cementing relations”. Oh, and underwear adverts are rather different. Getting off a train, we were greeted by a picture advertising “Innerwear”: a filmstar heart-throb kind of guy sitting in his vest wearing dark glasses. What he was doing wearing vest and dark glasses was a matter for speculation. A soldier we chatted to as we waited for our bus thought that advert was funny too.

We visited Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – Ranthambore, Bharatpur and Chambal River reserves or wildlife areas.

The Taj Mahal? Everything you’ve heard is understated.

More on that, wildlife and even politics next time. I think this post is long enough.