Taj Mahal Part 1

He joined us on the flight to Adelaide in Singapore. I found myself sitting next to him – he had the window seat, Anya the aisle, and I was in the middle – and we began making small talk.

He was an Indian Australian who had been visiting family and friends and was now on his way home and it soon became obvious that Australia was for him very much home – and not only because he had a good job and was married to a Caucasian Australian.

There was also namely the issue of air pollution.

‘The air pollution’ he exclaimed, ‘it’s bloody awful!’

To emphasize the point, he told me about a visit he had made shortly before leaving India to see the famous Taj Mahal.

‘It is one of the most famous landmarks in India and I had never seen it. Well  I went there but I still didn’t see it! The air pollution was so bad! It was as thick as a fog. I was in a group and if it wasn’t for the tour guide I don’t think any of us would have found it. When we got there, all I could see was this wall in front of me. I put my hands on the wall and held them there for a while…that’s as close as I got to the Taj!’

Anya and I had spent years travelling in India (something I hadn’t got the chance to mention) and we had experienced dramatic changes in that country’s history, some of them far from positive, including the air pollution. On our last visit, our flight had been diverted because of the thick cloud of smog over Delhi.  

So I could well believe what he told me about the air pollution and hence his recital of his experience at the Taj Mahal, meant to get a reaction from me, fell flat and our discussion moved elsewhere.

Later, as the lights were dimmed and everyone hunkered down for the night, I put my sleeping mask on and lay back and tried to drift off into a slumber …..and instead, found myself reliving the memory of our visit to the Taj Mahal… so many years ago….

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Third Class Unreserved


Third Class Unreserved!!

Who would have thought it?

Me on that living nightmare!

Don’t get me wrong.

I liked Indian trains. Didn’t need First Class or Tourist Class or anything like that.

Second Class was fine.

I mean, Second Class Reserved.

But not Third Class Un – Reserved.

Hell no!

Here’s the deal for Third Class Unreserved: an unlimited number of tickets are sold. Once you have a ticket, you get on the train anyway you can. Your options are: being crammed inside a carriage like sardines in a tin or sitting on top of the roof or hanging off the side of the train along with hundreds of others.  

Third Class Unreserved is for poor Indians (ie, the great majority of India’s billion people).

I got on that train because I didn’t have any choice. Like, none.

How did I end up on it?

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The Slum Girl


I was on my way back to my hotel, when she ran up behind me, yelling.

It was a high pitched sound, bird like.

Before I knew it, she was standing in front of me and pointing at my camera.

It was a young girl wrapped in a blanket and all too obviously from a poor, lower caste family. She was sleeping on the streets, along with so many others……..

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The Buddhist


It must have been during the early 1990´s. I´m not sure. 

In any case, it´s still stuck in my mind after so many years, that night on the rooftop of a sleazy budget hotel in Old Delhi.

Anya and I were sitting on fold up aluminium chairs taking in the view and what a view it was: a panorama of dilapidated buildings of every size and shape interspersed with ghostly partially illuminated streets. From below came the noise of milling crowds this at a time when there were people on the streets of India, along with holy cows, oxen drawn carts and bicycles. A far cry from today with its seething masses of cars plus the world’s worst air pollution.

Standing on top of that hotel today you’d be lucky to see anything. 


We had arrived late that afternoon after a long bus journey from the Indian Himalayas and on the following morning were flying to Amsterdam.

He suddenly appeared on the rooftop, grabbed a chair, and came over and sat next to us uninvited, and began talking. We weren’t really in the mood for socializing. All we wanted to do was take in one last glimpse of India.

He was a young Nepalese man who had just flown into New Delhi from Munich, Germany and on the following day was getting on a bus to Kathmandu. He had a story to tell and he had to unburden himself and he didn’t mind who he told it to. We never even got as far as exchanging names…….

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Blind Faith Part 1


Old Goa.

I went there on a day trip.

No big plans, just take it easy. Hang out as the tourist.

All I wanted to do was look at some old churches.

 After two torrid months of travelling around central India and seeing a lot of temples and mosques, I thought a few churches would be a welcome diversion.

There were three of them in Old Goa. They were old: 4 centuries.

Yep, an easy day for me. 

Leastways, that’s what I thought on the way out there…..

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