On board the train from Jaipur to Jodhpur on Indian Railways' 12456 Up. Did this 22 years ago as a backpacker, it was easier then without pull alongs, Tumis and iPhones to worry about, and in spite of the 20 liter backpacks we lugged around, we blended in better. Now, standing on Jaipur station's platform nr 2, executive luggage alongside, white earbuds and speakerphone plugged into iPhone, talking busily on a conference call, I stand out, just a bit.
India's rail compartments, specked I suspect during a visit to a Soviet steel factory by a team of Indian engineers in the 1960s, are indestructible and therefore unchanged.
An overweight ‘aunty’ in the bunk diagonally above me keeps asking her son in the bunk above me, and whom she insists on calling “Eh bhaiya”, whether he needs another pillow, blanket or water. I may come close to committing my first homicide today.
What does appear to be changing by the way, in rare synchronicity, is a large part of South Bombay, or 'town' as it is sniffily called, home to the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world, after Miami.
Above Left: Moonlight, post restoration
The arid but beautiful Rajasthan countryside slips past as dusk falls. Texting back and forth with Ludo, one of the principal backpack buddies from 22 years ago, now based in Bangkok. Didn't have cell phones then, just well thumbed paperbacks and cheap Indian cigarettes.
It appears that we are living through a pre - meltdown, a slowdown, brought on by political paralysis, as argued by Manu Joseph (The High Price India Pays to Maintain the Status Quo) in the IHT recently. It puts us in excellent company, forget Greece, so passé, there’s Spain and even China that is apparently hitting a “brick wall”.
The odd thing about living through a pre meltdown in India is that it’s so different for the various levels of society:
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.