A Memorable Passage To India

SO what if we can’t travel in search of new adventures?

Let us relive some of our treasured memories. Mental travel supplemented by snaps, videos and social media posts can help ease the yearning for physical travel. Soon, vaccinated and masked we will resume life’s travels, but for now the boarding gate is but a mirage.

So, we will indulge our memories and retrace old mind-mapped journeys. My mind travels  back to 2007.

WE were the only pale blobs on board our Air India flight. I brought my parents along with me to India’s Golden Triangle — Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. 

My neighbour asked me why I wanted to go to a country which wasn’t popular to most Singaporeans. 

“The writer E.M. Forster in A Passage to India had said that perhaps life is a mystery and not a muddle. I want to see for myself.”

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We met our personal driver upon arrival at the New Delhi airport and along the way to the hotel, I was greeted by a horde of children outside the car window begging for money. Large, innocent eyes eager upon seeing a non-Indian stranger. I gathered this group played “chase the car” in the fever-hot temperature more out of habit than for any monetary gain (though that would be welcomed). I smiled back and the black gold sprites waved cheekily at me as the car whisked me away.

We met on a note that required no narrative yet the Children of a Lesser God taught me that playgrounds can be deeper here. 

I had worn a bareback top due to the sweltering weather and then walked into a shop in Delhi looking for my prized pashmina when I detected a seething female staring daggers at me.

Clash Of Cultures!

I had forgotten that I was supposed to be of utmost modesty to earn traditional standards of treatment for the fairer sex. Lesson learnt, the method of teaching questionable though.

 



Things took on friendlier overtones when I bought a lush pashmina in a pastel emerald shade embellished with pearlescent sequins. Seeing my appreciation for local craftsmanship, I gained said woman’s approval and she took to thanking me in a sisterhood manner.

We had chai at a pit stop along the way to Agra. While washing my hands at the sink in the washroom, I noticed a shy, dirtied girl gazing at me. She had long lustrous hair and she unconsciously tilted her head to admire the bejewelled hairpin I had on. I took it off and placed it in her palms.

“For you.”

The recipient couldn’t decide on disbelief or joy so she contemplated my face much like a child seeing a fairy for the very first time.

Speaking of things celestial, my parents role played lovebirds when we visited the regally marbled Taj Mahal and my late father, bless him, had then trotted along in a jaunty gait whilst soaking up the mysticism of the mausoleum. Mom who is a woman’s woman, consented to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s declaration of love for his wife.

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On to Jaipur

Upon entering the Pink City, our guide insisted that I had to buy a book ‘cos I am a writer. A Princess Remembers is a memoir written by the late Maharani Gayatri Devi who co-founded a public girls’ school that became the centre of Cambridge Examination for Jaipur in 1950.

You see, neighbour dearest…

Vacays can be suitably educational.

Best to remember that.

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