In 1987, when I was nine years old, my parents and I spent three months in India travelling from Madras to Bombay. I am happy to have been so young when we went as I experienced no culture shock and had no real concept of poverty. It remains one of the most different places I have ever been to and one that I remember quite vividly.
Madras in Tamil Nadu was filled with Hindu temples. One beach temple in Mahabilipurum had elephants that were walked inside. I purchased a statue of Ganesh the elephant god for my Tamil uncle back home and a necklace of intricate pieces all carved out of one piece of ivory.
In Madurai I loved all the brightly coloured temples and the many different and interesting gods like Shiva with the many arms, Hanuman the monkey god and Vishnu. Shankar, a rickshaw driver whom we had met the first day, was waiting for us each morning to ferry us from temple to temple.
We met a couple from England who were travelling after meeting on the internet before internet dating was really heard of. The woman was pregnant so she had to make sure that she drank fruit lassi’s (milkshakes) not the bang lassi’s that were laced with marijuana.
I remember a very long and bouncy overnight bus trip. Dad and I slept on the back seat which was like trying to sleep on a trampoline. There were no toilets on the bus and there were few rest stops, so the men peed out the windows and the women had to wait. When we did stop, the toilet was a plank over a pit. There were Bollywood posters on the side of the road and mum bought me a hand painted circular fan to keep us cool.
Christmas and New Year’s was spent in Kodaikanal. Being in the mountains, it was a cool break from the heat of India. Unfortunately, the president had died two days before Christmas so there was a four day official mourning period when everything was closed over Christmas. Fortunately we had already made friends with a local café owner, Israel, who opened to serve us porridge for breakfast. We had to shut the wooden window shutters and be quiet in case a passing mob heard us and stoned the café with us inside.
Israel took us to an excellent view point near his house on Christmas day which was mostly shrouded in mist. There were many walks around the lake and to a waterfall. One day we saw a rabid dog that had his insides on the outside after mating with another dog. India was the one place I was not allowed to pet the animals.
On the road south in Nagercoil there was a completely white temple that only allowed men to enter.
We arrived at Cape Comorin– the southernmost point of India. Here we saw the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. The sight was as unbelievable as the amount of people and faeces that covered the area.
Published as part of A Memorable Journey on Story2Share.