There is plenty in India to charm and seduce – Diana Banks recounts the little and big things that caught her attention and gained her love.
My first visit to India after some 70 years on this planet. Oh, what have I missed!
Arriving in Delhi to see Lutyens’ dream, still visible despite the ravages of an expanding India – 80 years after his master plan was conceived. To stay at The Imperial – a haven of peace in that bustling city. No one can portray the colours, smells, traffic, noise and, above all, the smiling, happy people teeming in the capital.
To dine with an elegant old lady, a friend of my hosts’, who remembers walking out of Northeast India at partition and leaving her grandmother to die on the side of the road. No bitterness here partition and leaving her grandmother to die on the side of the road. No bitterness here – that is true Christianity, or whatever you may choose to call it.
Then on to Wild Mahseer, the most elegant of tea gardens, in Assam. To see dolphins in the mighty Brahmaputra and have freshly cooked fish curry on the wide sandy banks is just magic.
On to Kaziranga and jeep safaris taking us into herds of rhinoceros, deer, monitor lizard, elephant and a myriad of brightly coloured birds. Then our treat, a brief elephant ride, taking us into the heart of the wildlife and within a few yards of buffalo and rhinos with newborn young. But the icing on the cake is the whisper: “Tiger”. We see a faint shape behind a bush some hundred metres away. We wait and the shape disappears into the bush to emerge into open ground, unbelievably a rhino spots it and, head down, sees it off, turning in the air. Extraordinary. What a privilege and what a debt we owed our guides.
On to Hyderabad and a surfeit of culture. Extreme wealth is a difficult concept to come to terms with, but the legacy of the Nizams’ riches gives us tourists the chance to wonder at temples, mausoleums, forts and museums. Sobering too to see the young ages on the plaques for expat Brits in the churches.
Finally to Chennai, to be hosted at the Madras Club and to see that splendid memorial to The Raj so wonderfully appreciated and honoured by the current custodians – another great privilege.
So are my memories of India. It must be the people, so friendly, welcoming, kind and with an innate charm that is as natural as their smiles.