Diu, a tiny island on the southern tip of Gujerat; main exports are beer and seafood. Once a Portuguese colony, it is still strongly influenced by that history – the houses are brightly coloured terraces, the town is full of beautiful old churches and Catholic monuments.
Old St. Thomas Church hosts a seafood barbeque every second day. We sit around a big fire, eating shark and listening to Bob Dylan. Beautiful Diu, full of heavily pregnant animals, their teats hanging so low and full with milk, it's hard for them to walk. Puppies, kids, lambs and calves are everywhere. The school girls wear their hair in two looped plaits tied with white ribbons. The woman have huge gold rings in their noses; they look up at us curiously as they carry loads of bananas and papayas on their heads to the markets. Excited Gujerati tourists call out "What is your good name?", as we eat our lunch. "What is your mother country?" they cry as we lie on the beach. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes it is thoroughly annoying.
Mamallapuram: a small town of overly friendly shop owners; bored stone carvers who tap and chisel from morning to night; little girls dressed in bold colors and shaved heads selling necklaces, asking for ice cream; an abundant number of French heavy-drinking tourists; an old saddhu with a monkey on a leash; an alcoholic guitar-playing Chilean who came fourteen years ago and never left; orphanages right, left and centre; a beach littered with rubbish and feces; a fine selection of seafood; good company; lots of guitar playing, loud singing, and beer guzzling.
Now that we have befriended the shop owners, had stone carving lessons, bought necklaces for ourselves and ice cream for the girls, avoided the French, debated the happiness of the monkey, escaped from the Chilean, visited the orphanage, swum in the sea, consumed seafood and beer (and made music, of course), it is time to move to other pastures. They will be greener, as we head to the hills of Kodaikanal; famed for its lush landscape, beautiful treks and excellent rhubarb pie.
After seven months of traveling through India, I find myself back where it all began – the crazy, chaotic capital of Delhi. It's very strange, walking through the same streets, seeing the same things, but with different eyes, a different mind, different reactions. It's still completely hectic, dirty and crowded, but it's not scary anymore. I remember cowering from the beggars, panicking as I tried to squeeze my body through the main bazaar alongside tuk-tuks, cows, ox-pulled carts and the thirteen-million population. I remember despairing as I looked at a menu, trying to find something to eat that didn't include meat, chicken, fish, un-cooked vegetables, pre-peeled fruit, dairy products or anything with water in it. Everything was overwhelming.
It's good to be back. I like Delhi. Everything you possibly need is there. From north to south, this is the most Indian of India, from the road-side dhabas to the smell of incense and fried vatti, to the bangle shops, the cows, the saddhus and the beggars. Am I becoming nostalgic already?