Auto-rickshaws I have known

Blogging challenges, India

I am giving you two different people for Just One Person Around the World this time: both of them are auto-rickshaw drivers in India. Here we are in Chennai. Just discharged from hospital, I’m on the first leg of my journey home to England. Look out of the front window of this auto-rickshaw and you’ll see the crowded streets that were more or less my last view of India.

My rickshaw driver in Chennai

This driver was an amiable enough companion, but on my very first day in India, jet-lagged and more than thirty hours without sleep it was a different rickshaw driver who offered me my first taste of Indian hospitality and friendship as I tried to come to terms with the impossibly busy streets of Bengaluru. You’ve seen this photo before, but my first friend deserves his fifteen minutes of fame.

My first friend in Bangalore: the rickshaw driver who took me on a tour of the city, standing in front of ‘his’ Parliament Building

Here’s what I wrote in my diary that day. ‘When I finally set off with the intention of exploring for the morning, I hadn’t gone too far when I was picked up by an auto-rickshaw driver. He could see ‘Arrived this morning’ tattooed across my forehead. He offered to show me round for Rs 10. Well, I wasn’t so green as to believe that’s all I’d spend, but I was exhausted and it wasn’t an unattractive proposition. It was such fun! He proved an amiable guide, whose English, while obviously hugely better than my Kannada often led to mutual incomprehension. He had an endearing habit of describing all the sites we passed as his; ‘This is my Parliament Building … This is my Royal Palace’. He hared me round a variety of sites, and waited while I ‘did’ Bengaluru Palace’ – slightly seedy and where I was personally shown round by an Aged Retainer, and where I noticed a herd of cows in the Royal Gardens.

You see the price? RS 200? Well, my driver in the end asked for Rs. 100, for showing me round for three hours. I gave him twice that and I still got a tremendous bargain.

It was that morning that I discovered that all auto-rickshaw drivers have entered into Arrangements With Shops. The kind of shops, selling textiles, carvings, carpets, jewellery that tourists are expected to make use of. It is their duty to take unwitting passengers there. Reader, I got off lightly (though I did buy something, and kept my friend happy), and learned an important lesson, that ‘No’ must be said with conviction, especially on Day One of a one month trip. What backpacker can lug bedspreads all over South India for four weeks? Later that day, a less accommodating rickshaw driver, on realising that it was fruitless to try to tempt me out shopping dumped me without warning in the middle of a poor part of town (Where? Where?) and left me to get on with it.

Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed this somewhat basic mode of transport. My friend had had his for fifteen years, and I see no reason why it won’t still be going strong.

It was only a week later that I found myself sharing an auto- rickshaw, designed to take two passengers at most, with three other people. But really, we weren’t trying. Any morning that I was out and about as school started, I would see auto-rickshaws, in total denial of any kind of Health and Safety considerations, disgorging four, six, even ten children at the school gates. Look at the rickshaw here, behind those smartly turned out schoolgirls.

Schoolgirls

Later, when I visited Thanjavur, I found traditional rickshaws drawn usually by one very wiry, elderly man on a bicycle. While understanding their need to work, I couldn’t bring myself to have them haul me around, and in any case, the town was manageable enough on foot.

I look back on this mode of transport with great affection. Nippy, affordable, and with opportunities for cheery conversation, I can’t think of a better way of getting round the confusion which is an Indian city.

Monday Window

Latex on a line: and brollies beyond the window

Blogging challenges, India

What’s this? Some dirty dusters? Or some rather dingy dishcloths? No. Despite appearances to the contrary, this isn’t washing hanging out to dry. It’s sheets of latex, recently tapped from nearby rubber trees and poured into moulds and yes, now hanging out to dry.

I was in in India, in Kerala, at Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary. Nearby was a village, where every household was growing some kind of cash crop: tea, coffee, bitter gourds, bananas … and maybe rubber trees. One household certainly was. They’d harvested the latex as shown in the second photos. They’d have collected about a cupful from each tree, every few days, before pouring it into trays in a thin layer to set, And now it was hanging out to dry properly before being sent away for further processing

In Kerala, while I as there, the monsoon had not long finished, and I rather like the evidence spotted through an open window back in Gurukula itself that had we been there then, it might have been just a little – wet.

Spotted through the window: umbrellas resting after the monsoon

Monday Washing Line

Monday Window

Monday Window, Monday Washing

Barcelona, Blogging challenges, Catalonia, Spain

This time two years ago, we were in Barcelona. One of our ports of call was the first house Antoni Gaudí ever designed, Casa Vicens. Once a spacious site beyond the city limits, it’s now squashed into narrow city streets, some of its garden space sold off. But it’s definitely worth a visit, and you can have a virtual look round here.

What the official site won’t show you is the views from the windows, and one thing I enjoyed, as I always do, was the sight of the Monday washing drying on the balconies of nearby flats.

Monday Window

Monday Washing Lines

An Upmarket Grocer

Barcelona, Spain

This time last year, we were in Barcelona to spend Reyes – the Festival of the Three Kings, and traditionally a bigger deal than Christmas (Presents! From the kings!) – with Emily’s Catalan family. Here we are outside what’s considered the best grocer’s shop in town, all gussied up for festive shopping.

If you think I’ve muddled up my photos: well, the shop window did that, by reflecting the street scene as well as allowing us to see the goods on offer.

Square Up.

Monday Window

A Window to the Soul?

England, Heritage, National Trust

It’s been a strange Not-Quite-Christmas – in our case quite an enjoyable one, and today I’m going to offer a Not-Quite-Monday-Window. Why not? Eyes, it’s said, are the windows to your soul, and we saw plenty of eyes when we visited Knole Park the other Christmas with Team London. Those eyes belonged to some rather over-friendly sika deer. I’m not clear about whether deer have souls, but they they certainly provided a different sort of window through which we could remember our visit. Here’s a picture of me with my son and his son, as seen through the eyes of a passing deer.

Around the world in ten photos

Travelling in Europe

There’s this blogging challenge doing the rounds. I don’t know where it started, but it’s already made a showing with Brian at Bushboy, with Su at Zimmerbitch, and then yesterday morning with Andrew at Have Bag, Will Travel. And he invited me to be next.

This is how it works. Person Number One posts a different travel picture on ten consecutive days. And on each of those days, they ask a fellow-blogger to join in too. So on Day Two, Persons One and Two post a picture, and each invites another person to join in. On Day Three …. you get the idea. I can’t fathom how to do the maths, but it seems to me it wouldn’t take long for a million people to be involved. Any ideas about the numbers involved, anybody?

So I’ll post a photo each day for ten days. No comment, no strapline. If you want to guess where it is, tell me in the comments, and I’ll reveal the answer the following day. As today is a Monday, we’ll make the shot one of a window. I think this one’s quite hard.

Who next? Life … One Big Adventure. Do you fancy joining the party? No pressure if you’re not interested. Please link to me if you do decide to join in, just so I know.

Travel Challenge

Monday Window

A window in a bad way

Spain

Tomorrow, for our regular Tuesday Day Out, we’re taking (another) trip to Cádiz. We’re going to spend time near the sea and pop to a couple of places in town. But today I want to take you instead to Plaza de España. Here is a handsome house in a handsome area. But now it’s down on its uppers. No longer smart, it’s still extremely characterful. I thought it deserved its fifteen minutes of fame.

Monday Window