Illegible scribblings, doodles and snatches from the dirty, scuffed travel diary I kept while travelling around South East Asia in 2008.
On Ordering from the Menu in India
“A menu is essentially useless here. They will either not have or not have the inclination to cook half the dishes from it. Ordering merely one local dish will be met with suspicion and ignored and instead you’ll be brought two of everything.
Your choice of plain fizzy water will be considered insultingly plain and will obligingly be pepped up with spices, sugar and copious amounts of salt.
Food orders will be repeated, tirelessly for around ten minutes until both diner and waiter are beyond a level of confusion to the extent that the appearance of food – not what you ordered but presented with such a flourish you don’t care – is a miracle in itself.”
“Coca Cola? Or Pepsi?”
“Ah yes, Pepsi. I know Pepsi. Yes we have Pepsi.”
Two minutes later he returns with a can of Coke. “Pepsi sir, very good sir.”
On the Train from Goa to The Pink City, Jaipur
“It’s just gone seven and I am uncomfortably awake. The Nun sits in profile to the window below me, her figure is half-lit by pale, lemon sunshine. She looks as though she should belong in some ancient triptych, a stained-glass window or carved of blonde and chestnut wood.”
“She looks martyred, blessed by divine illumination, quiet, infinitely composed. She is ‘Nun’ personified. A girl sits opposite. All I can see are her feet. The edge of a sari so red it burns in the half light. She has dancer’s feet: high arched and oddly supple. She stretches them, languidly. Everything seems beautifully serene at this moment. India is a bubble dream contained at this point.”