India Blog

ASHAMED to be British – Thankful to be forgiven – AND THEN STUNNED!

MARK:  GUT wrenching, disgusting, disgraceful.  Just simply wrong, wrong WRONG!

How could a British General, yes a BRITISH General give the order to open fire on a crowd of non violent protestors, slaughtering over a thousand men, women and children?

Shoot to kill - lest we forget

Shoot to kill – lest we forget

I still cannot get this fact out of my head some hours after visiting Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.  We, probably like you, had seen pictures of the beautiful Golden Temple, but had personally never heard of this brutal British massacre of ordinary people on 13 April 1919.

Under the command of General Reginald Dyer, troops opened fire in the Bagh space area, a 7 acre walled garden which has five small entrances.  Over just ten minutes, 1500 bullets were fired in to the crowd, with troops directing their aim largely towards the few open gates that people were trying to flee through.

We saw the deep well, where people jumped to their death to escape the onslaught.  We saw the red bricked walls riddled with rifle rounds.  We saw Indian people quietly walking around the park, remembering their dead, mourning their dead, praying for their dead.

Sarah and I were the only British people amongst hundreds of Indians.

I was acutely aware that this now beautiful garden complex was where less than hundred years ago my fellow countrymen had behaved in a way that was simply terrible and beyond belief.  The sort of behaviour of barbarians – yes British barbarians.

I bowed my head at the eternal flame conscious that many pairs of eyes were looking straight at me.  What were they thinking? What hatred was in their hearts?  Just who was this tall, overweight Englishman?  And what was he doing here at the heart of the atrocity?

At the wall of bullet holes I could contain it no longer.  I went up to an Indian man and woman in their mid 70s and said “sorry”, tears streaming down my face, with the salt immediately drying in the baking heat of the 40 degree midday sun.  “It was a long time ago” said the man, clearly aware of my distress.  “Now we are friends”.  I walked off, desperately hunting for a piece of hotel toilet paper to dry my face….

But before I had gone more than 100 metres around the corner a young man and woman came up to me with their baby.  They wanted me to hold their beautiful six month old girl so they could take a picture for their family album.

aHHHHHH - Grabbed this baby - long time since Joe this small...

aHHHHHH – Grabbed this baby – long time since Joe this small…

Soon many people were shaking my hand and asking for selfies.  I obliged.  What could I do? Was this there way of saying that Britain had been forgiven?  That they had moved on?  That life moves on?  That peace is really the only way of life and that man can, and must live and work together?

I’m not sure.  What I am sure about, is today was a moving, emotional day.  The Golden Temple as the photos below show is a stunning World wonder.  But I’m going to let the pictures tell the story here.  My words have dried up suffice to say, people over gold and material wealth any day….

FOOTNOTE:  UNBELIEVABLE!!!  We have just arrived back from the famous India/Pakistan “Wagha” Border ceremony.  A brilliant occasion with 10,000 highly excited Indians and six Brits!  Leaving the seating area we had walked one km back to our car when I suddenly heard “Mark Mark!!!”  It was Garima and family including Grandma.  We hugged them all.  A crowd gathered round.  Photos were taken and now we meet them for lunch at their house in Amritsar tomorrow.  See end photo.  A stunning day.  A moving day.  A day to always remember. Now to bed.

Beautiful! And the wife looked cool today as well.

Beautiful! And the wife looked cool today as well

Bob Monkhouse would have been proud of this Golden Shot.

Bob Monkhouse would have been proud of this Golden Shot.

We meet again - this time amongst a crowd of 10,000 at the Indian/Pakistan Border. Coincidence??

We meet again – this time amongst a crowd of 10,000 at the Indian/Pakistan Border. Coincidence??

Categories: India Blog

She gave us her last piece of newspaper and called me….. “My English Brother”

Mark: Time 0640 Platform 14, New Delhi Station. Crackling over the 1950s style loud speaker: “We regret to announce that train 12497 the Shane Punjab Express is running two hours forty minutes late. This delay is very regrettable”. …

We had been on the station since 0600 ready to navigate the largest station in the World. Each train consisting of over 20 carriages (500m) in length with early morning commuters literally hanging on to carriage roofs, jammed in every door way and clinging for dear life on to anything that moved.

So that was that then! The sea of Indian faces looked resigned to a long wait. “This happens all the time” said an old Indian gentleman, his head wobbling from side to side, reminiscent of the chap in the 1970s sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”. I nodded and asked if he had ever travelled recently by South West Trains…

Next to us on the platform was a small family. A you girl, aged around 16 came up to me and explained that the train had not been cancelled – good news – but had been rescheduled for 0930. She smiled, went to her Mother and came back with two steaming cups of Chai – sweet tea consisting of tea, ginger and cinnamon. She offered them to us both. A touching moment.

And so we had met some new friends. Garima Dahiya’s family – Mother, Grandmother, Auntie and Niece were all travelling on our train to Amritsar and planning, like us to visit the Golden Temple and attend the Border Ceremony. Suddenly she started delving in her pocket. Out came a plastic cellophane bag with a friendship bracelet inside – a red and yellow wrist band made out of string and beads. “In India, sisters give special bracelets to their brothers for safekeeping. I do not have a brother. But you are now my English Brother!” She then promptly gave me her last bit of newspaper so that Sarah and I could sit on the filthy platform beside her family! There were no seats.

This family did not have much, but what they had, they shared. No questions asked, nothing wanted in return. I was embarrassed and humbled and promptly marched off to the kiosk on the station, jossled my way through the crowds of people and bought a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, a Kinder Egg a lollipop and some chewing gum. I distributed them around the family and we had a strange, early morning breakfast, in full view of a man relieving himself off the station edge right in front of us. He was, quite literally “taking the pxxx”!

FOOTNOTE ADDED NEXT DAY TO THIS BLOG:  UNBELIEVABLE – we were walking away from the Wagha Border ceremony the next day.  The crowd of 10,000 people left.  We had been in the “VIP” Section because of our British Passports and left in the twilight.  Who should shout out, “Mark, Mark”?  Yes you guessed it.  My Indian family!  What were the chances of that?  See the end photo on this blog.

The man we had to thank for booking all of our trains in India we’d met 12 hours earlier at our hotel for lovely vegetarian curry. Mahendra is the General Manager of Trinetra Tours. It was his company that had looked after us so well on our visit to India in 2014 when we had a bit more of a budget to spend on hotels and travel. Trinetra is a superb company which puts customer service first. They are professional and just lovely people. Mahendra and his family are now our friends and looked after our Frimley friends Richard and Tricia Daw so well earlier this year when they came on holiday to India. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you EVER go to this wonderful county, I am of course happy to pass on tips. BUT do, through me contact Mahendra at Trinetra Tours- as you will have the trip of a lifetime. And irrespective of what you spend, be it £100 (10,000 INR) or £10,000 (1,000,000 INR) you will receive a superb value for money service. Trust me, I used to be a tour operator.

As I shook Mahendra’s hand to say good bye, we promised to return again one day and repay his generous hospitality when he comes to England whenever that may be. Namaste!

My Indian Sister

My Indian Sister and my new friendship bracelet

Team India! Sarah's on the right...

Team India! Sarah’s on the right…



We meet again - this time amongst a crowd of 10,000 at the Indian/Pakistan Border. Coincidence??

We meet again – this time amongst a crowd of 10,000 at the Indian/Pakistan Border. Coincidence??

Categories: India Blog

Dengue sting killer! 150 million go on strike. Pollution watch SEVERE!

MARK:  Delhi residents were today suffering from a triple wammy of bad news, reports Yorkshire Post Senior Correspondent Mark Bailey.  An outbreak of the deadly Dengue fever (mosquito mayhem) has resulted in 980 reported hospital cases of fever like conditions in just two days.  Public and low paid workers today (Wednesday) went out on strike to try and raise their minimum wage from 7,100 Indian Rupees a month (£71) to 15,000 INR (£150) – AS PER STEVE ELLIOTT EXCHANGE RATE 13/9/2015 AMMENDED.  And high pressure in Northern India has created a dense smog cloud over the centre of the city. Health Authorities have issued a severe health warning and believe conditions will only improve when rain is forecast next week and Mr and Mrs Bailey have left town.

Welcome to India Mark and Sarah!

These and other stark headlines greeted us over breakfast on our first morning, as we scanned our free copy of the Hindustan Times. But hey, we’re Brits and we weren’t going to be put off as we headed through the back streets into the middle of Delhi from our hotel near the main railway station.

It soon became clear though, that near 40C heat mixed with car, lorry and bus fumes do mess with your breathing and make you cough all the time.  So we decided to flag down a Tuk Tuk and head off to Chandni Chowk the notorious central market where quite literally anything goes.  We agreed a price of 100 rupees (£1) for the three mile trip.  But after no more than 300 metres, a “smart guy” jumped on the front of the TT by the side of the driver.  We set off again, only for the TT to mysteriously “break down” just 200m down the road…

It then dawned on us.  Our Tuk Tuk Driver was a strike breaker. Mr Smart Guy was a “Union Convenor” who had spotted two pinkies literally being taken for a ride.  But that was it.  Our TT was going nowhere and we were left in the middle of a three lane high way on a bridge over the main railway.  So time to be creative and flag down a passing rickshaw driver who did not seem to be affected by the local strike and who was happy to do a deal.

I felt a bit sorry for our peddle boy who was sweating like a pig under the sweltering sun.  But it did give me a great opportunity to take a few shots of some beautiful children – see BELOW.  Plus we saw what looked like the “Child Catcher’s” van from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  This red barred vehicle had six children aboard, with their school bags on top.  Delhi – mad and crazy we loved it.

Next up Amritsar, the Golden Temple and the chance to see the strutting Army peacocks at the night time ceremony at Wagah – on the Indian/Pakistan border.  That is of course if we survive the seven hour 40 minute train journey tomorrow.

SARAH:  This is our second visit to Delhi, but I was still amazed by the smells, the noise, the dirt and this time the full on heat which leaves you very tired after just a couple of hours tramping the streets.  This time, on our own DIY Trip, our hotel although perfectly clean and serviceable is in a distinctly dodgy area. Without the comfort and security of the guide and driver we had last year, we both have to admit to feeling slightly more vulnerable.  We were given the run around at Delhi Station yesterday, but realised these were scammers trying to say our train had been cancelled and that we had better rebook!!! You need eyes in the back of your head.  Had to laugh though when a local Indian immediately identified Mark as being from Yorkshire because of his accent.  He then tried to rip us off for an expensive tour, wanting to charge £65 – when we knew we could do it for £6.50.  Methinks his decimal place slipped accidentally on purpose.







Categories: India Blog

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