text and images by Cynthia Harvey
PART 2 - India
Friday, October 19
I arrive in Dehli, late at night. Yesterday I fell on the
rickety pavements of Kuala Lumpur so I have my foot bound in a
capacious bandage and have a newly bought Malacca cane.
My prepaid taxi is an old cream Ambassador and has bright blue
velvet seats. A clone of the Morris Oxford, it is the ubiquitous
taxi of India. The driver tells me we are on the Grand Trunk Road,
and I see my first sacred cows highlighted in the dust.
My room at the YWCA is great. A single room with a balcony and
a separate bathroom and toilet. There are lights above the bed
and on the desk and there is a comfortable chair and a small table
as well as a huge wardrobe and dressing-table. Luxury. I shower
and eat the nuts and yoghurt flinched from the plane. I switch
off the (noisy) air-conditioner, try the (equally noisy) fan and
switch that off too. I open the door to the balcony and listen
to the put-puts from the autorickshaws, car horns, the dogs barking
and people talking in the lane below. I smile. I am, at last,
Saturday, October 20
I am woken early by the noise. Besides the street noises,
there is music. Loud Indian music from a tinny, distorted speaker.
I look over the balcony and see the men, who work in an outdoor
garage in the lane and who sleep on charpoys under the
trees, taking their very early morning showers under a communal
I have my breakfast and sleep until the afternoon when I go out
with my Malacca cane, foot still in a bandage.
I am 'kidnapped' by an autorickshaw wallah and ask to
be taken to an Indian restaurant for an early supper. The restaurant
is full. The fans are on full blast. The noise is terrific. The
meal is delicious. Thali is a 'plate' in Hindi. Usually
a metal plate with tiny bowls. Each bowl is filled. There is rice,
pappadam, pickle, chutney, dhal and curry. It is spicy and good.
When I leave, my autorickshaw wallah is waiting. "Just
a quick visit to a shop - no need to buy!" Of course I buy,
as the Cottage Industries Emporium is wonderful. I come out with
a white Punjabi suit and a pink pashmina shawl and have chosen
the fabric and ordered a black Punjabi suit which will be ready
Sunday, October 21
A lot to write about today. And I think I am falling in love
- with India and its people!
Delhi: Dastkar Craft Expo in Lodi Gardens.
Cloth from Kashmir.
I have breakfast and then go back to bed for a while to read the
New Statesman. In it is an article which says there is a
Dastkar Craft Expo in Lodi Gardens and today is the last day. That
I want to see.
Dastkar is an organisation throughout India helping women by
selling their craft at a fair price and cutting out the middleman.
Most of the work is from North and West India and it is very fine
- knitting, weaving, embroidery, pashmina, hand-woven saris and
a few quilts (clones of American quilting). No Rabari work. It
takes a long time, but finally I decide on an embroidered shawl
in heavy cream cotton with red embroidery, three cushion covers
with embroidered scenes of Indian village life, a black pashmina
scarf for my son and six appliqué and cowrie shell-embelished
glasses cases as presents for friends back home.
In buying the pashmina scarf I meet Dr Anita Sagar. She was one
of the first Indian women to go to Newnam College at Cambridge
University and had lectured there. She is now retired and Secretary
of the Society for Rural Development. She gives me the name of
a woman who is working in Bhuj (in Kutch, where the earthquake
happened in 2001) with the Rabari. What incredible luck.
In the late afternoon, my autorickshaw wallah takes me
back to the Cottage Industries Emporium to fetch my black Punjabi
suit and I buy another pashmina shawl - this one in lime green.
Tuesday, October 22
Dehli is too large to see the sights on your own in limited
time. I had booked a tour of New Dehli in the morning and Old
Dehli in the afternoon, with a stop for lunch.
Mr Kapur was waiting downstairs with an air-conditioned Toyota,
a Sikh driver and two other women, Camille and Marion.
Delhi: Adam Kahn's tomb in the morning
First stop is the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. Influenced by Ghandi,
it is a temple to the three main Indian faiths - Buddhism, Jainism
and Hinduism and dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity
and good fortune. Then India Gate, to watch the Indian Army practice
for India's Republic Day. On past the President's House and Parliament,
Then, in the heat of the day (and thank goodness for the air-conditioning)
to Humayun's Tomb. However, Camille has 'Dehli Belly', Marion
can't walk far because of childhood polio and I have my injured
ankle, so we decide instead to see Adham Khan's tomb which is
nearby. Adham, his wife, his mother and two children are buried
in five white marble tombs in a building of beautiful proportions.
Fine old wooden doors are propped up in the entrance.
Then, as on all guided tours (the part the guide likes most)
a visit to a favoured emporium. The Natraj Handicrafts Emporium
offers, besides a toilet and a glass of cold water, a theatre
of Kashmiri carpets.
I find an old cushion cover totally embroidered in pink and beige.
What I like about it is that the embroiderer had run out of the
shade of pink she had been using and, in one corner, had used
another shade of pink embroidery thread.
As Marion and Camille are staying at the five-star Hyatt, that's
where we go for lunch. Marion and Camille had been friends back
in England. After travelling together on a guided tour, they are
friends no longer as I learn when one, and then the other, go
off to the toilet! The club sandwich which I order for lunch is
so huge, I eat half and ask for the remainder to be put in a 'doggy
bag' to take home for supper. This amazes and amuses the staff!
Then through the incredible chaos of Dehli to the walled Old
City - down Chandi Chowk towards the Masjid Jamek, the Great Friday
Mosque, which dominates the end of the Chowk. It is Durga Puja
and the Old City is full. I am mesmerised at the colour, at the
noise, the activity, the people and an elephant padding along
behind the Toyota.
Neither Marion or Camille (who has not left the car all day,
except to go to the Emporium) want to risk the crowds or the steps
of the Great Friday Mosque and, as the Red Fort is closed Mondays,
and Camille still wants to shop, they ask me if I mind shortening
the afternoon. As I am already a bit peeved with Marion and Camille,
and it is very hot, I agree.
On the way back to Connaught Place, we stop at Raj Ghat. Marion
and Camille stay in the car and drive round and round with the
driver as there is no parking. I give my shoes to a man at the
entrance and walk slowly to the place where Ghandi was cremated.
Wonderfully on my own, I look with emotion at the black marble
slab and the eternal flame where Ghandi's head had lain. Yellow
and orange marigolds and blue plumbago lie in heaps on the marble
and it is good to be there. Great man of peace. How would he have
reacted to September 11?
I had been given a red rose at Lakshmi's Temple earlier in the
morning and had worn it tucked in my hair all day. I place it
on Ghandi's tomb.
Tuesday, October 23
Decided on a quiet day so about mid-morning I get an autorickshaw
to the Shankar International Doll Museum.
Like most collections, this one started with one doll given by
the Hungarian Ambassador to India in the 1950s as first prize
for a competition run by the Shankar Children's Book Trust. K.
Shankar Pillai fell in love with the doll and asked if he could
keep it. As a journalist travelling around the world with the
Indian Prime Minister of the time, he started collecting dolls
with a passion. Soon he had a collection of about 500 dolls and,
after an exhibition in Dehli, the museum opened.
There are now 6,500 dolls from eighty-five countries. I notice
the beautiful textile work on the Indian dolls, so knock on a
few doors and eventually meet Shanta Srinivasan, who is the Doll
Museum's curator. She takes me to the doll's design centre and
workshop and I meet some of the women who make the dolls in papier
mache and clay and those who authentically dress them. They are
all having their lunch at the time and I am asked to join them.
I realise then the value of knocking on doors!
Thursday, October 25
A visit to the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum and
this is superb. It is here I hope to start my quest to see the
Mohenjo-daro cloth from 2,500 BC.
Indians have no tradition of setting up museums - objects were
left to decay and merge with the earth from which they were created.
But, soon after Independence, projects and schemes for preservation
and development of handicrafts were put in place. The core collection
of the Handicrafts Museum was put together in the 1950s and 60s.
The museum buildings resemble an Indian village and you wander
through open passages covered with tiled roofs and lined with
old carved wooden doors, windows, utensils and storage jars. There
are huge terracotta horses and shrines dedicated to basil plants.
There are temple chariots in inner courtyards and every now and
again you can peep into the windows of the museum galleries. The
walls are covered by paintings done by visiting tribal and rural
Delhi: National Handicrafts and Handlooms
Rajasthani woman with her work.
I head for the textile gallery. It is splendid and beautifully
lit - and I am the only person in it. You are allowed to take
photographs (with permission) and I photograph some amazing quilts
and tribal costumes. Saturated by colour and beauty, I have a
drink at the kiosk to revive and then go back to have another
I wander around the craftspeople's open-air shops to the sound
of a group of musicians playing in the centre. Each month a new
group of craftspeople are invited, who work and have their work
for sale. I sit with an old Rajasthani women in her magnificent
traditional dress and admire her superb embroidery. I buy a piece
of embroidered braid to remember her by.
I knock on doors. It is Durga Puja, the largest Bengali festival
in honour of the goddess Durga and not many staff are around,
but I do find the public relations person and ask her about the
Mohenjo-daro cloth. Was it still in the Bangalore Museum? She