A number of people have suggested that I have, indeed, become too grumpy of late: not that I’ve seen anyone I know for the last six months, but apparently they can tell from the general tenor of my emails and this blog.

So, in an effort to seem more cheerful, here are some things I’ve seen recently, as I walk Harley the Wonder Dog around my neighbourhood, that have made me smile.

There aren’t very many of them: it’s an entirely crappy neighbourhood, called Chittaranjan Park, which used to be the sonorously-named East Pakistan Displaced Persons Colony. Despite it being fairly Indian middle class, it’s an armpit of a place: I have to keep my bedroom door shut to keep the rats out; the streets are ankle-deep in dogshit, the drivers are insane, and its all watched over by a cadre of super-miserable harridans who scream at you when your dog takes a leak against a flower pot.

But, in an effort to glean a pearl of pleasure from the shite-oyster that is life in Delhi, I present you with:

Eyebrow dog:

Eyebrow Dog

I don’t know what he’s actually called, or if he has a name at all. But, despite being comedy dog, he is practically the only beast who doesn’t try to take chunks out of Harley when he passes. So he makes me laugh, and he’s mellow. That’s as good as it gets.

And this is a shitty iPhone closeup. Those eyebrows are real…

EyebrowClose

Milk Bar Krishna

Milk Stall

There’s no point getting into my thoughts on Hinduism. But I do admire the way people here integrate their religious beliefs into their daily lives. I’ve been party to any number of ceremonies in the office, or in the electrical junction room, where people chant, and wave incense and seem to take it entirely seriously. And they’ve always welcomed me, despite everything. So I liked this little religious figure, sitting on a disused cold milk shop, for no other reason.

Dog Shit

Dogshit

I just thought this was a curiously straightforward message, in a land known for its sesquidpedalian circumlocutions. Needless to say, I am the only person within 2,500 miles who actually carries plastic bags with which to enrobe the alimentary evacuations of my diminutive canine confederate. Because I’ll be damned if anyone can accuse me of making this country shittier than it already is.

And there’s the grumpiness again….

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Grumpy old man

October 25, 2017

There used to be a truism trotted out by Old India Hands, that went something like: “Oh, India will drive you mad. You get to the airport, and think ‘I can’t wait to get back to Blighty.’ Then you arrive at Heathrow, and suddenly realise ‘I absolutely have to get back to India.’” Well, I’ve been pondering that. Because I think India may just have driven me completely around the bend.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a fairly peaceable chap. I’m not a shouter, I keep my thoughts largely to myself: in short, I’m quite a mellow proposition.

Well, not recently. Recently I’ve had meltdowns at taxi drivers, lost it in shops and been on the verge of doing bodily harm to innocent passers-by. I’ve gone off on waiters, mobile-phone salesmen, bank staff and random drivers. I’ve employed some of the fruitiest language ever heard in this region since Elphinstone’s retreat from Kabul; stuff I wouldn’t want my mother to know I knew. And I’m not proud.

But this country does it to you. And I can’t quite figure out why. I knew that India was hopelessly inefficient, populated by wage-taking babus with no incentive to do anything other than line their pockets and enforce stupid rules. But I thought I was used to that. But it seems not.

I went into a chemist’s shop the other day to buy a 20 pence tube of antiseptic (for my scores of necrotising mosquito bites, which haven’t helped my mood, along with my scurvy), and it took five people to serve me. Five! Then on the way out, I held the door open politely for a fat cow in a sari who looked at me haughtily and refused to say thank you. She heard a word from me her mother never taught her, I can tell you.

I was sitting in the living room of my grubby guesthouse yesterday, watching a tiny grocery shop over the road. It’s run by two brothers, young, pleasant enough fellows. And I was thinking that ‘gosh, they work hard, open from six am to eleven every day,’ and then I thought ‘no, actually that’s bollocks: they don’t. They sit on their stool all day gazing at their mobile phones, and letting even poorer people do all the work.’ Which is true.

But, but, but, but, but. They provide employment to half a dozen people. They probably don’t earn a fortune, but they make enough to survive, and they’re a valued part of the community. Probably. When did I decide that economic efficiency was the only measure of success? And, more importantly, when did I become such a shit? A spittle-flecked, puce-faced whiner, choleric and intolerant?

The truth is that India has worked some sort of weird and malign magic upon me. I need to get to the airport, and spend a week or two in Switzerland, or Finland, or somewhere cool and efficient. And then I’ll be fine. The truth is, this country wasn’t made for me, and I need to be able to remember that more often.