Thursday, March 06, 2008


I intended to stay in Murud for a couple of days max, but ended up staying four, mostly because of how complicated it is to get out again as long-distance buses (except the one to Mumbai) don't pass through. But in that time I've been taken on two impromptu excursions (got some decent photos out of one), chased green parakeets on a medieval island fortress, been accosted by hordes of schoolchildren asking to have their picture taken, and been invited into three homes (twice for dinner, once for chai and biscuits). And taken about 700 photos. Oh, and I've also learned to read Hindi (can't speak much, but I can read the place names on buses, which is always useful!)

(you'll just have to tilt your head - I have no photo editing software on this computer)

On my first day I was taking pictures from the bridge, when a boy-on-a-bike pulled up and asked if I'd like to go for a ride. I sized him up and judged that if he tried anything funny I could probably take him, and said yes. He took me a short way up the road and for a walk along a rocky shore (probably a geologist's dream - there were all sorts of crystal formations). A small group of women were collecting salt from the evaporated shallow pools left by the receding sea in the pitted rocks. I took one or two worthwhile photos there, but hoped to go back the next day to take some better shots. Then he asked for a kiss. I told him no, but he persisted and I eventually relented and allowed him one kiss on the cheek.

That evening I was invited to dinner by one of the multitude groups of kids who mobbed me asking to be photographed. Will have to write a description of that evening later, as I'm running low on time now.

Next morning I took myself off by tuk-tuk (or "autorickshaw" as they seem to be known in India) to Janjira fort, the famously impenetrable island fortress (actually impenetrable - in its entire history it remained unconquered). Transport to and from the island is by local sail boat. I unsuccessfully attempted to photograph the resident blue and green parakeets (that is, blue parakeets and green parakeets). As I leave I'm taken to view the new toilet block (western-style, flush, running water, marble washstand), of which the archaeological site manager is obviously terribly proud, as he demonstrates the working taps.

I walked the four or five kilometres back into Murud, with four delightful septuagenarian gentlemen from Pune. "We're trekking," they told me cheerfully from beneath baseball caps. They do this all the time, it seems, their hiking gear consisting of checked shirts, pinstripe trousers, deck shoes and camo-print backpacks. They've already trekked most of the west coast, in stages (this section was the one part they haven't covered), and are planning to venture east next. "Better than staying at home", they told me. When we got into town they bought me a bottle of Limco, then I watched them amble off on their way on to Alibag.

In the afternoon I went back to the rocky beach in the hope of photographing the salt ladies again. They weren't there, but two men (one young, one old) decided to take me on a hike up the mountain to see the "lighthouse" (actually a simple beacon). So we clambered up the dry-grass-covered hillside. It smelled of Portugal. We stopped for a rest, and the younger man, Sajid, politely asked for a kiss. And I - just as politely - refused. He started pleading, but I'm bored of that game now so I got up and started walking off. He spent the rest of the walk apologising and calling me sister.

Then the older man, Aslam, gave me a ride on the back of his pushbike back into town, and invited me into his home. I was ushered into the dark (there's no electricity in Murud during the day), turquoise-painted living room and introduced to brother-wife, brother-daughter, wife and mother. Super-sweet, milky chai-you-could-stand-a-spoon-in follows, accompanied by puddy and rich tea biscuits, which I nibbled at politely, looking alternately at my reflection in the TV screen and around the room, as a succession of curious friends, relatives and neighbours traipsed through to peer at the novelty guest. In the nicest possible way, I felt slightly like a zoo exhibit. One of the visitors was a black-cloaked, head-scarved and veiled muslim lady. Once inside, she removed all the outer layers to reveal that a friendly, smiley lady in pink salwar-kameez exists behind the letterbox.

And then - busy social life I have in India - I headed back to my room to shower before my dinner date with the family who run the guesthouse! And I've run out of time now, so you'll have to wait for the next exciting instalment of Mad Auntie Lottie Goes To India.


At 2:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three briliant pictures. You have a way of catching people unawares and smiling. These pics would grace any library. dddy


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