Ruling Britannia for Dummies

My sadly finally final melange of photos can be found here.

An exciting selection of videos and movie-clips is linked to lower down the page. Enjoy!

Writing from the chilly and expensive village of Long Ditton, Elmbridge District, an area with absolutely  no incense markets and slums and very few ornate Hindu temples, I can now safely reveal the following:

Corruption in the body Webber

The Maharajah’s Palace in Mysore, one of the largest in India, was built by a British architect and is utterly over-the-top. Photography was strictly prohibited inside, and we had to check our cameras in before entering, when we were searched for them. However, they failed to apprehend mum’s Nikon, which she’d accidentally forgotten to hand in. Nerved by the throngs of Indian tourists blatantly disregarding the rules and merrily snapping away, she accidentally got the camera out to accidentally take a photo with it.

The barefoot policeman with copious ear hair who immediately swooped down on us wasn’t in the least convinced by her excuse that she’d just been getting out a bottle of water, anyway banned!, and pocketed the camera. He commented that the room was under the gaze of 15 CCTV eyes, and lamented in almost plausible anguish, “It’s now a police case. Two days, then pay 1000 Rupees and collect from central police station. It’s a police case now… What can I do?” He then gave dad a meaningful look, said, “I think sir understands,” led him into an alcove presumably proof against prying Anti-Corruption Sleuths, and suggested that 400 Rupees would help him to find a solution. Dad haggled him down to 300, at which point they rejoined us, the policeman shook my hand and said that I reminded him of his son, then strolled off past the packs of locals using their own cameras.

(Mum had various proposals for combatting this £4.20 injustice. These included demanding to speak to the British Consul-General in Bangalore. The others were equally profound.)

Sari safari

In very much the middle of nowhere, the Kabini River Resort – owned by Coffeeday, the subcontinent’s answer to Starbucks, an enormous chain owned by a man who, by complete coincidence I’m sure, is the son-in-law of India’s Foreign Minister – provided us with a boat excursion and two Jeep safaris. Over the course of these, we caught sight of such exciting animals as wild jungle fowl, wild peacocks, Bambi deer, sambar deer, mongeese (I may have just invented that plural?), gaur cattle, common langurs, macacque monkeys, a brain-fever bird, an owl and the tail end of a leopard (no pun intended). We also saw a crocodile from some distance, and I was very disappointed by the lack of ticking emanating from its stomach.

A Really Useful Engine?

Mysore Rail Musuem is extremely under-visited. It’s strangely located in a tiny little side-street and hidden by roadworks. Inside, signs told stories of the various trains in the first Thomas the Tank Engine person: “I was born in England. My job was to make railway inspectors comfortable.” We were the only visitors, and indeed the place seemed not to do a roaring trade. Three or four underoccupied women staff sat down outside for a mid-morning picnic while we watched! And on our way out, we had to crawl under the long arm of a digger which had started demolishing the entrance path…

In stark contrast to this was our visit to a bustling hillside temple which seemed about as far from tranquil worship as Oxford Circus. It was surrounded by the usual array of stalls selling sparkly bangles, plasticky racing cars and other religious tat. There was a long queue (in which the woman behind mum kept trying to push past) at the end of which police armed with bayonets added a touch of spirituality to the proceedings by bawling out orders to devotees and rushing them round a particular prayer route. One policeman singled us out as the only tourists and directed us towards “special entrance,” subsequently demanding a cash payment for this service. We declined.

Nearby was an enormous statue of Nandi, a holy bull, carved out of a single piece of rock. Children attempted slapping 1 Rupee coins onto its bare sides; those whose donations stuck were guaranteed good luck. Several families asked us to appear in their photos, as did a group of about 8 male middle-aged journalists from Maharashtra.

The Video Lounge

You will be able find all my clips, multimedias, movies and vids by clicking on the links below.

Difficulties in adjusting to English life

  1. I can no longer make rude remarks to tradespeople without fear of a punch in the throat
  2. I constantly think in terms of Rupees
  3. I don’t constantly have 5-10 people desperately vying for my attention
  4. I’ve forgotten how to use pedestrian crossings
  5. I keep putting pointless spaces into words like “brow sing” and “enter prise”
  6. I’ve developed an Indian head-wobble
  7. I get stared at for saying things like, “What is your good name?” and, “What is your native place?”
  8. British airport security staff don’t confiscate camera-batteries before letting you onto a ‘plane, and I can’t imagine why not

  9. I’ve forgotten what a million is
  10. Giving out shiny British pennies to kids now carries certain risks under the Child Protection Act
  11. English beggars are so badly dressed; most of them don’t even wear gold earrings!
  12. The UK’s May 5th referendum will doubtless be a free and fair vote. How deathly dull.
  13. I can’t wear a dhoti without being stopped and searched
  14. I no longer have a sign to hang out side my bed room door reading, “Please collect my laundry.”
  15. I now know that seatbelts are only for wusses*
  16. Photographing amusing and un grammatical signs in shops can potentially earn one a smack in the jaw
  17. The Royal wedding wasn’t an arranged marriage and is thus deeply uninteresting
  18. No books in Waterstones have titles quite as amusing as Call Centres for Dummies
  19. ‘Bring back the Empire’ jokes just attract the attention fo the BNP
  20. Surrey Police are irritatingly impervious to ‘donations’
  21. It’s difficult to resist summoning people over with a peremptory, “Va!”
  22. Lying down for a nap in the middle of a busy road is frowned upon
  23. I never have quite the same sense of wonder when coming across Pringles in a Long Ditton shop as in Kanyakumari
  24. I can’t stop myself from gesturing whenever I speak
  25. A guaranteed stable electricity supply takes some of the sparkle out of life. No pun intended.

*I accept no responsibility… (cont. page 94)

The End

So that’s it. I’m home. My tour of duty is complete. I’ve taken in the Empire, and am now back on British soil once again. This is presumably going to be the final blog entry, since gabrielinsussex from September would be substantially less exciting than my Indian adventure, so I’d like to thank everyone for their nice comments over the last few months, and can think of no better way to sign off than by quoting the Indian national anthem in its original Hindi.

Or not.

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3 Responses to Ruling Britannia for Dummies

  1. Hilary Luder says:

    thanks gabriel, we have really enjoyed youyr blog, which has provided more than a few belly laughs.
    robert & hilary luder

  2. Pingback: Thank you doesn’t butter my bread | Gabrielquotes

  3. Pingback: Bye bye, everybody, bye bye* | Gabrielquotes

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