Thursday, 7 August 2014


So far we have stayed in 3 hotels, the first in Chennai provided shower caps that would not have fitted a doll; in Pondicherry (Pondy), where there are a number of European visitors, especially French and German - the shower cap was enormous (it could have sufficed as a shopping bag at the emporium); and finally, here in Tiruchirappalli (known as Trichy), I have a shower cap that is just the right size for my "golden locks". 

(The hotel is a fairly typical Indian business hotel - not very scenic, this is the meeting area

and the corridors stink of cigarettes, but the shower caps are neither too small, nor too big, they are just right).

All my family are blonde and our golden hair seems to act like a magnet for a number of people here in India. Not just the touts selling postcards, necklaces, SIM cards, carvings and trinkets, each of us has had our photograph taken by complete strangers, sometimes alone and sometimes with them and their family. Travelling on a bus, a large family kept looking at us and smiling and laughing, I wondered at first if the tight line from where I had tried to squeeze into the shower cap was still seared across my forehead, but no... I slowly realised that it was my skin colour and hair. In the end a charming little girl, aged about 10, dressed in a glittering dress, covered in embroidery and gold, and wearing her best jewellery crept down the bus and shyly indicated that she wanted to sit beside me. All the family took photos, I regret that I couldn't manage a selfie at the time. I was charmed.

Today a family asked if they could take a photo of me and then I made it clear that I would like to take a photo in return. Through our guide we had a conversation with them. They had come from a small rural village, near Pondi, and this was the furthest that their daughters had travelled. They were on a pilgrimage to the Ranganathswamy temple, here in Trichy - for Hindus it is as important and similar to a Muslim's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, it has to be achieved a least once in a lifetime. The daughters were quite giggly and shy, especially as there were boys in the photo with them, but after we had finished they insisted on formally shaking hands with each of us.

We are peculiar creatures. I know that when I get back to London friends and colleagues will compliment me on the slight tan that I will have gained whilst here in India. Yet, there are people here who are using bleach to try to lighten the colour of their skin. Below is a very Indian joke, shared with me by my friend Bina. I am indebted to Bina for all her help, advice and support before we came out here. How odd that my pale skin and hair colouring make me a curiosity to others and an object worthy of photographing. 

It is strange to think that while on vacation I have become a character in someone else's holiday snaps. I have the memories of their smiles.

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