Bencoolen St. Apartments (S$7)
Saturday, 2nd November 1985 10pm
Twenty four hours ago I was eating in the most expensive restaurant in Bombay (now Mumbai), at the Taj International Hotel. and I’m in a different time zone and a different westernised culture.
Yesterday was special. It was au revoir to Brigitte, similarly winding up her six months, and a ‘hi’ to Colin from Portsmouth who was, probably still is, very apprehensive as he starts his. Brigitte and I had had a week of sharing how we’d come to terms with travel. My philosophy is that all life is travel, most ot a journey of happenstance. One can rarely effect radical changes in one’s life; we all carry baggage from our past into the future. If sufficiently receptive,allowing one’s curiosity to lead, then one can journey through the ever-changing scenery by following the emotional byways, which can sometimes become highways.
For Brigitte at 22, this was an awakening. For me, old enough to have been her teacher in primary school, there were lessons to be learned about gentleness and generosity of spirit. On leaving India I found an openness which I had come to learn to smother. A seeming indifference bordering on callousness, bred to avoid too many close encounters, was relaxed.
Waiting, alone again, for the airport bus I became involved in the plight of a very young mother with two toddling girls already begging for paisa. Brigitte and Colin’s ten rupee contribution to the very creditable meal (with the British ambassador at the next table) will have, I hope, put some food in the bellies of the real poor.
So now, a new continent. It would appear that India is the hardest country to come to terms with. The difference is clearly seen here: it’s clean and tidy and I have yet to feel any pangs of paranoia. As the sole westerner in a street café, it was easy to order a substantial meal – rice again, with a mixture of meats as a topping. Only time will tell if I become a full-time lapsed vegetarian. I will need a ready supply of toothpicks if that is so.
At least I begin the second half of my journey in a better state than the first. Both Brigitte and myself felt very sympathetic to Colin’s plight, which was exacerbated by jet lag. In six months he too will have learned to survive and found his own approach to strangeness.
For me, jet lag too: I’ve had just two hours sleep in the last sixty, but feel fine. Once again I feel the excitement and awareness of being in a new place. I suspect I will still feel the same tomorrow, given a good night’s sleep.
Sunday, 3rd November
Slept eleven hours, but still feel tired. There was constant heavy traffic noise and I woke up with the runs. That could be the strong coffee they serve here. So this will be a gentle day – I hope.