India is a country fizzing with energy, ideas, and action. Having recently been to India, I can see why as it awakens from the ill effects of having its access to world markets mediated by the East India Company and colonialism, and the partition of India in 1947 – here are some images from the period just after 1857, showing the degree of looting and degradation of many of the citiy’s monuments. Here too, are images from partition in 1947, showing the scale of the refugee camps and the despair. What must life have been like for its people?
As a city, Delhi, the capital, is breathtaking. I mean that not wholeheartedly positively. The pollution is awful, you can taste it. Staying indoors in air-filtered and conditioned zones is advisable. But then, on a relatively clear day when the smog lifts … it is breathtaking in an utterly joyous, magnificent and bewildering way. The scale of the city is vast – with a population estimated at close to 30 million. It truly is a megacity. A tour on a clear day reminds you of all the energy here.
That constant energy has been a constant in India and its cities, from devising and developing complex mathematics (including the invention of zero) to its application to the higgs boson; alongside great works of culture, manufacture, architecture, systems of thought and philosophy, commerce, agriculture, and of course an enviable and largely vegetarian food culture.
That irrepressible energy at various times in history led India, like China, to be the world’s largest economy before the ascendancy of European trade in the 1700s.
The trip I took towards the end of 2016 was life-changing. Not only did I visit many places with which I had family connections, but did so in quite some style. It was transformative too as part of a deeper, more personal journey I had to make.
I’ll always be grateful to everyone I met in India – everyone who helped, guided, shared, talked with and gently dealt with kindness, amusement and affection this lost soul.
You can get the lowdown on the what and where of it all from Greaves Travel – the lovely folks who organised the trip for me. And in the meantime, here’s a picture gallery.