I have finally expanded my India wardrobe. I know, it may sound strange as I will be going home in a few days, but the clothes I acquired in England before setting off are tired after multiple washes in my top-loader and the ones I bought here are desperately frayed and hanging by a thread – literally speaking! Once a decision was made on my return to India in June – and I have agreed to a further six and a half months of punishment – I felt the time was right to invest in two brand new, bright churidars, which are altogether a bit more colourful than the drab and boring shades that were available in the sales in October in England. After several mishaps with having sleeves put in tunic tops when I first arrived, I have now made my peace with a local tailor who sews a whole outfit of trousers, tunic and shawl for a mere £2.50.
As my daughter has already pointed out, I may find England on the expensive side on my return as after a while you start to think in rupees. Last Saturday I visited the tourist magnet of Kovalam and when a rickshaw driver attempted to charge me 600 rupees (£6) for taking me back home, I walked away in disgust… In the end I had to settle for 400 rupees (£4) and even that was paying over the odds, but I did not fancy the two hour bus journey home at night which would only have set me back 50p. Remind me again of a taxi fare from Slough to Heathrow or from Winchcombe to Cheltenham… If I sound stingy, this is because my monthly salary here amounts to just £100, which is about double of the other school teachers’ pay packet, so I should not complain.
Today, with only another four sleeps to go, I decided to dig out my going home attire to check that I can still squeeze into my size 10 jeans. They fitted snugly in October when I left the UK on an unseasonably hot afternoon. It was so sunny actually that I did not think it necessary to bring a coat or jacket with me, an act I may well regret on Thursday morning when I brave the March chill on board the National Express coach to my daughter’s home near the South coast. Well, wearing most of my clothes will certainly help to reduce the weight in my suitcase!
After initially gaining an inch or so around the waistline – due to eating an Indian-style diet of rice, rice and more rice – and struggling to contain myself within the limits of my Western clothes, I took matters in hand. I laid off the cold rice at lunch time (no hardship there) and restricted myself to healthy fruit and vegetables with the occasional ‘treat’ of a peanut butter sandwich . And boy did it pay off! Even my size 10 jeans will require me to wear a belt to guard my modesty… So bring on the chocolate and red meat, and puddings with lashings of cream after every meal, and yes, a glass of something to wash it all down with will certainly be appreciated!! Water becomes very tedious after a while.
So what do I look forward to most… Apart from seeing my children, it must be sleeping in my own bed burrowed deeply under a pile of blankets, feeling cool air on my skin at night without the whirring of a fan… Maybe a humble ham salad sandwich and a packet of crisps or just a bowl of warming soup with garlic bread… And proper green vegetables such as brocolli, French beans and Brussels sprouts. And mangoes and crunchy apples; I am happy to give bananas and papayas a miss for a while. Meeting up with friends on long walks and catching up on all the gossip. Going to the cinema and out for a glass a wine. And yes, I have four months of Neighbours to catch up on, but I cannot honestly say I missed that…