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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

An Indian Diary

From A day out in Kochin to The Grumbleweeds

Carlos and driver in Cochin, India


Kochin is described in tourist brochures as “vibrant” but when I arrived it was half asleep, although the second most important city on the west coast of India after Mumbai. Because it was Sunday shops were closed, and there were few cars on the roads. Instead they were congested with other things, some of which could be described as means of transport, but more of this anon.

On arrival I stepped out and was faced with a choice of taxis or autos. Autos are covered motorbikes with seating for two at the back, whereas the taxis were just ordinary vehicles. So I chose an auto. I climbed in – no doors and no seat-belts, but fully air-conditioned.

“Drive me around please to see the city centre, buy some hand-made goods to take home, and stop by an internet café.”

And so my driver, Siyad, hurtled off. Other autos were doing the same, mere inches away, in parallel. I could easily have reached over and shaken the hands of fellow passengers. Siyad was an alert, and even rather fine driver, apart from accelerating where I would have been braking.

After chatting about this and that he said:

“No internet today Sunday, everything closed. I take you to my home.” Briefly alarmed I considered for a second or two while he drove through ever-narrowing roads and frequent potholes until coming to a halt at his front door in a pleasant back street. Of course everything turned out fine, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing you now. What is more I was offered a choice of hot teas and cold water.


After an hour or so we set off again. This time I noticed with curiosity other road-users, lots of them, all of them with an air of purpose and determination about them. Where were they going all these goats? Trotting neatly in single file on the inside lane, they showed more road sense than the human travellers dodging and weaving and honking in their assortment of autos, bicycles and motorbikes. I did spot one traveller who had had too much: slumped in a doorway was an ox, undisturbed.

Our first stop was the New Castle Gallery, a large shop on several floors selling jewellery, carpets, clothes and household embellishments, many of them hand-crafted. I loved everything I saw. What a joy the designers and artisans take in making such colourful things! I was attended with infinite patience while I decided what not to buy and take with me.


By this time I was getting hungry and surely so was Siyad, so we went to a simple restaurant and sat outside while they prepared a vegetable curry. I was thrilled to be eating a curry in India itself.

“Where is the bathroom?” I asked of the waiter.

“Just a moment.” He returned with a beaker of water. He waved vaguely towards my midriff and pointed to the side of the pavement. For the second time that afternoon I briefly panicked. Was it a custom here to do it in public? The thought crossed my mind as a crazy vision. I extended my hands. Slowly the waiter poured the water over them. That was my bathroom visit.

Soon it was time to end the day’s diversions and return to do some practise in preparation for my performances a few days hence. It had been a great day of discovery and surprises.


Another surprise lay in store for me a few days later, for one of the performances was a shared bill with those wonderful comedians The Grumbleweeds. For a long time to come I will be able to boast of accompanying Rambling Sid Rumpole in the ballad of the Woggler’s Mooley to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine with The Grumbleweeds sung in the style of Kenneth Williams in Round the Horne.

And if enough of you don’t know to what I am referring I will have to write a whole new blog just about that.

Read more:
Kochin, India

The New Castle Gallery Shop

The Grumbleweeds

April 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=465 .
© 2019.

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