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Sunday, 01 January 2017

Gir Lions, India - Page 2

Written by Richard Taylor
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A vendor hailed me by his sugar cane press.  These were bright red and dotted the neighborhoods.  He asked “What country sir?” as they all did and pressed the cane through the wheel, poured the liquid into a cup and added a touch of ginger.  It was delicious. Lemony for some reason.

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The currency office at the bank had a charming Dickensian mustiness, with its wooden desks and counters.  As my dollars were transmuted to rupees, the staff offered me a cup of ice cream with nuts.

 

The bank joined a ring of buildings near the town summit – the ‘Old Fort’ sloped downward to its city gates.  I hailed a motor rickshaw driver whose aged and feeble frame hid nerves of steel.  He cut the motor of his three-wheeler and we careened down a narrow lane of kiosks and donkey wagons and rat-faced dogs.  I gripped the sides of the cab.  It was a hairy business.  But we made it.

 

That evening I tried the hotel’s excellent tomato-corn soup and the next morning made arrangements at the hotel desk for a safari to Sasan Gir, the national park where the deer and the antelope and the lions played.  This followed a hotel breakfast buffet spread over two tables, one offering local fare, the other Western.  The Indian dishes included pilau, bowls of spicy vegetables and stacks of naan.  I’d grown very partial to naan – Indian flat breads are one of civilization’s great triumphs.  The Western table featured corn flakes with hot milk (a local adaptation), juice, plain bread and jam.  The waiter would spread the jam of course.  At my last hotel they habitually buttered my toast, which took some getting used to.  This morning I tried the jam on naan, a fusion that amused the young breakfast staff.

 

Keen to explore Junagadh’s old quarter, I asked directions from a tea klatch of local men.  They greeted me boisterously and pointed down Sardar Para Road, the way I’d come yesterday, braced with magnificent buildings that I’d missed in my angry fog, among them the vintage mosques of Mohabbat Maqbara, built over the tomb of Nawab Mohabbat Khan II, with fabulous curly-cue minarets and the beautiful Jammi Masjid, with its glass and French windows.

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As for the city fauna, besides the ubiquitous cows, I’ve seen goats, the occasional donkey and one camel – one of those double humped Bactrian monsters that pulled wagons and things, so much more intimidating than the demure single humped Arabian dromedaries.

 

Point for India then.

 

Packs of those rat-faced dogs were nosing about the street corners.

 

Of course, I was here for the cats.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Friday, 30 December 2016

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