26 July, 2021

Passing Up A White Christmas

Passing Up A White Christmas
My resolve to winter in Uttarakhand did not extend to Christmas, and the lure of TV lucre, so much more readily forthcoming to the strapped freelancer than the paltry handouts of the print barons, effectively sabotaged my plans for ringing in the New Year in Mussoorie. While waiting for the TV film crew to assemble, I decided to check out the painted havelis of Shekhawati, some 200 km west of Delhi. Surprisingly, at all the tourist lodges I put up in I found a sprinkling of Uttarakhand bearers. They all stood out by their command of English and a genuine interest in literary matters.

Actually my quest was for steam railway lore. This train motif suited the folksy artists since the haveli's horizontal spaces could be filled with trainloads of passengers in a lively frieze. Some of the activities on board the carriages are of erotic interest but one dare not spell them out in this age of the censorious lest one suffers—as many have already suffered—the fate of obliteration by the philistine lobby of prudes.

Ramnath Goenka started out of his haveli at...

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