Twenty years ago this month, I set foot in India for the first time. A life changing trip.
I landed at Calcutta on Royal Jordanian airways - my luggage landed at Dharan in Saudi Arabia. It was mid June, sweltering. I took a taxi in from Dum Dum airport, and gagged with disbelief as we passed the stink of Tangra.
The Kenilworth hotel denied any knowledge of my room booking, but had a vacancy in the 'old' wing. A room as big as a ballroom, with lots of fauna - but the lights were so dim you couldn't see the cockroaches. Very thoughtful!
A great trip - met Jyoti Basu, then chief minister, and Mamata Banerjee, who's now in charge.
My task was to make a radio programme about Communism in West Bengal, which much to my amazement and delight attracted the most prestigious award I've ever won. (If you're curious, you can hear the programme on this page - it's the third in the series).
I fell in love with Cal - and I've never fallen out of love with the city.
The photo above is of a street scene in Calcutta, near the CPI(M) headquarters in Alimuddin Street - the flag is of the street hawkers' union. I managed to see a bit of Wet Bengal beyond Cal. The photo below was taken as I was interviewing villagers in Nadia region - I can't remember whether they were CPI(M) supporters, or people complaining about thuggery by party comrades.
I stopped at Delhi on the way back. A year later, I pitched up as BBC correspondent there. And the rest ...
To the South Bank's Alchemy festival on Sunday - a celebration of South Asian culture, with a Bollywood dance teach-in (phenomenally popular), and food stalls which sell the sort of stuff you wish Indian restaurants would.
Between us, we managed a papri chaat, a chole bhatura and a masala dosa. Grand!
The craft exhibits in the Royal Festival Hall were greatly depleted however, thanks to HMG. Seven of the stalls - that's more than half the total - had notes saying that the artists had been 'delayed due to visa'.
Alchemy is now approaching its half-way mark, so I suspect these guys are never going to make it to the South Bank. A pity!
Wonderful pictures of Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, visiting China in October 1954 - possibly in public view for the first time.
Relatives in Delhi recently came across a package of photographs they had been given twenty years ago by a retired Indian army officer who was emigrating. They contain high quality photos of one of the most important of Nehru's visits overseas. In the 1950s, Nehru coined the phrase 'Hindi Chini bhai bhai' (India and China are brothers). In 1962, the two countries were at war - a conflict which India lost and which is reputed to have hastened Nehru's death two years later.
You can see the glamour of Indira Gandhi, looking much younger than her then age, 36. I am fairly sure that the Chinese leader in the photo above is Premier Zhou Enlai.
All these photos have recently deposited with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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