In 2005 I visited India for the second time, not long after the horrendous Boxing Day Tsunami. I was travelling with a small group led by an amazing friend of mine, Annie. She is addicted to India and has a knack of finding the loveliest, sometimes quirkiest hotels and most interesting places to visit, some on the main stream tourist routes and others very much off the beaten track. By the end, I felt I had been on the adventure of a life time and I’ve many stories and photographs to share with you. India is a photographers dream and has featured twice already in ‘my travel snaps’. This week’s photograph is a reminder of a very special evening in a small village deep in jungle-covered hills of the Western Ghats.

Valentine’s day 2005, Thekkady, Kerala

After a lazy morning which involved a swim and some shopping (I’m not much into shopping in the UK but I turn into a shopaholic in India!) I meet up with the others from the small group I was travelling with for lunch. Some of them had gone for a walk in the jungle. They had been shown round a small village and we’d all been invited back  for dinner (I bet it was Annie’s idea – she could wrap anyone round her finger!).

That evening we clambered into the van and after a short drive we walked into the jungle. It was completely dark now and we had just a couple of small torches to light the way. I didn’t have a clue where we were going or what to expect when we got there but I had complete faith in our guide. Carol, from our group, was getting a little nervous but I was excited!

I could see some lights in the distance ahead of us. A few paces further and I could make out some flickering flames. A small group greeted us as we entered the village and in the light of the flames of numerous torches they sang and danced for us wearing make-shift costumes and headdresses of leafs and anything else they could find. We were given a variety of cooked root vegetables on a banana leaf (some which were quite tasty and others a little hard to eat!) and the dancing continued.  The villagers said we would bring them great luck and seemed genuinely as excited as we were. They had never entertained westerns before. The only woman we saw was the chief’s wife peeping through a crack in the fence.

It was a really memorable evening and a wonderful contrast to a few nights before when I’d been dining with the Raj of Thanjavur. I still can’t believe I spilt a bowl of soup over him… but that’s another story!

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