tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breakfast in Ghorkaland

Greetings from Ghorkaland. Land of the Ghorkas, mountain men and women of the Himalaya, so famed for their ferocity as soldiers that the British military dubbed them a "warrior race" and conscripted as many as possible to fight their battles (even as recently as the Falkland War). Quipped one British field marshal, "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gorkha."

And what does a warrior race eat for breakfast? Not sure; probably something like oats and blood. (Actual Ghorkhas enjoy potatoes, garbanzo curry and dumplings.) 

But what does a visitor to Ghorkaland eat for breakfast, a visitor who's eaten naught but scrawny fish and sickly chicken, when any meat at all, for eight months?

Meat. (That's 3 kinds of pork on the plate above; you know, for those of you who keep score of these things.)

But I digress. Ghorkaland is the semi-autonomous, proudly quasi-independent region of northern West Bengal whose unofficial capital city is the idyllic hillstation of Darjeeling, non-quasi-official global capital of tea, where our holiday began after a 27-hour train ride and a 3-hour 4x4 jeep ride.

The tea was okay, the meat was delicious, and the views at breakfast were divine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Inconvenience Caused is Deeply Regretted

Six words. The voice is female, vaguely sympathetic and comforting, a bit like Mary Poppins with an Indian accent; yet also robotic and decidedly curt, as though a light scolding. "The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted." 

At any of India's 3467 official railway stations, dotted along the country's 64,000 kilometres of passenger track, these six prerecorded words comprise the postscript to the inevitable announcement that your train is late.

Having spent the last four weeks travelling in the north of India--Darjeeling area and Sikkim--your humble blogger has been significantly tardy in attending to this blog. It was inevitable. Please accept our vaguely sympathetic, decidedly curt, Mary-Poppins-meets-Indira-Gandhi apology:

The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.

(Stay tuned: In the coming days, blogs galore about the trip.)