Racket Boy – An autobiography by Philip George

Backshadowing India: “You cannot keep this one down!”

“You cannot keep this one down!”

The north-south Delhi to Trivandrum Rajdhani Express was an opportunity for Racket Boy to connect with the heart and soul of India. It began with my endeavour to clean the outside windows to the bogey compartment of my train at the Nizamuddin station. “You cannot keep this one down!”

Indeed, Racket Boy’s spirit was unstoppable. Perhaps only a foreigner would take it upon themselves to clean the train’s windows, a gesture of respect for the journey and the people along the way.

As I wiped away dust and grime, I couldn’t help but reflect on my many intrepid travels to India – moments that had shaped my outlook on life; memories that were now paying dividends in the form of a deeper connection to India and its people.

I was touched by the humility and dedication of the rail staff who attended to my needs, from the toilet cleaner to the floor cleaner and the valet. Despite their modest means, they served with gusto and a sense of service, their smiles gleaming with warmth.

As the train rumbled southward through the Deccan Plateau, down the Western Ghats, I took in the changing landscapes and the scenes of Indian life playing out on the station platforms along the way – all teeming with life, stories and flavours … flavours transporting me straight to the unique charm of India’s street food and railway fare!

I’ve experienced many culinary journeys in India and the world over, so, despite a well-meaning English friend’s cautionary note to “take care with the curds” I knew I wouldn’t pass my “railway briyani”! An executive decision was made to dismiss the curd caution and relish my briyani served with onions and curd. No allergic reaction was going to disturb my cast iron stomach designed to deal with the notorious Delhi Belly!

In a similar fashion, I embraced every moment of the 45-hour journey with open-hearted enthusiasm, enjoying conversations with strangers and making friends with staff after staff doing their rounds to ensure traveller comfort.

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