Racket Boy – An autobiography by Philip George

Coexistence & India

During my travels in the south Indian states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala, I visited India’s oldest bookshop, trekked up a hill to explore an ancient cave with archaeological importance, stopped by a major grape growing region, marvelled at India’s largest earthen dam, toured a historic fort operated at various points in history by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, and watched the sun set on the Malabar coast with a strutting camel.

If the hill and cave held remnants of prehistoric times, the bookshop, dam, fort and beach had their own impressive tales. Yet the real revelation for me on this journey wasn’t rooted in antiquity. It is India’s bold, bright, funny, highly inquisitive and confident youngsters who left their mark on me.

Into the bargain, I observed Indian media shifting gears from reporting the grand opening of a temple, to the excitement of Chennai’s first Hard Rock Cafe, just like that!

Even in crowded metropolises with growing high rises, posh cars and some of the best academic institutions, I’ve observed children and teachers squatting on bare earth enjoying a picnic; cows, dogs, goats, monkeys, camels, chicken sharing space with humans; branded clothing in a fashion face-off with sarees and lunghis; generally loud, chaotic crowds dropping to pin drop silence in an ashram; the smart set who aim to trailblaze in foreign shores thronging fashionable cafes, as well as ascetics seeking the hills …

As I left Chennai to make more memories at the Jaipur Literary Fair in the northern state of Rajasthan, I was quite certain the hallmark of India – a country of contrasts and contradictions – would follow me to this northern state I was visiting for the first time.

Wouldn’t be a surprise if a camel greeted me at the Jaipur airport – with a built-in navigation system of course!

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