"Haunting India" derives its title from this penultimate chapter in the book. It is a reconciliation between memories of living and growing up in India and an acceptance of changes in the subcontinent today. Yet below the surface of these changes, India remains immutable - a land of many moods, faces and landscapes: contradictory and whimsical, but endlessly - and always - intriguing.

An Excerpt from Haunting India


Margaret Deefholts

"I travel by train across the sub-continent, looking out of the window at rural India. At farmers plodding behind their oxen, women washing clothes at village wells and buffaloes being scrubbed down on the banks of brown meandering rivers. Dense jungle and thorn scrub give way to paddy fields, coconut groves and banana plantations.

We rush past level crossings, where trucks, scooters, rickshaws, cars bullock-carts, tongas and cyclists crowd the barriers. Railway stations are shrill with the familiar cries of vendors…"aaay chai-wallah-chai…aaaay, paan, beedi, cigarette". Red-shirted coolies hoist bedding rolls on their heads and lope down the platform; men gargle at water taps, families sit on tin trunks patiently awaiting the next train; goats and cows amble along the perimeter of the platform nibbling on offal, and dun-colored pariah dogs doze in the shade of awnings

I watch the sun go down, an enormous orange ball resting on the horizon of India's plains, and listen to the long whistle of the locomotive as it flies into the gathering dusk.

All this is part of my blood and bone.

So are the evenings I spend in some little town, on the way to somewhere else. Sitting outside on the lawns as the shadows lengthen and the haunting call of the Indian Koel bird drifts across the air. Watching parrots as they screech and streak like emerald arrows from tree to tree. Smelling again the wood smoke from village cooking fires. Listening to the shrill of cicadas, the yapping of village dogs, the croaking of frogs. Letting India envelop me in her cloak of rural tranquility."

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