Sunday and Monday’s adventures: Dehra Dun and its wonderful teenagers

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Sunday is not exactly a day of rest in India, but it was a day of rest for us. Our aim today was to get to Dehra Dun in Uttarakhand for the next leg of the Book Festival. Our train wasn’t due to leave till half three so we had some spare time.

We chose to visit the Gandhi Museum for two reasons – to escape the intense heat and to indulge my love of Gandhiji and all he stands for. Did you know he was inspired by John Ruskin? And Tolstoy too. However, we’ll move on as I have promised Iris I will not write an essay on Gandhi. To add to our mellow mood, there’s a monsoon rain beating down as I type! Even by Manchester standards this is pretty intense. We were feeling nicely chilled before our mammoth train journey north. 

New Delhi Station is the most confusing place in the world, and if it wasn’t for Gunjan of MMU India we would still be there; she found a porter for us, located our carriage, and safely installed us in our seats. Further down the carriage were Shaguna from the British Council along with Emily Gravett and her partner. The carriage was air-conditioned and wonderfully atmospheric. Vendors came down the aisles offering birianis, pizzas, whilst crying ‘pani!’ (water) and, our favourite, ‘tomato soup!’ Six hours later, after tantalising glimpses of the Indian countryside, we arrived at Dehra Dun, ready for bed. 

And then it was Monday. The school we were scheduled to visit was next door to the hotel, but Indian hospitality is such that the school sent a small bus for us. We were ushered into the vice-principal’s office and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the Indian school system whilst enjoying chai and samosas. Our sessions were with very large audiences of keen Indian school kids, many of whom want to send their stories to be part of the next MCBF. As a gift, we gave a copy of Animal Stew to the school along with plenty of MMU pens. We have learned that Indian teens are just as obsessed with zombies as English kids. Also, my favourite question was ‘How do the English celebrate Christmas?’ We were also interviewed by a local journalist, sung the praises of the Writing School, and had our photos taken. There were other Indian writers with us too.  At the end, we were taken to see the Principal who gave us gifts to mark our visit. 

Guess what – we had a free afternoon!  People of a jealous disposition, look away now.  Together with Gunjan, Emily and her partner, we took a car up to the hill station of Mussorie. It was ramshackle, cloudy, cool and dripping atmosphere. There were stalls selling Tibetan and Nepali shawls, and shooting galleries of coloured balloons. And cows and monkeys. We had the best pakoras ever in a hotel up in the clouds – the ultimate high tea (Iris’s joke, not mine). The monsoon rain started again on our way down. Tomorrow, our destination is Haridwar, one the seven holiest places in the Hindu religion – the Ganges flows through it.



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