Foreigners who’ve made Mysore their home
In Mysore there’s quite a few foreigners living here. They seem less like the type you’ll find in Bangalore, who knows!
Here in Mysore, some of us have homestays, manage subsidiaries and have set up our own businesses, one even exports Henna/Indigo to south Korea!
One of these oddballs is Victor Len Bailey, he’s 75 nearly 76.
We’re just back from a trip to visit him way over the other side of Mysore. He’s a bit of a mix!
This visit to Len is poignant as he’s likely to be back in the UK in the next few weeks to finally leave India after being here for the past fourteen years, most of them in Mysore.
On this occasion, he was remembering his first trip to India.
In a former dry cleaners Bedford truck, he’d converted into a mobile home, him, his Anglo-Indian wife and their two kids travelled overland to India, in 1970. He’d been working as a mobile crane driver, his wife in an Indian restaurant (he lived above when they first met) and there were a few others travelling with them who had paid for their passage. That helped pay for their trip.
Christmas 1970, he was aged 30, a bit old for a hippy, as he declares! Here he is, that January, ‘turning native’
You can just see the truck in the background. They travelled along the great trunk road, the last stage being from Lahore to Nagpur to a stone that marked the very centre of the Indian subcontinent. Then they hit the road again to take in the south visiting Mysore for the first time and including: Ooty, Coimbatore and Chennai. A total trip of six months.
The return journey, normally reckoned to be 22 days was more like 40 days. Being stuck in the mountains, with snow storms, broken roads, picking up distressed back packers, breaking down, running out of money and a coming to the aid of a local newly wed bride. The mobile home continually being a magnet and attracting locals, especially children fascinated by the fluorescent lights, generator, toilet and shower, and probably, the odd people 😉
He remembers Afghanistan and that Kabul was the nicest city, laid back, friendly people with some sadness because of how it’s been damaged by the interference of foreign powers. He recalls stopping for coffee and snacks and making Instant Whip for the Children from the Kuchi Tribe that had gathered around. I ask you …. of all the things to give 😉 well anyway. They’re eating it in the plastic containers he’s provided with teaspoons and slowly stepping backwards until they could just slip back and run away with their well-found souvenirs.
Road conditions were so poor in places, they would be lucky to make a 100 miles in a day.
He remembers another vehicle, a bus from the UK with plenty of paying customers, a version of ‘Magic Bus’ just 21 days to Delhi “roll-up roll-up”, which had all its windows fall out through the incessant shaking.
There was no guarantee you’d arrive!
I could have been one of those innocent travellers. A few years later, still in the 1970’s in my gap years before and during university, I’d hoped to follow in the footstep of the hippies. I’d managed to get just over the European border onto the Asian side of Turkey (what a wimp) but I never succeeded in fulfilling that burning ambition in getting to India until just ten years ago.
Len has so much depth, a self-made man who can hold forth on an unlikely range of subjects in phenomenal detail (so not like me at all), a genuine guy with guts, determination and a heart of gold. He also has links back to the early days of the Labour Party so he’s also 100 years plus old 😉
During their stay in Teheran it was obvious that society would not last. The rich would spend the equivalent of someone’s annual income on a night out and it was fashionable to buy obscenely expensive things such as learning to fly helicopters. Big gaps between the rich and the poor, ostentatious demonstrations of wealth. Ring any bells?
I wonder how he will find going back to the UK and its current austerity with slashed public services and near bankrupt local authorities. He really has little choice financially. But how will he manage? The different culture, the weather, the cold? He is a bit frail and has no accommodation to go to or places to crash. Maybe he’ll just dump himself on the doorstep of the first London Borough he arrives at… Southall which also happens to be the place where the majority of the residents come from the Indian Subcontinent!
We’ll miss you Len, you’ll leave a gap and we hope your re-entry to the land of your birth will go well.
Len at 17.
Yes he got his snaps out!
It strikes me after listening to some of Len’s stories about how many memories we have of experiences that help create who we are and how that will in time disappear as if it’s just a puff of smoke
…. or will it?