Page 53: One year after our first exploratory visit and we’re back as a family in the UP Tourism Hotel, Ramnagar. We’re all living in one dingy room, with mosquito nets rigged across the total expanse of the beds. We have an intimate knowledge of every item on the UP menu. Olly and Jamie have forged a close relationship with the lads who run the hotel restaurant and frequently play football and cricket with them in the dust outside during the interminable days of waiting for meetings with Forest Officials or permissions to enter the jungle. Inevitably we all become fractious with the inactivity and the boys do everything they can to avoid homework.
In all the years we spent in India and even the upheaval of leaving England, I have to say that I still recall Ramnagar as the worst period of our eight year trip to India.
Olly’s version: The town was desolate and empty; it was the worst of India all in one place. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was so incredibly hot that we couldn’t leave the hotel between about 12pm and 3pm because you’d be dripping in sweat after one step. We had no transport and even if we did there was nothing to see.
I remember it too as the place where tensions seemed to boil, the adults were bickering, Jamie and I were getting into regular brotherly scuffles and for the first time I felt as though we really had no plan and were beginning to lose sight of why we were in India. Whereas before there was some sort of act that when things weren’t under control our parents gave the impression it was all part of the plan but in Ramnagar because nothing was happening for weeks on end, there was no disguising that they didn’t have a clue what was happening.
But despite this there was one good in the town and that was the people we met who looked after the hotel we stayed in. They were a group of brothers who lived in the hotel and were chefs, managers, bar men- the complete set to run a hotel. But they also liked to play football and cricket and for Jamie and I that was gold dust. We played at every opportunity- when they’d finished work and we’d sacked off our homework.
And to make things better- they were good cooks who would whip up anything we asked for whether it was on the menu or not. The UP menu was very limited- a selection of about 10 dishes covering Indian, Chinese and Continental. Jamie liked to stick to his familiar dish whilst my parents tried to vary it as much as possible- often with disastrous consequences that night and the following morning!
When we were finally leaving and there was no doubt that we were happy to go the only sadness, of any degree, was saying farewell to the friends we’d made. On the day of our departure I wasn’t feeling well- no doubt I’d taken ‘risks’ on my menu choice the night before! We were invited to their house and when we arrived they’d cooked EVERY dish we’d ever ordered during our months stay. It wasn’t even consistent- a mixture of Chinese and Indian and probably some of our breakfast orders too! I battled thorough as much as I could, Jamie never ventured far from chapatti and curd so he was safe, which just left my parents having to clean up. Bet they wish they hadn’t been so clever with their menu choices during our stay!
I was happy to move on and get away from Ramnagar and put everything behind us. Moving demonstrated we were back on track but to my surprise I knew it’d be a shame not having the guys around to play football with. But would I miss Ramnagar….no chance!