What is there better to do on a holiday than travel. To the South, a circular (well, almost circular) tour by the Indian Railways.
I remember when I travelled, with literally a toothbrush and a comb, first on overnight journey in a crowded, unreserved, Madras Mail to Karundwadi, then on the Kurundwadi-Miraj metre guage line to Pandharpur. The temple with its gods and Brahmin priests, the walls black with soot of the oil lamps.
Next morning in Sholapur, welcomed by the sirens of the early morning shift at dozens of textile mills. Shops selling Sholapur bedsheets and bedcovers.
Then Wadi junction in the night, a struggle with the locked doors of the Secunderabad Express at midnight, the arrival in Hyderabad, city of the Nizam, in the morning. It is a comforting thought that no NTR in his costumes and no other chief minister can ever change the character of the city. A mixture of Solar Jung and baingan bharats, Charminar cigaretters and Banjara hills, Jaisimha and Abbas Ali Baig and the Irani restaurants of Secunderabad (the only other city to have them besides Bombay and Pune).
Then onwards to Renigunta and Tirupati-Tirumalai, the same blind, unquestioning faith, the same exploitation by the priests, young women going up the hill with lustrous black Tamilian hair, coming down with their heads shaved.
And Madras Central with Heggin bothams, Spencer and Co., The Hindu, stainless-steel tiffin boxes, each one accompanied by a rolled plantain leaf, large hoardings on Mount Road of film stars and of film stars who have become chief ministers.
Out of Egmore, the scene changes, painted gopurams, large temples with ornamental pillars, temples famous in tourist books: Kanchipuram, Chidambaram, Tanjore, of course, Madurai, the rock temple at Tiruchirapli, finally Rameshwaram, the end of imdia. A ship smoking midstream, ready to take passengers across to the kingdom of Lanka. It was in Madras that I was introduced to Tamil Naduâ€™s prohibition by way of several bottles of mildly alcoholic cough syrups and health tonics, sold and consumed behind little grocery stores in the bazar.
Tiruchendur is a quieter and of India, a vast empty beach with a single temple and untrampled sand.
The circular journey took me back up to Palni and Coimbatore and Ernakulam and Cochin, and by river boats and through backwaters to Trivandrum. People who talk of the beauties have either not been to Kerala or are prejudiced against it.
I came back via Bangalore and My sore and several of R. K. Narayanaâ€™s Malagudis, past Shravanbelgoda, Miraj and Kolhapur to Bombay.
Not this holiday, which is almost over, but I would like to go again one day. And this time without the toothbrush and the comb.