The Taj Mahal (and a shave)

It has been another of those days which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Alongside seeing the Grand Canyon and visiting the Louvre, I can now say I have been to the Taj Mahal. Even before that, though, today was already rather special,  as this morning I had my first real shave with a cut throat razor. We drove to Agra from Delhi yesterday and, my face overdue for a trim, John suggested we visit a barbershop after breakfast.

It was quite amazing. I have always been shaved using an ordinary safety razor because I move my head too much to use anything else. The idea of using an old fashioned cut throat razor was almost suicidal. Today though, the heat of India meant I was relaxed enough for me to have a proper old fashioned shave, and for the first few cuts the barber was able to shave me comfortably. After that he got an assistant to hold my head still, but even so I was calm and relaxed enough to come out of the shop without spilling any blood.
That in itself would have been worthy of a blog entry, but this afternoon was even more special. The Taj Mahal is surely one of the wonders of the world. It is sublimely beautiful, although it must be said there were too many stairs so I could not get around in my chair. I had to climb a flight of extremely steep stairs, but it was well worth the effort: I have never seen a more beautiful building, and the view from the top terrace was staggering. What a monument for a man to build for his fourteenth wife.
Not a bad day at all, then. Yet perhaps the most touching moment for me was when, as John, Anna and me were walking up to the mighty building, we passed a family with a guy with severe cerebral palsy. He was about my age I guess,  but had no obvious way to communicate. I made a point of saying hi to him, and the look on his face when he realised I was addressing him directly was incredible. I don’t think he gets spoken to that very often, people with his level of disability being very rare here; I think being addressed as a normal human being was quite a novel experience for him, but one I was happy to facilitate.

Mistaking serenity for chaos

Late yesterday afternoon I realised something astonishing. We were walking along a bustling Delhi street: at first glance it seemed like total chaos, with cars, motorbikes and tooktooks hurtling here,  there and everywhere. Drivers seemed to just go wherever they pleased, and the idea that there were actually rules to obey seemed ridiculous. But then I realised, nobody was getting angry. In London, I would expect such a situation to be accompanied by intense fury, with drivers hurling all kinds of obscene abuse at each other; but here, everyone was totally calm. What at first I took to be chaos was in fact serenity: drivers waited patiently as people cut in front of them, as if they expected it, as if it was just part of driving. Horns were hooted liberally, not as a form of aggression but merely to alert other drivers of ones existence. That realisation was incredible to me, and it made my jaw drop. They may have been going all over the place, but nobody was getting hurt or injured or angry. It was utterly amazing, and it struck me that we could all learn from it.

A vast maelstrom of contradictions

Until two days ago I thought London was a sprawling labyrinthine maelstrom. How, I reasoned, could cities get any bigger or more energetic? After under two days in Delhi, however, London seems like the epitome of calm and tranquility. Compared with Delhi, the British capital is a sedate village. I am genuinely baffled how people survive in this insane maelstrom. At the same time I am intrigued: this place is so fascinating and different to anywhere I have ever been. The road signs may be in english, but Delhi feels utterly different. I am once again reminded why I love travel. Here, it seems, modern collides with ancient, western with eastern; a sovereign nation seems somehow reluctant to fully outgrow its former colonial status. You can tell there is wealth here, but I have never seen so much poverty. There is so much beauty here, but there is dirt and rubbish everywhere, and pavements are a rarity. Delhi is a city of contractions, and I think I already love it.

Hi from Delhi

Believe it or not, this entry finds me in a taxi zooming through the streets of Delhi. John and I got here this morning, and after a nap and a cup of sweet tea, he, his girlfriend and I are heading out to explore. There’s so much I want to see here, not least how people with disabilities are treated here, but for now I am mostly struck by how utterly insanely they drive here, and the fact that the cars have to avoid cows.

Flying the wrong way.

As soon as I saw this story, I automatically thought it sounded like something  I would do. “A British Airways flight destined for Düsseldorf in Germany has landed in Edinburgh by mistake, after the flight paperwork was submitted incorrectly.” to call that getting lost would be an understatement, I think. It certainly makes me feel   a tad better about my occasional mishaps in my powerchair.

Meeting Samuel L. Jackson

It has happened again. Just a few days ago, I was muttering to myself that it was high time something cool happened, like watching Monty Python Live or meeting someone awesome like Patrick Stewart or  Danny Boyle. Well, one of the best things about life in London is the most incredible things can happen at absolutely any moment. This afternoon, I was out on one of my regular walks. I had passed through Woolwich and was heading home when I noticed a bunch of vans outside woolwich crown court. I saw that they belonged to a film crew, so I automatically stopped to ask  what was going on. At first I was told by one of the security guys that they were  making  a documentary for the BBC. I naturally asked him what it was about, but he said he didn’t know, so I asked someone els.

He was one of the production staff. I got chatting to the guy,  showing him some of my writing and my 1000 Londoners film.  I told him about  meeting Danny Boyle a couple of years ago, explaining why I was interested. He then let slip that they weren’t making a documentary but a film, and that Samuel L Jackson was there. This, of course, got  my interest, and I decided to hang  around for a bit, chatting to members of the film crew,

I didn’t have to wait long,  as pretty soon out the great American  Actor came, wearing a hat to mask himself. I continued to talk to the crew members at first, before mustering the courage to tap into my  Ipad  how much I liked his work. He thanked me, and I introduced myself. We didn’t have too much of  a conversation,  but  nonetheless  it was awesome to meet one of the coolest actors around. Granted, I haven’t written much about Jackson in the way  I have about Stewart or Boyle (he’s  not in my thesis or made any short films which still make me squeal with glee whenever I see it), but even so it was pretty awesome. They were apparently making a sequel to The Hitman’s  Wife’s Bodyguard,  which, I must confess, I had never heard of, but even so I just love how things like this seem to keep happening. One of the best things about living in London is that the coolest things are possible at any  moment – you just need to keep your eyes open.

The People’s Vote Demonstration

I got back from Westminster a couple of hours or so ago. The People’s Vote Protest was a good natured  gathering, although I had trouble seeing the stage from my chair so many people were stood in Parliament Square. All I can say is, I’ve rarely if ever seen so many people in one place. Alongside the 4m-strong online petition to revoke article 50, surely the tories can’t ignore such a huge gathering. I definitely now sense that the momentum is now on the side  of Remain, and that it’s now only a matter of time before the lunacy of the last three years is reversed.

Religious word prediction

I use Proloquo2go as the communication app on my Ipad. It’s a very good app – one of the best communication aid apps I’ve tried. Yet I’ve noticed something odd in it’s word prediction. It seems to be religious in the choice of words it suggests. For example, whenever I type ‘My’, it   suggests  something like ‘Father’ or ‘God’. I first noticed it a while ago, and thought it would change as the app adapted to my preferences, but it hasn’t.  I keep noticing it, and, as an atheist, it’s getting on my nerves. It feels like it’s trying to force me to say certain things. Surely things like speech apps should be neutral when it  comes to things like religion.

A lovely walk

I just  got in from a walk (well, roll) so lovely that I think it deserves mentioning on here. From Charlton,  I headed for Blackheath and from there went up into Greenwich  park. I went through the park and down into Greenwich, and then eastwards along the river  up to the dome. That’s one of my regular routes, and from the dome I usually take the bus back, but instead today I carried on eastwards along the river  all the way to Woolwich. From there I just  trundled along the road back. It was quite an  epic ramble of  five or six KM which took me most of the afternoon; it reminded me of when I used to trundle up  to Swettenham from Congleton. Mind you, I better not do it too often as  it took a fairly big chunk out of my  powerchair battery.