Magazine article The Spectator

A Sense of Place

Magazine article The Spectator

A Sense of Place

Article excerpt

A letter has arrived from an Indian gentleman who's working on a travel book on Britain and wants to discover English country life at first hand. It put me in mind of a comedy sketch from the BBC's Asian comedy series Goodness Gracious Me, in which Indian tourists travel around England in the style of English tourists in India, saying things like, `Of course, if you want to see the real England, you have to go to the villages. You know there are people in Guildford who have never seen a brown face!' Anyway, while I'm looking forward to meeting this friend of a friend, I'm a bit nervous. Do I really want to know how we look to an observant travel writer?

I'm not at all sure I've made a good impression on India as it is. Some of you may remember that I went to Rajasthan on holiday last year. I also went to Agra. However, I didn't make it clear that Agra is not in Rajasthan. This fact suddenly sprang into my mind during a reverie on a flight to Delhi (which isn't in Rajasthan either). I moaned and groaned, but there was nothing I could do until I got back home, when I rang the editor of this page to confess all. She told me not to be silly, everyone talks about Agra in the same breath as Rajasthan and, anyway, it was too late to bother with now. I hoped that perhaps no one had noticed, but I got two letters pointing out my error, the second from an Irish friend who had read my article in an Indian magazine. The thought of possibly thousands of Indians sitting at home shaking their heads at my stupidity was, frankly, awful, but eventually I was able to put it out of my mind. After all, my name would be soon forgotten.

But now the travel writer tells me he has kept in touch with my activities through the Asian Age, `which, as you probably know, reprints your column in all three Indian editions and almost certainly brings to it many more readers than The Spectator'. …

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