This wonderful person is Jairam. I couldn't have brought the parasols back without him. He was the best companion, quality checker, and great company.
He is very in love with his wife and they have just had a baby daughter. Rajesh, who I will tell you about in a future post, told me that the best present Jairam ever got was a dress. Jairam denies this.
Whilst we were making the parasols Jairam took time off to sit his train driver exams, the day we sent the shipment he learned that he'd passed with flying colours. I was very sad to lose him, Jairam has a promising career ahead of him in parasol design, but he told me that it is his dream to drive trains. You have to follow your dreams.
If you're ever on the Thar Express from Jodphur to Karachi that snakes across India to Pakistan it might be driven by Jairam.
I love the trains in India. They're unfathomably long and each carriage is a new world. You can walk up and down and in and out of activity, existences and communal meals. It's like one long Narnia and every corridor is a new wardrobe. You can sit in the open doorways and dangle your flip flops, waving your toes at the tracks speeding underneath you. I don't think western prison-like train doors are progress. They're practical but much less fun.
Chai wallahs walk up and down shouting 'chai chai chaaaaaai', pouring hot sweet chai into little paper cups. People laden with tiffin tins dish out biryani on paper plates. Ladies in colourful saris carry long poles tied with balloon-like plastic bags filled with unidentified fried objects. It's a journey of noise and smell and taste.
Wes Anderson's 'Darjeeling Limited' expresses this glorious linear speeding smorgasbord. I recommend watching it on your laptop in the garden in the early evening light, under one of the parasols with sparkling tinkling silver fringing. Hang some jam jars with tea lights from the parasol and eat biryani with your fingers off a paper plate accompanied by a cold Kingfisher beer.
After you've eaten you could get snuggly under a rug and sip a hot chai laced with dark rum. You don't have to, it's just a suggestion.
Here's a recipe from my mind for hot spiced rum chai.
Hot spiced Rum Chai
Put a couple of spoonfuls of loose leaf tea in a pan. Add a mug of water and a mug of milk. Put in a stick of cinnamon, a couple of cloves, some cardmom pods, some sliced ginger and a couple of spoonfuls of honey. Boil the crap out of it for a couple of minutes.
Pour it into mugs through a sieve. Add a shot of dark rum to each and stir. Yum.