Published: January 2, 2010
Updated: January 2, 2010
Toby had planned the journey very well. He had arranged two overnight stops on our flight to India. We were to have a day and night in Athens, and then fly across to Dubai in the Arab Emirates for another overnight stop, with time for a good look around. This suited me very well. I no longer enjoy long flights, and Dubai would be particularly interesting for me. He had also booked first class seats on the planes and in the hotels. Ruth and I would have been more than happy to pay our share of this not inconsiderable expense, but Toby insisted he was paying for the whole thing. Toby was a wealthy guy and this expense would not even dent his ‘fiscals’ --- even so it was very generous of him.
This story is not about Athens, Dubai or flights; so I will jump now to our arrival in India. From now on details of locations have been omitted for what you will realise are obvious reasons. I can tell you however that the airport was large and although quite grubby was pretty efficient. We were soon on our way to an excellent hotel where we would plan our modus operandi. Toby and I had both tried the internet for any clues that may help our quest but without any luck. One reference we found to an area of India that claimed longer than average life spans was classified under 'urban legends' with no locations supplied. I had some friends who worked for the consular authorities in India and had been in contact with them before we set off. They had made the right responses to some of my initial questions and in no way tried to ridicule me, I felt this was a good starting point for me. Toby had a couple of routes he wanted to go down, Ruth was happy to alternate between us and just enjoy the whole thing.
I hadn’t told my consular friends the whole story, but showed them a photograph of the cane when we eventually met up about a week later. I told them we wanted to return it to the rightful owners and learn something of its history. I didn’t let them think this was our main reason for being here, but did tell them we thought it may have some medicinal qualities. I explained how Toby had acquired it and that we thought it was maybe dated circa 1900. The guy I was pinning my hopes on was an Indian who had spent a long time in England, that is where I got to know him. We had worked on a couple of projects together. Mohan was a charming guy and I knew he had a deep interest in Indian history---he wasn’t going to disappoint.
It was a couple of days later and I had a meeting with Mohan.
‘I have been making some enquiries, fortunately I knew where to start, The photo really clinched it though---I may be able to help, but before I tell you any more I need the whole story; nothing left out---the whole thing. The contact I have is no fool, he will know if you are trying to hide anything. Have you got the cane with you? How did you know which part of this vast country to start your quest from? There are many things I must know.’
I just couldn’t believe what Mohan had just told me. It seemed that not only were we in the right location, but we had met the right contact. I thanked him for his interest and help and told him I would speak to Toby and Ruth and then we could meet up together and arrange how to proceed. Toby and Ruth as you can imagine were delighted to hear about my meeting with Mohan. We knew now that we would have to relate the whole story, but I trusted Mohan and realised without revealing our knowledge we would not be able to proceed. Mohan was no fool; he knew we were on a mission and was right to expect all the details.
The meeting was duly arranged and the whole saga was related to Mohan. We had agreed that he could record the whole thing, and we had to produce the cane for inspection.
Mohan handled the cane as if it was solid gold---we were to learn later that it was in fact much more valuable. He thanked us for our frankness, handed the cane back, told us not to let it out of our sight (he didn’t want to keep it) and told us he would be back in touch as soon as possible.
We had a rest from our enquiries at this point and spent over a week looking around this lovely part of India. We saw some amazing sites during this time, and had some lovely river trips. We also enjoyed some railway journeys including one trip pulled by an old engine that was made in Leeds! This engine must have been delivered well before the Second World War; and here it was still going strong all these years later---amazing.
I am sure our excitement was clear to see when we next met Mohan, although like me, I am sure Toby and Ruth must have tried to suppress it.
‘I have been in touch with a gentleman and told him all the details. I have to be honest with you; his only objective is to get the cane back. It is actually one of three that make up a very important Hindu religious artefact. Your dating of the cane was accurate. He is willing to take you on a journey to his land. It is a difficult journey and not without some danger. You will travel light and will not be comfortable. I will not be allowed to go with you and have no idea where you are heading---I can tell you though that you are very privileged people. It is only your honesty that has got you to this point. Are you prepared to go?’
Toby and I were quick to agree to the trip, Ruth was another matter and we were both of the opinion that perhaps we should go alone---being aware of the possible problems associated with the journey. Ruth was having none of this and was most emphatic that she was to be one of the party. So that was sorted then! We were given a list of items we would need and told where to get them from. We were also given a list of what not to take. It was made perfectly clear at the start that we would not know where we were heading. We would in fact have different modes of transport at different points and at no point would we be able to navigate with any accuracy. I cannot tell you how this was achieved---but be assured it was, when we arrived at our destination we had no idea where we were. The position of the sun helped us not one jot. We did know that we had gained considerable altitude though.
If we had been viewed from the rear we must have looked just like any of the indigenous people, we were dressed just the same. And so our guides eventually delivered us to our destination. We were shown to a very basic but quite comfortable 'adobe' accommodation; it had fresh drinkable running water and basic plumbing but was clean and roomy. We were told not to look for nor expect any electrical supply or indeed any modern communication---there was none, and that included mobile phones, which was of course one of the items we were not allowed to bring.
During our journey, which had been quite difficult at times, we had managed to sleep reasonably well---we all wondered if maybe we had been helped by a little something added to our food, whatever! We had no after effects and were indeed still feeling quite healthy. We were told to freshen up and were offered a light snack by the local guy who had been assigned to look after us. (You will be surprised to hear we had bacon, egg and tomato, and delicious it was too, but full explanation later). He spoke reasonable English, which was handy because not many of the folks we were to meet spoke any English.
The Hindu priest who was in charge of this large plateau did speak excellent English though --- we were summonsed into his presence about an hour after our arrival.
He greeted us with genuine affection and we had a brief talk. Nothing was mentioned about our reason for being there nor was the cane mentioned. That would have to wait until the following day.
Read the other parts of this story at Toby (Part 1)
and the conclusion at Toby 6