THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
A different kind of road trip

Mindrolling in Dehradun

I spent today around Dehradun (known to the British in the days of the Raj as "Dehra" and often to the locals just as "Doon"). It's a lively city of more than half a million souls and the "interim capital" of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The official plan is to build a new capital in the mountains, but I am told that may never happen (though the plan will probably never be officially renounced) because the politicians, officials and their families don't want to move to some soulless new town.

It's not a typical tourist destination. I'm here to visit a friend. I clearly stand out a bit from the crowd, though the attention – in this very polite country – is not unfriendly. I am just the subject of mild curiosity. After looking around a bit to get a feel of the place, I lunched with my friend at a mildly hip cafe and got another taste of Indian Indian food as opposed to the British Indian food I've been enjoying all my life. As my diet precludes carbohydrates at present, my food choices have not been entirely typical; no chapatis or naan bread, no potatoes or rice. However I have enjoyed the greater delicacy of the spices and the lighter consistency of the dishes. My friend reckons the British versions have too much tomato, butter and/or cream. Presumably our first Indian restauranteurs checked out our traditional diet and decided modifications were in order. Given the more sedentary lives we lead these days and the greater care many of us take with our diets, I reckon it's time for a reboot of British Indian cuisine but I'm sure no-one will do anything so radical on the say-so of a first time visitor on only his second day! 


In the afternoon we visited the local Mindrolling Buddhist Monastery. This was founded only quite recently – in 1965 – by monk refugees from Tibet. I know little about Buddhism but I have always found its monasteries and temples attractive, soothing places. This one was no exception, though in the heat and humidity I was not quite as soothed as I might have hoped. I enjoy a bit of sunshine as much as the next chap, but I am not constitutionally adapted to it on quite this exuberant scale. I don't think I could have coped with it at all last year when I weighed forty kilos more! Despite this, I enjoyed my wander around the extensive site. I then drank a litre of water in a shady place before grabbing a taxi back to base.

In the morning, continuing the spiritual theme, I'm visiting the Hindu holy city of Rishikesh before returning to dine with my friend's family in the evening.