2 Jan 1944
Darling Mater and family
Thanks you so much for your Xmas Greetings. .. did not arrive here until Xmas eve so found all my letters waiting for me.
So grand to have news after 9 weeks without.
Joan tells me that you are having lots of troubles again – with you own health and money affairs – do hope that everything is alright by now. . events are stale by the time I hear of them. Am consoled by the thought that you usually "pull through" - poor Neil seems to be in trouble too!! DO think that he ought to have that operation. As you will see from the address I am in India .. at the moment it is a very marvellous country. Imagine the nicest August day that you have ever seen in England, imagine the nicest hour of that day, a beautiful hazy day, a few puffs of white cloud, the birds are singing drowsily, the trees just moving in a gentle breeze … Every day .. day upon day.. is like that here. The dawn is cold with a sharp invigorating tang in the air. The dusk is soft as silk and the evening breeze softly fans one – The sun disappears in a riot of red, the sky the palest of greens. A wonderful climate – in WINTER!! In the summer I believe it is hell!! Of course it is a very dusty day and deserty, but there are quite a lot of trees and in the shade of the bashas ( local name for large huts made of matting with straw roofs) it is quite cool ! Heavenly in fact.
We are under canvas at the moment but quite comfortable… even though I have lost my camp kit… I am pretty adept at camping as you may remember – Sleeping under a mosquito net alone is a wonderful experience.
Richard hates even the slightest inconvenience, but I have always been a slightly adventurous soul, and snakes, jackals and white ants etc.etc. do not worry me in the least. Of course everything has to be protected from these pests, -- but that is all part of the game – and when you lie on you charpoy under a net you seem to be completely cut off form the rest of the world – just a tiny unit in a tiny house of white muslin surround by balmy Indian night breezes and gently night noises… at intervals pierced with the sharp cry of as jackal hunting. !! and all the time rising and falling in beautiful cadence the whirl of the crickets. .. A deep sky powdered with stars of eye-hurting brightness and the moon!! … Gosh one feel very near the infinite. . and now I am just beginning to understand the "Digit of the Moon".
Remember … " Oh thou lovely incarnation of the nectar dropping moon etc.
Soon will come the summer and heat, and I expect disillusionment, probably by the time you get this card, meanwhile I am going to enjoy the winter, learn Urdu.
I have spent a few hours in Bombay – far too short a time in which to do anything, however I did manage to walk round the "Hanging Gardens" , "The Gateway to India" and have luncheon… more of that. Quite a lot of one attention is distracted by the "Beggars of the East". .. Thousands of them. .. many children and the bootblacks.!! My God in B.N.A. or India if you are walking you just dare not stop, as soon as you stand still, a hoard of quarrelling fighting bootblacks descend upon your feet and start polishing your shoes – fortune tellers grab your hand and start to tell your fortune, vendors buy and sell you anything and everything from photographs of the Taj Mahal to their daughters, Sisters, or even Mothers much cheaper by plenty good.!!
Except for the slums which are terrible – Bombay is a very clean city and the natives seem contented and smiling. .. the Ghanies are clean and the horses comparatively well fed. – Ghanies and Taxis are very cheap – food is reasonable , some things are ridiculously expensive. Soap 9 Annas – toothpaste RS3/8 Dettol Rs 4/8 ie Toothpaste in English about 5/- shillings and Dettol about 7/- shillings – Drinks in the mess are good and cheap. .. only Indian Drinks ie Gin and Whisky .. but in the hotels, drink is exorbitant and bad, in the Taj Mahal Hotel one pays about 2/6 shilling for a gin and lime. But even if one avoids the more expensive things one still seems to spend a hell of a lot. I’ve spent so far about £20 in India == £16 in B.N. Africa and quite a lot on the ship. Even though it was dry – Ugh!! However that is only £20 a month, therefore within my income and of course I have some kit to buy. However India seems a dashed expensive country.
Oh yes the meal at the "Taj Mahal Hotel"
All this at one of the most expensive hotels in the country and it cost less that 5/- ie. in English money 7/6 but by buying power actually about 5/- shillings.
And yet, I bought 2 sixpenny tins of boot polish, a 3d tin of Silvo, a bottle of Dettol, a tube of toothpaste, and 12 razor blades and this lot cost me £1.0.0 … A fantastic Country .. soon I am spending some leave time in Calcutta .. will let you know what it is like.
God bless you all – all my love Tony.