So yesterday, three London based headless chickens went to Dover. Among other things, locals reported that half the grass in the Dover castle lost their lives under their combined weight. Dover in the first few hours was a bit of a disappointment. They don’t make good coffee down there and our breakfast came deep fried. We sulked for a while, unable to find vegetarian food for Inky and self.
Dover castle was brilliant. All fried food and bad coffee was forgiven. Dover is a small town. The white cliffs aren’t really white. However the one place where we expected a little less inspiration – the castle was the redeeming factor. Overcoats were flung, and we decided to ROLL down the grass field. I think we scared away many of the legendary ghosts from the castle with our high pitched desi laughter. History lessons came alive in the World War II tunnels. An underground hospital, casemates which were dormitories for soldiers, Churchill-touched-phone (our guide gushed – I am honoured to be in the room that Churchill was. Oh, well!) and a telephone exchange!
The seaside by Dover is exactly as one would imagine it. White cliffs to one side, and the other pebbled bit embraced the harbour. Pebbles, pebbles everywhere.
I am very alert to all war memorials that mention the subcontinent. So it was that I saw a memorial that read “In memory of comrades who fell during the Indian Campaigns of 1857, 1858 and 1859. Erected by the 1st Battalion 60th Royal Rifles August 1861.” One side of the memorial had Delhi inscribed on it and the other Rohilcund. In tense little black letters it declares “Celer et Audax” (Swift and Bold?). That is the motto of the 60th Royal Rifles. For some reason I remembered Charles Griffiths’s book. Much as Wendigo points out – one senses a strange disconnect in Dover.
Everywhere you go in the UK – India stares down at you. In the buildings the motifs come from subcontinent. Some term that you remember staring at in a History book. War Memorials that erupt with desi names. Like when I met Albert on the bus from Hounslow to Central London one day. He was 80 years old and had been in India in the 1940s. He looked at me with all the gravity the situation always brings and said “I was never in the Army my love. Now, I just was doing business. Never the Army. ” More on that story another time.
For now, we look back at Dover with a somewhat-sigh.