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Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Some Differences Between Wales and India

I am from Wales but now I live in India. I am therefore in a very good position to note any differences between life in the two different countries. The first of these differences concerns food. Indian food is the main kind of food in public eating places in both locations. But the food itself isn’t quite the same. Indian food in India is Indian by default. In Wales no one knows whose fault it is. I fell into a curry in Wales once. I slipped on discarded laddoo peel (we peel laddoos over there because we think they grow on trees) and into the pot I went. It was a good curry and might be considered authentic. After I fell into it, ‘in authentic’ was the correct term for it. I wiped myself clean with a large naan bread. Later I wore the naan bread as a cloak. Waste not, want not.

So much for food. I am writing this short essay at the end of November. India is especially different from Wales at this time of year. Here I am playing badminton in shorts and a t-shirt. Back in Wales it is so cold that the sunbeams have frozen solid and I would be hanging my washing on one of the horizontal rays. In the afternoon, here in India, I will probably read a book of poetry under a banyan tree while drinking mosambi juice and listening to sitar music. But in Wales, I would be snapping off that frozen sunbeam and using it as a long lance while riding my yeti[1] over the misty mountains.

Traffic is another difference. In India the roads are choked with cars, autos, tuk-tuks (yes, I know that autos and tuk-tuks are the same thing but I need more wordage in this essay), trucks, buses, bicycles, wheelbarrows and cows. Wales doesn’t really have roads and the only traffic consists of crows. A crow perched on the back of a cow would make a perfect official emblem for a Welsh-Indian Friendship Association. If there are no roads in Wales, how do we get about? It is a pertinent question. We jump, is the answer. This not only enables us to reach our destinations but keeps us warm in winter.

In India there are monsoons but in Wales they are never soon, they are here already. The only time it stops raining in Wales is when the clouds go on strike for more pay. Lightning also goes on strike. There are puddles everywhere, even on the surfaces of lakes and ponds. Because we jump everywhere, there is a lot of splashing in Wales. This splashing puts most of the moisture back into the air where it forms clouds and perpetuates the cycle. I once perpetuated a cycle. It was a bicycle originally but I sent it away to get an education and it came back as a unicycle. I connected it to a motor powered by a rainfall gauge. Off it went on an endless journey around Wales. I would never attempt something like that in India. So there’s another big difference.

India is actually a very advanced country in terms of technology. Based in Bangalore, I am able to order anything I like with an app on my mobile phone. If I want food or drink or a bicycle, I just have to tap a few keys and a delivery guy will turn up with the ordered stuff. I once ordered a delivery guy using one of these apps and a different delivery guy turned up carrying the first delivery guy over his shoulder. But then I decided I didn’t really need a delivery guy so I sent him back and obtained a full refund.

It’s not like that in Wales. We only acquired mobile phones very recently in history and they are of a decidedly primitive sort. We started with parrots that one keeps in a pocket and speaks the messages to before releasing them to land on the shoulders of the recipients, where they recite the messages. This meant the pockets of our trousers had to be enlarged but we felt it was worth the cost. The parrots didn’t like flying through the endless rain and the messages usually went astray. So we progressed to a more advanced model, which consisted of riders on bicycles holding tin cans connected by string. You can’t order food on our mobile phones or even new trousers.

Wales is behind the times in other ways too, in fact in all ways. Wales is so belated in every respect that when the end of the world finally takes place, the country will continue for a few more years as if nothing has happened. I suspect that very slow processes, such as continental drift, evolved in Wales. I suppose that even evolution evolved in Wales, considering how slow it is and how long it takes a dinosaur to change into a chicken. I can change into a chicken with a great deal more efficiency, but I prefer pretending to be a gorilla or a chimp. It’s a very relaxing thing to do. Why not try?

Also in India you have holy men, but in Wales we only have holy socks. A holy man can open himself to the secrets of the universe. A holy sock is open to the weather, which is generally wet, and not much else. Holy men can levitate if they are sufficiently pure in spirit, or so I have been told. I once saw a flying sock, but it had been lobbed at me by a neighbour and wasn’t pure at all. That’s not the only thing I have seen rushing through the atmosphere in Wales. Parrots with sad expressions, of course, but also gloves. Why this should be so was a mystery for ages but recently the enigma was solved by an enigma machine and the answer is that “glove is in the air, everywhere I look around”. Or perhaps it is just the wind. Yes, I think it’s the wind.

The Enigma machine was used in the early- to mid-20th century, especially in WWII, for commercial, diplomatic, and military communications. Courtesy: Creative Commons

An enigma machine, incidentally, is a device invented in Wales that looks like an abacus, but it has small onions on wires instead of beads. Crows perch on the wires and peck the onions and move them into different positions, which gives the answer to any question. But the answer is cryptic and must be studied by a druid, who will interpret it. Druids are common in Wales. They aren’t holy men, strictly speaking, but are highly respected because they wear intact socks. They also wear cloaks made from naan breads but if you ask them, they insist they are made from wool and cobwebs.

You are probably beginning to ask yourself, is this a serious essay? And at this point you might be harbouring doubts that it is. There are many harbours in Wales, which has a convoluted coastline, but not many in the interior of India. That’s another difference. I have already mentioned laddoos and the fact that we peel them (and I mentioned it in brackets) but we also peel bells. I don’t think bells are ever peeled in India. They are rung instead. The peel of Welsh bells is used to make the tall hats that old women wear, conventionally on their heads, that you might have seen in vintage photographs. Bell peel is more enduring than satin or any other kind of fabric. It means that every old woman always knows what the time is when their hat bongs.

India is full of palaces. Not long ago, I visited Mysore Palace and found it truly impressive. In Wales we have nothing quite like that, but I often mention Mysore Feet after all the jumping I have to do to get anywhere. And now one final difference before I go. In India, the essays that writers write are generally detailed, comprehensive and lengthy. In Wales they often end abruptly in the middle with three dots, as if the writer was eaten by a yeti unexpectedly… but not this one. No yeti. Not yet anyway.


[1] The Welsh yeti, Abominablis Boyo, is only distantly related to the Himalayan species.

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Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.

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