HITCH HIKING TO INDIA IN 1962
Two Cambridge students hitchhike to India, before hippies hit the trail. Andrew writes a diary, the comedy. John reads the map, thumbs throughout the night and writes about religions and refugees, which make for tragedy. Russia is the bear to the north. They travel through Yugoslavia, whilst Tito was still in power, and Greece, which was occupied by the Germans in the war and was divided by civil war. In Turkey John records the horrific deportation of Armenians to the Syrian Desert where ISIS is today. In Iran, the recent CIA coup has created real danger for John. In Amritsar, they meet anger over the partition, and in Delhi they have tea with Indira Gandhi. Sikh truck drivers give them lifts and take them to their temple in Bombay. They meet Sunni-Shia issues on the way home.
John returns to India, which he loves; travels through the Balkans and discusses the refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war; and lives the tragedy in Greece.
"This is a really interesting piece of work, which blends personal anecdote and adventure with the history and politics of the places visited on an epic journey. We are reminded that today’s tourist traps in the Balkans and Turkey, not to mention the Punjab, have a terrible history. But the kindness of the people that hitchhikers have to trust shines through as does the strength of the friendship of John and Andrew who made this journey of a lifetime."
‘DON’T MENTION THE WAR’ BASIL FAWLTY
Alan, best friend of John Cleese, aka Basil Fawlty, introduces Jannie to John. She becomes the link with home.
John: ‘Will anyone hitchhike to India with me?’
Andrew: ‘Why not? And I will write a diary of the trip.’
John: ‘And I will add the history – the wars and the refugees!’
1/7/62 - WESTERN EUROPE - COLD WAR, BEFORE SCHENGEN
A: ‘Slept under bridge, campfire, omelette. John’s a great cook.’
J: Queues of trucks waited for custom clearance; great for hitchhikers!
4/7/62 - YUGOSLAVIA – COMMUNIST, SECRET POLICE
A: ‘In Zagreb, reluctance to talk about politics.’
J: Serbian civil secret service watched by Croat military secret service.
7/7/62 - GREECE AFTER OCCUPATION AND CIVIL WAR
A: ‘Entry into Greece seemed to be coming from darkness into light.’
J: George in 1966, ‘You cannot understand Greek politics until you understand Greek history and our bitter civil war.’
9/7/62 - ISTANBUL, TURKS AND GREEKS
A: ‘We got a lift from a real man. He shot his gun out of the window.’
J: In 1923, 1.3 million Christians were expelled from Turkey in exchange for 480,000 Muslims that had to leave Greece. The ‘Great Idea’ for a New Byzantium became a catastrophe – Lloyd George was sacked as PM.
15/7/62 - TURKEY AND ARMENIANS DEPORTED TO SYRIA
A: ‘Camp night opposite Mount Ararat in mosquito-infected area.’
J: The river ran red with the blood of Armenians! This is a god-forsaken village.
20/7/62 - IRAN TO TEHRAN AFTER CIA COUP
A: ‘Went off leaving John with large crowd of threatening men.’
J: This almost tragic confrontation had its roots in 1953, when the popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was ousted in a CIA coup.
22/7/62 - SOUTH IRAN OR AFGHANISTAN?
A: ‘On arrival in Zahedan we were so exhausted we slept on the pavement.’
J: I would have liked to have passed through Afghanistan, where my ancestor was held hostage in 1842 during the retreat from Kabul.
30/7/62 - PAKISTAN AND PARTITION
A: ‘I was given rose in Multan to ward off every eventuality.’
J: The colonial state had been built on religious differences with taps labelled ‘Hindu water’ or ‘Muslim water’.
6/8/62 - AMRITSAR AND THE SIKHS
A: ‘The Sikh religion is the basis for brotherhood and tolerance.’
J: Their welcome and hospitality were summed up in their belief in the equality of all beings.
7/8/62 - DELHI, TEA WITH INDIRA GANDHI
A: ‘The further east we go the more hospitality we receive.’
J: Indira Gandhi wanted her two sons to hear about Cambridge University.
12/8/62 - AGRA AND ON
A: ‘We will spend the night in the grounds of the Taj Mahal, which is totally forbidden.’
J: Britain had at least bequeathed India a vibrant democracy.
22/8/62 - BOMBAY AT LAST
A: ‘Woke in the Sikh Temple to beautiful sad music.’
J: My dear Jannie, you will have a real salvar kemis to wear when I arrive in Denmark.
26/8/62 - HOMEWARD BOUND ON DECK UP THE PERSIAN GULF
A: ‘Every conceivable activity is taking place on this boat.’
J: In 1962 we knew little about the tension between the Sunni and Shia and were involved in the pleasures of travel with Arabs and Persians.
INDIA FIFTY YEARS ON
J: Jannie and I stop off at four ports, the Andaman Islands, Cochin, Mangalore and Mumbai. It re-awoke my love for this wonderful country.
THE BALKANS IN 2015, THE REFUGEE CRISIS AND SYRIA
A: ‘There’s a young refugee knocking on the door – Are you sure? – But I supported the petition and sent the money.’
J: In 1999, NATO bombed Montenegro. What is the solution to the current refugee crisis? Charles R Lister in The Syrian Jihad says: ‘Bashar al-Assad had in fact fostered a partial integration into officialdom of not only Sunnis, but also members of Syria’s Christian, Druze and Kurdish communities.’
3 DAYS THAT SAVED THE EURO
‘The ruthlessness that her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, displayed in bouncing Greece into total capitulation at the July summit, has done lasting damage to Germany’s reputation for giving Europe a lead that can transcend petty national rivalries.’ Guardian July 2015
LIFE IN A FINANCIAL GREEK TRAGEDY
A Corfiot bookseller: ‘Of course over the years we have made mistakes, many have dodged paying taxes, and the politicians and others have been corrupt. Now we must be given a chance. We cannot survive more and more taxes and more and more cuts.’ ‘Perhaps there is just one cut I would accept. Someone to cut Schäuble’s throat!’
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHANCELLOR MERKEL
In 1962, returning from hitch hiking (autostop) to India, the driver of my lift said: ‘Adenaur lieber De Gaulle’. As a 22 year-old, his statement was the foundation of my life-long love of Germany and Europe. One day I hope to hear ‘Angela Merkel lieber Alexis Tsipras’