This excursion will be back soon. In the meantime we’d be happy to organise a private tour for you. Please contact us on 020 7624 3978 | privatewalks@walks.com to make a booking.

A Slice of India in Holi Festival Season

Southall railway station, London

Guided by Monisha

Short description: “it’s like walking through a Punjabi village”

Long description: I cheerfully fess up to wanting the London Walks leaflet – and its electronic version – to be the liveliest, best written and certainly the most “literary” and allusively rich leaflet in London! And a writer who’s so far not put in an appearance is Mark Twain. Okay, okay, there is that cameo role in Stephanie’s and Brian’s Chelsea walk, but, hey, there’s no such thing as too much Mark Twain! And a single cameo role is, well, practically a dearth. How did Twain put it, “the reports of my dearth are greatly exaggerated.” Sorry.

Anyway, how’s this for a fanfare for the Slice of India Walk:

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only. Mark Twain

Okay, let’s step off Twain’s magic carpet and look around. Take a quick survey of matters related to A Slice of India!

First of all, it’s certainly a catch it while you can! Monisha’s so busy right now with her new India Cookery School (I mean after all, hers are only the best Indian Cookery classes in the country!) that she’s only able to give us one or two Saturday outings per “season”. One of which – whenever possible – coincides with Holi Festival Saturday in March.

Anyway, here’s the “blurb” for the Slice of India – “It’s like walking through a Punjabi village” walk on a “normal” Saturday.

This one’s like going to India without having to go halfway round the world. Indian food, fabric, films, music…it’s all here, just a few minutes from the centre of London. And you couldn’t be in better hands because Monisha, who guides us through these bustling, festive, friendly London streets, is a switched-on journalist and the author of several books on Indian food, culture and history. The lunch you’ll have afterward – if you take one of her recommendations – will be a legend in your lifetime!

What’s more, Southall’s dead easy to get to. It’s in Zone 4. And it takes no time at all – it’s a lot quicker than going from, say, Harrods to St. Paul’s. There are several trains an hour from Paddington Railway Station. The fast trains take just 12 minutes. The “slow” train takes 16 minutes.

Other thing is, whenever possible we try to fit the walk in with a “Festival Day”. Can’t always guarantee that because of Monisha’s schedule, but we do our best. Holi Festival in March – and something equally special in the autumn.

Now as for the Festival of Colours itself (Holi), it’s basically the Indian equivalent of Mardi Gras!

The India Express puts it this way: “as the brief spring warms the landscape, northern India cuts loose for a day of hijinx and general hilarity. The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemmoration of a legend from  Hindu Mythology.”

The Express goes on to say: “apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.”

“Abandoned vitality!” Sounds good to me!! But what really stopped me in my tracks is that “apart from the usual fun”.

Did they say “coloured powder and water”? Hello.Yes, I don’t know about you, but they got me. In a word, intrigued! Monisha just says, enigmatically, “if you see it you’ll understand”. Oh and she reassures me, “nobody in our group will be colour powdered – or watered”.

But it certainly does sound to me as if taking a camera might be a good idea.

In which connection, if any of you do happen to get a wonderfully razzmatazz photograph of the Festival of Colour in full swing…well, please share it with us. Or indeed give us a verbal account.

Only other thing to add – and this was always on the cards given my caught-in-the-web-of-words orientation (not to mention the way that Twain remark turns the heat up on the thing!) is: you really have to wonder if our word holiday is cognate with – or indeed comes from the Indian word “Holi”. I can guarantee  you I’m going to try to find out…so check back here one of these days and I should be able to shed some light on it.

And no, I didn’t forget: here it is:  www.cookingwithmonisha.com

Okay, to recap:

To go on the Slice of India tour meet Monisha outside Southall Railway Station at TBA on TBA.

Anything else? Just this. If you act on her recommendation for lunch you’ll have one of the best meals of your life. I speak from experience.