"Hotel Pandava on the Poonemale Road in Madras, or Chennai as it was now called, was an almighty celebration of art deco eccentricity... "
"A colonnaded walkway and opening out onto it were the ground floor guest rooms."
"Perched over them, layered balconies, painted in a riot of yellow, lilac, red, cream and blue checks, curves and stripes... "
"...the back streets behind the hotel were visible, with their strange mix of architecture: ramshackle little dwellings and tiny roadside stores snuggling unselfconsciously up to the great, wedding cake pink façade of a Raj-era girls’ school. "
"India was a strange psychedelic wonderland, whose dark forces were manifested in the Qutab Shahi Tombs. Now she was in Sugar Candy Land, where no harm could come to her."
"Hannah stopped at a fruit stall, a perfumed cornucopia of delights. Enormous bunches of red, green and yellow bananas hung from the awning..."
"A family with a bicycle had stopped to watch her, father pushing, older daughter on the saddle, baby straddling the cross bar, mother walking alongside. "
"A monster had landed on the grass; related, perhaps, to an old Hillman Imp, though this creature had been decapitated, so that instead of a passenger compartment, it carried a large platform on its carapace…standing in front of the monster, blowing in apparently uncoordinated abandon on strange clarinets and cornets. "
"Before her stood a goddess. "
"When they laughed, which they did frequently, the rolls of fat on their exposed, well-upholstered midriffs wobbled in unselfconscious delight. "
"Hannah watched as the Gopal Band set off out of the hotel grounds, a riot of dissonant sounds echoing in its wake. "
"After it on the horse rode the timid young bridegroom in his cream silk wedding suit and red turban "
"The noisy cavalcade crossed the main road, halting the never-ending stream of assorted vehicles
Photos and Text © Irene Black