» Kashgar Diary »
IN China as elsewhere, taxi drivers have clear views and state them vigorously. Their opinion on the Pokhran explosion is unanimous, in Beijing, Xian, Urumchi or Turfan. "We did it many years ago, so why not you?" This is illustrated by graphic gestures and a loud 'boom'. They felt regret, not anger, that China had been named as the ostensible cause. At no time do we sense any hostility—on the contrary, eve- RAVI rywhere there is warmth towards us and good feeling, though not much knowledge, about India. Usually, at this point language difficulties overcome us—how far can a two-week reading of a Lonely Planet self-help book take you? This is when we, or the taxi driver, or both, break out into varyingly tuneless renderings of Aawaara Hoon. This classic song is well recognised throughout China, and evokes feelings of good fellowship and neighbourliness. At various tea stalls, there is general agreement that Buddhism and Hindi films are the lasting links between the two countries. Over dinner in a Beijing inn, I am told that there should be 'a civilisational alliance' of our two countries to counter the decadence sweeping the world. I must say that this is a far more sensible thought than many that I have heard in the salons of Delhi.