COMPETITION LITERALLY LOST NUMBER 84

This excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will award pounds 30-worth of book tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday. Literally lost 83: The book was Sea and Sardinia by D H Lawrence. The action took place in Sardinia. The winner is Alan Fisk of London.

he rising mercury changed everything. In the gardens the animals shrivelled and died. The earth cracked; the lawns became bald and bleached. The tar on the roads glistened like liquid quicksilver.

People became tired and listless. Fruit decayed: an uneaten mango, firm at breakfast, could be covered with a thin lint of mould by evening. Water shot boiling from the cold taps. There was no relief except to shower with bottles of cold water from Mrs Puri's fridge.

Added to the morning procession of salesmen were melon sellers and juice boys, cool water vendors (50 paise a glass) and great caravans of ice cream wallahs. In the Old City men set up small roadside stalls around big red earthenware pots containing jal jeera, a dark, spicy, green liquid which burns the mouth but cools the body: a more primitive yet more effective coolant than anything on offer in the new town.

Unconsciously, we adapted our routine to suit the new conditions. We rose at five-thirty and breakfasted outside on fresh mangoes. After a light lunch we would siesta in our bedroom, and not emerge until sunset. The balmy evenings were the compensation for the unpleasantness of the day. At six p.m. we would call Mr Singh to take us to swim in one of the hotel pools or maybe to wander among the old tombs in the Lodhi Gardens; as we passed, black bats would flit through the ruins like departed spirits.

Later we would sit outside on the terrace reading and drinking cold beer by candlelight; translucent green geckos would hoover up the mosquitoes from around the flames as we read. Sometimes, on the nights when there were power cuts and the ceiling fans ceased to whirr, we would drag our mattresses outside and sleep under the stars.

As the sun grew more fierce, our complexions darkened and Olivia's freckles sprang into prominence. I thought them beautiful, but they clearly alarmed Mr Singh who was not used to my wife's Celtic colouring. One morning, while driving through the Old City, he turned quite suddenly into the Meena Bazaar near the Jama Masjid. Without any explanation, he jumped out and approached one of the Ayurvedic healers who for centuries have sat on the roadside here, surrounded by the ingredients of their trade: live iguanas whose fried juices are said to cure impotence; ginseng for philtres used to spread or extinguish the fires of love; tree bark to ward off a woman's menopause; the bringraj herb from the high Himalayas said to conquer baldness or thicken the beard of the most effete Sikh.

As I sat in the hot taxi I could see Balvinder Singh haggling with one of the healers. Eventually Balvinder handed over a pocketful of change and the healer gave him a small pot of white powder. On returning to the car, to my surprise Balvinder solemnly handed the pot to me.

"For madam," he said earnestly.

"Thank you," I said. "But what is it?'

"Medicine," said Balvinder. "To cure Mrs William.'

"Of what?'

"Her face," said Balvinder, drumming his fingers on his cheekbones. "This powder will cure Madam's pox." He pointed to the sky: "Indian sun. Very bad for British ladies.'

I looked baffled; my friend looked embarrassed.

"Sahib," he whispered. "This powder will make Mrs William's skin white again."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

Sport
footballScores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Manchester City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week