The Midnight Picnic
In 1940 when I was about ten years old, our family was living in New Delhi.
My parents and a good few of their friends decided to have a midnight picnic in the grounds of the Qutab Minar which was built by Qutab-ud-din, one of the great Mughals, and I perforce was to be brought along as they were loath to leave me home alone. The catering was in the capable hands of Freddie Steiner who owned the Swiss Hotel in Old Delhi, and was a genius with food.
We got to the venue, a tarpaulin was spread on the grass near some bushes, and a car’s headlights focused on it. Drinks were served and the food was unpacked and the next second a tarantula the size of a small dinner plate ran diagonally across the tarpaulin. I think it took me two seconds to get on to the car, behind the headlight, and there I remained for the seven or eight tarantulas which followed.
I cannot quite recall whether the picnic was a success or not, what the food was like or what time we got home! To this day I am wary even of tiny spiders.