I arrive in Coimbatore. The book says "Hotel Anand Vihar at 6 State Bank Road opposite the railway station". I wander up and down the road outside the railway station. I find the state bank. I ask for Anand Vihar. No one seems to know. Finally, by successive approximation I find it is State Bank Road, and not the hotel, which is opposite the station. To call it a road is being complimentary. I find the hotel and am shown to my cell by a warder who carries clean sheets and a pillowcase. The room has a bed, chair, table and wardrobe, plus bathroom with toilet and washbasin only.
I go out to look for Sunrise Biriani mentioned in Lonely Planet. It is just across the road. I say "Do you do vegetarian food?". "Oh yes" they reply. A menu is brought. "Mushroom biriani please". They bring me a glass of water with two grey fingerprints on the side of it. Two minutes later a mutton biriani appears. "Mutton biriani" says the waiter proudly. "No good" I say, I am vegetarian". They fall about laughing, the list reappears. I ask about vegetable dishes, they laugh again. I pick up my bag and walk out.
Down the road I find Davey's Hotel. They serve vegetable paper dosas, paper thin rice wafer filled with potato and peas, and served with various little side dishes. The meal cost Rs6.30, the waiter turned down my second Rs5 note because it had a tear on one edge. The food was very pleasant, but the standard of hygiene in these places is appalling. They had mango Frooti at Rs3.25, and I could live on that if I can get nothing else decent I suppose. I bought three at the railway station for Rs10.50. Down each side of the main road is an open sewer. In places it is covered over for access to the shops. Elsewhere people shit in it. The smell is awful. I wonder if I should go and sit on the loo now in anticipation. I hope Ernakalum is better than this or I'm off to Madurai toute suite.
In true Indian style the waste from the wash basin pours straight out onto the floor.
There's a mosquito loose in here.
I don't think I'm in sufficiently dire financial straits to stay in this level of hovel in future. The drinking water (which I've sterilised) is brown - just like Hebden Bridge water really. I've not drunk any, just soaked my dentures in it. Unfortunately my gums are bleeding, the gap behind my front tooth must have got food trapped in it again, I've been very careful brushing as well, I hope its not going to be a real pain.
Oh well, crawl into my sack and try to sleep, there seems to be a disco next door, its a change from hooting autos.
Hm, awoken at 5 a.m. by people in the corridor,. At 5:15 I go to the loo but can't get it to flush. I decide to fill the bucket from the tap. Pleasantly surprised to find tap by bucket supplies hot water.
At 5:30 what sound like advertising jingles start outside, followed by voice through loudspeakers haranguing the crowd - sounds like Hitler at Nuremburg. Finally at 5:45 the drums start, insistent tribal drumming like an African war dance. When the drums stop the voice starts again. Finally around 6:30 the drumming is lost in the dawn chorus and general hubbub.
I have not slept well, my insides are still running like a tap. I daren't drink the water, I'm not entirely happy at the moment. I used my sheet sleeping bag last night for the second time since the night sleeper, it was definitely a good idea.
04/02/89 17:00 Grand Hotel, Ernakalum Never has scalding hot tea tasted so good. It was a political demonstration this morning, when I got out of the hotel the square in front of the railway station was full of red and black banners, police and a horrendous traffic jam. It took me several minutes to get to the station and I arrived there at about 07:50.
My insides were awful this morning - it just seemed to be like clear water running straight through. I did wonder if the bottled water, being like mineral water, was acting like a dose of salts. Even walking to the station I felt it oozing slightly, which sound disgusting, but being clear liquid it soon dried, though I think a washing session is in order tonight.
The train from Coimbatore was supposed to leave at 10:10. I met a rather pleasant chartered accountant called Ravi who said the Cochin train was running seven hours late.
I felt so ill I couldn't really have cared if he had said it was seven days late. Normally (I say normally, though its not very often) when my insides are very runny I get colic-type pains, but today I felt sick instead. I was running hot and cold, and when we were thrown out of the first class waiting room for the sweepers to clean it I felt I just had to sit down somewhere before I fell over.
I don't think I would mind so much if I knew what caused it, I could avoid just about anything, but not being sure makes me quite paranoid. The water in my bottle was (sterilised) Ooty hotel water, so I had to drink that in the end.
The Cochin express departed at 10:30 but funnily enough only half of it goes to Cochin. The front half goes to Mangalore. So in the middle of nowhere I had to change ends.
In the front compartment was a young man on his own. "Is this the train to Cochin?" I asked. "Yes, come in" he replied. Then I spotted he was eating something ricey and smelling awful from a piece of newspaper. "Have you no water?" he asked. I explained that I had almost run out. He said "I'll go and get you some". I gave him the bottle, but kept the cap, in case he tried to make off with it. I saw him having a drink from it on the way back, but as he poured the water straight into his mouth from a distance of several inches it didn't worry me unduly. (Its a skill I wish I could master, but I get a soggy front when I try it).
When the train started we were joined by six others. "We're a hockey team going to Ernakalum for a match" they announced. After the first chap had given me back my water bottle he went down the carriage and talked to his mates. There was much jovial hilarity and eventually he came back and said "Can I have the bottle?" I gave it to him, and tried to follow him down the carriage, but dare not move out of sight of my bags, and a few moments later , amidst much giggling, he returned.
To be fair they were probably just laughing at the way that I drank from the bottle, but in my paranoid state I thought "If they are a hockey team they might have laced my drink with speed or something, or even just have spat in it". I tried to surreptitiously drop a sterotab in, but couldn't do it inconspicuously, so now I daren't drink any of that either.
The train from middle-of-nowhere to Ernakalum was like a sauna-on-wheels. Two and a half hours of sheer purgatory (and about as hot). The boys of course wanted to play cards, and because gambling is illegal the door had to be locked and the shutters down. I thought at first I was going to be mugged, so now when people ask, as they did, "Are you travelling alone?" I say "Oh yes, but I'm meeting my wife in Pune (or Mysore, or Bangalore), she can't stand the heat down here so I'm having a look round and will join her at the weekend". I'm sure its safer and they seem to accept it as reasonable.
Everyone was right, Kerala is very green. Its also very wet, I must take both lots of mosquito tablets tonight, I hope they can cling on as they whizz through my insides.
Unfortunately instead of all the water making it cooler it just seems to raise the humidity. personally I prefer the dry heat to this damp mugginess. Still I've booked in the hotel and will have a look around, I wonder if the Kathakali dancing is on tonight?
Have just drunk a pint of tea and will start on the water next. The Grand Hotel don't take credit cards which is a bit of a blow, as it means I will have to cash more traveller's cheques. 80 pence for a pot of tea seems quite a lot, but it was very refreshing.
My green trousers are slowly falling apart, its a shame as they are really comfy, but I think that if I sew them up the material will give way. The dozens of little pockets are ever so useful, I must empty them all before I wash the trousers. In the back pocket I find my Indrail pass, no-one has checked it since Mysore!
So as Gwen might say "How do you feel?" At 8 a.m. this morning I seriously considered getting a train to Bombay and flying home. Then I realised it was probably easier to get to Bombay from Ernakalum by going up the coast, so I persisted. When I got to Ernakalum, like a wet lettuce, and had to carry that damn cat through the barrage of hotel touts and auto-rickshaw drivers I felt fed up. I knew I was dehydrated, and that my blood sugar was low, and the walk to the hotel seemed like miles. I asked for an air-conditioned room, its 170 Rupees as opposed to 110 for non-a.c. but I consider that if it gets as hot as it did today I can always take off all my clothes and lay under the air-conditioner.
The traffic is very noisy and a loudspeaker van has just gone by, I hope we're not in for a repeat of last night.
This is the first time I've stayed in a communist state, though most commentators say it is nearer to what we would think of as a socialist state, with free health care and education, and a very high level of literacy.
I went to look for "See India", the tourist place to try and find Kathakali dancing, but without success so decided to eat instead at the "Pandal family restaurant" opposite the hotel. I suspect its called a family restaurant because you have time to start a family between courses.
Lassi so thick it hardly climbs up the straw, followed by cauliflower, pea and mushroom pizza with pineapple topping. It smelt delicious, but I had to really force myself to eat, and then only managed three quarters of it. They do wonderful coffee over there, but i didn't think I could face a sweet. The meal cost Rs 34 which is expensive for India.
I walked out into what felt like a steam bath, crossed the road to the hotel, sat on the loo and ran like a tap again.
If its still as bad in the morning I shall have to resort to chemical warfare. I thought the dough base of the pizza might gunge things up a bit!
Awoken around 6 a.m. by porters knocking folks up. I went to the loo - still runny. I don't want to use chemicals if there's some poison in my system, I feel it ought to come out, on the other hand I'm getting (a) miserable and (b) a sore bum, so I'm rather afraid I shall have to give "Arret" a try.
05/02/89 12:50 I've just had quite a pleasant day out. I walked to the ferry terminal, where there was a bit of breeze, and caught the boat to Fort Cochin. I saw the Chinese fishing nets and must agree with "Lonely Planet", it seems an awful lot of effort and I only saw them catch one fish.
The apparatus consists of an L shaped gantry, pivoted at the angle of the L. The lower part comprises a 12 foot square fishing net. To the long upright are attached several ropes some of which carry large rocks along their length to act as counterweights. At a given signal the operating crew heave on the ropes and haul the net out of the water.
I saw a dolphin (or porpoise) in Cochin harbour, I think its the first time I've seen one in real life. I wonder why they bring delight to everyone who sees them, even the usually dour Indians were smiling.
Fort Cochin itself was very quiet, it could be because its a Sunday, its a very pleasant little Dutch/English/Jewish colonial style town, cooled by a refreshing breeze.
A street vendor introduced me to "Ski lemon" drink, assuring me it was sugar-free. At Rs 3 it was very pleasant, though not sure about the lack of sugar.
The ferry cost 80 paise each way, it reminds me very much of the Mersey ferries.
Back at Ernakalum I bought a bottle of soda which tasted just like the local water but fizzy, they probably have a sodastream out the back. I thought he said it was four rupees, so I gave him Rs5 and he gave me Rs4 in change, oh well.
At hotel reception this morning I was asked if I was going to see the Kathakali dancers. I said I would like to and was charged Rs5 "donation" for the receptionist selling me a ticket which will cost me Rs20 when I get there. I am tempted to take the batteries out of the radio to use in the flash-gun.
I asked at the tourist information centre about the trip to Quilon, I have to get the bus at 8 a.m. so its another early start tomorrow.
14:50 Well its nice to have a few things to think about besides my insides. I've just had a walk to the bus stand to see how far it is, I definitely think its auto-rickshaw rather than walking distance. Have worn a new set of holes in my feet which are filthy, must treat them properly to avoid infection.
Met a helpful young man at the bus stand who said there is a bus every half hour to Allepey, he had no arms and it made a change for someone in that condition not to be begging, perhaps a benefit of the communist welfare state. I've become immune to people with all sorts of deformities, some of them self-inflicted, begging for money. The government have a big anti-begging campaign, because parents even mutilate their children to make them more appealing, but even if the tourists can be convinced to stop contributing, the religion gives "brownie points" for charitable donations.
I went to the family restaurant again - not only do they no longer serve banana split, as promised in Lonely Planet, but they were out of Lassi. I had a pretty miserable bowl of tinned fruit salad with delicious ice-cream, and a chocolate milk-shake. Rs12 each plus Rs3 tax.
The man at reception asked me if I wanted to phone England. I worked out it would be about 09:30 so it seemed like a reasonable time. It costs about £5 a minute - I got cut off after 2 minutes so I asked him to try again. I'm still waiting for the second call. It was nice to talk to Sue, she says they've nearly finished the roof, and there have been no other major disasters.
Sue sounded very upset on the phone - I didn't intend to cause her distress, it was meant as a nice surprise. She's had a cold and been coughing a lot, I forgot to ask what the weather was like. I suppose that little lot will cost more than the hotel bill, but what the heck.
Had a shower after switching the heater off, there's an open junction box just below the shower head! Am now going to wash undies etc.
There seems to be some sort of complication about me paying the bill. The guy wanted cash for the phone call, I told him I didn't have that much, and why couldn't he add it to the bill? Maybe he's doing foreigners on the hotel's phone system. Total bill comes to about £32 by reckoning at 25.04 Rupees to the pound.
I find this business of timing very trying. Presumably because no-one wants to do anything in the middle of the day, it has to be done either early in the morning or late at night. So to catch the 8 a.m. bus to get the 10 a.m. boat I have to leave the hotel around 7 a.m. Tonight I'm going to the Kathakali dance at 18:30 so I'm quite enjoying a few minutes relaxation, though its getting hotter and hotter. There's not a lot of point in using the air conditioner if I'm going to go out in this in a few minutes time.
I think the receptionist is daft. The bill comes to 852 rupees £30 worth of travellers cheques comes to 790 rupees and he wants to give me 62 rupees, oh, what the heck.
The Kathakali dancing was very impressive, I didn't take any photos 'cos I thought so much of it was about detail that one would have had to have filmed it to really get the effect. The music, two drums and some little hand cymbals, was also very good. I felt quite emotional when I came out, a feeling which wasn't helped by my walking home behind a German couple and their young son. For the first time since I came to India I started thinking about the second half of my life. I remembered Sue talking about her seeing the Kathakali dancers in Liverpool. I realised how much of our lives we share, and yet how could we have got it so wrong about wanting children? Can I live the rest of my life knowing that all that follows is old age and death? With a tory government, indeed with any government, old-age is going to be a big problem - the pharmacist on the train was talking about the way insurance companies in America were excluding old people and certain diseases of old age from their policies.
I do miss Sue, and I do love her very much, but the pull for children is very strong, not just as an insurance policy for my old age, but to give some meaning to my life. Set against that is the risk that after Sue and I separate I still don't find anyone else and spend my old age in misery anyway.
Oh well, enough of this pensiveness, I must go and force some food down now. Had another pizza and a milk shake, they still had no Lassi. It cost about Rs30.
06/02/89 07:00 I was up at 04:30 with runny insides. It was very hot in the night, am I feverish or is it the weather? The man brought my tea at 6 a.m. which cost me Rs6. I threw up while I was cleaning my teeth and feel much better now. I'm off to catch the Allepey bus.
Typical I couldn't find an auto-rickshaw so I ended up walking to the bus station. Got straight on the bus, but there didn't seem to be a luggage rack. The conductor said "Put your luggage at the front next to the driver" so that got me to the front and thought I was standing at least I could see out. Kerala is beautiful, the first part of the trip appeared to be across a series of islands joined by bridges. The tide was running and the chinese fishermen had erected a line of vertical poles parallel with the bridge and had put nets between them to catch the fish. I would have enjoyed the trip more had I not been wondering from which end I would erupt next. The whole trip to Allepey only cost Rs 8 and was worth every paise.
I bought a Lemon Ski and two little bananas for Rs3.60 at Allepey, and am now sitting aboard "C3" awaiting departure for Quilon at 10:30. A boat has just pulled up alongside and lots of people - mainly girls, have poured off clutching schoolbooks. They seem to travel miles to school, I noticed that as well on the buses last week.
06/02/89 19:05 Arrived in Quilon. I got an auto to the hotel, choosing a lunatic driver, the plastic bag holding my money split in the car-park and shed rupees all over, I hope I didn't lose any. The man at reception took a Rs50 deposit so that's another Rs100 I've changed. I'm feeling quite depressed again, the hotel is more in the doss-house than hotel category, and the boat trip was a bit long for me, the first bit was quite interesting, seeing how people lived alongside the river/canal, but the second part was across an enormous lake, more like an inland sea, and there was little of interest other than the chinese fishing nets along one edge. They use lamps at night to attract the fish.
Shall go out and find railway station and food, then try and get some sleep.
21:15 Well if that doesn't do for my insides, then nothing will. Lonely Planet says "Delicious banana drinks". On the board it said, "Banana shakes Rs2". A strange new definition of 'delicious' to which I have hitherto been unaccustomed. It comprised slightly tired, not to say mouldy-tasting banana mushed up in a glass, with a spoon to eat it with. The Lonely Planet map of Quilon isn't that good either, I walked miles looking for the railway station.
[Actually the walk was very interesting, though I didn't record it in my notes. It took me out of the town into a road alongside which were many small stalls, all using paraffin lamps for lighting, as there was no electricity. The food looked quite good, had I felt hungry I would have been tempted. The people though not effusive, were not unfriendly, put it this way, I was less nervous than I would have been in similar circumstances in Europe].
I was told at the station that the train to Madurai leaves at 10:40 which is a bit more reasonable.
While I was looking for the restaurant mentioned in L.P. I met a German girl called Kirsty who was on the boat today and recognised me. She was also looking for somewhere to eat, so we went in together. She had a papa dosa, and then a whole thali. Just watching people eat made me feel sick. All I've had today is a cup of tea, a bottle of ski lemon, two bananas, a litre of water, the famous banana shake and two cups of coffee, which were good.
Kirsty said she had been here three months and was staying for another three. I asked her how she could eat in this heat, and she said it was no trouble. She comes from the Lake Constance area, and that's all I found out about her. When the bill came they'd added both ours together, so I offered to pay but Kirsty treated me. Then she went off to her hotel and and I went to hunt down some bottled water. It cost Rs17 here, that's Rs3 more than Mysore. At least I will find out if its that which affects my insides, but the water in the jug in the hotel looks revolting, and has even got a dead fly floating in it. I'll lob in a sterotab and use it for cleaning my teeth, though I feel very hot at the moment and may well end up drinking some. My neck feels very hot, I wonder if I sat in the sun too long? Perhaps a touch of the sun affects my appetite?
Yecch, I made the mistake of leaning back on the wall behind the bed and its sticky, presumably from where dozens of other people have done the same. Then I went to the (Indian) loo and there are tiny little creatures scurrying around in there. Finally as I emerged something about half an inch long scuttled along the wall above the door, it looked like a mosquito but surely they donít come that big? I'm sorry to say but that one got splatted. Oh hell, the little crawly things from the loo are on the bed now. I feel like sitting up all night killing them off one by one. I should have brought some insect powder no matter how lethal it was it must be better than this.
What an awful place, I don't think I shall even stay for a shave tomorrow. I shall use the first class waiting room at the station, that seems to be the favourite trick. To cap it all I've just found what looks like a dead (human) flea I didn't realize they were that big either. Shall crawl into my sheet bag but think I'll leave the light on, it might keep one or two at bay.
07/02 89 06:30 What a night! Slept till 2 a.m. then awoke and polished off the little black creepy crawlies. Then had an hour awake before sleeping until now. Not a pleasant experience at all!
At 06:45 a man came and asked if I wanted tea. I said yes, but it hasn't appeared yet. Its rapidly getting warmer again, I was going to walk to the station, if it isn't too hot. My insides seem O.K. at the moment, last night is an experience I shall laugh about in the future, but not knowing what all the creatures were I didn't fancy any of them near me.
09:05 Got to the railway station about 07:30 to find train does not leave until 12:20 from platform 3, and that it is metre gauge. The 10:40 I was told about last night was the night sleeper, and left at 22:40. If I'd known how grotty the hotel was I would have got that train. The cup of tea finally appeared at the hotel, and very nice it was too. I felt considerably more cheerful this morning than I did last night, and not half as shattered as I thought I would from chasing bugs all night. Its also pleasant to have a respite from galloping insides.
Put my bags into left luggage at the station Rs2 each which isn't too bad. Then went for what seemed like quite a long walk through Quilon. The canals are quite nice but I'm still not sure I didn't prefer the Macclesfield!
I bought a lemon drink which only cost 60 paise, then I saw someone washing out lemonade bottles at another stall, they've probably just bought themselves a crown corker! I also bought a kilo of oranges for Rs10, I hope they don't liven up my insides too much, but I thought they might be thirst-quenching.
On my walk round Quilon looking for fruit I went into what looked like a market. Half of it was where they were butchering goats. I didn't find it too repulsive - at least the meat looked fresh and clean unlike the fish, which they seem to pack in sawdust and therefore looks revolting.
A lady has just been round to see if I have a valid ticket for sitting in the first class waiting room.
I've just had a delicious glass of coffee at the vegetarian refreshment stand.
I was just reading the bit in Lonely Planet about steam trains and I felt tears coming to my eyes. emotionally I feel very screwed up, I'm sure its all to do with body-chemistry, I go from being hot and sweaty to being in a cold draught from a ceiling fan, and I've not had a proper meal in days. A couple on the boat yesterday were eating a pineapple - they're about Rs4 or 5 but a bit much for one person. I hope they're available in Madurai. I didn't feel like coconuts yesterday, when the guy was offering to chop one open for me with his machete, but I could quite fancy one now. Perhaps I should take the boat back to Allepey!
11:20 I've just had a drink of something called 'cool toned milk". The bottle claims it is flavoured pasteurised milk, it was quite pleasant, if a bit sweet. I have the horrible feeling I've left my towel in that grotty hotel, I won't know until I get my luggage back, but even though I've time to walk back, they have probably got rid of it/lost it/ not know what I'm talking about - and I'm not 100% sure I left it - I can remember thinking "I mustn't forget my towel" and can't remember packing it. I suppose I can buy another if the worst comes to the worst, I'm just about getting the hang of what shops sell what.
Its quite pleasant out in the sunshine, there's a bit of breeze and the sun doesn't feel terribly hot. I think its later as the humidity rises that it gets so unbearable.
22:35 To drink or not to drink - that is the question. Got the train, the attendant in first class claimed all the seats were taken - I thought it a bit odd as you can't reserve seats in the daytime. He said "Go to the front carriage or right to the back". I said "But I've got a first-class ticket" to which he replied "No first class".
So I had a very hot and uncomfortable eight hour ride in a second class carriage. I got dirty and sticky, and choked by fumes from the engine. The people were great fun though, one lot were (female) firewood gatherers, and another lot accountants, travelling one and a half hours a day in each direction.
I'd got 10 oranges in my kilo and one of the women scrounged one off me in exchange for a cash(ew) nut. She said "Grow a cash tree back in England". I wish it would work like that!
So arrived at Madurai tired and battered. The trip up the western Ghats was quite similar to the trip down from Ooty, but the area east of the Ghats was beautiful. Pump houses every few yards, and fields rich and green. Rice, bananas, coconuts, the things like coconuts that I haven't worked out yet, I even saw a few mango trees.
I don't think I mentioned the row of elephants causing a traffic jam as I walked to the bus stand in Ernakalum, I didn't realize they really do walk in a line holding the tail of the animal in front with their trunks.
My bottle of eucalyptus oil (at least) is leaking slightly enough to perfume everything, but not so much as to leave oily patches on anything.
The New College Hotel is not the sort of place I would usually stay. Had I not seen the place last night I would have been singularly unimpressed. However its the first place the bell boy has stood and actually demanded a tip, which I thought was a bit much, so I gave him one rupee.
Went down to the restaurant but can't face Indian food just yet. I've had an orange an hour since lunch, but I've sort of convinced myself that it may be the bottled water that upsets me. I didn't start drinking any until about 4 p.m. and immediately felt the familiar cramps in my tummy, so I drank as little of it as possible. Needless to say the chai and coffee wallahs don't pay much attention to the second class carriages so I was pretty thirsty by the time I got here.
I had a cup of coffee in the restaurant, and practised pouring from cup to dish and back again. I then went out and found the Mahal restaurant - I was only going to have peach melba, but then spotted breaded mushrooms in cream sauce. There were only a dozen tiny button mushrooms, but that was about what I needed.
Once my taste buds were aroused I went on to have a banana split; raspberry, vanilla and (slightly runny) chocolate ice cream, jam (for this is India) and a cherry on top - the whole works. I washed the first course down with salt lassi and the second with coffee, but still feel slightly sick. Had a walk round to try and settle my stomach, there's a big Nissan showroom opposite the station with people sleeping on the pavement outside. Elsewhere in the town there are boarded up buildings.
The (Indian) door-keeper at the Mahal deserves a mention for his magnificent flying officer moustache.
For wildlife this room comes a close second to last night, perhaps some came along for the ride. The half-inch long scuttling things were also doing their thing along the walls in the Mahal's air conditioned restaurant - I don't know what they are.
Tried a drop of (sterilised) hotel water - might as well mix my poisons. Wow that worked quick, I've just thrown up a banana split.
Its 23:00 I suppose I ought to lie down. Just seen a running thing in the bathroom - must buy some insect powder tomorrow.
Note 1: If doing doss-house thing again bring pillow-slip as well as sheet bag.
Note 2: I had got my towel - now I can reserve a place on a bus!
Awoken 5 a.m. by cleaners washing hall. Re-awoke 7 a.m. my insides still seem O.K. Had orange, washed shirt, now off to find temple.
08/02/89 11:20 I feel quite cheerful, if a little hot today. Had a look round Madurai - can see why people like it though I still think it is quite noisy and dusty - however it doesn't have the stagnant-drain smell of many Indian cities.
The smell of eucalyptus from my bag is getting stronger. Went to look at the temple, its open from 07:30 until 13:00 and then 16:00 to 19:00. photography is only allowed between 13:00 and 16:00 so I am waiting until then to go back.
The main activity in the temple seems to take place around the tank, its a bit like a Greek forum, and under the surrounding cloisters whole families settle down to sit out whatever it is that they wait for.
I got approached by a tailor while looking at the outside of the building, he offered to make me a pair of trousers for 150 rupees - that's about £7. It might be a good idea but the price seems a bit high to me. However he did take me into the tailors hall, another hall of 1000 pillars opposite the east entrance to the temple, and there were dozens of little carvings on the walls, some of them anointed with ghee, that was worth seeing in its own right, as its not the sort of place I would have gone in on my own.
My backside is very bruised from that train journey yesterday, I can feel it every time I sit down. Am a bit worried about film in camera - seem to have taken about four pictures on number 36.
New College Hotel is like a students hall of lodging. There's an enormous refectory downstairs - I popped in last night for a coffee but still didn't feel like eating.
A fortune will amass to the person who invents sandals for bare feet that don't rub blisters, mind you there were bits of the temple that were so hot underfoot I could have got blisters from the heat.
I would say the afternoon photography was a bit of a flop. It cost Rs10 for admission, but I'm glad I went this morning as there wasn't half the atmosphere without the crowds. There was also not enough light for photography. Tried one or two hand-helds but couldn't find anything I wanted enough to bother erecting the tripod.
Have probably just done for my insides again by buying "Mango Juice" across the road. It comprised Mango pulp (from fresh mango) a handful of ice, and a glup of some stuff from a bottle. Very sweet, very tasty, but what of the ice?
Am now soaking my feet in a bucket of cold water. I shall start a list of things I want when I get home - a hot bath, baked beans, coca-cola, fresh (unsweetened) fruit juice.
15:00 I can see why people like Madurai - there's a bit of a breeze got up, it doesn't get as oppressively humid as the west coast - that really did make me feel fed up.
16:00 Just had a lie down and a think. One of the things that is missing here is natural scenery - presumably the north is better for that, but when I think of holidays in Wales or the Lake District with the possible exception of the western ghats I've seen nothing to compare. Presumably one needs to visit just after the monsoon for things like that. Am off to the railway station to find out about trains to Tiruchy.
Well wasn't that an experience! I couldn't find the chief reservations officer, but after being sent from the tourist information office to the second class ticket office, then to the second class reservation window I finally went and found the station master. I played the stupid foreigner and he filled all the forms for me. I still had to queue but it did make it somewhat easier.
If this was England I'd think we were heading for a thunderstorm, but its probably just night falling, sunset is about 6 p.m. and its now 5.40. I went to try and eat but the place suggested in L.P doesn't do meals until 7 p.m. At least they were fairly friendly about it.
My train goes at 06:45 in the morning, its a shame really, I'm getting almost as fond of Madurai as I did of Mysore. Had a coffee on the way back here for an amazing 80 paise.
One of the things I've noticed is how cool it is in the temples. I thought at first this might just be because they are so shady, and surrounded by high walls, but the latter should restrict air circulation. Today I noticed that there was water pouring off the roof at one point, and along the bottom of the walls were a series of drainage channels, one leading into another , so I wonder if there is some ingenious system to keep the whole place damp?
Every time I leave the hotel a guy comes up to me and offers me drugs. It started with grass, then cocaine, opium and so on. There are also people handing out cards for a craft emporium, beggars, rickshaw wallahs, and dozens of other people assailing you. When I was feeling unwell it really got me down, now I have little trouble shaking them off.
[Went for a meal at the Arya Bhavan]. Wow I shall definitely need a mouth transplant after that. The manager(?) said they did cheese fry which sounded O.K., but I had trouble communicating with the waiter. He brought the menu, no cheese fry. I said "Cheese Fry". In the end he said "One cheese fry, and vegetables?". I said "Yes please and a lassi". I got a sweet lassi, two chapatis of which more anon, and a dish which was more like chilli fry than cheese. I was watching the people at the next table and all the food looked freshly prepared, not a pulpy mess. I managed most of mine , though when I took a slice of onion from the dish provided, it tasted cooler than the food. It appeared to be green bits, blocks a bit like tofu, and a sort of tasty mush in the bottom. I think the bread chef was a roti fanatic who'd been told "There are these things called chapatis" and had them described to him. They were about 75% roti 10% chapatti and the rest ghee. I'm waiting to see how that lot settles, and if I'm O.K. in half an hour I've found an ice-cream place across the road that I might try.
I also bought two magazines, "Debonair", a sort of Indian "Playboy" and "Femina" a women's magazine, the latter because it had an article on the problems of Indian families. They still seem to be clinging to the idea that a woman services husband first, then home and children, and yet they seem keen on equal opportunities in jobs and education. There is even an interview with a leading female judge, how many of those do we have in Britain?
09/02/89 09:00 Which should make it Thursday by my reckoning. Have arrived at Hotel Tamil Nadu in Tiruchy. First place I've found mosquitoes buzzing round in any numbers. I've paid 60 rupees, I'm not sure if that's for one night or two.
The train journey was quite pleasant, very crowded, its a good job I booked, it was marred only by the spoilt brat opposite who kept switching on the fan. A sharp smack there wouldn't have come amiss, but Indian parents are very indulgent (and, of course, it was a boy) and they fed it Idlis and sugar most of the way. It also wore a woolly balaclava (because of the draught) and a cardigan.
Little man here at Hotel T.N. has just brought pot of coffee. He's from Sri Lanka, his parents worked on the tea plantations but "all the English go back to England, no-one has taste for tea anymore".
14:30 Just done my "Mad dogs and Englishmen" bit by trying to walk to Rock Fort temple. Set off around 10 a.m. and for some reason best known to myself headed north-west instead off north-east. When I got to a river I realised I'd gone wrong, but I photographed a man washing his buffalo and a woman washing her clothes, and it was an interesting part of the town.
Content copyright Jon Rouse 1997