21:00 Have the horrible feeling everything won't go in. Am going to bed, will face it in the morning.
06:50 Awoken before six by muezzin, had one of those "Have I overslept, is everyone up and about?" panics, it didn't look to be getting light but the crows were cawing, so finally leapt out of bed to find it was barely six a.m. So went and had a wash before the rush, and restructured the arrangement of my packing. Got everything in two bags at a pinch, but think I will have to have all three for the plane, don't want to put too much strain on zips etc.
So now its the start of the run for home, what do I think of it all. Well, I'm afraid a washbasin in the room is a minimum for me, I find having to trail miles just to clean my teeth, rinse out a glass, or wash my smalls is a bit much. I suppose its not as bad as taking your buffalo a couple of miles to the well to draw water, but most of the wells I've seen have had diesel or electric pumps. I find it amazing they are not making more use of wind and solar power, they seem very aware of the shortage of fossil fuels, yet still seem to use a lot of petrol, diesel and paraffin.
Am I happy? Contented in a sort of "Well I survived that" way, though I've still got to face the pickpockets of Bombay. There have been some very pleasant times, the friendship in Pune, that really nice man with his three hundred year old mud house in the Kasbah and his happy memories of Britain, the stillness of Somnathpur, and there have been horrible bits, lying and watching the insects creeping towards me, the noise and the smell.
17/02/89 12:30 On Dadar express to Bombay, now too rough to write. Arrived Madras Central by autorickshaw. Broadlands cost Rs40 a night. They told me it should be 6 to 8 rupees to Central station. I had ordered tea at 7:30 and was still waiting for it at 8:50 so burnt my mouth again trying to drink it when it finally arrived.
When I found an auto and asked him to take me to Central Station he said "15 rupees". I said "What about your meter?" He said "Its broken". I said "15 rupees is too much", so he said "Twelve". I said "Still too much" and set off to walk. He then came up to me and said "Twelve is a good price". I said "Rubbish, if your meter was working it would only be seven". He said "Ten then". So we settled for ten, which is what I had intended in the first place as I didn't fancy walking any further with two heavy bags.
At Central Station I found that my name wasn't on the reservation list. I went to the reservation office and showed my pass. "Oh yes, window 72". I went to window 72. "Yes, you're in car F1" I was told. I went to car F1, but there was no attendant. I waited until half an hour before the train was due to leave, which is a magical time on Indian trains. Still there was no attendant. The three ladies in the first compartment said "Just get on and let him sort it out later". I spotted a man wearing a Southern Railways badge. He said "You need the C.T.T.E." This evidently stands for chief train ticket examiner, and finally he appeared, looked at my ticket and said "Get on the train and the conductor will sort it out". So I sat with the three women, and a man who spoke very good English and who appeared to be negotiators for the rail unions. When the train started one of the women went off to look along the carriage, and came back and said "There's an empty space in the next compartment". So I moved from A to B. At the next station a couple and a child came into compartment B. The man left and returned with the ticket inspector. He examined all our tickets and then said to me "You can have a seat, and we'll see if a cancellation comes up for a berth". I decided the time had come to do my thing. "Look", I said, "I have reserved a berth on this train. It has been confirmed at Madras and they told me carriage F1, so where is my berth?". This sent him into a minor tizz, but he finally decided I was in the Trivandrum quota in compartment D.
So I move to compartment D. If I thought it bad sharing with parents and child, in here I have grandmother, parents, three year old girl and 12 month old son. They travel on three tickets (and are transporting a T.V. set in a box which occupies half the floor) and I think they book three berths in the hope that no-one will take the fourth. They had firmly established themselves with their luggage under both seats, piled up at the end, on the table and completely filling one upper berth.
I established myself early by playing with baby, which obviously went down well, by tea time I'd been fed rice crisps, (like potato crisps only rice), and chocolate bikkis. A jar full of gulab jam appeared which looks delicious but I didn't get offered those.
18:50 Just asked the man sitting opposite why at none of the stations where we have stopped have there been the usual vendors of oranges and bananas. He said "These are available, sit there", and dashed off. About five minutes later he came back and said "Only grapes are available". Still it was good of him to try.
Have ordered breakfast (vegetarian) for morning, but thought it was pushing my luck a bit to order dinner. I have still not eliminated the last tray of muck from my suspicions about gyppy tummy.
Finally bedded down around 9 p.m. but despite adjusting the position of the fan I still couldn't seem to get out of the draughts.
18/02/89 07:10 Morning, like an English summer mist over the fields, corn ripening, the sun an orange ball on the eastern horizon. Don't know what happened to breakfast, we stopped a long time somewhere before 7 but there was so much chaos below I decided not to descend.
Some of the things I like most about India are the things that remind me of Britain. In the dusk last night I could see two ranges of hills and they looked just like the moors above Ripponden. Yesterday we passed a slate quarry and it reminded me of Talysarn, but here the quarries are more obviously a pit in the ground, rather than half a mountain dug away. At one station a boy was selling souvenirs, a 12 inch diameter disk of slate about 1 inch thick. Imagine lugging that onto the 'plane.
14:30 Have arrived at Hotel Avion. Got to Dadar station where man asked "Do you want a taxi?" I said "Does our meter work?" He said "Of course meter works". I said "O.K. Hotel Avion" Then came the ploys "Have you booked?" "Yes" I lied. Then he had to extract his taxi from the corner of the car park where he had left it. He eased off the handbrake of the car to his right and pushed it backwards. He cursed the driver in front who rolled his cab forwards. Then it was a slow drive round the car park asking all his mates "Does the Hotel Avion pay commission" in Marathi. Evidently it does not, so the next scam started, "I take you to very cheap hotel". "You take me to Hotel Avion". Then he checked to see if I had got my wits about me. "why did you not get off at Dadar, is much nearer airport?" The people in my compartment said we were at Dadar, the signs said it was Dadar, I was on the Madras-Dadar express, "Why you come to V.T.?" "That was not V.T., that was Dadar, you needn't try that one on" was my response. So he checks if I've been to Bombay before "yes, I was here a month ago, that is why I recognise V.T. when I see it". Eventually we get to Hotel Avion. He has to drive round the block to find his way in through the road-works.
The meter shows 12.90 which he shows me converts to 56 rupees on his conversion card. Another 10 rupees is levied for my luggage. I reckon I paid about 25% over the odds which I gather isn't too bad for Bombay.
So here I am, I can't decide whether to go out and run the gamut of the pickpockets of Bombay, whether I've had enough, or quite what I should do. It would be handy to finish the film in the camera, but the view from the hotel is far from stunning. I'm halfway through repacking, having hopefully separated the breakables from the not-so, and I'm not sure it will all go back in my bag. I think I shall go and have a bite to eat then try again.
17:10 Funny how these things go. I went downstairs to try and find the canteen. "Sorry, there's a conference being held, the restaurant is closed". So I popped next door to the place mentioned by L.P. A meal and lassi was Rs13. They give you those big fluffy things about the size of a saucer instead of rice, now that would be O.K. but you can't really pour curry, ghee, curd and all the other bits onto one of those, they don't absorb it like rice, so its a dip and suck job.
When I emerged (after noting that they do custard apple milk shake) I realised that there were a lot of autos about, so I asked one or two if they would drive to gateway of India or V.T. and back, which would have made them a good few rupees and enabled me to take some pikkies. Either they weren't inclined to or didn't speak English so I decided to walk south for a bit.
Unfortunately the main road heads west before turning south, and they are in the process of widening it. There are two 12 to 14 foot lanes and an inside lane about 40 feet wide, which is totally anarchic. After a couple of Km I decided I could inhale monoxide and lead at home without the dust so I crossed over and headed back. On the other side was a shanty town of what Mr Navrate called 'squatters'. Its a good name as they shit everywhere, including the pavement. Thinking of which I was pretty disgusted when the family on the train this morning encouraged the baby to crap and pee all over the seat, wiping up the mess with a bundle of newspaper and throwing the whole lot out of the window.
Breakfast was two iddly, two doughnut like things (savoury, not sweet), and some green and white (very hot) paste. A pint of coffee washed it all down and I finished off the bananas that grandma helped me to buy last night.
The train was only one and a half hours late, which I suppose is only about a 5% error, not bad over that distance.
Just after I arrived at the hotel there was a demonstration outside (do these things follow me round I wonder?). I had no idea what they were on about, but when I came back from my walk I noticed slogans demanding recognition from Blue Dart, who have an office in the hotel lobby and I wondered if that was who was having the conference.
So here I am, holed up in this hotel, waiting to get my head down for my last night in India, and dreading cramming all this lot into one bag.
There's a beautiful mural on the wall of the hotel room showing a deciduous wood in autumn. Makes me feel very homesick for Hardcastle Crags, seems odd to think it might be snowing there.
19:0 Well, its almost all gone in, I've set the stop watch for 4 a.m. ordered breakfast, think I've got it all. They've put those little balls, like what used to go in loos, all round the room, presumably as "air freshener". As a result I'm suffering from naptha overdose. If I open the vent on the air conditioner I get the all pervading smell of shit. I don't know which is worse.
I've just tried the T.V. There's a discussion in Hindi on broadcast, and a music programme on cable. The music looks quite good, unfortunately its a turret tuner at the same stage of advancement that turret tuners were when I.T.V. was invented in Britain. Imagine that level of technology with colour added on (I was told by a T.V. engineer in Pune that the colour was a U.H.F. subcarrier on a V.H.F. signal - work that one out!). If you want sound you get white noise, if you want picture you get ghosting. Also whoever adopted a system which shows interference as white dots in a country where no-one suppresses anything wants their head examining. I could only stand about five minutes of it, and 4:59 of that I was retuning.
I've just cleaned my teeth with the last of the water that I sterilised. I hope their water is O.K. because if not I'm in for some fun 'cos I've drunk rather a lot of it. I think I've just ordered a cup of coffee from room service, it was meant to be a pot of coffee but it didn't quite work out like that. Then I think its head down and some zzzzzs, its a long day tomorrow, it has twenty nine and a half hours in it for a start, and four of those will be driving up the M1. Still riding autos in Pune puts one in readiness for things like that, the only difference is that traffic on the M1 is about eight times as fast, but I'm sure the mentality is the same.
Oh that's nice, the boy who brought the coffee (which was awful) didn't bring more water which I asked for, so I phoned room service again. The boy came and took my flask and when he returned he brought a copy of the evening paper, eight pages of news for 75 paise.
19/02/89 04:00 Got my call, stop-watch went off, now to dash round and get to the airport.
Got to airport, found out where to change my money, couldn't find security check, was standing in queue waiting to book in when guy in front said "Are you aiming for the next flight, they close these desks in five minutes". Took my month’s lesson in queue jumping to heart and got to head of queue just in time.
Guy in front of me at bureau de change had changed all his money into sterling before he found he had to pay 100 rupee airport tax, His only travellers cheques were for £50 so he had to change one of those. I suggested that he simply took out 100 rupees and then handed it straight back and asked for it in Sterling. He hadn't thought of that, and was very grateful for the suggestion, I think he had visions of having to queue all over again.
The film on the flight back wasn't nearly as good as going, but the food was quite interesting. Lynn and John met me at the airport, and I went back to their place for my car. Ho hum, that's that then.
Content copyright Jon Rouse 1997