Monday, March 31, 2008


The weather is getting hotter. Bangaloreites swear up and down that the monsoon shouldn't be here yet, but it sure as heck has been raining a lot. (One has to remember to bring an umbrella, which has never been a talent of mine.) We managed to avoid getting rained on on the way to work.

It was Kishor's birthday and along those lines, he decided he was gonna take us out for lunch to the Hyderabadi Biryani place. Biryani is a delicious sort of rice casserole dish for those unaware, and apparently the biryani that comes from Hyderabad is especially delicious. We proceeded to order mutton and chicken biryani, chili chicken, butter chicken and lots of rotis. Then we stuffed ourselves silly. Meat gets downright delicious when cooked biryani style - tender and juicy as anything. Drool.

I needed to get back fast since I had to do an interview. (Ooh, I feel all professional!) Went back on the back of Madan's bike since that would be faster. I have to say, I know they're incredibly deadly, but I love riding around on the back of a motorbike here in India. Instead of getting jostled around (and cheated) in a rickshaw or waiting two million years in traffic in a car, you can just....go. Wherever the hell you want. Whenever.

I was, surprisingly, permitted to do an interview with someone Actually Famous: Renee, an up and coming Hindi pop star, and David Anthony, her USA producer who has handled such luminaries as, uh, Janet Jackson and the Backstreet Boys. I have never conducted a real official interview before, which meant I had to quickly figure out how to use the dang recording device quickly. However, I think it went okay: I took the precaution of drawing up my questions beforehand. Renee was authentically intelligent and charming, and it was actually a pleasure to discuss her interest in fusion Hindi music. Her music is quite good - I listened to it on her Myspace page - and their mission is to introduce Hindi music to dance clubs in the USA and the UK. I wish them luck. Few things are more fun to dance to then really good silly Hindi music.

I finished up the interview, then headed on home to take a sorely needed nap. Naps unfortunately are hard to get in India, mainly because the time around 4:00 is the time the neighbors decide to watch Bollywood movies at earsplitting volumes. While their dog barks. Thank God for ear plugs.

We managed to rally the troops at a somewhat decent hour (never easy to do), then headed off for Tandoor, a nice place on MG. Road. The restaurant had a pleasant Raj-Era ambience, with overdressed waiters and the inevitable open tandoori kitchen, featuring young guys in white chef's outfits skewering delicious, delicious meat onto big metal skewers. (This is fun to watch.)

The others ordered some terrifying cocktails, which I abstained from. I do not like my liquor adulterated with fruit juice and food coloring. Aneesa and I conspired as usual on the food, choosing stuffed tandoori peppers and an interesting sounding kebab composed of ground lamb wrapped around chicken. The stuffed peppers were delicious, with a paneer, mixed nut, pomegranate seed and onion filling and given a nice hit in the oven. The meat was delicious and rich as well, although I do find the notion of combining two different animals into one dish to be a big....wrong somehow. Maybe I should get over it.

I also tried some delicious chicken tikka (just chunks of tandoori chicken) and some awesome tandoor gobi (cauliflower.) For some reason, cauliflower given the tandoori treatment and marinated in a bit of yogurt transforms a usually unassuming and pale vegetable into something akin to crack. Magic.

I was kind of a tool and tried to rush the bill because I wanted to go to a club and it was already past 10:00 - and as you may recall, everything closes in Bangalore at 11:30 or the morality police get kerflumpt. Unfortunately, the (rather pricy, but in my opinion worth it) bill took its time arriving. We made a general decision not to bother spending 20 extremely rushed minutes in the club, and decided to purchase some booze-likker from the sketchy bar on Thippasandra. Which we did. I curiously lost the urge to drink and rounded out the evening sitting on the roof listening to music, which is always nice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I have been too good lately maybe. (How can I help that?)

Went to work per usual. More writing. I decided to take a stroll down to Konark, a new vegetarian restaurant up the road. It was very nice and contemporary inside, and the menu was extensive, featuring just about every vegetable themed Indian dish known to man (And a few Chinese and Western ones to really round things out.) The place was full of business men chatting over lunch, tucking into epic portions of naan and spicy curries, gesturing at each other over glasses of tea.

I went with a tasty dish of palak mutter (spinach with peas) and a green salad. The waiter was absolutely aghast when I ordered no naan or roti - I am beginning to believe Indian waiters receive some sort of naan commission. Either that or Indians simply have a deep emotional need to get people to eat their complex carbohydrates.

I headed back around four, but the rain began coming down again, ruining my brilliant plan to go for a nice invigorating walk around the block. I sat around and was pissed off at the universe in general in protest. Food was concerning Indian-Chinese food. Indians and Americans are really quite equally good at messing up Chinese food.

I wanted to GO OUT DAMMIT and managed to recruit Aneesa, Carly and Adam to carry out my evil plans. However, Lorraine got us all trying to figure out how to make balloon animals (she's doing an event for the children at the school she volunteers at), and by the time we determined we were never, ever going to be able to survive as balloon animal makers, it was ten. Bangalore's biggest flaw is that everything absolutely poselutely must be closed at 11:30, so we jetted over to Zero G in a rickshaw (of course we couldn't find it initally.)

The door man let us girls in free, but charged Adam 500 cover charge. This could be used for drinks, but considering we had about an hour and a half to use it all, this meant hitting the likker pretty ardently and passionately.

I loved the place, however. Zero G is on the top of a large office building, and the dance floor and bar are open air, featuring lots of chrome accents and sparkly lights. It was Bollywood night and the music was fantastic, and I threw myself onto the dance floor, immediately getting some sympathetic Indian guys to teach me some Hindi dance moves. (I love jumping into the air and chanting OM SHANTHI OM when that song comes on. People who have done any clubbing in India know exactly what I mean.)

The others weren't up for dancing, so in disgust, I worked up the nerve to talk to an attractive guy I noticed lounging in the corner and looking bored. To my suprise, he was willing enough to talk to me - apparently he had to act nice because he was here with all the Big Important Guys from his IT company - and we chatted for a while. He was even kind enough to buy me some whiskey that wasn't swill, which was a nice change from the 35 rupee Old Monk I usually content myself with.

Unfortunately, the rain began pissing down - no other word for it - and the rickshaw back was almost unpardonably damp. We were pleasantly suprised at the aquatic abilities of your garden variety rickshaw though - the driver cut it through the foot and a half deep water with skill and talent. So we didn't fall in a pothole and drown after all.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Woke up to what looked to be a sunny day. (Relief!)

We decided to visit the South Indian canteen down the street for lunch, a scrum of business-shirt attitred men yelling out orders for dosas and thalis and chaat at rock bottom prices. There's no seating of course, and everyone stands around munching and arguing, downing endless fruit juices. Aneesa and I shared a masala dosa, a kind of spicy rice flour pancake filled with tumeric-flavored mashed potato and onion. I also got to try some of the thali, which for a mere 20 rupees provided tons of food, including a delicious okra curry, spicy papadums, sambar, pickles, and some tart yogurt. Excellent.

It was fun to watch the guys in the kitchen throw together food, feverishly turning out dosas from a hot grill, spooning out curries and sambar, yelling at each other but one way or another getting it all together. It's admirable.

Adam began to succumb to one of those unfortunate Indian digestive episodes, so I accompanied him back on the rickshaw. I can only imagine that riding in a rickshaw when you really want to barf is not among life's best experiences. (it was also thinking about raining, which indicates that the universe was not feeling so friendly at that juncture.)

It was raining, no one else was around, and Adam of necessity needed to go lie down in the dark and try not to die, so I spent the evening watching TV and drawing weird cartoons.

This went on until Aneesa returned. We went to the Breeze for dinner - an over buttery vegetable curry and a nice spicy lamb curry dish - and talked. She's going to Mumbai in a week and I'm having such a good time that I want to stay on. I may change my flights and go down to Mumbai instead of returning home. I've always dreamed of seeing Mumbai - land of Bollywood and endless, blissful phel puri vendors by the ocean - and this would be a perfect opportunity to do so. (I also remember how Salman Rushdie portrayed Bombay in Midnight's Children - a decadent, bizarre metropolis with weirdness apparently coming out of the dysfunctional sewer system itself - and I want to see if it lives up to even a portion of that.) We shall see.

Claire, Pipa, Lorraine and Jimmy reappeared after Aneesa went to bed bearing beer from the profoundly skanky Night Boozer bar down Thippasandra road, and we stayed up for a while, drinking crap whiskey and laughing about things, listening to the rain come on down.


Monday was not as good as Sunday, but I do not know how one could really begin to equal that, so I am not so disappointed. We went off to work per usual. We were all utterly exhausted from the not-so-restful bus journey and nodded off peacefully in the rickshaw- difficult to do considering that rickshaw journeys are rarely peaceful and therapeutic experiences.

The weather was looking ominous - I hate and despise the monsoon. I finished up the world music page. I will someday attend the Rain-forest World Music festival.

I rather desperately wanted to catch up on my sleep, so I left work fairly early and went home to crash. Dinner was rather dismal, but I was too exhausted to really care. The thunderstorm broke, viciously, and I sat around alone for a while at the Villa, hoping the power wouldn't go out.

Adam and Jimmy both got back late on account of horrible flooding rain, and I accompanied them to the Breeze restaurant to get a late dinner. It was a nice enough place but very brightly lit, and we could tell the server was not particularly thrilled to see us. Jimmy's strawberry milkshake was a slightly pornographic pink. We bought some adult beverages at the market down the street and retreated to the villa to watch bad movies - Dean Kootnz's "Phantoms" is a profoundly bad movie, a modern bad movie classic - and then we went to bed. All I could manage really.



My Easters have been strange and disjointed for years on end, always spent in transit. This one was no different.

We woke up to another day of driving, miserable rain, thwacking against the loose screen door that held out the moldy air. We tromped miserably up the uncovered stairs to the rooftop restaurant - breakfasted on fruit salad and pancakes that were really crepes, sipping hot tea and watching the rain beat down on the soaring temple outside. (how much rain had fallen there over the years, how much more could it take ...? more then us?)

However, the others were determined to see it all - why the hell else linger through a long train journey on sticky blue mats anyway - and the oppurtunistic rickshaw driver permanantly employed by Vicky's offered us a full-day rickshaw tour at a very reasonable price. We accepted - why the hell not - and piled squishily into the rickshaws, jetting out across the muddy ground to the temple complexes.

We went many places that day, but one that sticks out was the Underwater Temple, lurking in a marshy bit of ground, recently excavated or something. Standing water has permeated it, sloshing around the abandoned pillars and languid Shiva sculptures, and tourists shed their socks and sandals and wade on in, laughter reverberating through the corridors. I had met a sweet brown and white dog earlier at the rocks and she had followed us in the rickshaw, loping grimily behind our vehicle. We rejoined each other in the temple. I was in one of those states I get into sometime where I am punchdrunk on existence mostly, and I chased the dog round and round the temple, splashing through water-lily and clover. The dog and I watched the fish nip at the other tourists heels as they peered into the inner sanctum, peered at some unexpected crabs, ducked from the (non-vampiric) bats that inhabited the walls and corridors.

We ran into a pack of grinning Indian boys who took to me immediately. They were all wearing cowboy hats for some irrational reason - they were on vacation from Hyderabad - and they plopped a hat on my head and posed for pictures, my arm around the damp dog, smiling like an idiot for once for photos because I was so curiously happy.

(Aneesa has one of those - I hate photos of myself but I will take that one at least, keep it in my drawers, look at it again someday and hope the dog has lived a long and happy life, hope the cowboy hat boys did well in their glorious banking careers, hope that the fish have persisted against the dual threats of tourism and over-feeding - hope against hope, I guess. Maybe I will frame it. My hair was not however brushed.)

In any case, we piled back into the rickshaws and drove to the Lotus Temple and Elephant Stables, sitting on a ridge up against the hill. The Lotus Temple was a graceful pink pavilion, decked out like an elaborate doiley, and one could easily imagine beautiful women lounging upon it and eating fruit -

I was not particularly beautiful but I lounged there too, watching a group of women in brilliant saris pluck the grounds and tease each other. The umbrella I borrowed was dysfunctional and I fiddled with it futiley until one of the local workmen ambled over with his own umbrella, smiling ear to ear. "Mine doesn't work," I offered, abashed, and he took it from me and repaired it. "Can we trade?," I asked, and he laughed in my face. He knew a bad deal when I saw it, me and my forlorn umbrella. The dog and I and the umbrella looked out to the elephant stables - big as you might expect them to be - and watched green parakeets fight in the trees outside them.

We managed to split ourselves up into two groups, foolishly, which meant Lorraine, Chris and I spent a few disturbing hours trying to find out if the others had been sold into sex slavery. They had not been, but we did get to see the Ramayana Temple, full of stone carvings depicting every last event in that long and winding story - I cannot say I knew what it meant, but it was a graphic novel in building format and I suppose that is cool enough.

We broke for lunch at the Mango Tree, a tropical oasis of a restaurant - no other word for it. You stop your rickshaw at the gate and walk down a lovely path through swampy, neon-green grass and lazing banana trees, past the river full of tan rocks and edged by rice paddies, stray dogs chasing each other through the rushes. The restaurant itself is a relaxed collection of straw-grass huts and benches, and you sit down and watch the water go by, eating spicy vegetarian curries off waxy green leaves, sipping fresh squeezed fruit juices. Aneesa and I shared a thali, a South Indian mixed lunch of curries and rices and crisp hot papadums, putting away more food then we could ever have anticipated, tickling the bellies of the resident housecats. We could have stayed there for hours or days or years, but we could not be such bad and terrible tourists.

The tour continued - we saw the Queen's Bath, the luxurious pleasure chamber constructed for noblewomen, formally fed by spring water and deep as anything. It stands in an area that must once have been a lovely garden, and you can easily imagine lying there half-submerged in the fresh water and smelling the jasmine flowers, totally content in Having It Made. I do not know if such luxury is available in the modern era. (I shall have to make my future Thai drug lord husband build one - I will lounge in it with my pet black panthers and drink expensive wines, and snap my fingers when I desire snacks.)

We visited the statue of Narasimha next. It's breathtaking, no other word for it. You amble along a path through the trees and gasp, astonished when you come onto the idol, grinning luridly in the lotus position, big round eyes flashing through the banana leaves. Narasimha is ornately carved and delicate - it's a miracle the statue has lasted so long and so well - and you can sit and look at him for a long time, watching the chipmunks wiggled in and out of his gaping canine teeth. (There is also a mysterious and thoughtful Shiva lingam next door, supposedly commissioned by a very poor and very reverent woman, as the stories go and always will.)

Next: Vittala Temple, the crown jewel of Hampi, a big temple complex set up along the river. You come onto it with your rickshaw, driving past the seemingly endless site of the old bazaar, storefronts and carved columns of fanged creatures riding horses. The avenue ends at the temple, and you disembark and head in, marveling at the big elephant-drawn stone chariot that sits in the middle. (The wheels apparantly used to actually turn, and it is fun to imagine latter-day tourists from long ago spinning the wheels, daring each other like tourists do today, because there always will be and always should be tourists.)

It is difficult to describe how ornate this place is: the peach colored stone wrought over and through with imagery and religious figures and various other characters, fresh detail emerging from seemingly ever portion of the complex. It is an archetiectural marvel and endlessly nice to look at - one cannot help but think of Kublai Khan and interesting opium dreams when you regard it - for surely this is what we think of when we consider forbidden temples and lost monuments, remnants of some sort of unconsidered and faded Asian majesty. This is not a Western monument and I personally find it far better - no dour religiosity, no blood on the cross or plump and idiotic cupids - but writhing carved panthers and screaming horses and smug looking reclining gods - it is at least more to my personal aesthetic.

And the weather - the rain had cleared off and we were in that period of honey colored brilliant sunshine that comes after it pours, when the sunlight reflects left-over pools of water and even the stone shines a little with slickness and wet. The water left behind shallow little reflecting pools all over the temple, rendering the stone warm, and I watched them, rapt, positioning myself on top of a stone elephant. (This meant every Indian guy in the complex had to have a photo with me of course, but you pay the price.)

One feature of Indian ruins is trees: there was one ancient tree in the center of the complex, shedding quivering yellow flowers that dropped into the pools, rippling inevitably away. You cannot capture what is so beautiful about falling leaves in spring, I think. I will stop trying, but I would like you to try to imagine it if you are reading this, to recall falling leaves and try to transition them to this temple, to a deliciously crisp day in early spring in India - and maybe you will understand a little of how I felt.

The last part of it all was the Monkey Temple, positioned at the top of a slightly nerve-wracking hill - you could hear the rickshaw screaming for mercy all the way up it. You disembark and walk through a small crack in the rocks, and find yourself within a palatial and high walled temple grounds, harems of monkeys ebbing and flowing out from the carvings. I was tired by now (and my eye was acting up, growing moderately evil as it sometimes does) - so I sat beneath the temple walls and watched the monkeys fight over coconuts, watched the supposedly ascetic sadhu's (or holyl men) rearrange the satellite dish that rose out of their modest white-washed home next door. Apparently the others followed a sadhu into his cave and were blessed, but I was content to just sit - an old woman who seemed to know all the sadhu's well padded up behind me in her bare feet, nodded languidly, and sat down within the shaded walls of the temple to knit. We watched the sun begin to go down and the moist earth dry up. Dinner time then.

We went back to the Mango Tree - how could we not? The place was lit atmospherically by candles, and fire flies spun in and out of the leaves as we ate. The vegetable do-piyaza was especially delicious, shot through with the flavor of caramelized, blackened onions - but all the food was delicious, simple and fresh, arriving quickly. We had to leave at 8:30 so we could make our bus out of Hospet and back to Bangalore, but we stayed as long as we could. We were all feeling profoundly silly, doubtless owing to how lovely the day had turned out to be, and teased each other mercilessly over coffee. I made a few passes at errant fireflies but had no successful captures. (Why must I always catch things, obtain them? It's a sport to me, like some people play chess.)

We took the rickshaw back in the dark - poor Chris, we were leaving him beyond to continue his journey onward - but he came up to see us off. We re-emerged into grimy and muddy Hospet again, dodging cows and random rubbish fires. Our bus had not arrived yet, and to our horror, we learned it would have no bathroom. Accordingly we found some particularly scary looking hotel bathrooms (there was a gecko in mine; Lorraine found an especially horrifying cockroach.)

The bus arrived and we bought blankets off the clever and American-accented blanket merchant who magically appeared at the right time. He was moving to Nottingham to work, and he told me he loved Pamela Anderson and wanted to visit California. I believe he will go far.

The bus - I found my top bunk and spread out. Adam and Aneesa were in the far back, and Adam and some young Indian guys broke out their guitars and began playing. The Indian guys were all ardent Pink Floyd fans, and we spent a good few hours singing half-remembered rock songs off key and attempting not to fall off the bunks when the bus took a particularly vicious turn. I did not get much sleep that night, as I slid constantly around and thumped against the windows, but the day made up for it anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

hampi day one part two CONVULUTED

had intended to rejoin the others at one point or another but they were not present at the hotel. Presuming they were 1. lost, 2. dead or 3. had maliciously abandoned me, I took a nice satisfying nap on the outdoor bed at the hotel, dropping off just as (without my knowledge) the Holi festival reached its raucous 1 PM climax.

I was awakened by the sound of the others thumping up the stairs erupting in giggles, covered (not surprisingly) head to foot in powder in pink and blue and yellow, dripping wet. They were disappointed to find I was relatively pristine. Lorraine noted, "We were taking bets - we figured you'd either come back absolutely covered in it or spotless."

I must justify myself: I did not set out to avoid participating in Holi, it just sort of happened, mostly because I managed to avoid what was apparently the pulsing center of the celebration down by the river. Everyone else partied with the Indians and the boys even jumped into the river, disregarding the big DEADLY WHIRLPOOL DO NOT SWIM signs that crop up periodically on the boulders. Well, you only live once. Or are sucked into a whirlpool. I do wish I'd managed to participate more fully, but after seeing the state of their clothes (and noticing over the next few days that that shit don't come off easy), I felt a little better about missing out on the craziness. I looked slightly smug and dozed off again as they all took showers.

The rain started pissing down with fervor and malice again, and everyone else went up for a late lunch. I curled up on my mildewy floor mattress and dozed off to sleep again, raindrops coming in through the screen window and pinging off my head. (oh, i am living in a constant state of dampness, i will start contracting mildew spores beneath my skin.)

We wandered around downtown Hampi in a disassociated manner for the rest of the evening, regarding dazed looking Western hippies splattered with color weave in and out of the temples and tourist shops. (Why don't European hippies ever wear bras? Is there some sort of unspoken code?)

The others went into the Virupaksha temple but I stayed behind, unwilling to hand over my shoes and socks in the continuing drizzle, unwilling to splash through the mud and gunk of the floors. I dropped to a comfortable crouch and watched the shoes with the young girl shoe attendant, who asked me my name with a sort of amiable disinterest. (She and her father spent the next few minutes laughing and kicking about the damp shoes in the rain, splashing water and each other and the stray dogs that went by.)

Hindu families had turned out from all over to visit the temple on Holi and faded in and out of the structure, dodging the equally large monkey clan that lived among the ruins, cadging donations from the symbolic baskets of coconut and banana and jasmine flowerers worshippers purchased at the door. One monkey ran down a couple of young men and ripped the basket out of their hands, everyone in the courtyard erupting into laughter at the sight of the mugging, the men looking embarrassed as anything. (But what can you do?) An old dog stood out in the open and quivered pathetically as the rain kicked up again, woofing without conviction at the monkeys that tormented him from the rafters, clinging to protuberant statues of Shiva and various attendants. I was entertained.

Despite the rain, the others decided to walk up the granite hill to the Royal Center. I followed damply, muttering to myself about mad dogs and Englishmen, but they tactfully ignored me. We ducked under the trees in the growing darkness to see the Ganesh temple, spotlighted elegantly in the evening. Unfortunately, the perturbed looking park attendant locked the gate after us. "You will have to go the other way,"
he shrugged, and a couple of laughing teenage boys led us on a trail through the slick and slippery rocks, weaving through the ruins in the growing darkness.

I was reminded with slightly painful nostalgia of the scent of the Utah desert rocks, right after thunderstorm, and I went a little wild, ricocheting gleefully off rocks and slithering off overhangs, as the others demanded I COME DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT NOW DON'T SLIP STOP DEFACING THE RUINS FAINE YOU ARE A WACKJOB

(I have heard these words from so many people over the years in reference to my behavior and they are all entirely true, and i will doubtless die of a blunt force injury some day or fall off something or be et by a cobra/feral pig/cannibal for not heeding them -but -but -i do so enjoy myself...)

In any case, we emerged into the damp and gloppy streets of Hampi again, passing by a couple of menacing bulls with particularly floppy humps and curving horns. We returned to the Villa and readied for dinner, Adam and I vying for possession of the nice wicker porch swing.

The others pulled themselves together and we departed. Unfortunately, I was obeying the terrible and vicious genetic imperative of what I like to call Dupuy Murderous Hunger, wherein people like my mother and myself suddenly become homocidal beasts in pursuit of sweet, sweet calories. Unfortunately no one else understands, simply becoming increasingly distressed as our eyes grow wild and our retorts become even sharper and nastier then usual - WE NEED FOOD. (Back me up mom.)

They did not understand and I stalked through the streets behind them in an increasingly dire state of bitchy hunger as they dispensed with various restaurant choices. Aneesa had noted that the Shanthi Riverside Restaurant looked busy and we popped our heads in, to be told there would be some sort of interminable wait. To add insult to injury the food was pizza, which I do not like one bit. (By way of explaination: I can eat pizza far too quickly. Also I dislike bread.)

In any case, I completely gave up and went across the street to get some gosh darn Indian food - palak masala and fruit salad, bam, done. Ate and paid. They were still waiting. We decided to play some sort of weird 20 questions Guess Who I Am game. (Chris was Scary Spice. This makes me laugh.)

We waited. Hippies flopped over on the couches provided for their hippie lounging pleasure, beneath deeply distressing black light neon posters featuring naked chicks and shrooms and Tolkien imagery. I ordered another watermelon mint juice. (Yum.)

And waited some more. It was by now after ten and the others were Very Hungry, as food appeared at sub glacial rates from the dark and mysterious kitchen. I considered snuggling up with the hippies on the couches to get some shut-eye. However, I am trying to avoid contracting head lice.

The evening wore on and the hippies began to file out, the owner shutting down the lights and clearing the tabes. We were left in a pool of light in the darkness and still the food had not arrived. The owner shrugged and looked non-commital, and finally Julie got some potatoes. Then the pizzas arrived. Which were eaten in irritated silence.

Lorraine, entirely understandably, tried to convince the stoney-faced owner that they should only pay half price, but he insisted he was the nice guy here - "Hey, I have to close down at 11! I was very kind to you to serve you at all." Protests that he'd said earlier the food would take an hour tops fell on deaf ears as the wait staff (and me) yawned all around us, the rain kicking up outside. We gave up and went outside and splattered to the mud.

My bed was unfortunately still damp.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Saturday in Hampi (part one)

We arrived early in the morning to the dusty orange dawn of Hampi, the conductor jarring us rudely awake at half past six, demanding our blankets and pillows and god knows what else. I packed up my stuff in a bleary-eyed stupor and sipped a tiny plastic cup of oversugared chai.

We disembarked at the Hospet train station, and found the rickshaw drivers dispatched from Vicky's Guest House in Hampi. They guided us to our rickshaws through a crowd of over-stimulated children (and adults) slinging colors at each other with special attention to foreigners - Holi had begun. We managed to escape being transformed into technicolor abominations and sped off through town.

Hospet is what you think of when you think of rural India: grade A quality squalor, kids leading water buffalos through fetid rivers of shit and trash, chickens picking in dust heaps, herds of pigs rooting up against the corners of cement lined huts. It was drizzling in a half-hearted sort of way when we arrived and everything looked muddy and dreary and damp - I was glad I had my pashmina.

Hampi proper is located about 40 KM out of Hospet, among a dramatic boulder field set among tropical banana plantations and rice paddies. As we approached through the banana trees, we could already see the foliage-shrouded remains of temples and columns, advance emissaries of the ruins we were about to see. We passed quickly by the Ganesh temple, the idol drying off slightly as the rain slacked off, rounding the hill.

We splashed through the mud into Hampi, which is definitely nothing much to look at - a series of flimsy tourist geared structures set among a particularly unattractive and gloppy stretch of mud road. But the magnifencet heights of the Virupaksha temple rise impressively above the glop, evoking instant thoughts of Indiana Jones and various tacky adventure movies - we had arrived.

Vicky's Guest House was also not much to look at, located along a particularly squashy stretch of road. The rooms were somewhat clean and that is about all that could be said for them, as a faint aroma of mildew percolated up into the air as we opened the door. No AC and no hot water, of think this is the goddamn Ritz?

I was feeling antisocial and in a hurry to see the ruins, so I bid the others farewell as they peered with bleary eyes into their first cups of coffee at the upstairs restaurant. I walked up the main street of the bazaar and headed through towards the river, picking my way along a path studded with boulders and banana trees, perking up slightly in the morning sun. Holi had turned out the locals, and groups of jubilant young men carrying beer walked past me, readying themselves for the inevitable technicolor battle to come. A guide accompanying a Western tourist took me aside and warned me: "You should really try to be back by one or two to Hampi, you know..these guys are gonna get drunk and rowdy." I decided to take that to heart.

I passed through a hole in the boulders, ambling past a couple of begging sadhus or solitary holy men (how holy, I guess, if angling for donations), groups of already-drunk people banging their laundry against rocks and having a grand old time, yelling god knows what at me as I passed on through. I rounded a corner and found myself almost alone amongst the ruins, on the trail to Vittala Temple.

I really find it difficult to express how downright cool it was to have such open access to these ruins, especially ruins of this caliber and this scale. In the USA and Europe, historical remains like this would be fenced off and curated by guides - here, no one is keeping an eye over your shoulder or advising you to avoid touching anything. I know this is probably contributing to the degradation of the ruins in one way or another, but part of the appeal of Hampi is that it is still alive, that people go about their standard lives and do their laundry and drive their goats in and amongst monolithic statues and gorgeous, graceful temples - it has not yet been rendered sterile.

So I spent a happy time looking at the curious carvings on the rock floor (hands and feet and women), Shivas and Garuda's staring up through half-collapsed rock panels, tablets bearing incomprehensible writing jutting up through the sand and scrubby dry-weather foliage. Hampi is a renowned bouldering area (among its other strong points), and I found myself a particularly big set of rocks to clamber up, finding a small cavern in the rocks to shade myself (and avoid the various packs of all too curious Indians on holiday from asking me for "one snap with you please!").

I sat up there for a few hours, watching the world go by, groups of young men roaring into the little sanctum by the river with beer, pelting each other with colors and playing Bollywood music at ear-shattering volumes among the quiet splendor of the King's Balance and collapsed columns. Huge families wandered through, little girls and women dressed in luminescent saris, waving at me and yelling for me to come down (I politely declined.) Little lizard-like chipmunks regarded me momentarily then went about their business, vying for rock space with big monitor lizards in yellows and greens, and gorgeous emerald tropical starlings, darting in and out of the cactus plants. It was entirely possible to watch the river go by forever, watching partiers dip into the water and birds take dust baths in the rockyard below - but as always, I was getting hungry, and I slithered down from the rock pile before anyone noticed me.

I was thumping earnestly up the path back to the village when I heard a curious hissing sound and saw, to my profound surprise, a cobra of healthy and respectable size slither out from under my feet and beneath a rock. I know that they are More Scared of You then You Are Of Them or some bullshit like that, but I still stood there in stunned silence for a minute or two. Welcome to India.

Cheerily reminded of my own mortality, I found myself a rooftop restaurant and ate aloo palak (spinach with potato) and kimchi (really) in contemplative silence. I was mostly just glad I had been wearing cowboy boots at the time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Friday was yet another curiously free-wheeling Indian holiday - Holi.


This is basically an excuse for all of India to turn out and spray the shit out of each other with various colors and dyes, all while drinking potent bhang lassis, playing music, and generally having a wonderful time. However, the big shindig doesn't get going until Saturday - perhaps Friday is a day to ready for battle. I cannot be expected to know everything.

Aneesa, Chris, and Adam decided to go to a tiger reserve for most of the day. As we were slated to get on the train for Hampi that evening (and it was raining in that miserable dreary way), I declined and decided to spend the day shopping and steeling my nerves for my first sorty with the Indian train station. I definitely will make it to the tiger reserve at some point.

Lorraine saw the logic in my plan and stayed behind as well. We took a rickshaw down to Commercial Street in the deeply miserable weather, and I proceeded my systematic survey of Kashmiri stores on a mission for the perfect silk coat. I visited quite a few establishments, doing my best to look bored and mildly disgusted by the wares in fufillment of the ancient and majestic Haggling Dance. I did find a few lovely specimens, but nothing that attracted me quite as much as the one I found on M.G Road - all that gorgeous colorful embroidery on a jet black background - perfect. Maybe I'll just buy it and hope I can take the damn thing in. Or wear it with a belt.

The rain was really pretty misery inducing....too early for the monsoon my we headed back to Thippasandra. I was starving as always, and we went to the Clay Pot once more. I had a delicious dish of fish molie with kingfish, a thick, mild curry made from coconut milk and a little bit of chili. This was reminescent of a Thai curry - not surprising since the Southern Indian ecosystem is pretty similar to the Thai one - and very delicious indeed, full of firm, white fish. I have discovered the Clay Pot's secret by the way....the local fish market is right down the street.

We went back to the Katari Villa and napped. It was wonderful.

The others appeared in the evening. Dinner was egg curry, which gives me shivery nightmares, so I went down the street to the local biryani joint instead. I had a decent fish biryani which certainly included plenty of spicy sauteed fish along with rice - not a bad way to go.

We managed to pull ourselves together and hailed a rickshaw to the train station by half past eight for our 10 PM train to Hampi. This took a bit, but we made it to the train station, overflowing with people in various states of disarray from long journeys - whole families carrying their wordly possesions in rucksacks, camping out on colorful blankets in front of the station, stray dogs and worried looking European hippies wandering among them.

We found our way to the right platform - miracle! - and the train came chugging along on schedule, looking rather atmospheric in the evening fog and humidity. We found our berths - not bad, and actually pretty comfortable. I settled in presently and made my way to the bathroom. Some guy attempted to unsubtly grab my arse when I walked past him, and I responded (naturally) by slugging him hard....I will always treasure the look of profound suprise on his face. (Not expecting THAT were ya?)

Anyways, I dropped off surpisingly quickly - I sleep well in moving vehicles.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I was a lazy bum yesterday and thus this will be a boring post. Hopefully you shall survive.

Woke up nice and early, baffling the others with my bright eyed and bushy tailed manner after the previous night. (Being 19 rocks.) I was feeling no collateral damage from our adventures other then the discovery of various mysterious bruises all over my body. Also a knee ache. Such are the dangers of dancing.

Trucked off to work at the usual time with Aneesa and Adam - took slightly less long then usual. We had decided to meet Chris downtown at a coffee house, so we faffed around for roughly an hour due to getting there so late, then headed off to M.G Road.

Unfortunately, the 'authentic' coffee house Lonely Planet described turned out to be a piss-scented den where glowering Indian men lurked over masala dosas and endless plates of toast with scrambled eggs. We left quickly, deciding on Emgee's Restaurant (or Veggie Veggie Healthy!). This was a pleasant wood paneled space that sort of reminded me of a Denny's. The food, however, was anything but - the novel of a menu encompassed seemingly every chaat, fruit juice, and vegetarian dish known to Indian cuisine, and we agonized happily over what to choose.

Aneesa and I split the special bhel puri, a nice rendition full of finely chopped tomato and cucumber. Served with idli or tamarind sauce, this was divine. Next course was paneer chaat-something, a spicy cheese curry filled with lots of different vegetables and spices. We also tried the corn palak, essentially spicy and neon green creamed spinach with corn...looked repulsive, tasted delicious. We also tried Chris's tasty mattar paneer (cheese curry with peas) and Adam's masala dosa - big and spicy, served with coconut chutney and sambar. The only misfire was the deeply distressing custard infused fruit salad Aneesa and I ordered, but that was a minor complaint indeed. I'm definitely returning to Emgee's.

Unfortunately, it began pissing down buckets of rain by the end of our meal, which meant we got to sprint damply out to a rickshaw, huddling under the middle of the open vehicle as we sped back to work. Rain sucks.

Chris came to work with us and saw how boring our daily jobs really are, although he claimed he had a good time. Chris is an optimist, and I admire that deeply, especially since I am the kind of person who can find something unpleasant, tasteless or annoying about pretty much anything, including puppies, kittens, flowers, and sunshine. Maybe even rainbows. Whereas Chris will look at a TERRIFYING KILLER BULL and go 'Oh, how cute', while I am debating whether I should run away or not.

I don't like terrifying killer bulls at all.

We returned quite late and had dinner at the house. The others wanted to go to Mocha, but I was feeling exhausted and a bit gross, so I decided to stay behind. I had a rather blissful evening eating left over pineapple and drawing weird cartoons. Sometimes that is all you need.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Woke up per usual protocol and wandered down the street to purchase my nutritious daily pineapple. There's few better ways to wake up then dodging various forms of Indian traffic first thing in the morning. I also had to avoid the Terrifying Bull that's always tethered outside the turnoff to our street. I swear to God, they sharpen that monster's horns - which are painted a fetching sort of red and blue.

Usual long long long rickshaw voyage to work. Trucked merrily away on the World Music page, then not so covertly trolled Metafilter for a bit. People love to ask the oracle that is the internet intimate questions. I cannot explain it.

(internet - why is my life so strange? oh internet, why do i have opposable thumbs? internet, does my butt look big in this?)

Aneesa wasn't feeling well due to the lurking Bangalore crud, so we went for a long lunch at Juice Junction. I had my usual delicious fruit bowl - mmm, papaya - while they had extremely suspicious looking "european" sandwiches at Casa Piccola, the Indian answer to Western food. This apparantly means dousing everything in wine flavored cream sauce. Indians love them some cream sauce.

We stayed later then usual at work, then tooled on home, where I had another satisfying nap. I love taking those kind of hot weather afternoon naps where you stretch out as much as humanly possible to catch just a tiny bit of cold air, limbs dangling off the edge of the bed in all directions. I can stay like that for hours.

Ran out to my beloved Clay Pot for a dinner of prawns thoran, a Keralan dish of fried spicy prawns in shredded spicy coconut, seasoned with onion and two kinds of chili. Totally unhealthy and ridiculously delicious. I highly reccomend it. I may suffer from heartburn for the rest of my life but it will be a happy sort of heartburn.

We all wanted to Go Out, so I called that guy we met the other night at the Beach to see what was what. He claimed he could take us to the Beach, get us free drinks, then drive us over to Athena, the swanky dance club located in the Leela Palace hotel. I was suspicious, figuring he was just acting as a tout for the Beach to get our asses in the seats once again - but then again, I never argue with free drinks, so we rickshawed ourselves over there.

I was initally in a curiously antisocial mood, glowering moodily over the Beach's spread of artificial palmtrees, but a couple of glorious, glorious free whiskies perked me up considerably. I found myself dancing with extreme ineptness to Justin Timberlake's incomparable "SexyBack" with a nice-looking Indian boy, who was tragically a much better dancer then me. (Why do I attract the boys who CAN dance? Do I make them feel especially talented? Do they simply pity me?)

To my surprise, our benefactor waved us over and told us that, yep, we were gonna leave for Athena now if we so desired, he had two cars for us, and hey hey hey free drinks. Pleasantly surprised, we rounded everyone up and left - he and his friend both had very nice cars blaring the latest Bhangra hits as we made the short trip to the Leela, which was glowing luxuriously in the darkness. I have always had the occasional secret fantasy of pulling up to a luxury hotel then disembarking from a car looking deeply disenchanted with the universe, wearing very high heels. This fantasy has been fufilled.

In any case, we were ushered into the Special VIP Entrance, which meant we got to skirt the usual 1000 rupee entrance fee, presumably by virtue of being, well, Special. The club itself was actually very nice - set up in dark, moody colors, with white cubicles arrayed around the place for people to lounge attractively in. The music was good too, a nice midpoint behind the kind of hard ass techno that makes your brainstem ache and completely skanky ass hip hop -they even threw some fabulous Bollywood dance tunes in there. The crowd was upscale, laidback, and generally really cool, free of the glassy-eyed creeps that tend to hang around other Indian dance clubs. I also appreciated the quantity of women - being one of a couple girls in a real sausage festival sort of bar is always a spot awkward.

Being in the VIP area, we even had our own bar, which meant I got to enjoy requesting drinks from various men I'd just met and watching them scurry over to fetch them. If you had known me in my early life, you would realize this is not exactly an outcome I had anticipated while capturing cockroaches in jars while wearing an odiforeous Jurassic Park t-shirt. Life brings us to strange and curious places, or in this case, brings us free liquor and totally unmerited perks.

I may have got swozzled. I do know that I won the nightly Best Dancer award which was crystal and came in a nice little box. I presume this means the (attractive) DJ is either stupid or totally blind. But I appreciate it.

On the way out, we met one of our benefactor's brother, who apparantly is a Bollywood actor. He was decent looking enough and rather shy. I will look for him in a film someday.

We returned to the Villa at god knows what ungodly hour and I enjoyed a McVities Chocolate Disgestive Biscuit, possibly my new obsession. I do not know if they actually aid with digestion or if this is just an elaborate lie the English tell themselves. In any case, it was delicious.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Woke up and did the usual – delicious pineapple, cornflakes, shower. The showerhead has been replaced, which means I no longer need to squat gnome-like under a spigot to bathe. Things are looking up.

We took an incredibly long rickshaw ride to work. Traffic was absolutely vile and we ended up running out of things to say to each other, breaking out our Ipods almost simultaneously. I ended up consoling myself with Ziggy Stardust as I sucked down exhaust fumes.

We arrived at the office and I kept on thumping away at the World Music page – I think I’ll discuss the new Bob Marley documentary and Damon Albran’s new African music collaboration. Well, it’s interesting to me.

Due to the office move, the internet was shut down after noon, so I decided to grab some fruit at the friendly neighborhood Juice Junction and head home early. I hopped in a rickshaw and went back to Thippasandra.

On the way, I saw Raul – the guy who invited me to his afterparty last Wednesday – again, riding to work on his motorbike. I explained why we didn’t show at The Beach on Saturday (Two words: torrential rains), and he gave me his phone number and told us we should give him a call tomorrow and see what’s up. Perhaps I will do that. He also gave me a lift back to the villa on his motorbike. I love motorbikes.

I took a long and deeply satisfying nap when I returned. Just finished David Lodge’s hilarious “Trading Places” and have moved on to the very interesting “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk, centering on a rash of female suicides in a backwater Turkish town. Not exactly uplifting but fascinating reading on the modern Islamic movement. (Dork.)

We left to have dinner at the Oasis restaurant at 6:00, meeting Aneesa and Adam. The food was even better then the first time. We began with channa aloo chaat, a cold dish of chickpeas and potato tossed with a salty, piquant mix of onions, tomato, mint and lemon. Chris tried the chili squid, which was as tasty and pungent as before. Aneesa and I went with the whole tandoori pomfret – a whole fish rubbed with spices and roasted to perfection, sweet meat lifting nicely off the bone. Lorraine’s fried pomfret was also delicious, crispy and not too greasy. We also tried the gobi tandoor (cauliflower) which was fabulous – roasted cauliflower tossed in some sort of slightly cheesy spice mixture, served with a fresh relish and some coriander and mint sauce. Adam also had spicy fried squid – grease free and not too chewy. The Oasis is definitely a must-eat if you’re in Bangalore. Only complaint: the service is perhaps over-eager, waiters lunging at you with desperation in their eyes if you even attempt to serve yourself something off a communal plate They will do it for you. They MUST do it for you.

We adjourned to the usual comforting skankiness of the Guzzlers Inn, then popped into NASA for a lark – the infamous space themed pub that was probably super cool 30 years ago. It’s now almost intolerably outdated, pounding, bubble-gum techno assaulting your innocent ears as old businessmen sip beer and wish there were more women present. I was happy to leave.


Awoke feeling curiously slammed from the usually innocent Tylenol PM I took before bed. Limping to the mirror, I discovered I had developed a really impressive specimen of Evil Eye, tiny blood shot veins tracing morbidly across my pupil. I tried to convince myself this was not a manifestation of exotic tropical eye parasites, and headed out with Aneesa to visit the travel agent.

We had been talking about visiting Hampi, one of India's best preserved ancient cities for a long time now, and finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy the tickets. Thus, we took a rickshaw over to the travel agent and proceeded to immerse ourselves in Indian bueuracracy, bastard child of the English system. (I blame them for everything.) I wanted to help, but when the plump and eminently confident looking woman behind the counter said, “What is wrong with your eye?”, I sunk into a chair in discontent. I was pretty much certain I was going to have a bloodshot evil eye forever.

In any case, Aneesa was a trooper and booked our tickets – second class AC train on the way there, sleeper bus on the way back since everything else was booked up solid. We then proceeded over into town to attend the new volunteers orientation, since we had to Officially Meet the new people though of course we already had.

Aneesa and I had a bizarre interlude where the rickshaw driver kept on attempting to take us over to a “veddy veddy nice fruit seller” who would apparently provide with an “excellent pineapple, very excellent.” I am usually a sucker for pineapples but I passed as I did not want to carry one around all day. In any case, we managed to shake him off (still muttering in broken Hindi about pineapples) and found the hotel for the buffet lunch.

The lunch was actually quite good, and as appears to be traditional, the new volunteers barely touch the food, while the old volunteers eat as much as is humanly possible, especially the free (!) meat. I downed chicken, lots of spicy fish curry, mutton shanks, some sort of tasty spinach paneer dish, and lots of spicy tomato chutney. I felt sorry for the new volunteers who spent most of the lunch watching the old guard devour their food like hungry, miserable wolves, but they couldn’t understand. We finished off with fruit salad and delicious, icy strawberry ice cream, then waddled off to Commercial Street to show the volunteers around.

I popped into FabIndia to look for shirts for my dad, but after visiting by far the sketchiest bathroom I have ever encountered (up some dark gungy stairs, guarded by a toothless, chainsmoking woman in a yellow sari, people upstairs playing cards and glowering as you latch the door securely behind you), found the others had apparently abandoned me. I attempted not to melt in the heat and waited for them to return. Then, thankfully, we decided to return to the Villa where I could have a damn nap.

We had decided to go clubbing that evening, and along those lines decided to try Amnesia at the Cavery hotel. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the rickshaw of a new driver, who manifested this by driving his rickshaw at exactly 2 miles an hour while inching, carefully, over every single bump and pothole and crack in the road- and in India, there are many. To add insult to injury, he had no idea where he was going, and stopped for directions constantly – including asking other rickshaw drivers. Now, it is a bad idea when other rickshaw drivers conspire because they usually attempt to jack up the price, which is exactly what happened. Chris noted, “Look, I understand what you’re saying,” but they rolled their eyes and kept on attempting to screw us, wherein I got a little pissy (surprise!), and managed to get into an argument with the rickshaw driver, who tried to act all put upon and offended because I was not interested in getting cheated. I was just about to eat him when Lorraine and Chris held me back , and we putted off to the hotel.

Unfortunately, the club ended up being pathetic – two couples sitting around and the promised “Retro” music being really really retro, as in “Johnny Mathis,” which meant we escaped to Taika, the techno club I think I have mentioned before. I have.

This was fun. Lorraine was a bad influence and induced me to dance on a table which I would NEVER do on my own, except we almost got kicked out. However, this made me an instant rockstar to all the men in the club, meaning I cleaned up on the free whisky and offered dinner dates (yes, no.) We also met a couple of Americans from Chicago – Tan and James (I think) – who might meet us at the Leela Palace on Wednesday. Perhaps.

We drove back snockered in the rickshaws. The rickshaw guy dangerously was a little bit snockered too (no problem! No problem!....problem!), but that also meant he let Lorraine and Adam drive the damn thing, which admittedly was all kinds of hilarious. Incriminating photos will make their way to a Facebook near you.


Woke up to a refreshingly dry sort of day. New volunteers were coming in, and we met Lorraine, who I like very much. She's from England and has taken the commendably brave move of coming here to volunteer with children after the death of her husband. She also promotes techno concerts and parties (Dutch gabba to be specific) in England, which I am now rather eager to attend. She's a hell of a lot of fun and is eager to go out and enjoy life as much as possible - what a cool lady. In any case, she was tired from the inevitable stresses of the Third World Bus In The Sky (international flights) so we let her nap.

We decided to make yet another excursion to Commercial Street since Adam needed to buy some shirts. Thankfully, the weather was a bit cooler then the day before, meaning I felt slightly less need to dissolve into a puddle of miserable sweat then before. (Almost.)

We began to starve and ducked into the Bay of Bengal restaurant, featuring a wide variety of bizarre sounding seafood dishes we had never seen before. I was tempted to stick it out but the others have less tolerance for dodgy sounding sea life then I do (imagine that!) and we adjourned to the Chung Wah Chinese restaurant.

Chinese food is an obsession in India, almost as common as Chinese food in the USA. And just like in the USA, Chinese food has been merrily bastardized here, mainly in the form of making everything even spicier and adding gloppy sauce wherever it may be required. Indians also love chop suey, which I can accurately report does not actually exist in China. The premier ChIndian dish is chili chicken, which is of course delicious: fried chicken bits in a bright red sinus crushing sauce that happily blends Indian and Chinese tastes and proclivities.

In any case, I ordered a pretty good Beijing chili fish dish, which came with a nice pungent gingery sauce, not too sweet. Chris had a tasty version of salt and pepper vegetables (another mostly Indian chinese dish), although the other dishes were fairly forgettable- mushy vegetables and noodles in the disturbingly titled White Sauce.

We left the restaurant and shopped a while longer, finally giving in as the usual suffocating afternoon heat set in.

One thing I would like to make clear: I love the weather here because it is *just like* the weather in Sacramento, down to the dry hot heat mixed with occasional, worrying intervals of torrential rain. I have also adapted to it (much like a desert dwelling monitor lizard or snake), making sure to retreat to the comfort and darkness of my rock (well, room) during the heat of the day. I am attempting to make the English see the wisdom of this with limited success.

Aneesa, Lorraine and I decided to go out for dinner, to the little Kerela place I'm partial to called the Clay Pot. It's just down the street, and we moved quickly, hoping the ominous sky wouldn't open and drench us with extremely dodgy rain. We got to the restaurant and were ushered to our seats by the impressively mustachioed owner. We decided on fish biryani and a prawn curry (dirt cheap) and settled in, watching enviously as the women next door picked apart a whole tandoori pomfret fish.

The food proved to be, in a word, spicy. Possibly hellaciously spicy. Now, this was wonderful news for me. I love spicy food. It's a genetic perogrative - I am the granddaughter of a man who takes pleasure in consuming Indian Ghost chilis whole as an interesting after dinner digestive. I also love driving my mother crazy as I ladle more and more bright red chili paste onto whatever carefully prepared curry or soup she's laid out for dinner - "Why do you DO that? You can't even taste it anymore! Stop it!" I smile and keep on adding it until my mouth achieves that just-east-of-numb feeling I crave. In other words I am Asbestos Mouth.

Unfortunately Aneesa and Lorraine have not torched their taste buds into happy oblivion like myself, and ended up unable to eat most of the food (though they did say it tasted good until the horrible, horrible pain began.) I thought it was great, the sweet prawns floating in a downright malicious curry sauce flavored with two separate varieties of chilis - red AND green! The biryani was great as well, red hot spice coated chunks of firm white fish immersed in sauce and slightly perfumed rice...delish.

It began raining as soon as we finished eating, and we hurried down the street with plastic bags over our heads like the horrible disfigured, until we managed to find a grocery store willing to sell us a brolly (as They say).

Later that evening, we decided to go out, deciding on Couch on Residency Road. Couch turned out to be true to its name - a very nicely designed mahogany and wood accented lounge with, well, lots of couches - and unfortunately was profoundly boring, thumpy dance music eliminating any chance of actual conversation. We left quickly, heading for the hookah lounge down the street the others had been to before. I wanted to dance goddamit and felt rather frustrated, but the feeling lifted slightly when I spotted a sausage-fat gecko stalking mosquitos by the bug zapper. (I couldn't catch him. Damn.)

Monday, March 17, 2008


Woke up nice and late - perfect. Aneesa was in need of some nice material for her custom made sari, so we decided to take a rickshaw over to Commercial Street, which is nothing if not full of fabric stores.

Indian fabrics are mesmerizing, generated in an obscene array of colors and patterns and textures. It's a marvel that they manage to manufacture so many different varieties, and insofar as I can tell, no woman steps out dressed the same as another, completely eliminating the western mortification of Wearing The Same Thing To The Party. No, Indian women dress in every color and pattern they damned well like - it's only the shape that seems to be set in stone.

Shopping for fabrics is a similarily dizzying experience, as the grinning and slightly oily salesman or woman unfolds and lays out linens at you at warp speed - "You like this color, you like this shape, you no", everything running together into some deeply confusing retail rainbow. Aneesa is much better at this then I am (I'm just looking for now...waiting until the last week to buy) and managed to find some nice material, sifting through the seeming oceans of possibilities to find something she liked.

We stopped for lunch at the Oasis seafood restaurant on Church Street, which was excellent. It's a big and dark and slightly formal looking place, but the prices were eminently reasonable - and the food was great. We began with chili squid, lightly fried squid rings tossed with onions, peppers, and chili sauce. Next was spicy and sweet tandoori crab, cooked for just the right amount of time, served in a generous portion (i spent a happy hour gnawing at its blackened little legs.) Finally, an excellent vegetable kadai curry, filled with mixed vegetables in a creamy and spicy curry sauce, washed down with some thick and buttery naan bread. Perfect. I intend to return soon.

Commercial Street turns into an oven during mid-day, as shoppers limp through the streets drenched in sweat, licking at soft-serve ice cream cones. Part of Commercial Street seems to be mainly Muslim, and you'll encounter veiled women leading children by the hand, tiny sparkling flashes of embroidery showing through their black clothing. (I especially like the women who wear neon-yellow or turquoise pants under the chador...I think that's what it's called.) In any case, everyone is hot and miserable and cold drinks are few and far between.....but we were saved by the Natural Ice Cream Shop.

This magnificent place sells all natural, coloring n' fake flavoring and cream and egg free ice cream, and it is amazing. I ordered sugarcane ginger and guava, and the flavors were intense, the ginger full of tangy, chewy spice and the guava sharp and pungent as the actual fruit. This stuff is reminiescent of gelato but a little icier and a little faster to melt - delicious stuff, and inexpensive too. They offer elaborate ice cream cakes, and I am sorely tempted to make up an excuse to get one. In the shape of a tiger.

In any case, we met up with Christian again (who was leaving that evening), Mira, and Sepna, who had been shopping as well. Christian amused us with a story about being unsubtly pinched by a pashmina seller in exchange for modeling some of his wares (but she got free pashminas out of it, no?.) After a stop at Coffee Day, we returned to Katari - it's not worth moving around in the heat of the day.

We had plans to go out on the town that night but unfortunately nature intervened, in the form of a God Hates Us sort of torrential rain. It began with a few innocous little spatters then suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a movie-set esque flood, pounding viciously on the ceiling and windows, quickly and efficiently cutting the power. We sat in the dark, discontented for a bit, then decided Goddammit We Were Going To Go Out. Unfortunately rickshaws weren't running and cabs weren't interested either, and none of us was walking.

Everyone was hungry, and I decided I could really use a Diet Coke (my one Western addiction) and some chewing gum, maybe take a look at the destruction outside. I put on my cowboy boots and took along an umbrella. Completely under-dressed unfortunately. I discovered our street had turned into a churning, muddy ocean, trash and god knows what floating along the currents. (Chris told me he saw a severed chicken foot float by that night, which I do not disbelieve.) I tried hopping from rock to rock for a bit, and almost stayed dry until a car charged by, sloshing piss water almost up to my knees. The battle was lost now and I decided to go on, sideswiping abandoned bicycles and melancholy, submerged motorbikes, waving at the packs of laughing men sipping tea underneath their dripping awnings. I made it to Thippasandra road, up to my knees in India brand Toxic Waste and decided to turn back, but not before buying some biscuits and chewing gum for Christian by candlelight, dripping water from seemingly every pore.

The others decided to make a break for the bar but I stayed back. I'd had enough water for that night. Apparantly they made it but I'm not sure any stiff drink is enough to compensate for being transformed into a drowned rat.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


This was a very odd day but I will attempt to tell you about.

I woke up feeling pissy for some reason (oh wait, like every other day), a feeling only intensified by the disarray of the office. A few guys were sitting in the room with the computer I use glowering and looking irritated, and I found it hard to ignore them as I attempted to research my damn world music page or whatever. I sent a few emails then dis-contentedly went off to wander, mainly because the cleaning lady kept on tapping me on the shoulder and requesting bubble gum NOW.

I encounter Louise in the lobby, who was attempting to rally people to go to the India Rocks Megadeth concert - the historical very first time Megadeth has ever played in india (what distinction!). She asked me if I cared to join her. Now, my life philosophy is generally to stumble blindly into weirdness whenever weirdness presents itself, and this seemed pretty much ideal. I said yes yes yes. We trolled the office for a bit looking for other takers, found none, and went off with our Indian coworkers. Since they both had motorbikes, Louise and I took on the back of theirs, all the way to the Bangalore Palace Grounds.

Now, I thought I would be scared shitless by this travel arrangement but to my complete surprise it proved to be exhilarating, my hair blowing every which way as weaved dangerously through rickshaws and buses and innocent pedestrians, guys on motorbikes yelling god knows what to me in the crush of traffic. It was such an effortless way to get around, forgoing the usual torturous process of negotiating rickshaw fares or being crammed into unnatural and miserable positions in a sweat-infused bus - this is the way to travel. If I lived here I would get a motorbike. And update my organ donor card.

We stopped briefly to get a huge amount of food for 100 rupees (nothing whatsoever), then arrived at the grounds, a dusty and slightly apocalyptic stretch of nothing in particular. The crowd was rather Woodstock esque, huge numbers of Indian males in their best metal t-shirts lounging around on the grass, sucking down alcohol and smoking copious amounts of weed (you cannot bring such items into the concert.) We parked ourselves on the grass next to a group of young gentlemen smoking up merrily away in an abandoned auto rickshaw, watching a group of wild horses wander among the punk kids.

A small fracas ensued when it turned out I could not take my dinky little camera into the concert grounds because I was not Official Photography Staff, but I managed to convince them to let me in when I threw away the batteries. A large and very drunk Indian man convinced himself I was staring at him and began posturing inexplicably at Louise who, he judged by her pen and paper, was somehow running this whole thing. "Why the fuck can't you bring in booze, maaann?" he slurred at her, and they began arguing until we managed to pull her off.

The concert itself was one of those festival format things that go on for too long, but we found a spot on the foam floor to sit down and watch some Indian metal bands rock out, which they actually did serviceably well. This was interesting enough for a while, but I was beginning to grow slightly concerned by the realization that Louise and I were one of about 20 or so actual women present, and two of four Western women present, which meant the stares were rife and only getting worse since everyone was very very trashed. Now, this is normal, expected behavior at USA metal concerts, but those usually tend to feature more, you know, women. Another issue was that the official sponsor was Royal Challenge whiskey, which meant whiskey was 1. very cheap and 2. very available.

In any case, Louise and I went looking for drinks and found our drunken buddy yet again, who immediately began the argument where it left off. Things went to a head when he called Louise a "bitch" and she immediately went off, smacking him around a bit while the security guards giggled and the guy's friends attempted to pull them apart. She gave in and we went in the other direction and determined that,yeah, it would be a good idea to leave. There was too much rockin' going on.

I returned to the villa after yet another awesome night-time motorbike ride - the parks look great lit up by streelights - and had a nice chicken dinner at the villa. Then we put together some half-assed plans to go out to a swank bar called the 13th Floor, which ended up wanting a 400 rupee cover charge - hell no. And so we ended up at the Guzzlers Inn once again, sucking down pitchers of beer and trying not to think about the stickiness of the floor.


I woke up curiously bright eyed and bushy tailed. Youth is nice. In any case, we went off to work in the usual fashion - I was feeling good and less socially inept then usual!

Began work on the world music section which I have been assigned. I found some interesting information about a world music festival in the Malaysian rain forest I might like to cover. I happen to really enjoy world music so this works out well for me.

Since the office was being moved upstairs and thus in a state of profound disarray, Aneesa and I decided to leave early, adjourning for lunch at Beijing Bites. We had an interesting but delicious tropical chicken salad (pineapple can be a nice addition!) and some merely okay fried mushrooms and chili chicken. Finding a rickshaw thankfully proved to be less traumatic then usual. We hung out at Crosswords for a bit (the Nice Bookstore) and I perused yet more awesome Indian cookbooks.

We had decided to go to South Indies for dinner - a rather famous vegetarian restaurant apparently run by a 19 year old - (gosh i feel so useless) - but unfortunately we were completely unable to find it despite being repeatedly assured it was totally located on 100 Ft Road. We finally gave up, got out, and despite the protests of the rickshaw driver who TOTALLY KNEW WHERE IT WAS, went to the Bombay Post restaurant instead.

This place had an old Bollywood theme and was amusingly affected - I loved the doorman with a full twirly mustache and some sort of jodhpur afflicted safari outfit. The servers wore either glittery naval-blue uniforms or turbans, and some paan guys (chewy spice things wrapped up in leaves...hard to explain) waited at attention. The place specializes in Bombay style kebabs and tandoori, and the menu was salivation worthy. The kitchen was open and you could see the guys with their big white hats skewering delicious animal flesh upon silver rods and charring it over the fires. I took a few photos but they turned out crap. Most of my photos do.

I chose the stuffed tandoori broccoli, which sounds bizarre but ended up delicious. Broccoli was stuffed with paneer, nuts and pomegranate seeds, coated in a spicy flour, then roasted for a bit. This was super rich and very delicious, the charred and slightly bitter flavor of the broccoli playing nicely off the cheese.

We also tried the Bombay mutton kebabs, delicious chunks of meat cooked to a melty consistency with a thick coating of tandoori spices. This was served with super salty sambar (which I have not and never shall learn to like) and some delicious butter-coated garlic naan. The others got a few decadent looking paneer infused curry, and I did try their hyper spicy and delicious tandoori mushroom "salad".

The others wanted dessert, so we went to the Corner House ice cream shop, which proved disappointing. I passed, but the others claimed their chocolate ice cream tasted rather like soap. This didn't seem to stop the contented looking Indian youths sucking down Black Forest milkshakes (a national obsession)from patronizing the place well into the wee hours.

We decided to walk back, passing by the Leela Palace, probably the most swish hotel in Bangalore. It's a glorious and moodily lit edifice that seems to go on forever, with enough room to host seemingly every over-privileged potentate who swings through town. (Oddly enough it overlooks a particularly nawstry sort of shantytown, which presumably people can contemplate as they sip their tumblers of extremely expensive whiskey. Welcome to India.)

We walked down some back alleys which were deeply disorienting, mostly because there were lots and lots of stray dogs displaying entirely too much interest in our whereabouts. The stray dogs here generally are healthy and deeply unafraid of people, which is good for them but discouraging for me, mostly because I don't have a rabies vaccination and I do not like the idea of things biting me. (Or dying from convulsions and foaming at the mouth and God knows what else because I pissed off Fido.) Needless to say I tried to walk quickly.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

day 11

Woke up nice and early. After the usual waiting for a very long time for Adam to complete his ablutions (what does he do in there?), we went across the street for coffee then went to work.

Yet more CD reviews: good thing I like doing them. Thelonious Monk and Peter Frampton this time along with a healthy dose of Whitesnake. (Whitesnake's early album = quite good. Surpising.)

Went for my usual lunch at Beijing Bites - roast chicken with vegetables this time. I love Chinese roast chicken with its usual little hint of sesame flavor. This was served in a curry sauce and was pretty darn good. Unfortunately the usual communication errors meant I got a soup I did not want, but this was resolved. Mostly.

I grabbed a rickshaw home and the driver took me on quite possible the longest route ever - a pretty impressive feat. I was exhuasted and took a brief nap, trying to blank out the sound of the dogs outside (success!) then woke and went for yet another walk. Walking down the street in India is a much more dangerous and exciting process then in other countries - sort of like playing Frogger in all too real-life. You have to develop nerves of absolute steel unless you plan to spend the majority of your life standing like a frightened deer on parking islands - one must learn to simply walk into traffic and pray. I'm getting better at this.

After a decent dinner of caulifower and daal (I passed on the egg curry. Eggs terrify me.), we all set out for The Beach, the aforementioned silly theme dance club of a few nights before. Wednesday was Ladies Night, which meant we members of the fairer sex got to drink free free free. I immediately cashed in my chips for a nice whiskey and hung out.

I proved to be pretty popular that night, cadging free drinks (that I didn't even need) off a guy hanging out at the bar and bouncing between seemingly everyone present, including some fetching guys from Cameroon and a guy who's apparantly a club events coordinator. (Good to know!) Christian desired another whiskey and I told her I'd obtain one: true to my word, I returned with a free one in under ten minutes. I should start timing myself.

Aforementioned events coordinator invited us to an afterparty, and although the others declined, James, Christian and I decided hey what the hell let's go. (I justify these things by calling them cultural experiences.) The event coordinators buddy, Manu (I think) drove us in his rather swank car, although he kept on calling me "Fame" insead of "Faine." "Seriously, it's Faine, not fame." "Ah, but you will be famous someday!" "For what? Being irriating?" etc etc all

We stopped at an extremely nice house belonging to one of their friends, waiting carefully outside for the cops to leave. (Apparantly they like to spend their time collecting bribes from partiers rather then stopping crimes. One is more lucrative.) We went in and I, being me I guess, immediately began to mingle. Someone poured me an extremely generous Smirnoff which I pretended to drink (I go so far and no further), talking to almost everyone present. Most of the Indians had California connections, went to school there, or were going to school there, and they immediately lit up when I said I was from near San Francisco. I found out one particular guy (who was wandering around shirtless in a top hat and going HELLYOO) stays at the Clift Hotel, right across from the Adagio, where we always stay in San Francisco. Bizarre.

In any case, following my dad's eternal command to Collect Business Cards At All Costs, I racked up a nice collection and put down everyone's numbers - I now know who to call if I am in the mood for some wacky hijinks in Bangalore now. Christian was feeling poorly, and we left around 3 AM in a taxi, which was air conditioned and civilized. I think I am done with the damn autorickshaws.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

day ten

I apologize: had a pretty boring day yesterday.

Got up early and went for my usual diet coke seeking stroll. Unfortunately it was too early even for India (but not too early for the air-raid like siren from the paper mill to sound), so I returned home empty handed. And thirsty.

We got to work and I proceeded to do my usual CD reviews, though I adjourned to Juice Junction for a nutritious lunch of bhel puri. I really can't overstate how delicious this stuff is: like savory cereal with a hit of tamarind and spices and tomato mmm mm crack. Also discovered an odd looking Italian place next door featuring pizza and (gasp) beef steak. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

Aneesa and I left, stopping off at Crosswords again - the schmancy bookstore on 100 Ft Road. I did find the Madphur Jeffries cookbook I lust over and an awesome book on Indianized English I'll definitely pick up before I go. We walked back along the road (nice cool evening) and even managed to avoid getting splattered with something that was probably shit like the day before. You learn your dodge reflex real quick around here.

We arrived back in time for dinner - tasty chicken curry, chili fried chicken, appams (a kind of rice pancake.) Everyone else wanted to go see Sweeny Todd, but I was feeling bored and exhausted and decided to stay behind and sleep early. This is easier said then done in India, since after-dinner time means: Bollywood videos played next door at eardrum shattering volumes, vicious Hindi-English arguments coming from God knows where, international jets taking off from the nearby HAL airport and dogs engaging in vicious rabid gang wars. And yet I managed to fall asleep. One thing: India has cured my insomnia.

Indian women are fed up with the staring epidemic as well. Now, the staring thing has been bothering me a lot less then the other women in this program. Honestly, I find staring less irritating then the dirty comments-and-following bullshit that American men are prone too. At least the Indian men generally don't have the cojones to actually 1. approach you or 2. make vivid commentary on your arse. (This is usually done from moving vehicles so you cannot actually whump them.) I found the Chinese guys even worse, to be honest: they'd follow you, make commentary, stalk you, approach in packs and ask for pictures....thus far, Indian men haven't pulled that junk.

However, the situation apparantly sucks for Indian women, who experience the same sort of "eve teasing" (term for this stuff) but don't get the same attention that wronged foreign women do. Along these lines, there's the movement, which seeks to give Indian women the right to wear whatever the hell they want without being accused of being a cheap slutwhore. I fully support this and wish I could have attended the march last weekend. (Unfortunately I had no frickin' clue how to get a rickshaw there.)

From my own extremely limited observation, Indian women are in an odd place rights-wise. When comparing China and India, one thing that leaps out at me is that Chinese women are much more visible in daily life. Chinese women are running stores and business, working in restaurants and hotels, and generally are extremely visible on the street. They're very vocal in daily life as well: I saw many Chinese women get up in the grill of a man they felt had wronged them in any way (including one memorable incident where a very small female shopkeeper went at a guy she felt stiffed her with fists and teeth until the usual rubbernecking crowd pulled her off.) Chinese women also dress in a very independent-minded, Western way: tight tops, high heels, crazy hairstyles, weird jewerly. Admittedly this is much more in evidence in Beijing then in, say, Xi'an or Xinjiang, but it's definitely noticeable.

Not so in India. Indian women just aren't filling these public roles in the same sort of obvious way, and they're definitely not on evidence on the streets or in public life the same way they are in China. Women do work high powered jobs here and (obviously) have attained the very highest levels in politics, but the average woman does seem to be leading a much more closeted and traditional life here. You do see women wearing Western dress here, but its generally in the fanciest malls and at clubs, usually with a boyfriend keeping an eye out for them.

Still: I've been reading Indian Cosmopolitan magazine (we have many in the lounge here), and the articles are all very womens-rights oriented and sex friendly - hookups, controlling men, advancing in your career, and so forth. Now I know Cosmo is not exactly a barometer of women's cultural status, but its mere existence and popularity must mean something. Are things different for women in Mumbai and Delhi? Is Bangalore, despite its wealth and multitude of job oppurtunitis, just more traditional then the other two big Indian cities? Hm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day ten

Woke up and wandered down the street to have my nutrient filled morning Diet Coke. It's curious: I'm used to India now. I walk down the street and I am curiously unmoved by the beggers and giant bullocks with tasseled horns and sharp smelling cilantro sellers: they're part of daily life now. i guess one can grow accustomed to anything.

In any case, we left for work at a respectable hour and did not even get ripped off by the rickshaw guy, which is always a refreshing change. I'm beginning to enjoy the morning rickshaw ride, motoring by the mediterrenean-colored military housing and the morning markets and all the varied and colorful sari shops and of course the dangers: the Stinky Bridge and the road that isn't paved and fills your lungs with a delicious mixture of silica dust and exhaust. (Slap your pashmina over your mouth and pray.)

I reviewed more CD's and did some research for the world music page, which I apparantly am overseeing. Lots of good possibilities there.

Hopped a rickshaw home and went for another of my long and aimless walks. The villa really is in a nice portion of town, leafy, affluent, and quiet. I found myself in some sort of cluster of private schools - Montessori is inexplicably huge here - then wandered among some apartment complexes and leafy green parks. Women gather to gossip in the parks and men gather outside the tea joints to do the same as the sun goes down.

It was Mira's birthday, so we had plans to go out. I had a delicious pineapple and some cereal and strawberries for dinner, then we went over to Mocha, the same somewhat bizarre Euro-ish dessert bar we went to the first day. We hung out there and chatted, while I amused myself by watching tragically hip young Indian guys wearing bandannas and creative facial hair smoke shisha (hookah.) They brought out an incredibly huge slice of chocolate cake for Mira (which was pretty much half a cake) inducing sugar rushes in everyone but me. I may be the one person on the planet who dislikes chocolate cake. I did have a nice Moroccan mint tea.

We adjourned to Taika, yet another covert Bangalore dance club. This place was billed curiously as a "spa bar" which pretty much meant lots of blue and white accents and many potentially dangerous little flickery candles. Drinks were expensive and the clientele was upscale: rich Indian businessmen in tailored rocker-wear outfits sipping Merlot, giddy looking businesspeople from England and the USA, and an interesting contigent of totally zonked looking Asian girls. (One just kind of stood there and swayed in a space cadet way for hours.)

I ordered an overpriced whiskey and sat on the curious bed-esque seating for a while. However, this became progressively more awkward as quite a few of the guys at the bar were staring at me then making giggly wink wink nudge nudge commentary to his buddies. Since I don't understand any Kannada or Hindi or Tamil or whatever they were speaking, I like to pretend they're saying things like "Oh, what an excellent taste in clothing you possess, madame! I salute you!" but I suspect in fact they're saying something akin to "lol you know them american chix r nasstttyyy you feel me bro hur hurr." Sigh.

One particularly impressive specimen had long black hair and a stripey Frenchish t-shirt. He would look at me pointedly, toss his hair like he was starring in a Herbal Essences commercial (he's got the urge!) then take a suggestive sip of hi wine. Not that this wasn't amusing, but one can only take so much.

So I decide that screw my lack of talent, I was going to get up and dance. Tragically, the music was that kind of thumpy alien-noises sort of house music that is only attractive if you're on Ecstacy or from Mars, but I made the best of it, attempting to avoid occasional pitfalls such as pervy old English guys attempting to get down wit da bidness or whatever and aforementioned cracked out Asian girls. I also accidentally sustained a minor cigarette burn. (does this make me a skank? do accidental cigarette burns make you a skank? does anyone know?)

The others got sick of avoiding cigarette-related injuries and large drunk sweaty people and got up to go to the other room. I however was kind of enjoying myself and decided to plunge back into the fray, after setting myself a half serious challenge: if those guys were gonna stare so openly, I should at least get a free drink out of the deal.

So I did. I spent a bit on the dance floor, some guy wandered over - the same one who'd shown us to Taika's covertly hidden door actually - and began giving me the universal Guy at A Club spiel. "Where are you from?" "What's your name?" "I am very highly paid and successful! And drunk!" I smiled and nodded until he offered to buy me a drink, successfully scored a not cheap whiskey and coke, then continued to smile and nod a while more as he hit yet more of the neccesary Spiel high points (low points?) - "Do you think I'm sexay?" "Phone number?""Wanna go out for dinner?" "Can I hold your bootiful hand?" I continued to play along until an oppurtune moment hit then acted very guilty and put out about the tragedy of having to return to my friends, but maybe I'll see ya around sometime, you never know! Then I skedaddled.

I suppose this means that I am a. going to hell and b. taking cruel advantage of drunken, horny men, but I see it more as revenge for open-mouthed drooly staring. I might as well make it slightly more expensive for them. Anyway, I hauled back over to my friends who were sitting somewhere nice and quiet and civilized. Mira wondered if we could score some free drinks for her as well, but I don't know if he was going to fall for that one a second time.

It hit 11:30 and as usual in Bangalore, we were hustled with great haste out of the club. My new boyfriend stumbled on by but I don't think he saw me. I may also have been hiding behind Chris.

Okay, I probably am going to hell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

day nine

To my complete surprise, I woke up feelin' fine and curiously hangoverless. Being 19 is good sometimes I guess. Pipa, Adam, Jimmy, Claire and I all decided to go on a small expedition to cruise the bookshop area of town and see the Botantical Garden, and so we set out. After yet more irritating rickshaw negotations (no, we do not want to see a shop on the way, go die), we made it to the area near the City Market. This was a dusty, crowded, and rather unpleasant street specializing in selling technical manuals and software guides. It was rather like the wastebin of silicon valley, For-Dummies guides to Linux and Auto-Cad meeting their maker after failing to find US owners. The book shops also sold huge quantitis of photo-copied and illicit copies of American best-sellers. Too bad John Grisham makes me catatonic.

The bookstalls soon gave way to fabric stores, and then we found ourselves at a busy and extremely dangerous looking roundabout. It was hot as hell outside, but Claire proposed we walked to the gardens. I was skeptical, remebering my earlier in the week Bataan Death March, so we checked with a cop, who told us that yep, it was 4 km away, and we really really didn't want to walk. The cops here are always impressive - usually tall and brick shit house like, wearing big white hats and sunglasses and sparkling belt buckles, almost always bearing bristling, forceful looking moustaches. He barked down a rickshaw for us and, leaning in and looking mean, sorted the drivers out for us quickly and efficiently. I am now going to ask cops to handle the rickshaw drivers for me whenever possible.

We made it to the garden and had a nice stroll. It's a lovely green place, built in the late 1700's and modeled on an English park - they even imported a glass house and some real live English gardeners. The park is full of strolling families and dogs and gooshy in love couples, walking hand in hand under stinking jackfruit trees and obscene sprays of tropical flowers, down paths filled with palm trees in perfect alignment. There's a very large rock formation in the center of the park, baking gently in the afternoon sun, and we climbed up it to discover a majestic view of a buring trash-pit and some goats. One should not go into life with expectations.

We bought some icy water at a concessions stand nearby. I had to feint for a while at the fridge since it was covered in angry bees, but one of the shop-keepers grabbed a water for me. I listened to a man carry out a protracted investigation over the sugr and fat content of the ice cream. Weight insecurity has come to India. (Lose weight now! Bollywood Body Sculpting! Low fat ghee! Fat-B-Gone sugar free kulfi!)

We desceneded again to the grass, and I decided it was time for a nap, wandering masculine eyes be damned. I flopped down in the luscious green grass and was perfectly content, watching up-side down as packs of teenage girls dressed in technicolor sarees strolled by, giggling underneath their pashminas. A few stray puppies fought in a half-hearted manner nearby a family of picnickers and (like everywhere else) an older sister tortured her younger siblings with a volleyball. The others got up to go and I reluctantly joined them, returning the smiles of a couple of good looking boys who had splayed down on the grass nearby me. (Indian men are cute.)

I found a very nice technicolor butterfly and chased it for a while. I think my fellow tourists were more mortified then the Indians, who probably just found it amusing. Or assumed I was crazy like everyone else.

We found another rickshaw after some fighting. I noticed too late that the meter was suspiciously shiny and new, and my suspicions were confirmed as it began racking up the rupees incredibly quickly. The driver dropped us off on Residency Road near the main shopping area and flatly demanded the incredible price of 170 rupees for what should have been a 60 rupee trip. We all got a bit puffed up and talked him down, and he finally relented when Adam whipped out his camera and began looking for his license so he could photograph it. (More fun and adventure!)

It was almost 4:00 and we were starving, so we went to a nearly deserted Northern Indian restaurant. The waiter initally said the kitchen was closed but relented, and the others ordered tons of food - biryani, chicken do-piaza, roti. I was feeling oddly un hungry and just had some Chinese cauliflower - a bit greasy for me. The place was however air conditioned.

We trekked down to our beloved discount whiskey store,and I found salvation: an ice cream joint. I ordered an excellent Indian treat: fruit salad topped with strawberry ice cream and those little crunchy breath freshener seeds that appear at the end of every Indian meal. This was delicious, and I ate it while sitting at the open air bar, a fat and rather drunk Indian man smiling serenely at me, occasionally hitting the candy seller next to him when he stared at me too long.

We braved the shiny and new mall to check the movie showing times - no dice - although I was impressed by the lavish food court and the various Indian sweets vendors vying for space with Hugo Boss and Staples. I was tired and decided to go back while the others tried another theater.

Thinking I was smart, I got a cop to hail me a rickshaw, but unfortunately, I found out about a mile and a half later the driver actually had no clue where he was taking me. In fact, he was taking me the exact opposite direction from where I wanted to go, highlighted by the fact that he was asking every other rickshaw driver we idled next to where my destination was. I got fed up and got him to stop, and after a brief but satisfying argument, I gave him 10 rupees and told him to fuck off, although he kept on pleading that he totally knew where he was going. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and I had no clue where I was, so in lieu of other options, I walked for a while in search of a decent rickshaw driver. I finally found one (although his rickshaw was slow as molasses and he had to stop for gas), but we finally got home.

I had some chicken and yet more pineapple for dinner, then stayed up to watch the startlingly bad "Small Soldiers" in an exhausted stupor with the others. I live a life of danger and glamour.

day eight

I slept in scandalously late. I am one of those obnoxious human beings who likes to wake up early. When the sun hits my window, I'm up and out of bed and ready to DO STUFF OH BOY. This is repulsive and I apologize. After a nutrient filled breakfast of strawberry cornflakes and half a pineapple (they are not very large pineapples), I decided to go for a walk.

Another thing about me: I like to walk. I don't place much importance on going anywhere in particular (this is beside the point). I prefer to aim myself in one direction and keep on going until a. I get tired, b. I find myself menaced by drug lords and rottweilers in skid row or c. i am attacked by a cow (likely here.) With that spirit in mind, I walked out the door down Thippasandra Road and up 100ft road for quite a ways indeed.

It was a hot dry day - the weather here reminds me of the weather in Sacramento in summer, hot, dusty, dry and moistureless, but with a leafy green spray of foliage that somehow makes everything okay. I walked past fancy multi colored houses that almost reminded me of Cuba, and various supermarkets packed with ladies bartering viciously over okra. I stepped into Crosswords, a Barnes and Noble-esque oasis of calm and air conditioning from the street. They also had a fabulous bathroom. One learns the location of every good bathroom with toilet paper and minimal insect life fast when traveling in Asia.

I kept on moving (all i know to do most of the time), hopping over gaping holes in the pavement and evading eager rickshaw drivers, chaat vendors, luxury cars and various begging children. I found my way to a luxe part of 100 Ft Road, full of shiny Dockers emporiums (they love Dockers here) and custom pillow emporiums or something. I suppose you can measure the economic level of a country if there are custom pillow emporiums. India has many.

I was hungry and decided to splash out on the rather fancy North Gate punjabi restaurant at the top of one of the shopping malls. The space was lovely, accented in white and cream and profusely air conditioned, and I enjoyed chomping on air-crisp papadums and electric cilantro chutney as I waited for my food. I am Southern and I love okra, sliminess and curious shape be damned; it is repulsive but it travels in my blood. As a result, I adore bhindi (okra) masala, and the version here was masterful: sauteed with spices and a bit of tomato and onion, the okra retained its vibrant green color and satisfying snap without too much grease: delicious. At 175 rupees, the dish seemed expensive to my currency converted eyes - but that is another common travel trap, as that came to about four or five bucks in US dollars.

It is embarassing to see well-off foreigners getting into down and dirty arguments with a shopkeeper over one rupeee off some knick-knack to me. Yes, they are out to screw you, yes, it probably is not Morally Okay, but let us get some perspective: they are screwing you out of a couple of rupees, which amounts to the pennies most Americans commonly throw away because they are sick of looking at them. Surely you can accept getting upsold a little bit on a Taj Mahal model. Perhaps some of the profit will go to the sad eyed poverty stricken childen of the shopkeeper, just like the ones that make you feel guilty on TV. Or maybe it will go to beer. I'm not saying you can predict these things.

Anyway, I was very tired indeed by this point and limped back home. Chris and I popped out again to change some money and buy yet another pineapple. I wonder if one can OD on pineapples.

I napped a bit and then we decided to go out again to the Beach, which was rumored to have (gasp) dancing. In recent months, Bangalore has instituted a moral prohibiton on dancing, perhaps attempting to avoid the definitely-not-moral practice of freak dancin' from invading their territory. (It's too late for China. The Chinese have taken to the bump and grind like they have been doing it forever. Perhaps they have.)

Now, I am one of the worst dancers on the entire planet. I still remember the look of confusion and agony on the face of the charming Cuban I met at a Beijing dance club when he realized that I really could not be taught despite his good natured attempts. A friend of mine said once, after witnessing my whiskey fueled attempts at getting down, that I dance like a "crazed cavewoman" and I presume she is correct. However, I'm an eager person and I happen to possess little shame, and I will continue trying to dance in foreign countries. Even if James Brown is sending tears from heaven, becaue I do not bring the funk but I taketh the funk away.

Anyway, Indians love them some theme clubs, which meant that we were sitting on unstable tables made of coconuts on top of a nice bedding of sand, which happily migrated between my toes. (Son of a bitch!) But we had a good time anyway: the owner sent us funky tasting tequila shots, the music wasn't half bad, and to my immense relief, no one else at the club could dance either!

So we got really drunk (you may find pretty much all my travel stories end this way), and we managed to sway out to a rickshaw and find our way home. I was the least drunk of them all and apologized profusely to the rickshaw driver for the interesting commentary he was recieving from the back. He seemed understanding and didn't even rip us off. God speed, man.

We returned to the villa and proceeded to get even drunker. Then we went up to the roof becaus Chris kept on insisting it was Very Important through a whiskey induced haze, but managed not to fall off, which was very surprising. Getting drunk in foreign countries is highly satisfying and I reccomend it to everyone.