Friday, April 18, 2008


Woke up way too early to catch the car to the IITC Maurya hotel - where my tour was due to embark from. Sheila insisted on booking me the luxe tour, as she noted, (speaking softly and conspiratorily), "I could have saved you money on the cheaapp tour, but I believe there are often people on drugs on those types of things." I am unable to argue.

I disembarked at the IITC's opulent lobby, and settled myself on a super-plush armchair to await the car. The little brochure and the man upfront had led me to believe that tea was free from the lobby's restaurant, so I wandered in and ordered a cup (silly me.) I drank it quickly and was displeased to discover that a Maurya Hotel seal of approval cup of tea costs 280 rupees - I didn't even have that much cash in my wallet. With no other options, I whipped out my credit card.

At that moment, the large, sweating man who occupied (with entirety) the table next door boomed, "What, you pay for a cup of tea with a credit card?" I shrugged, embarrassed, and he made a chopping motion with his hand - "Psh! I will cover it for you! Sit down, sit down, I am Bollywood!" He was wearing a vest and nothing under it, since he claimed, "I sit here, drink tea and coffee all night, I get terribly hot...." - (I disbelieve he was only drinking tea.) He insisted I take down his contact info in my book, for "I am very big in Agra! They LOVE me in Agra." I shall have to google him later and find out if he is actually Bollywood or simply a drunk man with a considerable amount of money, but I did get a free cup of tea out of the situation and that is good enough for me. (I am beginning to think I should write a brief guide to scoring free drinks in foreign countries.)

In any case, the bus finally arrived and I managed to drag myself away from my benefactor (the waiter looking devastatingly embarassed the entire time), making it out to my seats. I began chatting with the two people in front of me, who turned out to be FedEx pilots on a brief swing through New Delhi: naturally they had to see the Taj. They had traveled just about everywhere due to the nature of their job, and I enjoyed listening to them talk casually about Morocco and Dubai and Italy, as I gave them a few tips on India. The scenery outside as we moved to Delhi gave me a curious sense of deja-vu: it reminded me of nothing more then the I-80 route from Sacramento San Francisco, the same kind of dry lands scrub and occasional oases - though of course I-80 features considerably less camels, elephants, and tonga horse carts. Moving vehicles, however, put me straight to sleep, and I dozed under my lovely new red and pink pashmina the entire rest of the way.

Our first stop was Akbar's brilliant red mausolem, which emerges in grand Mughal splendor from the flat and unprepossessing desert land that accompanies it. It was getting very hot by me and we disembarked, panting, from the bus, shouldering aside the hordes of eager bangle and figurine sellers who pounced upon us. We walked up the wide avenue to the mausolem, all set off in red and white tiles, passing through the gateway which was decorated in beautifully written passages from the Quaran. As you pass through the gateway, you have sudden and gorgeous exposure to the sight-lines the Mughal emperors must have had: the crisp green gardens spreading out from the water-canals that pointed right to the center of the tomb and the cenotaph within, herds of dainty antelope playing and fighting among the flowers and palm trees beside.

The mausoleum itself: almost heart breaking. I have always had a slightly embarassing and highly romantic ability to be moved by architecture: this was a stellar example of such. You walk through the richly decorate entry-way and pass through a dark tunnel into the inner sanctum, which is, surprisingly, almost totally undecorated but for a black cenotaph and an ornate and wired incense burner hanging directly above. Even the tourists go a bit quiet inside, although the acoustics are incredible, as a man who called out a bit of the Quaran showed us: sound bouncing off in melodic, dense waves from the geometrically outlined ceiling. Pigeons called to each other quietly from the rafters and tiny half-seen bats chased from end of the roof to the other - (you may never be completely alone in eternity, you will always have companions: tourists for Akbar by day, and bats and pigeons to see him through the night.) The tomb is supposed to be an elegy and not a poem (as the saying goes), and I think that is an apt description of it as there might possible be. You walk into it and feel sad and melancholy, but not over so - you are reminded, merely, of how terribly short things can be.

So back on the bus.

Next stop was the Agra Fort, where the poor Shah, builder of the Taj Mahal, was impriosoned by his unappreciative son to the end of his days. The scale, of course, is majestic, red sandstone walls bursting out of the plains and up and away, and it's a curious, tropical experience to walk through the ramp and up the red gates, entering an inner sanctum of green palm trees and sweating benches. But the red does not and cannot go on forever: when you enter the place of the Shah and his harem's imprisonment, everything turns into startling white marble, evocative of the Taj itself, worked over nicely with lapis-lazuli and wire and precious stones. You stand at the entrance to the complex and look over the gorgeous, geometric gardens of red and green that Babur himself was so partial too, looking right into the bedrooms and living chambers of the Shah and his women. (But he only had eyes for Mumtatz, which is what they say.)

The Taj can be viewed across the lazy blue river from the screens, can be viewed from between white columns and delicately carved white marble walls. (But just the back portion, which was in my opinion more then salubrious enough though viewed from distance.) Although you can not go onto it, you can see out onto the porch where the Shah himself died, eyes fixed on the Taj Mahal (I presume) until he finally took it upon himself to expire - this is another tragedy written in architecture, and it is as beautiful and lonesome as I had imagined.

We broke for lunch at the fanciest hotel in Agra, whose name unfortunately escapes me. It was refreshing enough: we disembarked and walked through a lovely garden delicately spritzed with a fountain, and I even saw a slinky brown mongoose disappearing into the geraniums. The lobby was all engraved white marble and pomp, of course reminescent of the Taj itself. Even the buffet lunch was excellent: I had some unusual and tasty jackfruit curry and the only reputable Chinese food (mushrooms in black bean sauce) I have encountered here in India, along with a tasty sort of preserved fruit thing serving as an Indian dessert. We hung out and chatted in the profoundly air conditioned air: next was the Taj.

You approach the Taj up a rather dusty and tourist infested path, then are dumped from your bus and made to board another one (as tourists cannot be expected to walk any distance over a quarter of a mile.) This takes you to the gates of the complex, where a grim faced security woman pats down sensitive parts of your body and ushers you inside. You walk down a long long red stone gallery until you reach a gateway: the Taj is before you.

It is a tragic cliche but the Taj truly is the most perfect piece of architecture the world has ever generated: it cuts through the sky in white marble perfection, juxtaposed prettily against the blue afternoon. It is entirely true that "no part of it displeases the eye" - you comtemplatively scan it hoping for some sort of human flaw, some discordant component, and find none. Tinkling, aqua-colored canals run from the gateway to the doorway of the Taj itself, tracing off in geometric water-ways all throughout the gardens - which are shot through with flowers and palms. (No gazelle here, sadly.)

It was of course deadly hot and we slipped on foot covers to walk out on the white porch to enter the sanctum within, laughing Indian tourists in brilliant red and orange sarees padding barefoot over the super-heated marble floors. The inner sanctum itself is another elegy: blinding light giving way to a subtle, halting darkness, a screen of beautifully wrought wire surrounding the cenotaphs of the Shah and Mumtaz. The screen around the tombs is decorated with rainbow colored images of flowers and vines, none exactly the same - the flower opens and closes and opens again in close sucession (life proceeding too in endless circles, Hindu or no Hindu, we will meet again someday.) The usual dark incense burner hangs here too in quiet outer space, accomapanied as usual by softly gurgling pigeons.

I walked out into the open air again and tracked the aqua-blue canals back down to the gateway, encountering a man who claimed to be the Taj's own gardener, and a blushing young Indian man with his English relations who wanted me to pose in a picture with him. (I always say yes. Why do I always say yes?) I made it back to the red stone gateway and watched the view for a happy 15 minutes or so, a big and jubilant Indian family squabbling good humoredly behind me. (This was their monument too, and anyway, their Hindi accented nattering gave the place a sort of life that might be denied it otherwise.) Then we got back on the bus.

So what did I think of the Taj? I am entirely happy I saw it and entirely happy I took it upon myself to awaken early and haul all the way to Agra: it is truly as perfect as I had dreamed of it being. It is of course slightly smaller then I had expected but I find that that only adds to its beauty: it is just overstated enough, its beauty functioning on the calm scale that most truly beautiful things manage. And yes, it is sad, terribly sad: a love poem erected by a man who was not particularly lucky, an elegy to a woman who died too young. (I hope I can find a man someday, who will build me such a thing when I pass, but I think I will be lucky with a correctly spelled tombstone and some fake geraniums.)

In any case, we got back on the bus and proceeded to the Official Tourist Shopping Centre, full of hideous and expensive knick-knacks (along with some pretty marble tables.) As I definitely do not have the financial wherewithal to purchase a single thing on offer in that shop, I decided to wander down the street and pick up a Diet Coke instead. I found myself being nervously followed by the overweight and sweating tour organizer, who yelled, "No, come back! You will get drink here!" I explained I had been in India about seven weeks already and was unlikely to be abducted in a sleepy street in Agra if it had not already happened, and this seemed to convince him to retreat to the air conditioned cool of the bus. I bargained the shop-keeper down to 30 rupees from 50 for a coke (highway robbery!) and sat around and watched the shop assistants attempt to sell people crap they didn't need. Then back on the bus to Delhi.

I slept almost the entire way, although we did stop at a nice bus stop for dinner. I convinced the two FedEx Pilots to order some dinner, and they were deeply impressed at how delicious and cheap a simple supper of veg curry and samosas can be at a good ol' Punjabi Dhaba. (Well, this one was nice. It even had lovely bathrooms. And a snake charmer.)

We got back to the Maurya around 10 at night. Some sort of super glitzy do was going on, and models and Bollywood stars cruised the lobby on their way out of the lovely golf themed bar. I found myself wishing for a shower and my evening gown so I could join the fun. The FedEx pilots kindly invited me to join them for a bottle of French red wine and I was sorely tempted, but my driver came for me and I went on back to bed.
Got up ridiculously early as is my wont to hit the airport. (I adhere to my grandfather's Gotta Be Somewhere policy.) I said goodbye to Chris, who I really will miss immensely - the perfect human combination of English charm and wry, polite willingness to go anywhere and do anything. I was absolutely touched by his willingness to get up early to see me off, bleary eyes and all. Chris, if you're reading this, please please please stay in touch: you're absolutely one of the most charming humans I've ever met and I valued every minute of your company - your steadying influence on my admittedly rash and unthinking self was a godsend, and no one can make me laugh harder when it comes to making subtle, spot on comments on the nature of the universe. Whenever I find myself in England again, I will make a point of coming to bother you in your little English village (or generate doubtless unwelcome trouble within it.) Also, I'd love to try some of your family soap......(i will always value the lovely elephant from Goa: try not to crash the bitchin' rickshaw too early.)

I also saw off Kasey who, a humanitarian, gifted me his last pack of America fruit-flavored chewing gum. He may never fully comprehend how happy that made me.

The airport was quite close to good old Thippasandra, so the ride was quick: I ended up spending a few hours dozing off waiting to board my JetAir flight to Delhi. The airplane itself was surpisingly nice, nicer and newer then most US planes, with an individual inflight entertainment system and everything. (On Southwest you pay more money for stale peanuts and horrible attempts at inflight humor by the stewardesses, so no complaints here.)

I love watching the enviroment change as I descend into a new city: Delhi was profoundly different from congested Bangalore, all spread out with slightly scrubby terrain, red brick buildings giving way to palatial government palaces and humongous Mughal monuments. We mae a good landing, and I met my Auntie Sheilie at the airport.

Auntie Sheilie and her husband, Baldev, were best friends with my grandparents back in their Dow Chemical days. By way of explaination, my grandparents are to some margin the reason I am here in India and why I am so addicted to Asian travel: they gave the damn idea in the first place. I spent my early childhood at their big Florida house full of bewitching Chinese, Korean, and Indian artifacts: little metalwork fish and paintings of tigers and inlaid Kashmiri daggers: I would sit at their feet as we all ate dinner out of wooden bowls in their living room as they talked about India (and you could hear the nostalgic, profound affection there in their voices) - the train journeys and the sandal-wood scented boats in Kashmir, the game reserves and terrifying langur monkeys, bathing ghats and water buffalo: of course I had to go. It's a bloody cliche but I read Kim at their house about two years ago and determined that after I saw China, India would have to be next.

Now, Auntie Sheilie was everything I expected her to be: the Indian mirror image of my voraciously intellectual and eminently classy grandparents. We were immediately discusing authors and books of all stripes as soon as we met (she ushering me into her private car and contemplating me on my dress). It was like picking up a conversation with my grandmother, really, and it was a lovely thing indeed - she pointing out various neighborhoods and boroughs of Delhi as we proceeded to the India International Centre where she had booked me a room. My first impression of Delhi was, I'm afraid, the bourgeois side: Delhi looked to be all wide open avenues and leafy tree-lined streets, almost deserted compared to the omnipresent scrum that is Bangalore. There were rickshaws and cows and dogs here too, of course, but they all seemed curiously controlled - not mashing up against each other (delightfully I must say) as in Bangalore. I'm certain Delhi is certifiably bug-fuck insane in other neighborhoods, but the Golf LInks neighrobhood houses Delhi's upper crust: no one-eyed leprosy ridden snake charmers here, I am sorry, Salman Rushdie.....

We drove to the India Interational Center, which is apparantly a famous locale for Indian intellectuals - Shiela's daughter, Deepha, is a member. It's a deeply 60's mod sort of building and I loved it immediately, with wide open grounds full of green flitting parakeets and hawks, wealthy male and female businessmen conferring quietly on the grounds, sipping omnipresent tumblers of gin and tonic. Sheila treated me to lunch at the club, which was startlingly inexpensive and wonderful - tender, lemony fish tikka, delicious and earthy saag, dal makhani (yum) and tasty little rotis. I discovered to my immense pleasure that northern India serves my beloved, beloved peach chutney tableside with every meal. I am buying huge quantities and bullying it through customs.

(Sheila told me that my grandfather once, when asked to give his fathers name by the Indian authorities for some godforsaken reason on a customs issue, bristled and answered "Jesus Christ!" I do not disbelieve it.)

(That is the great pleasure of meeting people your family knew and loved from far away: you triangulate these people you have known and loved yourself for so long, interpret them through another viewpoint, see them through the vantage of someone else's time and experience. And they are not there to deny anything!)

I had a lovely nap and shower (good lord, but it is nice to use a shower and not have to worry about the water shorting out, to sleep and not have to worry about mosquitos and sudden drunken intrusions.....admittedly, I was the direct root of many Katary drunken-intrusions but still...)

We went out to a nice sanitized variant of the bazaars I knew and loved from Bangalore. Sheila had a trusted pashmina vendor and since I'd lost my beloved Chinese pashmina in Mysore, I needed a new one. (Sheila insisted losing something was good luck, but I still adored that thing, and it's the only souvenir I have from China since I never buy things....) In any case, I selected two lovely red ones - one expensive and one not so so - for myself. I then focused on the main attraction, which was finding lovely blue ones for my mom. I found her a vibrant turquoise variant and a lovely embroidered blue one that Sheila picked out herself - hopefully she'll love them. (You better!) (I know you're reading this!) (We looked for a water buffalo but couldn't find one.....would you settle for a Nandi....or a tiger Christmas ornament....?) We managed to get all four gorgeous pashminas for 5000 rupees, which, if you know Indian money, is one hell of a deal.

Pashminas, by the way, are some of the most wonderful and versastile clothing items know to man - and the fact that they are breathtakingly beautiful in most cases is just icing on the cake. A pashmina can add exotic appeal to an evening gown, jazz up a gungy jeans and t-shirts combo, cover embarassing curry stains, be used as a blanket, a towel, or (if feeling inventive) perhaps a noose or an escape rope. I wear my pashmina quite often back home in the USA and I suggest you do the same.

We passed by the gorgeous Lodhi Gardens to have a stroll and pick up Deepa. The gardens are breathtaking, slightly reminescent of the public gardens I recall from Rome: an arresting mixture of ancient architecutre and modern, perfectly manicured greenery. Joggers wove in and out of the night-lit Mughal tombs that lit up atmospherically as the sun went down. I popped my head in the black, curving entrance of one of the tombs, viewing the occupants black monolithic cenotaph slumbering quietly inside:

I wonder about how it is to spend eternity in a park like this - did they anticipate it would be a minor tourist attraction, that joggers would go by and couples make goo-goo eyes at each other on blankets on the grass outside, that there is no such thing as solitude in public places in the time after death? Or is that what they wanted - this sort of lively company during the day and in the quiet going-down hours, when living people are spooked by wandering around in ancient tombs - do they appreciate the downtime, the quiet?

But of course I do not believe in life after death.

We found the lovely Deepha (who is making a deeply impressive recovery from breast cancer while studying for exams), then went back to Golf Links for dinner. I also met Rajev, Sheila and Baldev's son, who has made an impressive recovery from a brain tumor in his younger days and is now a delight to be around - we happily discussed various Indian authors over dinner. (Both he and Sheila are trying to get me to read Ayn Rand. Watch out, mom. Watch out.)

Sheila and Baldev's white and lovely home was deja-vu for me: an Indian mirror image of my grandparents house, with reciprocal art objects and trinkets that they had exchanged with each other sitting on tables, pictures of my family and there's interspersed among them. (I loved seeing the little clackety metal fish that fascinated me so at three years old sitting on the table: I shall have to buy a couple.) Sheila loves Bob Dylan, so we put him on for a bit then switched to Indian flute music as we chatted. She poured me a generous tumbler of Teacher's which I accepted (like one wandering through the desert) - it was an absolute revelation after too many weeks of Old Monk.

We had a lovely dinner prepared by Sheila's kitchen staff - leg of mutton, organic beans raised at the family farm, kuchamber salad with a little bit of lemon, garlic, and olive oil, and my beloved gobi mutter, along with bewitching little wheat rotis that emitted puffs of steam when punctured. We finished off with incredibly good alphonso mango and papaya for dessert along with some little jewel like beads of pomegranate - sublime.

I was deposited at the International Centre by the chauffeur and had a most excellent sleep in my highly air conditioned room. Sometimes it is nice to return to the good life.
We woke up fashionably late (noonish). It was one of those languid days where no one can summon up the energy to do anything. It was my last day in Bangalore and I knew I should do something about that, but I've always been curiously awful at goodbyes - and I shouldn't be, since I've made so many of them. My method of leaving a place, even one that's been good to me, is to slip away in the night and attempt to avoid confronting any unpleasant realities. I know it's awful, but it alleviates the pressure on me of having to cut anything off at the stump: I prefer not to think about it.

In any case, Chris, Arvin, Phil, Kasey and I finally summoned up the energy to go for one last nice lunch at the Oasis. I ordered tandoori crab and tandoori gobi: even better then last time. The crab comes in a generous portion and the meat is indescricably sweet and spicy with a nice, charred flavor - awesome. I thought the gobi was scrumptious, but Phil described it as "perfumey". Well, his loss. I also tried some tasty and sweet tandoori prawns, nice vinegary chicken Hyderabadi, and the omnipresent chili squid.

Chris needed to do some work, and I (exhausted) wanted to join him back at Katary. However, Arvin, Phil, and Kasey peer-pressured me into staying out with them, and we went on a long hot trek down M.G Road to find an art gallery that supposedly existed in Cubbon Park. (I was suspicious.) I had a good time talking to Phil about various aspects of the universe, as a guy trying really really hard to sell him a drum followed him down the avenue. (They always leave me alone. Do I look like the kind of woman who wouldn't need a drum or want one? Should I be offended?)

We did find the park, which I hadn't been to in forever and was a nice leafy sort of interlude from the rest of the city. We wandered through the small, somewhat tragic theme park and a lovely bamboo forest, that clattered and shivered in the afternoon breeze. The boy s had popsicles (What flavor is it? .....Orange?) and we gave up on the art gallery and spent some time trying to find some monkeys. Well, they wanted to see monkeys. My monkey policy is avoid at all costs but they don't share my opinions on the matter. Thankfully we didn't find any.

We broke down and decided to go back to the hookah bar on M.G, which was certainly nice and new and air conditioned, although the black-chalk walls are accumulating more and more Indian style slurs since the last time I visited. We smoked hookah and soked ever-downward in the entirely too squishy bean-bag chairs, watching as the (apparantlly all 12 year old) fellow patrons circulated around, staring at us as if we were aliens imported from Planet Zog or something. Kasey isn't used to it yet. Trust me, he will be. I do like hookah: it's a nice cool way to spend a hot afternoon, which I guess is what it was designed for. (Mind you, the overciviliized English call it shisha but...whatever.)

We managed to get a rickshaw back and I spent my last day on my beloved, squalid, cow-infested Thippasandra road doing nothing in particular: purchasing one last overpriced pineapple, one last viciously bargained for kilo of grapes, one last Diet Pepsi from the stony-faced Casio SuperBazaar guys. I hit the internet cafe and on the way down neatly broke the heel off my favorite pair of shoes. Balls. Bollocks.

We spent the rest of the evening talking and watching the usual awful movies. I couldn't fend off sleep any longer and crashed halfway through as Chris raptly watched Failure for Launch, though I managed to reawaken when the others got back from the Night Boozer. We hung out and drank (through yet another damn power outage) and I said my goodbyes and went to bed. I had to wake up early the next morning to make Delhi.

Goodbyes: I've been thinking about them a lot. It's the nature of this kind of trip, of the kind of existence I've led my entire life, really - a constant state of leaving and departing. I had a few theories on the matter, formented this summer in Beijing: I was standing under an umbrella in a humid rain with a Dutch aquaintance, sharing a joint: he turned to me and said, sadly, "You know, friendship is an illusion, a temporary thing: we keep o moving on."

I believed him, I'd been believig him for months and months. In the past week or so here in India, I'd come to the halting, unpleasant conclusion that people are to some extent interchangeable, that I would enjoy the company of different people just as much if the cards had been played differently (if you will) I was with one group of people at Katary for about seven weeks and they were good, good friends to me: but then the new group came in and I could see the potential for the same thing in them - this confuses me. Is anyone really special, or do we simply tolerate each other, grow to know each other, by circumstance?

This would be nice for me, for as I stated earlier, I am wont to simply melt away and pretend I wasn't there when I say goodbye: I hate to put a cap on things, I hate to acknowledge it. If everyone is essentially the same, if no one is truly special, if a good but always temporary friend can be found anywhere...

But saying goodbye to Chris and Adam and Aneesa, that did feel different, it really did. I remember I had a fairly rueful discussion with Adam (I was probably drunk) where I said something to the accord of, "Look, I love the company of you and all the people here, but won't it turn into another Facebook-driven sort of thing - exchanging "lol how r u's" over the internet and nothing more - isn't that how this always has to be? Does anyone really care about anyone else, here?"

Adam is a more decent and hopeful person then myself and he believes that sometimes people really do care, that chance traveling friendships can mean something, that perhaps we are not all interchangeable. I think I may be beginning to believe him. I have role models: my grandparents 40 year long friendship with Sheila and Baldev here in India, still going strong - perhaps we can make friends while traveling, keep in correspondence, remember each other fondly as something somewhat special rather then another face in the crowd - perhaps this is something I have to learn before I can be happy. I do worry if my life will continue as it has been: a succession of chance encounters - but if I can learn to let those make me as happy as the long term sort that stationary people have....(or get better at staying in touch?)

I'm rambling, I know, but these are the thoughts of an unsettled person, the thoughts of a young and unsettled person. Someday maybe I will resolve them. Watch this space.
My last day at work. I said my goodbyes to everyone and got their contact info: if Food and Wine Mumbai has any openings, I know who to call. The lovely Lori and James accompanied me to Konark for one last lunch: gobi mutter, vegetable curry, fruit salad - the usual. I told Lori and James I'd do what I could to meet up with em' again before I left: they're good people all around.

My last night out in Bangalore: we went back to the magnificent Ice Bar at the Taj West End. (I'm getting used to posh. How will I ever survive back home, where a 19 year old in the presence of an alcoholic beverage is a Danger to Society?)

It was dead as hell when we arrived and I could tell Arvin and Phil were having desperate nightmares of being trapped in an enviroment full of stupendously wealthy buisinesspeople all night long. I decided to soldier on and started working the crowd (well, not exactly - *mingling?*) I located Bob again from the Fusion Bar sitting with his plump and sweet natured buddy and (knowing a good thing when I see it) introduced Alicia, my wonderful new friend from Queens in NYC. As we had both impressive coasts covered between us, we made a fairly unstoppable pair, and I tried to introduce her to the various after-party dispensers in India. (A good turn.) The two guys insisted on buying us whiskey, which I made sure to send over to the Katary Villa boys in my stead (I'm trying to hold off. No more Yellow Things.)

Kasey from Boston and I were accosted by a deliciously foul mouthed Indian guy from Pittsburgh, and to the general amusement of all parties, we exchanged increasingly vile Your Mom insults. (This apparantly was astonishing to the UK people: "Is this what passes for humor in your country?" "Good lord, but I am afraid, yes.") I prefer English humor as it actually contains something more then scatalogical humor and sexual inferences about your parents, but I am an American and I must know how to dish it out.

The rest of the evening passed fairly usuallly: Alicia and I made a good attempt at dancing, I got a few more few drinks from various appreciative businessmen, the new people had a great time dancing to OM SHANTHI OM and doing tequila shots: I felt like I was leaving them in good hands. Sniffle.

Alicia and I got invited to an afterparty, but I decided to be a hero and stay with the boys, who naturally had not got invited anywhere. I enjoyed the hell out of their company (Arvin, Phil, Kasey, Jimmy), and I figured I'd rather spend the evening getting sloshed on Old Monk on the roof rather then having to make small talk with unattractive but wealthy people at somone's bitchin' Bangalore mansion. (See, I got some semblance of self-control.)

I was hit on in the intierm by an amusing 5'2 Irish businessman, who took me aside and gave me a lengthy spiel on how I Needed A Man and (gesturing to my friends), these, these, were Merely Boys. (All delivered in a high squeaky Irish voice.) He grandly invited me to his apartment where he said I would be plied with a variety of expensive Irish whiskies, but I politely declined.

The boys and I had yet another profoundly uncomfortable rickshaw ride (you try wedging five strapping young guys and one shrimpy but game girl into one of those suckers)

We spent the evening doing exactly what we'd planned: drink Old Monk on the roof, talk about all sorts of interesting stuff, and watch bad movies on Star Network. Arvin, Phil, and Kasey were in theory slated to go to Mysore with the new girls earlly the next morning, but we all agreed there was no way that would happen and went to bed at three am.

The girls came by very early the next morning to attempt to collect Arvin and Phil, who were utterly dead to the world. I did get to say goodbye to them and exchange contact information: I am determined to see them again. Alicia is especially wonderful and I look forward to meeting up with her again somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard this summer. Maybe she can talk me into some good Caribbean clubs....

Friday, April 11, 2008


I woke up feeling curiously fine. I made myself breakfast and meditatively ate my cereal on the roof, watching the sun come up over the palm trees. (only a few more days!) I was going down the stairs when the Creeping Death hit me. Uh oh.

I have no idea whether it was food or alcohol (for god's sake, never, ever drink anything electric blue), but I spent the entire day straight-arming the death angel in my bed. It was just as unpleasant as you might imagine. I happened to have been surviving primarily on cereal for the past few days (dinner keeps on being egg curry and ew no), so I didn't have much to actually barf up, but the sheer evil feeling was more then enough.

I was vaguely aware at one point that Alicia and Flo came to get me for work, but unfortunately at that juncture I was actually too sick to drag myself out of bed and to the door so I could croak "PASSING OFF WORK ON ACCOUNT OF FATAL ILLNESS." So they had to wait around until they figured out I was not so much with the alive. Then I think they left for work.

I slipped in and out of black-death inspired conciousness for a few hours until 2:00 came around, when I made a mysterious but total recovery. I gingerly had yet more cereal for lunch (Kellogs is gonna make some serious rupees off me), then hobbled down to the internet cafe to make sure the world had gone on turning without me (it had.) I ran into Nimi and Carli and joined them at the Breeze....I watched them eat and sipped some Coke. I really had no desire to anger my system more then totally necessary .

The girls planned to visit the Fuga club that night but I decided it might be better to just go to the Night Boozer with Jimmy, Arvin and Phil instead. I had a light dinner of tandoori pomfret at the Breeze (unfortunately it was about a two bite fish so I was hungry after), then came back to collect the guys. Phil and I had a deep, profound conversation about stupid cartoons of our respective childhoods, then we all went down Thippasandra for our nightly commune with the Old Monk. (I held off. Pretty much.)

We returned with six beers for the new guy, who's called Casy and is from Boston. He went to boarding school in the Berkshires. We probably know the same people.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Woke up tired and was embarassed to find Flo and Alicia sitting in the common room waiting for me to emerge into the light of morning. Which I did. We got a rickshaw on downtown - the long way thank you very much - and got into work, where I did yet more events.

I noted from an email that Sheila booked me in for Delhi until the 21st and not the 18th as I had believed, so I ran down to the IndiGo office to change my flight to Mumbai. Which was quite painless, although they couldn't accept my credit card over the phone due to rampant international credit card fraud in India. This meant I got to see the nice lady at the IndiGo office again (the one with family in Denver and New York City.) The change fee was about 20 big deal.

Indians say "bucks" just like we do, although it is always jarring to hear someone casually say, "Oh yeah, that costs 1000 bucks" then realize they are discussing rupees and not cold hard American moolah.

We met Chris for lunch at Konark - delicious tandoori gobi (cauliflower) and babycorn. I don't know why tandoor ovens work such miracles on humble garden vegetables but there you go. We were also subjected to the always amusing roti up-sell, wherein if you fail to order a carb (and I, miss Voluntary Atkins Diet Woman, never do), the waiter will give you a look - a complex mixture of pity and disdain - and explain that this IS a gravy dish and you will NEVER be able to fully enjoy it without bread and good god almighty what is WRONG with you. It usually takes at least a few minutes to convince them the world will keep turning without roti, that the sun will come up again tomorrow.

I went back and had a nice nap, then we convened the troops for Bollywood Night at Hint, a swank nightclub in the Bangalore Central Mall.

We had our names on the list due to James knowing someone, and the door bitch ushered us in. The Door Bitch is the fashionably dressed woman (usually white or Asian here) who looks over possible entrants and judges them for suitability for the fabulousness of the club awaiting inside. I think I would make an excellent Door Bitch and I may investigate this possibility for future overseas careers. (The Door Bitch is also required to occasionally stand on a table and do Technicolor shots, but I believe I would be up to the challenge.)

The club was lovely, all dark and moody inside with an excellent 5th floor view of the Bangalore metro area. The walls outside were heated which I deeply enjoyed, and I Stressed Chris by leaning over the guardrails to enjoy the night air. (I deduced using complicated calculations that I could angle a large glob of spit to land right on the head of the loathsome rickshaw drivers hanging out below me, and that would definitely make my week. But I did not do it.)

More and more people filtered in and the music started - awesome dance-beat accented Bollywood music. There was a bit of highschool-ish apprehension as everyone waited for someone to be either drunk enough or uninhibited enough to start dancing, but eventually everyone got over themselves and the party was on. I of course jumped in with gusto despite my utter inability to dance, finding an attractive Indian guy to entertain me for the remainder of the evening.

I also accumulated another prospective Indian Sugar Daddy in a suit with one of those irritating speaker phone things blinking in a blue way in his ear throughout the evening - he'd follow me around the club like a puppy, and I experimented by dodging into alcoves a bit to see if he'd find me - he did. I did manage to extract a whiskey and red bull from him (an evil combination.)He gave me a long, poetic description of his red sports car and how he'd like to let me drive it, while I politely reminded him that that could turn into a potential insurance nightmare. (I have visions of a gory, tragic collision with a bullock cart.) He seemed curiously unmoved.

In any case, it was a fun evening, with the events coordinator shoving blue-colored Bacardi down everyone's throats while cajoling us to GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS GET YOUR HANDS UP AND SING....OM SHANTHI OMMMM. (Love that song. Love it.) Apparantly Nimi got her pictures in the Mid-Day Bangalore paper...our drunken antics will now be preserved in the media annals of this beautiful garden city for all eternity. i don't know how to feel about that.

Alisa and I contemplated going to an after-party with aforementioned Hot Guys (or at least a greasy, excellent midnight dosa) but we erred on the side of caution and rickshawed home. Despite the copious amounts of Red Bull mixed with lord knows what, I slept like a rock.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


t was the volunteers first day, and as I have (somewhat unwillingly) taken up the mantle of Grizzled Veteran Leader, I told them to show up at 9:30 so they could be inducted into the mysterious world of rickshaws. We tromped up and down Thippasandra for a bit but finally found one and made it to work in good time.

The two new girls settled in nicely to work, and I even got to delegate some tasks regarding the evil Downloads page to them. We went down to Juice Junction for lunch - Flo discovered that "veg" in Indian parlance always means "cheese" although it is entirely true that CHEESE IS NOT A VEGETABLE.

We finished up work at a decent hour, then I rickshawed on home. While walking down Thippasandra, I ran into Chris to my great joy, who has been away for two whole weeks turning into a Feni drinking hippie on the beach in Goa. Well, that's what he said anyway. We walked back and filled each other in on recent happenings - he got me a lovely elephant figurine from Goa while I presented him with a fairly bitching pull-back toy autorickshaw I bought on Thippasandra.

We managed to pull everyone together and left for the Tandoor restaurant around 8:00 - the posh and expensive (by Indian standards) Raj themed place near Brigade Road. The meal was again lovely. We had excellent, smoky tandoor lamb chops, tender and spicy chicken tikka, lightly fried shrimp skewers, and some piquant and interesting saag. (The aloo gobi was a bit greasy.) The ambience was lovely, all wood paneling and silver dining ware, and it was nice to linger for a bit and chat with the new people, who are all proving to be very cool.

The bill was about 5000, which made everyone's eyes pop (including my tightwad own), but then I did the calculations and realized I paid 12 bucks for a huge quantity of delicious, high quality food, wherein 12 bucks in many places in the USA will buy you a high-class sandwich and maybe a bag of chips. So I shut up and paid.

We went back to the Tavern at the Inn on Museum Street, which was unfortunately fairly empty. Still, we enjoyed knocking back Kingfisher and listening to The Who. (Well, I did anyway.) It got on past 11:30 and a security guard began nervously cruising the perimeter as the lights went low and the owners began to glare subtly at us over our drinks - we felt it might be best we depart before the cops came. (Bangalore shuts down at 11:30 sharp and woe befalls the pub that flouts the rules.) I managed to hail a rickshaw for the not half bad price of 120 rupees and we headed on home.

I finished Lonesome Dove. Beautiful, although the ending kind of makes me want to go over and slap Larry McMurtry for throwing me into an evening depression over a literary character which really is quite ridiculous. It's the only 1000 page book I've ever read I wished had a few hundred more pages tacked onto it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Day off work, which I certainly needed if I had any hope of catching up on my running, malignant sleep deficit. It was yet another curiously scheduled Indian holiday. I'm certainly not complaining.

I bummed around in the morning, wandering down Thippasandra to visit the Skanky Internet Cafe and get a bit of sun. I met up with Carli around noon and we proceeded to yet another orientation lunch with the new volunteers. (Apparently I wasn't supposed to attend because I've been here so long but 1. no one informed of this and 2. they fed me anyway, so I was not particularly put out.) Food was usual buffet stuff, although the hotel the lunch was held in was rather luxe.

The new volunteers were all quite nice, and I enjoyed talking to them about the various idiosyncrasies of surviving in India. We now have two Americans - one from Chicago and one from New York - and it is bizarre to hear an American accent again after consorting with exclusively British people for so long. I wonder if I will keep on saying biscuit, crisps and ALLO' WOT when I return home. Probably.

(Of course, I speak AMERICAN and they speak ENGLISH, since they must be superior. Or this is what they tell me.)

The volunteers got dropped off at FabIndia on Commercial Street, so Julie, Carli, Ella and I rickshawed over to meet them. I bought my dad some nice cotton shirts for nothing at FabIndia, then took the new volunteers over to the Natural Ice Cream shop for some delicious sugar-cane ginger ice cream. It was getting hot and I was dead on my feet, so we returned to the Katari Villa and I slept the afternoon away - I had promised to take the new people out that night so I had to sleep sometime.

We had dinner (egg curry will give me screaming nightmares), then proceeded to Styx, which is apparantly Bangalore's only heavy metal bar. It was dark and smoky and they sure as hell were playing metal, but the appeal of the place ended there for me - no one was there but a deeply lonely Frenchman who kept on looking at me with sad eyes and imploring me to speak slower. (Apparently he had been working in steel in a rural town in Southern India and was growing increasingly desperate for non Hindi-accented human interaction.)

We departed and went to that perennial favorite, the Guzzlers Inn, where we drank Kingfisher and listened to Jethro Tull - until the inevitable and always cruel 11:30 kickout time. Finding a rickshaw was mercifully painless, and we got back at a decent hour.


I've been wanting to visit Mysore for a while now. Located about three hours out of Bangalore on the freeway, Mysore was the seat of the Kingdom of Mysore ruled by the Wodeyar Dynasty, who were proponents of arts and culture and generally kept things civilized in Karnataka. It's retained a historical and regal ambience that's certanly missing from Bangalore, making it a popular and leafy day out for those sick of autorickshaw traffic and bad air in the capital.

Intro here:

Carli, Ella and I awoke early and trekked out to the bus station, taking a windy early morning rickshaw ride. We managed to find our bus after some negotiation and boarded. It was very modern and quite nice, although the standard-issue Bollywood movie blared in the background when all I really wanted to do was sleep. (The ear plugs helped a little, though the child sitting on the row across from me was convicted this was actually the Bus To Hell and screamed straight through the first hour.)

The route certainly was pretty, dipping through rice paddies and rows of waving, lovely palm trees. We'd pass by Punjabi Dhabas, the Indian version of the good ol' fashioned truck stop, full of people chowing down on dosas and endless cups of over-sugared chai. The country gets hilly and rocky outside of Bangalore, and the sheer granite cliffs were a lovely site to see.

We arrived in Mysore and contracted a rickshaw driver to take us around for the day. We immediately drove by the palace, an ornate, shining, prickly sort of building. It was noon and we stopped at a nice hotel for lunch, eating our usual tandoori gobi and roti in airconditioned comfort (although the waiter kept on trying to shut the curtains and plunge us into darkness.)

The driver took us over to the palace. At the entrance, we ran into a pack of Americans - medical students volunteering at a hospital in Bangalore for a bit of a break. They were quite nice - all New Yorkers adapting very well to the bartering culture of India - and we spoke with them for a while.

We eventually wandered in, paying the usual foreigner entry fee of 100 rupees (to the local 10.) The palace was certainly worth it - built in 1912 by an English architect, it was full of ornate metalwork and lovely peacock-adorned stained glass windows - with rows of giant meeting halls and recieving areas and galleries for nothing in particular. Apparently the Maharaja's descendent still lives here (the place is only open on Sunday's), and I imagine it would be very odd indeed to rattle about those marble halls all on your lonesome. (Imagine the long and chilly work to get your cereal in the morning, across mosaic marble floors and under ornate screens. You would feel fragile and terribly human and it would only be 7:30 in the morning, and who needs that?)

We began chatting with a group of Indian guys who were working in Bangalore like we were, although they hailed from all over the country - Jaipur, Delhi, Hyderabad. They worked with Americans and one of them was especially enamored with New Mexico - I certainly understand that. They pointed out various Indian goddesses to us (They all tend to run together), and invited us to join them for the day in their hired jeep. Jeep's certainly beat rickshaws when it comes to convenience, so we paid the rickshaw driver and went off with them.

We went to the Catholic church in the middle of town - not much to look at, beyond incredible and menacing hives of bees hanging off the eaves. We then proceeded to the Charimundi Hills, going up a considerable series of switchbacks to the top. The view was deeply impressive and I took some decent photos, fending off a tribal-attired local child trying to dive into my pictures for a small fee. There's an incredibly enormous racetrack below near the palace....I wonder what it was used for.

We next saw the temple at the top of the hill - reminded me of Hampi architecutre-wise. It was a bit of a tourist zoo with various Hindu adherents sipping coconut milk and patting the baby cows that wandered indiscriminately through the parking lot. We watched the sun go down a little then proceeded to the Nandi (or bull) statue a little below. This was lovely, with a terribly placid expression on its bovine face - nice to sit and contemplate among the greenery and the boulders. But we did have a schedule to stick to. After a brief stop at the inevitable Indian Crafts Emporium, we drove about 30 minutes out of town to a garden area.

We had a train slated for 8:30, but we were having such a pleasant time that we didn't want to rush back. (And miss dinner. The mere idea of missing dinner gives me cold shivers.) The Indian guys conferred with the driver, who agreed to take us all the way back to Bangalore for 1500 rupees - not bad at all. Load off our shoulders, we watched the impressive fountains at the park, Sunday revelers picnicking on the grass and eating bright-red chili fish from the reservoir. (We also posed with an 8 foot tall man standing in the center of the garden, grabbing people with immense hands for five rupee photo ops.)

Ella wanted to see the special Sunday night lighting of the Maharaja's palace, so we drove back quickly, dodging the usual tour buses and bullock carts. Carli managed to cajole the boys into singing Hindi songs - they weren't half bad.

The palace really was lovely lit up at night - every single tiny and intricate point and pillar on the facade decked out in white electric lights, setting up an impressive blaze in the center of town. Seemingly all of Mysore wandered in and out of the grounds, and a band that looked very tiny, sitting all alone in an alcove in the palace facade, played Hindi standards as people took the night air. We popped briefly into the HIndu temple nearby, a grass and incense scented refuge from the craziness outside - (how long did THAT last!)

We had dinner again at the hotel - vegetable jalfreizi, tasty mint flavored tandoori fish, daal makhani (indians inevitably must order it and feel empty without), and some spicy lamb hyderbad curry. And then we jumped in the jeep and drove home - which felt extra luxurious, with no need to jockey for position on the train or bus or avoid flagrant ass grabbery or anything. I slept for most of the three hour drive back, awakening briefly to have a warm and spicy cup of masala chai from a truckstop.

I stumbled back into the house to encounter the new volunteers on the roof - two dread-locked guys from England, listening to Jurassic 5 on the roof. They were drinking a large bottle of Jack and I joined them briefly (never been one to pass up free booze.) I offered them some Old Monk but they took one sip, realized it was in essence rum flavored rubbing alcohol and politely declined. Their loss!

Monday, April 7, 2008


I'm going to be bad and start at Saturday here, since the last week was honestly pretty profoundly boring. The only interesting thing we did was visit the Fusion Lounge and watch drunken Thai college students shake their money makers to hip hop, which was admittedly kind of amusing, but only to a degree.

On Friday, we went back to the Oasis since Aneesa loves the place and I do too. Wherein we had delicious fish pollichathu (a whole pomfret fried in spicy sauce and grilled in a banana leaf....awesome Kerela speciality, that), Kerela fish curry, delicious butter and chili prawns, chili squid, some sort of awesome Afghan chicken dish and probably some other crack-like substances. Then we went to the English Pub (the Old Tavern?), which was full of Westerners and Indians slamming pints and listening to rock music. I liked that place very much.

So Saturday. I had decided to go to Mysore on Sunday since I've been looking forward to visiting for a long time. This did mean that it would be my last day with Aneesa and Adam until I....see them again in Mumbai and Delhi, so I guess it isn't that big a deal after all. They'll probably get sick of me and change their phone numbers anyway!

I jest.

I had been a bad seed and declined to go to work on Friday, primarily because I was running on a fairly vicious sleep deficit and was afraid I would pitch face-forward onto the keyboard and ruin some sort of computer apparatus. (It's all TERRIBLY EXPENSIVE AND MODERN HERE after all.)

So I decided to come into work on Saturday to finish off the Downloads page and do some events and then go to Konark for delicious, delicious vegetarian food. Which is exactly what I did. Work was deeply uneventful, although we did engage in some harmless joking around about throwing dysfunctional computers out of office windows and nailing people on the street below. I think that's illegal.

I went down to Konark and had an excellent lunch of mutter gobi ( a dry stir-fry like curry of cauliflower and peas....delicious) and fruit salad, then crossed the street to buy a Diet Pepsi and watch the world go by. It's nice to sit down and regard Indians instead of having them regard me, though this never lasts as long as I might like it to. That's why I love to spend so much time up on the roof of the Katary Villa. I can see the teenage boys down below who hang out by Coffee Day and confer evilly but they can't see me. I am rarely anonymous and it makes a nice change. (I never got the hang of blending into the background. Not that the attention is positive. Usually of the GOOD GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU flavor.)

I hung out a while longer then came on back home. Carli and Aneesa had decided to wear their saris out to the Ice Bar that night, so I watched them wrestle with them for a while. Draping saris is a complex procedure and I salute them for managing it. I think Indian clothes are incredibly beautiful but I've balked on purchasing a sari, mainly because I have issues getting into normal clothes with zippers and buttons, and I believe a sari would just break me.

In any case Carli and Aneesa looked gorgeous, and we all took many pictures. I could in no way compete but I did put on a neat black 50's style evening dress I ganked from my mom. (Thanks for your good fashion sense, mom! )

Unfortunately Adam and I had yet another convoluted rickshaw experience. The guy wasn't entirely sure where he was going then decided he needed gas although we were already late. So we got out and tried to walk, except it began to rain. Then a bunch of rickshaw drivers attempted to charge us 100 rupees for a five minute rickshaw ride. (I have been eagerly awaiting the day when Adam flips out and attacks one of those malignant assholes but unfortunately he is less violent then me.) (I just haven't done it because Indian jail scares me. A lot.)

But we finally got there. The Ice Bar was in the Taj Hotel and very glam indeed. They didn't want to let us in but we called in our favor with Bob (one of our Indian contacts) and got in. The place was absolutely packed, with an interesting mix of Westernized Indians, young ex-pat Europeans, and leering elderly businessmen of the Indian and English varieties. The bar area was fairly small but opened out on the pool, which was lit up attractively at night. There were also drinks and yakitori snacks being dispensed by the pool, but when I asked to see a menu, the bartender gave me a profoundly disgusted look and shooed me away, and I can take a hint. I hung out at the table for a while but decided to go dance (damn the torpedos).

The music wasn't half-bad, and I enjoyed dancing, although it was absolutely packed and I kept on getting maneuvered into the sweaty and thrilled chests of various tie-wearing businessmen. (This did translate into free drinks.)

One particularly smooth guy noted, "I feel like I'm in heaven here!" I asked why, and he said, "Ah, yes, when I see the blonde dancing here, I feel like I am in heaven!" Then he gave me his business card. I think that's almost as good as the "Are those space pants? Cause' your ass is outta this world" pickup line, though admittedly no one has ever used that one on me.

I wandered over and talked to Bob and his friend for a while, who also were kind enough to share their alcohol. We discussed the relative merits of various women and men around us (Classy, I know), then I went back to dance some more. The night was getting on and, not surprisingly, a few people managed to jump into the pool and flail around a bit. I was tempted but didn't want to ruin my dress, although I made a heroic effort at finding someone who would let ME shove them into the pool. (One guy had his entire group of friends begging me to throw him in, and I did manage to drag the sucker a few feet, but was in the end unsuccessful.)

We hung out in the overpriced coffee shop for a bit and watched drunk people filter out, which I've always found curiously amusing. Except most of them were getting into luxury cars and driving back in air conditioned splendor, whereas we were going to have to get yet another rickshaw (and the wind will blow into the cab, which is almost cold at night, and everything will be ruined.)

So we did. I said goodbye to Aneesa and Adam (who I will miss although SSH DON'T TELL THEM), then went to sleep. Which I would not get much of since I had to wake up at 5:00 to go to Mysore anyway.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Almost totally non-descript. Sorry. I will try to involve myself in more wacky Thai drug lord related adventures in the near future, okay?

We went to work. I was still feeling mildly vicious about the whole UCSC thing and didn't eat much, though in my defense I did manage to get plenty of work done. I hope I have only been a mildly crap intern.

I walked down Brigade Road for a while out of a sense of nothing in particular. It's a nice enough walk, going past the creepy old opera house, fading into some nice green stands of trees. There's this covered area full of people tapping away at typewriters for some reason I am unable to discern. Seeing a typewriter in any format in 2008 is kind of fascinating.

Unfortunately I got one asswipe sort of rickshaw driver, who decided that instead of depositing me on, say, Thippasandra, he would drop my ass off at the airport instead. And attempt to charge me 100 rupees for the privilege. I peppered him with colorful obscenity, gave him 70 rupees, and decided to walk home. I had no idea where I was and with my happy dreams of an afternoon nap shattered, I walked back in a vicious state of mind. I wandered down quite a few dodgy looking alley-ways (children yelling at me the entire time), ambled like an idiot somewhere in the region of Thippasandra, and managed to convince a kindly old man on a bicycle to direct me somewhere in the region of home. I immediately went to sleep, determined to kill all rickshaw drivers someday, somehow.

I woke up eventually and walked down to the Breeze for a palak chicken (chicken in spinach sauce) and a chat with the others, who were eating a chicken dosa and doing nothing in particular.

Aneesa, Carli, and her brother wanted to see a three hour Bollywood epic but I politely declined, preferring to wait around and hope that someone would go to the Night Boozer and take me with them. Unfortunately this did not happen, which meant I spent the evening drinking putrid but potent Old Monk and watching bad TV. You win some, you lose some.


This was a very boring day and I am sorry you have to read this. But so it goes.

We decided to stay on Thippasandra, which meant I got to sleep in late. For me this means the decadent hour of 8:00 because, like my father, I do not actually need sleep like a normal, well adjusted human being. In any case.

I faffed around for a little bit then decided to walk down Thippasandra to buy a nutrient filled morning diet coke and watch the cattle carts rumble down the road. I also passed by the friendly neighborhood porn theater. This place looks eminently sketchy, a low slung puke brown sort of building, frequented by seedy looking guys at all hours. Posters with slatternly looking Western women adorn the place, which probably should have tipped me off as to why the wink wink nudge nudge behavior around that building was ESPECIALLY bad. I am amused to find that they offer a matinee porno showing. I wouldn't think that most people could summon up the will to really get into a dirty film at 11 in the morning but I suppose I should never underestimate humanity.

I was starving, and since Carli and Aneesa both had tummy lurgy, I popped into the Breeze for my usual delicious fish tikka. I waited for Carli and Aneesa to reappear but they didn't, so I decided to walk back home and go to bed.

I met up with the whole gang again at the Breeze just as it began to rain - those hard afternoon rains Bangalore seems to specialize in, that come and go with suprising speed. I decided this would be a good day to lie around and make serious inroads into Larry McMurty's fabulous Lonesome Dove, and damned if that isn't exactly what I did.

We had been sorta-commanded by Asha on behalf of I to I to go participate in a soccer game with the kid's YMCA team, which would apparantly be filmed for an Australian travel show. (I know, this is convuluted.)For some curious reason I agreed to this, although I am one of the least coordinated people on the planet and thus useful only as something to bounce the ball off of on a soccer field. But I was in one of my very occasional up for anything moods, so I threw on my gym shorts and my Practical Shoes (ewww!) and decided to go.

Despite the rain, Asha picked us all up in her jeep and off we went. The playing field was, I am not making this up, located in a cemetery, full of skinny and over-excited kids kicking around old soccer balls (which would occasionally lodge themselves behind gravestones and crypts, looking at us with hungry, competitive eyes. They were obviously gonna kick our asses.

We skirmished for a while and I played my version of soccer, which mostly means chasing the ball up and down the field and trying not to get hit in the face. The film crew then pulled up in a large professional van.

The film crew was comprised of a team of four Aussies: a jovial fat guy who kept on calling us "ladies", a tall blonde host called Jules (who the kids gleefully abbreviated to Mango Juice), and two camera men, one of whom kept on staring at me in a somewhat creepy way. (Dunno why. I was wearing practical shoes. No one likes practical shoes.)

They interviewed me, Aneesa, Lorraine, and Carli about our exciting adventures in volunteering, with more emphasis on Lorraine and Carli since they were working with adorable disadvantaged children and we were totally not. I can't say how I performed in my first adventure in broadcast journalism: I think I confused them by giving a long convuluted answer to the "so why are ya here" question, that involved among other things Bangalore's economic situation in relation to Hong Kong and cultural immersion. There were probably too many big words. (Dupuy Family Motto: Never use a small word where a big one will do.)

I'm just glad I remembered to put on lipstick.

We hung around a while later, kicking around the ball, then were returned to the villa.

I decided to head out for dinner and went down to The Clay Pot once again with Julie and Ella. We had tasty coconut milk infused fish molie, vegetable curry, chicken vindaloo, and various appams (spongy rice cake sort of things Kerelans flip for.) And we adjourned once again to the Night Boozer. I hope to hell they make t-shirts because I really want one. It was Lorraine's last night so we saw her off with some cheap booze and extremely bad card playing, which is really emblamatic of what we're all about if you think about it. Seems like she got outta Bangalore safely and in good time, which is really all one can ask.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


We actually had something resembling a coherent plan for this day: a run by the City Market then a visit to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.

Carli, her brother, Aneesa and Adam originally planned to visit a (in my opinion suspicious) water park that day, but Aneesa woke up with Nuclear Stomach and had to decline. So the others decided to meet up with us later. I was happy to hear this because in my opinion water parks and amusement parks in genera are more like elaborate, perverse forms of torture then actual fun. I do not why people are willing to pay exorbiant prices to be thrown in the air, terrified, soaked, and spun around until they barf but I am not falling for the trick. Well, I do like the California State Fair. But that's only because it has the World's Biggest Horse. And humongous turkey legs that can be used as weapons.

Where was I?

I had a sudden attack of deathly hunger and ran down to get lunch at the Breeze restaurant. To my suprise, their fish tikka (spiced grilled fish chunks) was incredibly delicious, and just about a perfect healthy meal when taken with a green salad. Indian green salads are composed of cucumber, tomato, and sliced carrot, and thus unlikely to make you ill, although of course you should never order one except in impeccably clean restaurants. (You may be suprised to find there are many impeccably clean restaurants in India, especially in Bangalore.)

I met up with the others and we rickshawed over to the City Market, which I had attempted to visit before on multiple occasions but had never actually been able to find. I wish I'd come sooner - it's the perfect Indian market, full of people and color and excitement. The people at the market were genuinely glad to see and curious about our home countries, and I loved having quick conversations with all manner of people passing through - mentioning I was from California to drooly young men always elicited a very positive response. Quite a few protective older folks made sure we weren't lost and guided us to where we needed to go as well - when lost in India, just find the nearest old person and look pathetic.

In any case, we walked by endless rows of vegetable sellers dealing lurid purple eggplants and giant, nobby daikon radishes - which gave way to eager fruit sellers, attempting to sell me pomegranates (yum), grapes (double yum) and durian (kill me now.) I did buy a 10 rupee pomegranate from a rather fetching fruit salesboy, who cheerily sliced it up for me and stuck it in a cleverly designed newspaper bag.

I munched on this as we walked up to the main market complex, a decripet four story open-air building full of people peddling most things you could posibly need - ranging from industrial strength metal cookery ware to banana leaves for southern-style dining events to lots and lots of bangles. There was a sort of gap between the outside market and the inside market into which the food sellers threw their excess product, and we were treated to the entertaining sight of a healthy herd of cows chewing on trashed watermelons in the half-darkness below us.

By far the highlight was the flower market, full of hordes of sellers pedalling gorgeous intricately woven flower garlands and bouquets, coiled up on each other like snakes on the cluttered salesroom floor - an arresting sight when viewed from one floor up. The salesmen had an utterly charming habit of giving me flowers as I passed by, and I amassed a collection of lovely roses and geraniums as I wandered through, which I put in my hair with enthusiam but little grace. (They kept on falling out.)

The others had begun to starve for lunch, so we took a rickshaw over to the botanical gardens. I decided to stay at the garden's enterance and recieve the others who were coming to meet us since I had already eaten. Unfortunately, this meant I signed up to be in the photos of quite a few Indian tourists - but what the hell, it doesn't hurt me any.

Adam came to find me and I hung out with the others for a bit as they ate big fluffy dosas and pakoras in the somewhat gungy vegetarian restaurant they'd selected. After the usual tortorous process of paying the bill, we went into the garden.

Lalbagh is a lovely oasis from the beeping horn and homocidal rickshaw infested expanse of greater Bangalore, and I enjoyed it very much. The others parked themselves on a nice stretch of grass to chat, but I wandered off to find a tree to (illegally) climb. I clambered around for a bit on a particularly impressive banyan, chasing the geckos that lurked in the roots and trying to ignore yet another gathering, mostly male fan club. (I did pose for a photo with a lovely girl in a brilliant blue sari.)

I climbed another tree but the friendly chaat salesman parked outside waved me down before the fuzz got me. I guess being tossed in Indian prison for tree climbing might be embarassing. I wandered through a few lovely bamboo groves, avoided some terrifying monkeys, and to my suprise found the lake reputed to be in the center of the garden that I had somehow managed to miss on previous visits. This was lovely and I decided to go back and get the others.

Upon meeting the others I found myself the new best buddy of yet another stray dog, who came over and curled up coquettishly in my arms after I scratched her behind the ears. She refused to leave and I was quite comfortable with the situation myself (she seemed to have only a few fleas), so I hung out with the dog for a bit, watching the purple sky go down, realizing that it's difficult to have hard feelings about the universe when a stray dog likes you and the weather is good. Angst can be difficult to maintain.

We walked all the way around the lake as the sun went down, then headed back to Thippasandra. We had yet another tasty meal at the Clay Pot - prawn curry, aloo gobi, butter chicken, vegetable curries - then headed back to the house.

The others decided to visit the Night Boozer, a deeply sketchy looking bar located on our street. I was incredulous but decided to go along anyway. It ended up being a hoot: a dark, smoky sort of place filled with Indian men slamming Kingfisher and whiskey and paying us palefaces little mind. I tried and mostly failed to learn to play Blackjack and drank my usual cheapo whiskey. A satisfying night all around.


Woke up in a decent mood (wore that neat camo and lace dress I like, which I had been balking on because India and white clothing do not always play nice together.) Went off to work. Discovered upon checking my email that I did not get into UC Santa Cruz. Uh oh.

This sunk me into a very exciting sort of depression for the rest of the day, mainly because I am so not looking forward to making calls and writing my plea-bargain letter all the hell the way from India. But it must be done. I did go for a head clearing sort of work, which can be a dangerous affair here in India, since walking indeterminately generally means dodging rickshaws, motorbikes, school children and bullock carts. I did however manage to survive.

In other news...okay, not much happened this day. We went to a nice new coffee place near work, which oddly enough played American pop music. (It's bizarre but curiously comforting to hear pop tunes from home - I recall in Beijing the cab drivers would always nod at me and flip the station to the American pop channel, which I rather enjoyed....)I toyed with a nice iced coffee while the others had sandwiches. I have this fun habit of forgetting to eat when I'm worried about something. I suppose it's a good thing for staying slim instead of being one of those people who prefer to bury themselves in fifty pints of Ben and Jerry's when things go to shit (but I just get hungry later.) It's certainly odd for someone who loves food like I do. Maybe I love food so much that I can't appreciate it unless I'm in a reasonably good mood?

I could be overthinking this.

In any case, I managed to pull my head out of my ass enough to get on home, where I had the usual not so satisfying Katary Villa dinner then waited for the others to convene so we could go to Mocha.

Mocha is the Indian interpretation of a coffee/desserts place. I have no sweet tooth whatsoever due to being messed up in the head, though the place is pretty nice: spread out with lots of cushions and chairs to sit on, although the music choice can be maddeningly awful. (Godammit, I'm in India, Bryan Adams followed by Michael Jackson is not my idea of fun.) Still, they also do shisha (or hookah, or whatever), which is fun and makes you giggly, although admittedly it is not so much fun for one's lungs. For some reason we always get green apple flavor. The cappucino and champagne flavors terrify me slightly.

The others ordered a variety of obscene looking desserts, such as a tremendous slab of dark and white chocolate cake, some sort of oozy brownie thing served in a giant coffee cup and tremendous, thick milkshakes. I sat there wishing they had some sort of dessert that featured key lime pie. Unfortunately no such luck.

In any case, we hung out and talked until the usual 11:30 kick out time. Lorraine, Claire, Pipa and Jimmy invited me out to a "local" bar they'd found on Church street rumored to stay open til' the magically late hour of 1 in the morning, but I declined: the rain was beginning to come down and the idea of standing outside a locked bar in the rain was too depressing to contemplate. (Turned out they really were open that late. Damn!)