MadTV: The journal

Letter from India II
14/12/2004
The Day we sent the last email - We went for a day trip out to an
ancient ghost town (Fatehpur Sikri) It was stunningly beautiful and a
welcome respite from the touts/beggars/children who follow you all day
long. On the way we saw 'dancing bears' on the side of the road with
their owners and had a heated debate with a fellow traveller (rob)
with whom we were sharing the car over the cruelty etc. He put up a
good argument and it helped pass the time on the way to the city.
Afterwards we went to Agra Fort which was kinda cool. (Mad you could
so easily see those Indian hit men falling from the battlements :) ).
We also drove through an Indian wedding in a very very poor shanty
town where the car was engulfed by bright gaudily dressed Indians
smiling and cheering it was a lovely experience.

That night we took the overnight train to Varanasi the spiritual home
of Hinduism. We had to travel sleeper class ( kind of upmarket
peasant) due to a lack of decent air conditioned seats left. It was an
interesting time though i did not sleep as i was to busy guarding our
bags (to put the money situation here into perspective a well paid
government worker earns 12,000 rupees a month, sounds a lot but in
reality it equates to 150gbp), as our camera alone is worth 2 months
good salary you become very conscious of the eyes scanning you and
mentally totalling up your worth. If they weren’t so weak from lack of
food we would probably have been robbed, stripped and thrown from the
train (joking, the average Indian is very nice and helpful - sadly you
only ever meet them on trains).

We arrived in Varanasi, Rob was still with us (though he had an AC
ticket the bar steward) and had also found 2 other travellers who
tagged along with us. The 2 new guys (Caz (male from Brislington!) &
Polenta (female yank not cake)) were on a real shoestring budget
staying in hostels for 50 rupees a night needless to say Caz had been
violently ill on the train due to eating cheap food from roadside
vendors (neither has travel insurance the fools).
Outside Varanasi station we went through the obligatory scrum of taxi
and tuk-tuk drivers before coming up with the ball (or in this case a
taxi) and headed for the hotel we had picked from our book.
Varanasi has a main road and then very narrow streets/lanes (kind of
like Morocco Sooks) so we got out the cab to walk the last few yards
and that’s when our problems began. We were followed by a young boy of
around 10 who offered to lead us to our hotel (the streets are a maze)
we told him we wouldn’t pay him and he said fine. The Hotel wasn’t
suitable and we asked him to take us to another one we liked the look
of fort a small fee but he took us somewhere else where we were
surrounded by 5-6 touts all demanding that we stay the night. Needless
to say we walked off but they followed us and surprise, surprise the
next hotel was ‘full’ as I walked from reception i saw that one of
the touts had got there before us. This all began to look a bit
sinister and after a few choice words from my lovely wife and a long
walk to leave the touts behind we finally got a room in a reasonable
hotel on the banks of the river Ganga (great name).

We strolled along the Ghats (like docks but different) where we were
continually hassled (children in North India come up to you smiling,
hold out their hands and say 'Hello, Money' Isn’t tourism a great
thing?) by touts for hotels, boats, clothing etc. This totally ruined
the ambience of the holiest place in India. We came across the place
where they burn their dead (a strange sight, lots of mourners around
a burning body when one of the employees, who make sure the body burns
to ashes, walks up and with a large bit of wood smacks the glowing
head hard so it goes deeper into the fire......If it was my relative
I think it would upset me). There was a man there who explained it all
to us (they burn most people so that the spirit rises to Nirvana, and
the ashes are scattered in the Ganges as the river is believed to be
something to do with their gods ( i forget what as at that point i was
watching the Head cricket. Holy Men, children, animals etc, they just
weigh down with rocks and dump in the river as they are believed to be
innocent and therefore will enter Nirvana immediately). Late afternoon
was spent on the steps of our hotel watching the men bathe in the
Ganga - It was here I discovered religion, they bathe and then drink
the water, now bearing in mind they dump bodies in it upstream, they
pee and shit in it, then surviving drinking it is nothing short of
miraculous so their must be a god, or 300 million gods if you are
Indian).

We also watched them fighting with kites over the river, we could have
watched it all night, they have small regular shaped kites no larger
than a foot square, the strings of which they coat with powdered glass
from broken light bulbs. they then fly as close to another kite as
possible and begin to try and spin around it, so you have 2 kites in
an aerial dog fight each trying to wrap themselves around the string
of the other in order to cut it. The losers kite ends up in the
river. It is very entertaining.

Varanasi is full of Backpackers who have gone 'native' mainly the 18+
women who think its cool to wander through shit in open toed sandals
wearing a sari. I was trying to think of a word to describe them but
the best I can come up with is very politically incorrect and sounds
racist (it’s not meant to be. We now affectionately refer to them as
BackPackies.

The huge amount of touts and a very strong feeling of insecurity
meant we cut the trip short and jumped on a train the next day for
Satna.
Satna is a railway junction where we were intending to get a cab to
Kahujaro to visit some 'erotic temples' After 7 hours on the train we
arrived in the dark, We needed to travel 150kms by taxi, but when we
got out of the station it became apparent we were going to be ripped
off by an unregulated taxi service. We tried 2 taxis in the end but
felt exceptionally unsafe as they kept stopping and getting out to
talk to other people which was very worrying. We ditched the cabs and
headed into Satna itself.....it was a hole, we couldn’t get a decent
hotel (just ran down shacks) and to top it all off Saara slipped over
in the street and fell in god knows what (didn’t smell too bad though).
We were now feeling more insecure than ever, we were being followed
up and down streets by a crowd of taxi touts, beggars and just general
residents and after a quick debate we decided to get back to the
station and take an overnight train all the way to Bombay (Mumbai).
After a slight problematic encounter with the ticket inspector we were
both at our wits end and ready to jack the India trip in and head for
Thailand and the relative security of a country that does not try to
rob its tourists blind every time they open their mouths.
Luckily We met a lovely Man called Chandrakant, He is 54 and lives in
Bombay ( A Marketing Manager for a rubber firm that make conveyor
belts). He convinced us to head for Gopa to relax and then explore
South India which, he claims, has a better infrastructure, less touts
and more English speaking people (we have also agreed to meet up when
we return to Bombay, for a meal with his wife (marketing manager for
siemens) and a bit of shopping where she will barter for us (tops!).
We stayed overnight in a lovely hotel called the Grand for 30gbp and
in the morning an armed guard walked us back to the next train to Goa.

We travelled first class which was lovely and arrived late last night.
Having decided to base ourselves in Goa and do 1-3 night trips out of
our base we have booked into the Casa Sea Shell hotel for the
extortionate rate of 10gbp a night. The food is lovely, beautiful
gardens and a pool.

In summary we are safe and well, sick of North India but enjoying our
first day in Goa.

Mad

Gone Away
D'you know, I've never been interested in India, even though my father lived there for many years before and during the war (the second of course; I'm not THAT old). But Keith's tale is so spellbinding that I'm sorely tempted to dream of a visit. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful.
Date Added: 14/12/2004

Way
Not me, Gone. Sitting in front of this screen is danger enough, altho the vicarious ride-along is fascinating. Don't be afraid to be P-un-C, Keith. Call 'em (ding)BatPackies, if you so wish.
(Gotta love the term "tout", too) Pictures were excellent, btw...post more of those, if possible.
Date Added: 14/12/2004

Gone Away
I said "dream", Way. I would never actually go to India - just too darn old, I think.
Date Added: 15/12/2004

Mad
That has to be the crappest piece of spam I've ever seen
Date Added: 29/09/2009

Back ground Check
Matisyahu redefines the category and places it at the leading edge of musical technology growth, displaying a new and more comprehensive perspective of the long run. He should get the achievements that has come to him, at first through unique, but now through authentic ability and creativity
Date Added: 19/05/2012

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