Better late than NeverDecember 15, 2018 in India ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C
The following is taken from an unfinished working draft compiled on the morning of Sunday 16th December 2018. Words have been inserted and phraseology amended in an attempt to achieve cohesion but, given the mood and sentiment being conveyed, this is rarely achieved. Reader discretion is advised.
I've just about had it with this fucking country.
I mean, seriously, would it kill you to put a sodding sausage on your breakfast menu? Here I am/was in a fascinating facsimile of a top-class hotel and I head downstairs for the most important meal of the day to find, literally, not a sausage. And don't try to sell me on your continental, not even *your* continental, salami-style spicy red things...I'm talking a proper British banger, fried or grilled I ain't picky, cooked to bursting point and ready to be plated or shoved into a bap with a dollop of ketchup and maybe a dash of mustard if I'm feeling fruity.
From what sentiment is this glaring omission borne? Some sort of offensive overhang from colonial times? Well let me tell you the Romans used to rule over England but not once have I boycotted the pizza. Quite the opposite in fact. Oh, and I notice you're quite happy to have stacks of American pancakes on offer with maple syrup; because they're such a ruddy faultless nation. Well, I suppose Canadians are. They think they're a country; so adorable. And yes they were delicious and yes I had my fair share and then some, so a typical American portion, but you better be watching yourself with these double-standards or we're gonna have a proper falling-out.
Oh and then to be patronised on our way out by Mickey Mouse was the icing on the also-delicious French pastries on offer. Obviously not the actual Mickey Mouse, but if India was a theme park conglomerate with television, movie and merchandise monopolies spanning the globe, then this was the guy in the oversized suit signing autographs. His attire was so overwhelmingly, stereotypically 'traditional' that if you'd sliced him in two it would read 'India' through the middle, like some bloodied and presumably now-dead stick of Blackpool rock. I'd have taken a picture of him, but that would have been buying into the crass commercialism you're obviously trying to peddle here and I'm not buyng.
So we were on the road, literally the worst place and the place we have predominantly been whilst in India, but thankfully only briefly. After a moment's respite on a deserted viewing platform, which by our presence we soon made 'serted', we headed in grand-old-duke-of-york tradition to the top of a hill where we found a cluster of temples.
I say 'found' like this was an easy task. No, as if trying to hammer-home their status as '2nd biggest population on earth', the area around the temples was absolutely packed with people. What's more, these people weren't even tourists...they were here to 'pray' or something, I don't know I don't speak the language, and so had no concept of the impediment they were causing good folk like us trying to both reach and then photograph these religious establishments.
And these people were forming queues to get inside; taking the single most crappy part of British culture and extrapolating the concept ad nauseum. Now I don't know about you, and I don't much care, but I've never witnessed people having to stand in line to enter a church (apart from that one time, which I won't mention as it undercuts my argument). And there was no 'visitor' or 'premium' entrance we could make use of; to see the innards of this genuinely impressive structure dedicated to Chamundi, the slayer of Mahishasura with some sort of connection to Shiva and for whom the hill we were up was named, we would have to queue along with them. We had no time for such nonsense so didn't bother.
We would later be told that the main temple was dedicated to the wife of Shiva, which my Year 7 Religious Education recollections misremember as 'Pavlova' as opposed to the more correct 'Parvati'. Preferable childhood memories remember it as being 'Kali', as in "Kali Maa...Kali Maaa...Kali Maaaaa...Shakti de". Incidentally, if Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom was intended to act as a realistic cultural advertisement for this country, which without fact-checking I presume it was and was well-received as such, then it completely fails to live up to the expected standards; I've experienced precisely nil elephant rides, zero meals of miniature snakes inside a bigger snake and only a handful of minecart chases.
Bypassing the madness of the goddess temple, we went to the far less popular, quieter and less impressive temple dedicated to Shiva, which really is modern-day feminism run amock. Here we were conned into leaving our shoes outside in the general vicinity of some dude just sitting about whom, upon our re-emergence, expected payment for having not stolen them. Our guide to the temple, whom we hadn't formally hired and just sort-of started showing us around, also expected payment which was fine as he did something of genuine worth, the temple was well kept, his narrative interesting and the red dot he popped on my forehead aiding with my cultural immersion though being thankfully impermanent, but the 'shoe-watcher' did literally nothing. I eventually paid him something because Charlotte gave me one of those 'it's only a couple of quid, you'd spend more than that on a cup of coffee' looks and also said something to similar effect. Also a cup of coffee has genuine tangible worth and I tend to order Americanos, which rarely breach the £1.89 mark.
It was a question of relativity more than anything; paying some guy to sit on his arse, which he'd been doing anyway, somewhat close to our footwear devalued the worth I'd expressed by giving only a little more than a couple of quid to our tour-guide. Had I been able to find him again and slip him a little extra I mightn't have begrudged the trainer-guardian a little something, but he'd already wandered off to find his next group of outsiders to vaguely walk alongside till assimilating himself as their chargeable chaparone. It was akin to equating a farmer with a scarecrow, which is an equivalency you really shouldn't make in a country pub when most of the patrons own shotguns.
Roger witheld payment. I've never respected him more.
We fought our way back through the throngs of locals to our driver, who was able to pick us up in a convenient place only by completely disregarding etiquette and traffic laws and seriously inconveniencing a multitude of coaches. He proceeded to deliver us to some palace, 'Mysore Palace' I'm presuming via extrapolation of location and thing, which was a vast, elegant structure with many beautifully architected(?) rooms that I might have enjoyed had I not had to lug around my shoes with me instead of on me because, surprise surprise, here was yet another place where sporting my moderately expensive, soft-soled and extremely comfortable footwear wasn't welcome. Whilst presented as some sort of 'display of respect' for the regal and religious traditions of the nation, I'm suspicious that the whole ruse is a long-game con by big pharma to stimulate demand for athletes-foot treatment and, much like flat-earthers, until science completely and utterly refuses this hypothesis I will presume it to be absolute verified fact.
We had off-brand cornettos and I saw a camel. Best/least-loathsome part of the day by far.
We next went to another palace, the 'Summer Palace', which is what rich folk used to have before conservatories. Entry cost to this miniature structure, containing some impressive if somewhat dilapidated wall paintings, varied in proportion to how much of an Indian you were. It was a binary scale, with residents being charged a set fee and foreigners being quite fairly charged a measly twelve times as much. Much like we do in the UK when international visitors pay £672 for a day at Alton Towers except of course they don't because that would be fucking racist and also nobody goes to Alton Towers without a coupon.
Mysore done, we began the drive back to Bangalore, where we'd be spending our final evening/night at a party/shindig being put on by the former bride/groom, now husband/wife, for people that had travelled to the wedding/reception. On the way the driver asked if we'd like to stop for some food and we said we did and he asked what sort of place do you want to stop and we said let's try an Indian version of a foreign place we were familiar with like McDonalds and he said okay so he asked which one should we go to and we discussed it and said McDonalds and he said "McDonalds?" and we agreed we'd said McDonalds so he knew we'd said McDonalds and he stopped at KFC. Whilst we enjoyed our KFC, which tasted like chicken, a road traffic accident occurred right outside the restaurant and our driver took it upon himself to go and mediate the resulting confrontation between perp and victim. It was the only shit I'd seen him give about road safety all week.
Given the general, rampant lackadaisical attitude of seemingly most road users through the week I was genuinely surprised we hadn't observed more incidents of this sort. Indeed it's true what they say, even though it patently isn't, that when you wait forever for a bus two come along at once. The onward at one point became an onward standstill as some sort of incident up ahead brought traffic to a halt. We were too far away to see what had caused the accident. It might have been a bus. Or perhaps two buses, travelling concurrently and thusly colliding. We needn't have worried though (albeit I sincerely hope nobody was hurt) as the line of vehicles behind simply drove off the road into a field, in doing so churning up said field from a bland yet naturally consistent grassy green into a muddied, muddy mess. Was this legal? Whose field was it? Were the vehicles capable of safely traversing this non-road surface? Didn't matter.
We arrived in Bangalore in the evening. Absolutely meeting the established low-expectations already held, the driver first took us to a lovely, centrally-located hotel where we tried to check-in only to be told we had no booking and the correct hotel was some fire subsidiary lodgings out in the suburbs. Eventually arriving we had to change and leave with exorbitant quickness so as to get back into the city for our evening activity, a mere stone's throw from the not-our-hotel we were first taken to.
Arriving at the gorgeous, decadent destination (another hotel ; one that I think, had we been earlier delivered here, I expect from instinct would have been able to judge as out of our range), we were late but the newly-weds were even later, demonstrating such deep fashionability as to justify their own designer lines. I'd personally love a stylish/ironic Muthukrishnan/Ramanan branded wrist-watch.
Nam and Sid had laid on a very lavish get-together/party for all their visiting guests before we all headed off home. Hosting on the top-floor / roof bar of the absolute best hotel in Bangalore (of the five I'd visited, which is a sufficient sample), there were nibbles and an open-bar and the mood and spirits of all those present only enhanced as the mood-altering spirits were consumed.
All well and good you might say? All's well that ends well you might say? Well, so I thought at the time. Only now, on reflection, do I notice the truth. See, the genuinely generous and excellent evening did actively and efficiently damper the memories and experience of our nightmarish day, but is that really healthy? Being coaxed, by way of free provision, into such indulgement really only amounts to a coping mechanism, providing surface-level relief but causing unhealthy repression that could cause long-term damage. And I say this with the authority of somebody who's seen every episode of Frasier, much of Cheers and that one cameo in Wings.
Even in the short-term, the ramifications of this treatment were/are severe. After hours and drinks-a-plenty we collectively went back to Nam's brother's place which was both further away than I expected yet not as far out as it felt. There followed the provision and intake of further intoxicants until I think about 4am or so or thereabouts, my uncertainty on this being a part of the problem. Somebody called David and I a taxi and we got back to the hotel around an hour and a half before we had to leave for the airport so we smartly decided we'd have a quick kip.
I don't really remember what happened next, but we definitely didn't wake up when we were supposed to, something presumably instigated by a third party did successfully wake us up and we thusly hurriedly swept our cluttered belongings into our bags then scrambled downstairs into our awaiting car to commence this confusing, disorienting and nausea-inducing journey to the airport (which, admittedly, might be stimulating less nausea were I not also typing this...).
I recognise on reflection, now at the airport and eating a monstrous stack of French toast I'm hoping is a secret, undiscovered hangover cure, that this blog post might appear ill-tempered, exaggerated and totally unrepresentative of both my final day and my broad sentiment as regards my time in India. Whilst totally true on both fronts, I can't be arsed writing it all up again. So as to mitigate potential offence, I'll maybe wait a few months before posting it and plonk in a meta framing device that portrays the whole piece as a sort of found-footage/narrative piece. Yeah, that sounds like a really 'me' thing to do.Read more