Location: Chennai, India
I've arrived in Chennai and as great moments have it, the atmosphere of the day seemed to echo the moments to come. I'll explain soon enough. Also, you can refer to Album #2 of my Indian photos to get a better understanding of some of the photos and events in this blog.
Either by sheer stupidity or luck, I went on another overnight sleeper train, this time from Mysore to Chennai wearing shorts and a t-shirt much like my last trip from Hospet (Hampi) to Bangalore in which I dreamt of blankets in that drafty train. But hoping that the upper most bunk would send some relief, and it did, I lucked out as chance had it. The night train trip into Chennai came with a moist welcoming, my cloths clung to me as the rain from outside, the minimal air flow, and the full passenger load seemed to brew that elegant 'couldn't pay me to bottle it up' smell that is uniquely found in India.
But the trip was much better than the last one, and I managed to get a few hours of sleep - mind you the beds are not made for westerners, by this I mean the average Indian man/woman is much shorter, thus can fit comfortably (by Indian standards that is) into these little holdings.
I woke to a morning that was filled with rain clouds from overnight, assuring me that it wasn't some toilet water overflow that contributed to the moist cabin air. Now I've been in India for 5 weeks now, and I figured to truly experience India, Id have to do as the locals do. Waking up, climbing down from the upper bunk, I made my way to the bathrooms, which were all occupied, my bladder wasn't too happy. But I noticed men looking out of the open doors at the scenery passing by, so I took my chance and entered a empty doorway and took in my first real fresh (Ill say fresh, but not really) breath of Chennai air. The scenery was pretty amazing. You can guess what happened next, as I did not have the patience to wait for a bathroom stall to become available, and my bladder was yelling to reduce the pressure. Ahh India, how you have truly changed me. So the pictures (Bye Mysore, Hello Chennai) were taken while I was watering the plants along the 6221 Chennai Express Train at 7:23AM. Cheers to me!
Now like I said, India was crying that night, so it was only fitting that as my aunt (who last held me was when I was a baby) had waterworks pouring out of this little lady. She reminds me of my mom, which is great in my selfish desire to see a bit of home so far away. We jumped into a rickshaw and made for a cousins place, where Id be staying the next few nights while in town. Its great to see family, even if you've never met (or remember meeting) before, you drop all your security barriers, and your worries about where youre going to sleep, what meal youre going to eat, if youre going to get scammed all just drift away.
I've been in Chennai all of 15hrs, and all I can say is what the hell. Maybe I missed these parts of Bangalore or Mumbai where the traffic is just crazy, the roads arent even roads, and the pollution/dirt is mind boggling. Chennai takes the cake, but Im sure if/when I visit Delhi, that city will wear the crown with honour.
My cousins and aunt took me to the fruit/veg/flower market here in town, but as it was closer to the end of the day, much of the morning hustle and bustle was gone, and what was left was, um, not pretty. I mean it has its charm, but the rain from the previous night had mucked up everything. So thrown in rotting flowers, fruits, newspapers, cow crap, dog crap, some human crap/piss, and you get a nice buffet for the nose. I am at times surprised by the fact that I dont just pass out on the street from the smell of the open sewers and animal crap. (On a side note: what I fear most about walking down the streets of these small towns in India is not getting mugged, scammed, or stabbed, but that I will inevitably step into A) cow B) dog C) human; shit, D) puddle of piss from either A B or C, or worst case scenario, ABC of both shit and piss. I dont know yet if I will burn or return with my sandals from this trip.)
My aunt and her daughter (yes my cousin for those who have trouble following along - robot lady thats for you) headed home after our market adventures, and my other cousin and I jumped into a chair-auto. Now I had no clue what this was, but found out soon enough. Chair-auto is basically a wider rickshaw on a bus route. So you can jump into a chair-auto (provided there is room) and take it to a point in which you can get off, pay your distance, and jump into another chair-auto that connects until you get to your final destination, like you would a bus route. Mind you, we were both carrying 10-15lbs of fruits/vegs in cotton bags for the past 15 minutes as we walked up to the streets from inside the markets. The first chair-auto wasnt a problem as we climbed into the passenger seats, 4 of us in the back, and 2 guys sitting in the front with the driver. After watching this driver make some razor sharp cuts through the traffic that was Chennai at 7:30PM, it was enough to want to wait the 2hrs until the rush hour was over. At one point, then there was just him and us 4 in the back, he decided to take the chair-auto onto a sidewalk that had an incline towards the road. In order to escape unharmed, the driver and 3 of us in the back had to jump to one side of the car, so it wouldnt tip over. This was chair-auto driver number 1.
Chair-auto driver number two was much more pleasant to drive with, but the experience was a bit more hair raising. As the 4 seats in the back were full, we jumped into the front my cousin and I flanking the driver on both sides. Half my ass hanging in the air, my arm right arm reaching across me holding onto a bar to ensure that I didnt fly out of the char-auto. 15 minutes of my pulling my leg in and out of the vehicle so that it didnt clip any motorists or pedestrians, I finally got a chance to move to the back when a man with one leg wanted in on the chair-auto system. Thank you man with one leg, you may have just saved my life tonight.
After that experience I pose a new challenge to the producers of FearFactor (is this show even on anymore??) Take a guy raised and Canada all his life, who has only driven in the streets of Toronto, blind fold him, fly him to India without his knowledge of where you are taking him (maybe the smells will give it away), and put him on a bike at 7PM during Chennai rush hour. Give him the humble task of driving 5km to a destination where lays a $1 million dollars and I swear to you, that money will forever sit there. You could not pay me enough to drive on these streets, in a car, on a scooter, or a cycle.
Thats my story on Chennai, now for some thoughts on the current state of affairs in India. As I mentioned in my last blog about reading The White Tiger, the corruption of India never really surprises me anymore. Now with Satyam (a large outsourcing company here in India that has clients around the world) announcing that they had cooked the books for years shakes that credibility that Indian business has tried to build up for years in the North American market.
A few weeks ago I was reading an article in Times of India in which the editor made a great suggestion. For all the ways India touts how great it is at being a supplier of outsourcing, its a rational idea (in my opinion) that maybe to fix the problems of India, the people need to outsource their government. I thought this was a wonderful idea, seems the Indian government is already thinking of outsourcing their coast guard service post 26/11 terror attacks on India. (You see, the terrorists found dead, and the one alive all had something in common on them; 400 Indian rupees. Now as the terrorist came in via water, it is an accepted fact that the going bribe to Indian Coast Guard officials is 400 bucks if caught trying to enter or escape Indian waters. ) How sad a fact, that you cant even trust your OWN Indian people to protect your fellow Indians. So India, take your own great advice that you spew to the West about outsourcing, and start getting your banana republic of a government in some type of order that could demand respect from the rest of the world.
End of blog.
In all this, I forgot to mention my last day of Mysore, I enjoyed a great lunch at Tiget Tail (in a very nice hotel) and a wonderful few hours at a spa at the foot of Charmundi Hills, highly recommend both places.
Location: Bangalore, India
As my head races in 15 different directions, much like the traffic here in India, I finally got the chance to sit down and materialize some of my recent thoughts.
Bangalore has given me (all credit to Preetham and his family) the opportunity to take time out of this trip, and read some great books, plus reflect on what I've seen this past few weeks.
I wont dive into anything at this stage, I still want it to keep these thoughts in the pressure cooker of my head while I mix in a few more ingredients, so the reflections will be for another time.
But that side, some great books can be found on the streets of India. (Not to mention as you sit in a rickshaw and people come up to you and try and sell you them as well - drug dealers can learn a few things from these book pushers). Much like heading to Pacific Mall and picking up some bootleg dvds of the hottest new flicks, the streets of India have some great reads at prices you can laugh at.
Three books of recent consumption are as follows
1) Five Point Someone - Chetan Bhagat
2) The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
3) The Prophet - Khalil Gibran
1) Interesting look at college life for indian's in a world of titles, gpa's, and judging books by covers. quick read, bollywood film in the making, hes got 2 other books, but this is his best thus far.
2) Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008, this will be a tough book for the author to follow up on. great story of the seedy underbelly of india, i highly recommend this book to anyone who has a few hours, curiosity, and a heart beat.
3) This book found me, not knowing what i was getting myself into. Khalil Gibran is someone everyone should know, heck, hes the 3rd best selling poet in history after Shakespeare and Laozi. His words will unmistakably move your inner being to hieghts unimagined. You can read this in one sitting and have it change entire lifetime.
EHC - Exploring the Human Condition
Now I never went to school for sociology as a major, I took it as a course to boost the GPA (like 99% of my fellow classmates), but I've recently been looking at the world through the eyes of a sociologist (I think we all do this without noticing) and I've found I enjoy this immensely.
So hence the EHC, my method to gain answers to questions of interest to me. Now everyone on Facebook that I have as a friend (lets see how much of a friend they really are....) has been invited to join the EHC group. Now I dont really care for Facebook groups (one or two groups excluded, EKE - you know who you are), but this is the best means I can think of outside of paying for those little voting applications (heck I'm cheap), to communicate with everyone easily.
But what is it that I want to get out of all this? It may sound fake if I say that in the end, whatever questions I pose will help you more then me, but I seriously think any form of self reflection gives more to that one person then money, gifts, and praise can offer.
So how does this little EHC thing work out. Its actually very very easy. Every month (at the beginning of the month) I will pose a question or task, or both. Your job is to provide a honest answer within the time frame given (usually 7 days). Therefor I can take the data back with me, and analyze what I've found. This isn't scientific, and heck, I'm the last person you want to ask how to setup a proper scientific experiment, but this is how I'll start it off. Who knows, maybe I'll get better as time goes on, and everyone participating enjoys the outcome (both in finding their answer, and reading my results).
Cheers to a new year once again, to new ideas, to new adventures, and most importantly, to new great things that you will discover about yourself.
Location: Bangalore, India
Happy New Year!
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I can dive slightly into the past few days to give you all a taste of travel on the other side of the planet.
I bid my friends a hearty farewell on Monday at 5:30AM in Hampi, as the four of them headed to the train station back to Vasco De Gama - one couple to Goa (Anjuna) and the other to Gokarna. Half asleep I wandered up to my room, which sadly i have not taken a picture of, for it wasn't the most imaginative room I've been in. I had 12hrs to kill in Hampi that day, figuring most of it would be on my own exploring some of what I didn't get to see.
Being in the right place at the right time can do wonders for how your day can play out. As I packed up, checked out of my room, and scratched my head wondering how I'd waste the day, a traveler we all had met a few nights ago wandered by, Paroon.
Paroon, a 6'5" 200lb+, that would be the type to date a female basketball player (as i found out later he did) happened to cross my path. Now Paroon is an interesting guy, 46 yrs old, born in Turkey, moved to Denmark, then moved back to Turkey to start up his own restaurant business. Now if i think giving up my job was a monumental task, Paroon decided that his successful and profitable restaurant (staffed by some 10 people he grew to love over the 9 years he owned the restaurant), his flat with indoor pool and garden, the nice car and all the fancy furniture wasn't going to solve his greatest problem, finding that which was missing. So he sold his business, the flat, gave the car to his sister, gave away for free all his furniture, including the stereo system he guarded with his life for many years, and came to India. Its hard for me to even picture myself parting with my lovely macbookpro, let alone my house, car, and all my material possessions.
But the best part of all this is, that he is for all intensive purposes, a happier man. Lost over 46lbs while traveling India, carries with him two shirts, 2 shorts and a towel in a small little bag. His inner flask that holds his happiness and contentment seems to fill one drop at at a time, as the days in India grow in his favour.
So we spent the day walking around Hampi, a good 2-3hrs that involved a lot of bottled water, views that took your breath away, and locals that truly show you how to smile.
At 8PM I caught a overnight sleeper train to Bangalore (where my sisters school mate Preetham was going to pick me up and put me up at his place for my stay in town.) Firstly, I managed to get on the wrong car, so as the ticket master came around, he quickly directed me to the next car, where I'd spend the next few hours of my journey. Now i boarded this train wearing my typical outfit, shorts and a t-shirt. Big mistake as i soon realized. Indian nights are cool, and even cooler on a moving train with drafty windows. That night, as i looked around at all the Indian passengers with blankets, i tried to catch some sleep, i managed to dream of a blanket. Not just one, but that another fell from the bunk above me and that in my state, i stole that one as well. Suffice it to say, i had about 15 mins of good sleep, spread out in 3 minute bursts stretched over 5 hours.
Bangalore at 6AM running on little to no sleep, sneezing as if i was getting a cold, I managed to finally find Preetham after exiting the wrong side of the train station. I am truly amazed by the kindness of the people I've met here in India. All con artists aside, I had expected maybe a tour guide out of my sisters contact, but never what I was in for. My own room in the 3 story building that Preetham's father owns, they also live on the 3rd floor. Home cooked Indian meals, 3 of them per day, with 2nd servings at each. I am positive i will gain at least 1lb for every day im here, and come out a diabetic with all the sweets im being fed. The foods amazing, the family is absolutely warming, and my stomach has never been so full in my life.
Its a great comfort on this trip, to have a stopping point like this where i can relax a bit, find the comforts of home so far away, and still have the freedom to explore and feel like a traveler.
I know this blog has been long, but i thought i'd catch everyone up on my adventures.
Have an amazing new year ladies and gents, this year is about you. So do something for yourself; buy yourself something nice, treat yourself to a good dinner, get away to that vacation spot you were dreaming of, reach higher, dream bigger, and live larger then the years gone by.
Click on any of the headings above to see some photos.
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Response: SWEET BEANS! take me with you!
Response: hampi has no cell phone reception, im fine.
i'll be in bangalor tuesday morning, you can try my cell then.
dont worry, mother india is taking care of me so far!
Response: a little from column A a little form column B.
Response: It hurts to hear that Zaff, i know your suffering for me just as well.
Hope the world in toronto treats you well, remember, GCM party in jan plz!
Response: hey Annuj. you know i always felt bad we didn't get a chance to reprint that poster, we'll have to fix that one day when i get back into town.
i hear the weather is treating everyone well back home, the holiday season really picking up. its nice to have snow in dec. beats seeing the filth on the streets.
super shushi house will be our first stop back in town!
Response: motherly advice!
Response: hey john, thanks for the note man.
hope things in CC @ TPH are going well.
we'll have to meet up once im back in town with the whole gang!
Response: hey hobs, yes and yes. you can always send me emails or fb mgs.
hope sgs is keeping things interesting back home!
Response: will do jesse. and just got word that they found my luggage, so those kick ass cards can finally arrive so i can spam india with em!
hope things @ tph are going just as well!
Response: ammah your reading this, ok now i have to censor all the bad stuff you told me not to do.
Response: cause you have me in your life, duhh!
Response: hey. check up again and gain!
Response: no abortions!! (well thats another topic for another day). the mission is going full steam ahead, after the trails and tribulations that india has thrown at me so far, im sure the rest of the trip will have some interesting sights and sounds (not to mention smells) to keep me entertained.
Response: customs officers are the worst! and knowing one, i kind of feel dirty now. thanks!
let me know which gate your working so when i come back, my $10,000 worth of gold jewelery can be smuggled in no problemo.
Response: KUSH MAN!!!!!!!!!
im glad to hear your partying it up with the lads/lassies back in Tdot. Have to keep the partying traditions alive and kicking.
the original mission, was that to become the next bollywood megasuper star, then move into politics and finally unite the brown countries to form the strongest union of taxi drivers and lawyers this planet has ever seen? or the one to just have fun, meet people, and slide in some soul searching here and there?
hope the to weather keeps life interesting, i know Merril can be loads of fun to. Punch avi, kj and the rest of em for me!
Response: im going to print that somewhere (any takers) and frame it one day!
Response: i shall, finally got a cell bro, so you guys can text me and i can be cheap and not txt back.
Response: buy gold in doha, what do you think im made of, money?
i did buy some food at the doha airport, which was actually very tasty. the airport is interesting, they have shuttle buses that take you out to the planes, i thought that was neat, it amused me like any 8yr old kid. lol
off to goa tomorrow, so i'll have more stories to share then!
Response: no worries my good chum!
i'll be back soon enough, im sure i'll do something illegal, spend some time in jail, and get deported (can someone say FREE FLIGHT) and be ready to share stories back home!
Response: your kidding me auds?
i'll have to check that out and let you know, india is a big place, so give me more details on this amazing grilled cheese and where it was consumed and created!