I finally managed to drag myself away from the beach today after a monster 9 nights of doing nothing in particular, just chilling out in the heat with invariably a beach, a book, a beer, a Berliner and a couple of birds. There was only one place open late in Palolim such was the police ban on late night music, meaning in reality that it was the only joint which could afford to pay them their bribe. It was here at Cafe del Mar that I had met Sarah and Carrie from dahn sahff and Geordie guy Ross, and I was to spend a week with them in the end, with buddy Mannfred later evolving from Mumbai to make up the numbers.
Apathy had got the better of me on the beach and it was only grudgingly that the pressures of time forced me to make my next move. It had been a last minute decision on how and when to leave Goa, what with the night bus to Hampi being booked out and the trains offering infrequent service and poor connections to the East. Perversely, almost in desperation I still managed to bag a cheap airfare to Bangalore so that was the decider. Though I would miss out on the ruined city at Hampi it was plain sailing from Bangalore to get to Chennai and checking out the midway city would be a bonus of sorts. Coincidentally it was a city I had intended visiting a whole month earlier as a priority in order to visit an aviation expo, but the required invitation wasnt forthcoming. Surely feeling skint after my mini blow out in Goa I endured a superheated sardine can local bus ride at rush hour from the airport, but was rewarded by promptly finding the rail station and bagging a gold dust ticket for Chennai, leaving in just a matter of hours. With Bangalore's sights being scant and spread out I elected just to settle for the evening there before moving on then, but that in fact was enough. Its real reputation lay in its technological boom town status, within which had evolved a new yuppy class who wanted to enjoy all the trappings of a developed society. Epitomising that was the fact that it was the only place in the whole of India with a genuine established pub culture and I took a rickshaw across the city to MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road to check it out, all in the name of research of course! Passing by shiny glitzy shopping centres and air-con and al fresco coffee houses, fashionably western dressed rich chics and go-getters, I found my first den of iniquity the Guzzlers Inn blasting out Metallica with big screen TVs, a very surreal contrast to the pavement beggars not too distant. The 2nd pub, called NASA, was a black hole dimly lit with fluorescent white strips, made out to resemble the interior of the space shuttle. The waiters wore flight crew shirts and guess what, more Metallica! So much of the world was based upon bullshit, it was almost worth suffering though for a real pint in a grandad mug. Even here as in the streets, there was a small black minority not evident anywhere else I had been and even more surprisingly a massive presence of Thais or people of similar extraction. I guessed that the brain drain diaspora worked both ways and people from afar had come to booming India in search of their fortune. Heading back to the station the rickshaw drivers were predictably ambitious in the money charged atmosphere. Uniquely dressed in an overall brown uniform, the 1st boy asked for 200 Rupees. 100 was chancing it enough and my genuine laugh of ridicule was met by an offer of disco or drugs instead. It was just that kind of town.
Boarding the sleeper in Bangalore it was an experience in awareness, I felt a pertinent sense of how far I had come. Whilst at one time it would have been intimidating I was aware of feeling completely at ease as I took my berth, sat pressed up against the head of a sleeping Asian beauty. Again, there was the presence of Thai looking people and even the locals had a subtle unexpected more Far Eastern twist to their faces. All around the carriage, smiles were shared with dark Hindu figures, their habitual discussion of berths and destinations obvious through intonation alone. The scum factor though not what one might expect of Scotrail was now negligible, I was a bona fide worn-in Indianite and well used to it. Though I could not even be sure what the local language was, as always in reality it was English. For once I had not been lumped with other tourists, surely because there were none. Perhaps not the normal train of choice, the Guwahati Express was going across nigh on the full expanse of India and my overnight hop to Chennai was just the first leg.