So here we are in India again, me and Dawa Dolkar my wife. Time switch on arrival at the Southern Star on Lavell Road in Bengaluru means 6.55 London becomes 10.35 India as we jump ahead 4 and a half hours in consequence. Sense of dislocation rolls over in waves as I’m sitting by the coffee table in our room with an Indian Railways advertisement flyer on the glass top in front of me – Food Journeys / Hubli Rice Bath – or to break that one down, take a train to Hubli and have a dish there called a rice bath and pretty tasty I’m sure it would be too, except of course we were not going to Hubli but later in the day instead to Mysore on the Tippu Express and from there to the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe by car. Hubli by the way is an eight or nine train journey north of Bengaluru into the heart of Karnataka and the nearest town of any size to the Tibetan settlement of Mungod which is just up the road from the sunshine state of Goa. Further on up the track from Hubli is a town called Hospet and if you get at Hospet you are then not too far from the magical ancient city of ruins called Hampi which is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in India. Need to find the time to get up to Hampi again, last visit I made that was back in ’89 in another life.
Took a walk in the late morning after a sleep of 3.5 hours in our room in the Southern Star after our flight BA 0118 Heathrow to Bengaluru which took 9.5 hours non-stop. After waking up with an initial feeling of tiredness I soon felt refreshed after taking a shower and drinking down a South Indian style coffee on room service. Dawa Dolkar didn’t fancy the walk to Brigade Road in the bright Bengaluru sun of the mid-morning so she stayed in our room lying low curtains drawn, still laid out on the bed in recovery from the flight. Once outside I soon found the walk tiresome due to the poor condition of the pavements which meant when I got to Church Street I took a rickshaw to get to where I wanted to go, as the last thing I wanted to do was take a trip in the wrong kinda way, if you get my gist, face flyin’ smack onto the ground by way of a wrong kind of welcome to India.
The main purpose of my little excursion was to go to Nilgiris, a well stocked supermarket on Brigade Road in order to pick up some bits and pieces before we left the big city. Once I got there I bought 6 bags of Coorg Coffee and 6 bottles of Indian tonic water and all for a total price of 815 rupees. Not bad, especially getting the tonic water, as I knew that once we were down Mysore way finding some in the shops there would be tricky. Soda water yes, that was everywhere, Bisleri Soda or Kinley Soda no problem, but Indian tonic water, now that was a different story. It was all for the gin you see, the gin we bought on the duty free back in Heathrow T5. A couple of litre bottles of Gordons London Gin at only 14 quid each, plastic bottles mind, but then what we were really after was what was inside of them and not how they looked.
I walked back to the Southern Star along Church Street with my bag of goodies from Nilgiris slung over my shoulder, popping into Blossom Book Store on the way hoping to buy a book, but once inside I couldn’t find anything I wanted so had to navigate my way out of there. Luck of the draw I guess, sometimes a title stands out other times no, but it had only been an off-chance visit anyway. A couple of years ago I’d picked up a Ramana Maharshi book by Sadhu Natananada published by Ramanasramam down in Tiruvannamalai and most excellent it was too, being a work explaining the teachings of an incomparable Indian master of Advaita Vedanta.
Our car to Bengaluru central railway station from the Southern Star later that morning cost 800 rupees which was a lot, but then again we had quite a bit of baggage – four big cases, two pieces of hand luggage plus a few Duty Free bags full of booze, sweets an’ all the other things we take when we go to India – so we needed to hire a Toyota Innova, a car big enough to take everything we had but the things about those Toyos is that they always cost an arm and a leg. Still we got safely delivered, pretty much right to the end of our platform on the far side of the station, but even so it didn’t save us from failing to avoid the attention of the railway porters who descended on us pretty quick, with firm promises they would take everything we had direct to the carriage where our seats were once the Tippu Express rolled into the station. Can’t say fairer than that I guess, even though it was sure to set us back another few hundred rupees, but there was no point in arguing, not unless we fancied getting into a bit of a sweat with a bunch of tough as nails station porters who knew the station like the back of their hand.
Whilst sitting in the waiting room on the platform from which our train the Tippu Express was due to depart after another hour or so, Dawa Dolkar went and bought lunch for us from a platform food stall. Two Indian vegetarian meals in plastic trays with some pretty impressive packaging and the food looking very fresh – rice, breads, curries, pickles – so what could possibly be better than that? And in fact the food tasted great, setting us up nicely for that Tippu Express two hour ride from Bengaluru to Mysore sliding through the delights of a South Indian afternoon. Now here’s a thought which came to me as I was standing there on the platform after finishing my delicious South Indian meal whilst basking in the heat.
No one is gonna hand you any awards for going out to India, remember you are sailing solo on the seas of your own destiny.
Article image of Brigade Road, Bengalauru taken by the writer.