Ahh….at long last I have reached an internet cafe! It seems that the rest of India isn’t as acquainted with technology as Pune, and finding one is like trying to find water in a desert!
Anyway Louise Jenna and I finally left Pune last Saturday morning bound for the Gujarat, Rajasthan and beyond. This week has been partly manic partly quite sad because it meant saying goodbye to a city that has become our home for the past two months.
So much has happened since the last time I posted it seems a lot longer than just over a week but I’ll do my best to bore you with the inane details anyway haha. Well it has been a week of festivities – last Sunday was Friendship Day so it was a cheesy affair which involved tying pink ribbons emblazoned with ‘best of friends’ around each others wrists. Jenna and I only had one each and they were from each other! Well actually later on when I was walking back from the shops a random guy gave me one, so I suppose I have one friend and one random guy who took pity on me and decided to befriend me.
On Tuesday we went to see a Hindi movie called Dus in an authentic Indian cinema (which basically means the theatre was very…fragrant!). We walked out halfway because it was pretty rubbish and anyway, there was no high pitch singing or dancing through meadows which was a little disappointing 🙂
On Wednesday we revisited the Leather Lounge which plays a cocktail of Hindi and Western remixed music, and the next day we got invited to a place called ZKs by some guy who claims to be a relation of a famous cricketer…or something! Yeah well I’m not too sure of his credentials but it was a nice place to go for all the volunteers to celebrate Sharon’s 20th birthday. We had the bright idea of going in our new silk saris which sounded like a grand plan until you realise how impossible it is to manouvre in starched fabric. Even the simplest of things like say…walking become difficult and end up more waddling like a duck instead for the fear of coming apart…after all it’s 6m of fabric and only one pin! This is not something I plan on doing anytime in the not too distant future without at least 300 safety pins to make sure I stay in place!
I spent much of the rest of the week doing last minute things before having to leave Pune. I have a whole bunch of photos developed, which at some point I will be able to upload. It probably won’t be during my time in India though as the computers are deathly slow and patience is not my best virtue. In terms of technology its sort of still in the dark ages 🙂
We spent time going to some of our favourite places such as the local Diamond Bakery which makes the best cake and lassi for about 6r each (I am going to have such a reverse culture shock when I get back to sterling prices)! We also had the tasks of moving room to make space for new volunteers and packing an infinite number of things into a very small space to contend with. I was quite impressed with myself, or at least my rucksack which seems to be of the Mary Poppins variety as it miraculously fitted all my purchases to date in it. It does weigh about the same as me, and at this rate will weigh more by the time I get home because its a workout just carrying it 10 yards!
Jenna and I finally managed to get our report and volunteer handbook together as well – in true anila style I finished it on Friday at about 6pm! Hans was really pleased with the work and in the end we were really happy with what we got done so its been a couple of months well spent I feel.
When we left Pune it actually felt like leaving ‘home’ for a month long journey ‘home’. Over the past few weeks we have been compiling a list of the things we miss most. In no particular order: carpet; meat; long summer evenings; ranch dressing; mashed potato; hot cross buns; george forman grill; ritz biscuits; cheese and salad! No surprise that most of them are edible – I think some of them will feature on my MOST WANTED list for when I get back…
This week was the culmination of Mission Moustache. There is a phenomenon in India whereby all guys over say…fifteen years of age feel the need to cultivate hair on their upper lip. Apparently it is the way to look if you wanna be in the cool gang, or at least that is what I can gather from the number of guys sporting it. Anyway for all you western guys reading this who want to know how to achieve said Indian look you can follow these three easy steps:
1) Have any hairstyle you want – popular styles include random tufts of hair at random lengths or if you haven’t the time, no style at all!
2) Wear as high waisted trousers as possible. Remember they must be of the drainpipe variety. Think John Travolta in Night Fever and you are heading in the right direction
3) The piece de resistance is the moustache. Who cares if they went out in the seventies and can now only be found on men with aviators, unbuttoned shirts and lots of chest hair? If you want to woo an Indian girl (apart from this one) its the only way forward!
Anyway we decided it would be our mission to find a victim and try and get him to remove his moustache. Anyway after weeks…no months of gentle persuasion, and later, harsh ridicule we got Sagar (the tailor) to finally remove the thing. Ahhh, he did look about ten (hes actually 23) so we could see why he might have wanted it as a disguise to look older but it was well worth the wait. Ah the (further) ridicule he must have got from his friends for shaving for a bunch of girls! :))
On Friday evening we went to Paul’s housewarming party which sounded like a good idea and was until the rickshaw ride home where the guy tried to charge us double fare and ended up trying to hit Jen when we refused and ran away. By the time we had got home, done last minute packing and got to bed we managed 2 hrs sleep – oops! Our train was cancelled when we got to the train station at about 6.30am the next day and so even though we had made a reservation we didn’t get a corresponding one on the replacement train. Nevertheless we made it to Mumbai in the end and found a nice little place to stay called Bentleys hotel.
We were sleep deprived and starving but found a great restaurant run by a friendly bunch of Muslims called Delhi Durbar. Jenna finally broke her vegetarian fast after 6 weeks. I managed a month before I was tempted by a chicken biryani so I was rather impressed with her resolve! Mostly though I think it’s because we see the chicken’s legs sticking out the pan of boiling water at the Cultural Centre which is enough to turn the more sensitive souls ie. me and Jen vegetarian.
On our first day in Mumbai we went to Elephanta Island which is home to some caves and is about an hour from the Mumbai coast. We took the ferry from the Gateway to India which is a very beautiful, intricately carved British archway I believe. Unfortunately I felt reeeeally seasick so I didn’t have a great time of it but the island itself was very serene. We were shocked to find when we got back that two female tourists had been stabbed outside the gateway in broad daylight just an hour after we left and before we arrived back. The guy was mentally unstable and one of the girls died it was reported so that was very shocking.
Well the next day we went to the Jehangir Art Gallery and then went for a stroll just to take in Mumbai’s sights on foot. There is some beautiful Victorian architecture in the form of Bombay University and the High Court. Then we went on to The Oval a large park where nearby a few media students asked us to be in a short film entitled Mumbai – A Global City. Well Louise wanted to be a Bollywood star so I guess this was 2nd best!
In the afternoon we went to Horniman Circle (English gardens) and Colaba Causeway which is where you can pick up a range of handicrafts. In the evening we lugged our ton weight rucksacks round some Hanging Gardens whilst a little ‘wheeler dealer’ boy of ten tried to sell us peacock feather fans for $5. We ate across from Chowpatty beach and then headed down to the train station for our night train.
Night trains aren’t actually that bad and the only pain was the early morning rise which I have never been good at. We got into Ahmedabad at about 7am and went for a heritage walk which was quite interesting and visited a bunch of temples and some mosques. That was finished by about ten and then after that the day was painfully slow because there isn’t exactly much to do in Ahmedabad. Really it was a stopover to avoid getting a 24hr train or whatever. We spent the rest of the day ambling about and drinking sodas and then we watched half of another movie which is a strong contender for Worst Movie in the History of the World award!
Now we are in Udaipur and we have found a beautiful hotel with lots of character in the Old part of the City. We traipsed around looking at loads and ended up returning to the first one, funny how it always seems to happen like that… It is housed in a converted haveli which is a traditional building with stained glass windows and it overlooks the Lake Palace (where James Bond was filmed!). It is in the perfect spot. Anyway we are here until Friday and then it’s onto Jodhpur. I don’t know when I will get to an internet cafe next but I look forward to updating you on things Chez Anila soon (Indian time!)…