envious of anything that flies. The travel bug has bitten me. It
may be attributed to watching too many travel programmes on a newly
discovered channel. I want to venture out into the world and see
it for what it really is. I want to walk the Great Barrier Reef
and escape into one of the Great Pyramids.
I decide to
start close to home. I’ll visit India for a week and try to
explore the sights and sounds of the country. My guidelines run
thus, I’ll eat everything there is to eat; I’ll see
everything there is to see and I’ll carry a bottle of mineral
water everywhere. It seems the perfect recipe to a holiday of discovery.
I studied what
little Hindi I could during the flight and tried to act as local
as possible. Everything about the country is reminiscent of good
old Sri Lanka. The people are the same and the roads are the same
(there are potholes every few yards and the most important roads
are wrenched apart on a regular basis). There are idiaappa and aappa
to satisfy even the most patriotic of tastebuds. Good old Sri Lankan
bailas are sung in perfect harmony along the coast.
I was to explore
Karnataka, but ended up with an introduction to every single state!
The number of ‘mothertongues’ being so large, hardly
half the Indian population knew which language they should speak!
But language is no barrier. A cart full of guavas once caught my
attention. A few were cut as samples and they looked inviting. I
pointed to one and asked, “How much?” The salesman muttered
a few inaudible words. I repeated myself. No answer. I gave it one
last shot. He promptly reached into his wallet, pulled out a few
coins and laid them carefully next to the fruit I’d selected.
One fact that
amazes me about the country is the number of fresh fruit stores
lining the streets. The basic principles of these ‘Juice Junctions’
being that once one walked up and picked a fruit, it would immediately
be washed, cleaned and chucked whole into a blender. The outcome
would be a fresh fruit juice that is enjoyed by almost every single
I am yet to
master the art of gulping down a Pani Puri without messing up my
attire. This is an experience; the ‘chef’ stands by
the side of a round table. On it are two large stainless steel bowls,
one of which is full of crispy rounded puris. The other contains
a masala like paste made of a collection of spices. The customers
stand around this table with their small saucer like stainless steel
The chef then
begins the serving routine. The puri is filled with the masala paste,
subsequently drenched with lime and tamarind water and must be gulped
down whole. It’s an incredible feat, even among the locals
who have mastered the art. Anyone who has attempted to eat (or is
it drink?) a Gola is sure to sympathise with me.
of India is that even though it is a country that has ‘developed’
during the last few years, it has held on to its ethnic identity.
So much so that by their second day on the land most tourists are
dressed in typical Indian clothing and have jasmines in their hair.
in Bangalore and Mysore were breathtaking. I stood still and imagined
the worlds where the Maharajas and Maharanis would greet their subjects
dressed in all their finery. The paintings that lined the palace
walls were beautiful to look at.
Banagalore is a dream. Simply hail a taxi by screaming ‘Auto’
at the top of your voice, step in, tell the driver your destination
and yell “Stop Bai Sahab, stop,” when you reach it.
If in doubt hang on to your map and walk. On one occasion I followed
the relevant guidelines for hailing an ‘Auto’ and asked
the driver to take me to the allotted place. He nodded and I crept
in at which point he yanked me out again. I’m yet to understand
if according to the constitution of India, a nod means yes and a
shake of the head means no!
is a dream come true for all feminists, as there are eight seats
on each bus reserved for the ‘weaker sex’. The policemen
stand in the middle of the road upon their small platforms that
advertise the latest in Indian ware, totally ignored, while the
rules pertaining to Right of Way are blatantly flouted by motorists.
My week in India
done, I am now a completely ‘Indianalized’ individual.
Take my advice, if you feel lost with too much energy, hit the airport
and head to India; you won’t regret it!