Friday, 3 February 2012

Bombay blues

I'm in a dingy Mumbai hotel room recovering from food poisoning. I just asked the bellhop (or whatever he's called) to come and kill the spider that was in the corner. I've also asked if they have a double room available because I heard they're "deluxe." I could stand a bit of deluxe right now. Actually there's nothing much wrong with the room, besides the smell of mothballs (popular in India), some blistered paint, a few stains on the otherwise clean sheets and the aforementioned spider. But I'm feeling a little frayed and not quite as stalwart as usual.

My two Sangam House friends, Birgitta and Eugene, (from Sweden and Korea respectively) and I traveled together the other day from Bangalore to Hampi by overnight train. On the way there we had 2AC class which means you each have a berth with another person sharing (ie there are 4 berths). The train left at 10 p.m. and as soon as it pulled out of the station, people made up their berths and went to bed. So we did, too. It was quite comfortable; they supply the bedding.

We took an autorickshaw to Hampi, then crossed the small river by ferry (ie. loaded to the max steel bottomed skiff) and stayed at a place called Shanthi guesthouse. Very nice. Mosquito nets in the cabanas. I love a mosquito net.

Lotus Mahal
Hampi is an incredible place. There are ruins from the the 14th-16th centuries when this was the centre of the Vijayanagara empire. At one time, there were bazaars with visiting merchants from China, Persia and elsewhere. The two most compelling things for me were the Lotus Mahal, apparently the queen's palace, so beautiful and peaceful with a warm breeze sweeping through it and the Hazara-rama which is a temple carved with hundreds of images from the Indian epic, the Ramayana. There's something about the way this narrative has captured the imagination over the ages that's inspiring, to say the least.
Hanuman the Monkey king
But back to my sad tale. After two days in Hampi, I woke up on the third day, the day we would be traveling back to Bangalore, with a bad case of food poisoning. I admit I had relaxed my guard just a bit and had a couple of things I wouldn't have normally because I thought I was home-free. At any rate, the difficult thing was that we were waitlisted for a First class AC train but had bought back-up sleeper class just in case. Sure enough, the train was full and it was sleeper class for us. Not easy when you're sick. Luckily we shared with a really nice sympathetic family. Still, it's not an experience I'd want to repeat. I can't talk about it just yet, as I'm still in recovery mode. Tomorrow will be better.

Home soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment