Last day

March 13th, 2009

Last weekend, the hotel manager revealed that he had been a chef at a five-star hotel, which explains some of the breakfasts I’ve had, and mentioned that my last day is also his birthday.  For my final week, he promised some special dosas… here they are!  Onion dosa, egg dosa, cheese dosa (yum!), cucumber dosa, and a paper dosa.  Actually, that last dosa is a masala dosa, but done with extremely thin dough.  All very tasty.  I asked him what he would have served if I stayed another week, and he smiled, “You’ll have to come back to find out!”

Onion dosa Egg dosa Cheese dosa

Cucumber dosa Masala dosa
My last day happened to coincide with the company’s observance of Women’s Day, which was officially Sunday March 8.  There was a rangoli competition in the foyer in the morning, with several teams of women creating Women’s Day-themed designs with coloured powder, followed by a talent show in the canteen in the afternoon, where employees got up and sang, played instruments, and did stand-up comedy.    There were games and prizes (“first one to the front with a company-branded pen gets a chocolate bar!”), appreciation gifts for the cleaning staff, and of course prizes for the best rangolis.  I was called up to draw names, and while I was up there, “Mr. Gord” was asked to say a few words about Women’s Day!

Rangoli competition Women's Day Gord on Women's Day

After work, I went back to the hotel to try to fit everything into my bags.  As in 2006, I’d come with a single duffle bag, but this time I was smart enough to bring along a second one, knowing that last time I’d had to buy another bag on my last day.  I wasn’t planning to bring back as much stuff this time, but it’s surprising how it accumulates… movies, books, incense… a rug….  I ended up filling both duffles with about 40 pounds more stuff than I came with.

Packing Packed

Saif dropped by to pick me up about 11pm to drive me out to the airport.  I enjoyed that drive out to the airport with the windows down in the warm evening air, knowing that I had a few more months of winter to look forward to when I got back to Ottawa.

The flight back was uneventful, but crowded.  Every seat on the 747 was occupied, but even so, it wasn’t unpleasant, and the Air France food and service reminded me again to congratulate myself for avoiding Air Canada.

Bangalore to Paris

Beer is cheaper than coffee at Charles de Gaulle, so I had a couple of Heinekins and watched the throngs of people passing through.


The airport had been largely deserted in the early morning when I passed through five weeks earlier, but this time, in the afternoon, it was very busy.  The gate for the flight to Montreal had a flight going to somewhere in Africa before mine, so I found another gate to relax at.  Someone with a clipboard wanted to interview me about Bulgaria– it was a short interview.

Twenty-six hours after leaving Bangalore (and about 48 hours since I’d last slept), I was back in Ottawa.  The cats sniffed me over, decided I was OK, and it was as if I’d never left.


About 24 hours after I got back, I discovered I’d returned with a souvenir of either the plane ride or Charles de Gaulle:  the worst flu I can remember, almost as bad as having the Chicken Pox when I was 31.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but it was definitely a memorable end to the trip!

Tiger Trail

March 5th, 2009

My visit is rapidly coming to a close, so last night a few of the team members took me out for dinner after work.  We went to the nearby Ramada Inn, which has a tiger-themed restaurant called Tiger Trail, with tiger stripe upholstry, tiger murals, cartoon tiger faces on the napkins, tiger-striped dishes, tiger paw cutouts on the menu covers… you get the idea.  I’d been there for the lunch buffet a couple of weeks ago, but last night the place was empty except for us, so no buffet.  We mostly had trays of appetizers, along with a few beers.  Strangely, this place had no Indian beer, so our only options were bottles of Carlsberg or Budweiser.  I couldn’t believe I was drinking a Bud, let alone drinking a Bud in India.  I hope nobody finds out about this…

Some of my colleagues

It was a good time, with lots of talk about snow, and how no snow is a good thing, and why I wasn’t delaying my return until May.  Afterward we had an after-dinner paan from a roadside paan vendor. Yum!

Paan shop


March 3rd, 2009

Last weekend (February 21-22), I went for an overnight trip to Madikeri with two of my colleagues and the company driver.  Madikeri is about 270 km west of Bangalore, beyond Mysore, in the Western Ghats.  It’s not exactly a Hill Station, where the British used to go to escape the heat, but even so, the area (Coorg) is one of coffee and tea estates, and supposed to have a cooler climate.  In fact the weather forecast said highs of 18 C with rain all weekend, so I packed my fleece jacket, raincoat, and umbrella.  That forecast turned out to be worthy of Environment Canada due to its awe-inspiring deviation from reality.

Sholay Hills Kamat loka ruchi Breakfast at Kamat

On our way out of Bangalore toward Mysore, we saw the Sholay Hills, where Sholay was filmed, then stopped for some breakfast at a Kamat restaurant, a chain of roadside restaurants.  It was only a day since my food poisoning attack, and my stomach was still very queasy, so I didn’t eat much; some idli steamed in a leaf, some rice, curd, and tea.  A little later we stopped for some coconut water by the roadside.  Coconut water is supposed to be good for the digestion, and that’s what I needed.  A fellow with a bicycle loaded with coconuts hacked the top off a coconut for each of us with his machete.

Coconut beheading Drinking coconut water Rice cultivation

The day got hot pretty fast, and it takes a five to six hours to drive the 270 km, even taking the ring road around Mysore.  Our first sightseeing stop was at Cauvery Nisargadhama near Kushalnagar, a park on the Cauvery river with paddle boats, elephant rides, bunnies, deer, and of course lots of monkeys roaming around in the bamboo groves.  The Cauvery is pretty shallow here, and looking down from the suspension bridge to the island, the river was nearly churning with fish.  We took out some paddle boats, had a snack of cucumber with chili powder, and then cooled our feet in the river.

Suspension bridge  Monkey in bamboo Bunny park

Deer park  Petting an elephant Don't drink the water!
When we got to Madikeri, we decided to find the hotel before doing anything else.  Lots of stops for direction were involved in that.  Madikeri, built on hillsides, is a town of narrow, twisty, steep, dead-end streets.  We were looking for the Hilltown Hotel.  When I first heard that, I thought, “Madikeri has a Hilton???”  Well, no, it’s not exactly the Hilton: no toilet paper, no shower (just the usual buckets), but clean and comfortable, and not bad for Rs 900 (C$25).  They have old-fashioned padlocks on the doors, and of course you leave the key at the desk on your way out.  You’d never forget to do that, as the key fob weighs about a pound.  The hotel is behind the “Jedi Hospital” according to the key fob, but I didn’t seen any Jedi (as far as I know).
Hilltown Hotel My door and padlock My room

After a quick wash, we headed out again while there was still some daylight.  A few kilometres out of town is Abbi Falls, a picturesque waterfall accessible by walking through a coffee estate.  During the monsoon, the water is supposed to really roar, and you can stand above the torrent on a short suspension bridge.  Abbi, by the way, means “waterfall” in the local language.

Abbi Falls  Coffee bush
Sunset was approaching, so we drove back to Madikeri to the Raja’s Seat, a spot on a cliff where the Raja used to watch the sunset over the Western Ghats.  We did that too.  The sun sets very quickly; it was all over in less than two minutes, but it was a great sunset.  We waited another half an hour while it got fully dark, and then watched the musical fountain.

Sunset over Western Ghats  Musical fountain and Raja's Seat
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Shree Omkareshwara Shiva temple for a while.  I went back in the morning in the daylight.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Well, the other guys had dinner… I had tomato soup and pushed some rice around on my plate, as my appetite was still zero.  I did have dessert though, a “Hilltown Special”, which is a lot of ice cream with fresh fruit.  They also had a Tribble Sunday on the menu.  I wonder if the tribbles were beamed down fresh every day?

After that it was bedtime.  I was exhausted from the combination of food-poisoning aftermath, hot weather, and exercise, so I slept like a log from 9pm to 6am, then woke up and had a nice bucket bath.

I knew I wouldn’t sleep past 6am, so Anil and I arranged the night before to go for an early walk through town while Kiran and Saif slept in.  While the sun peeked up above the hilltops, we found our way back to the Shree Omkarashwara temple again and had a more leisurely visit.  Anil explained the meaning of the various scenes painted on the walls, some of which I was already familiar with.  On our way back to the hotel, we got lost, and had to ask for directions several times.  My GPS was, unfortunately, packed in my bag back at the hotel.

Shree Omkareshwara temple Madikeri

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was already starting to get hot outside.  We took breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but I still wasn’t too hungry.  I couldn’t handle anything heavy like a curry, so I had to order the “American Breakfast”, an omelette and toast.  How embarrassing.  Still, at least it went down (and stayed down).

Into the valley

We continued on from Madikeri, down into the valley and then back up onto the mountain side along increasingly-narrow roads with switch-backs until we got to Tala Cauvery, the “birth place” of the Cauvery river.  Once a year, during the monsoon, a fountain appears.  It has religious significance, and there’s a temple there.

Saif petting a cow Origin of Cauvery river
By this time, the heat was like a blast furnace, and it had to be 35 C.  My guidebook, the usually-excellent “Rough Guide to South India”, helpfully suggests, “Wear something warm.”  There’s a staircase leading 300 feet up the Brahmagiri hillside from the temple to an excellent view, but there’s no shade at all.  In the picture, you can make out the vein popping out of my forehead like one of those meat thermometers built into grocery store turkeys.  I was cooked.

Gord on Brahmagiri Hill

On our way back, we stopped at Bhagamandala to visit the Bhagandeshwara temple.  Temple visits are always barefoot, of course, and the pavement was so hot I couldn’t stand on it, so I had to walk across the road on my heels.

Bhagandeshwara temple Shrine

Across the road from the temple is Triveni Sangam, where the Cauvery, Kannika, and Sujyoti rivers meet.  Water from there is used in funeral rituals, and ashes are scattered there, but it’s also considered good for the soul to take a dip there while alive.  The cool water was definitely good for my soles, after all the hot pavement, stone, and sand they’d seen.

Gord, Kiran, Anil in Triveni Sangam

Back at Madikeri, we washed, had lunch (I had a fruit and ice cream salad), packed, and checked out.  On our way out of town, we stopped at the Coorg Cardamom Corporation store, a government shop where you can buy local coffee, cardamom, and honey.  I don’t think I’d get any of that across the Canadian border, so I just stood in the store and enjoyed the spicy smells while the other guys bought bags and bags of spices.

Coorg Cardamom Corporation I brake for cows

Our next stop was Namdroling Monastery near Kushalnagar to see the Golden Temple.  This place is one of several Tibetan refugee settlements in India, and has special status as Tibetan territory.  Officially, I wasn’t supposed to be there without a special permit from Delhi, but apparently that isn’t strictly enforced for day visitors, because I certainly didn’t blend in with the crowd.  The temple is very ornate, gold leaf and brightly-painted murals everywhere.  Outside, some young Tibetans were having a cricket match.

Golden Temple Inside Golden Temple

Tibetan cricket match Protected area

By this time, it was 6pm and the sun was getting low.  We had planned to stop in Mysore on the way back if there was enough light, to see the one Mysore sight I’d missed in 2006, Chammundi Hill, which overlooks Mysore.  Alas, it was completely dark by the time we got there, and we decided to drive through to Bangalore.  Kiran used to live in Mysore, and pointed out landmarks as we passed through the city.

We made one last stop on the way back, to have dinner at the same Kamat we’d stopped at for breakfast the day before, this time for dinner served on banana leaves.  I found out they have their own cows, which you can see behind Saif in the photo.  I guess that wasn’t pasteurized milk in the curd I’d had for breakfast the day before.  Maybe the weather’s hot enough to pasteurize the milk straight from the udder.  In any case, my still-upset stomach insisted that I skip dinner, and instead I ate everyone’s dessert bananas and a handful of betel nut.

Kiran, Saif, and restaurant cows

Sunday night at the movies

March 1st, 2009

I hadn’t been to a movie in India yet, so I decided to do that today.  I had wanted to see “Slumdog Millionaire” (in English) at INOX in Garuda Mall this afternoon, but got there only half an hour before the show, and it was sold out.  Instead, I had a pint of Kingfisher in the Bull and Bush Pub, where it seemed to be Led Zeppelin day, and watched some more of the Australia vs South Africa cricket test match (I watched part of the first day at Pub World yesterday), then went for a walk through Commercial Street, which is actually an area of narrow streets jammed with people and vendors selling everythig from garlic to televisions.

Garuda Mall Commercial Street Garlic & ginger cart

It was a very hot day, 35 C, so I was glad to get home to cool down and dry off again.  My backup plan was to go to Sigma Mall this evening, about a 15-minute walk from my hotel, to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.  As usual, the theatre is on the top floor of the mall, but when I got there, I found out the box office is in the basement, in the parkade.  The elevator had a uniformed attendant to push the buttons.  Unlike Slumdog, there were lots of tickets left for Benjamin Button. Seats are assigned, with different prices for different seats.  I had a choice of Gold or Silver, so I took Gold for Rs 200 (about $5), and had a perfect seat in centre of the theatre.  Back upstairs, I had to pass through a metal detector and a pat-down before entering the lobby.  A popcorn (I’ve been suffering popcorn-withdrawal since coming here) and Pepsi combo was Rs 110.

Sigma Mall Chicken Maharaja Mac

The theatre was great, comfortable seats and powerful air-conditioning, very welcome after a hot day walking around Bangalore.  It wasn’t very crowded, maybe half full.  Just like in Canadian theatres, the film was preceded by a large number of commercials, but most were in Hindi (something you don’t hear much here), some with some English, and all had the obligatory intro photo of the censor’s certificate (that applied to Benjamin Button as well).  Just before the movie started, we all stood for the national anthem, with clips of the Indian army on Siachen Glacier.  As I expected from all the Bollywood movies I’ve watched, there was an intermission half way through the movie; not really necessary for a “short” film like Benjamin Button, but still a welcome opportunity to get another popcorn fix.  My movie review?  Great makeup, boring execution.

Today’s weather report

February 27th, 2009

Hot!  It’s been creeping up since I got here.  When I arrived a month ago, the high was 31 C and sunny, low of 18.  Now it’s a high of 35 C and sunny, low of 20.  I’ve even had to start using the AC in my room in the evening.  I am not looking forward to -20 C when I return to Ottawa!  I hope I don’t get frostbite on my sunburn.
Weather summary

Gord’s place

February 27th, 2009

I thought I’d show you around my hotel room.  It’s pretty comfortable, with AC, a fridge, microwave, electric kettle, TV with 102 channels in various languages (Hindi, Kannada, English, etc), internet.  The internet connection (wired, not wireless) is limited to 200 kbps, which is problematic for streaming video, and it goes down every couple of hours.  In fact, it behaves a lot like my old Linksys wired router did when it started to die.

Livingroom Kitchen

To turn the suite’s power on, I have to insert my room key into a receptacle in the wall.  That’s fine, but it means there’s no way to charge electronic gear while I’m out.  I have to leave the key with the front desk when I leave the building, and ask for it again when I return.

The bathroom has a proper shower, along with the standard Indian bucket arrangement.  The hot water tank for the shower, controlled by a switch on the wall outside the bathroom, where you’d least expect it, takes about 15-20 minutes to heat up.  The tank’s good for about 5 minutes or so of hot water, and the pressure’s good.  One of my less-favourite things about my last visit was my inability to get a decent shower; that hasn’t been a problem this time.


The switch for the air conditioning is also in a strange place, hidden amongst a group of light switches on the other side of the room that mostly aren’t hooked up to anything.  After turning the AC switch on (assuming you can figure out which one it is), it takes a few minutes before the AC unit itself comes to life.

The bed is comfortable, very hard the way I like it, and there is a ceiling fan directly above it.  The window looks out over a construction site, which usually isn’t a problem at night, except once when a cement truck made a suspicious-looking delivery at 1am, and last night, when a truck with a crane and boom poured the floor slabs for all of the floors that have been built so far.  It was a night of diesel-powered pumps, yelling, pneumatic packers, and hammering.  It didn’t bother me much, though, because I’ve been sleeping with earplugs anyway to block the muezzin who starts calling the morning prayers at 5:30 every morning.  The traffic noise, non-stop honking and squealing of brakes, starts about 6am and ends around 11pm.

Desk and bedroom From bedroom

I send my laundry out once a week.  It comes back a day or two later, nicely folded and mostly dry, so I know they have a proper dryer.  At the guest house for my 2006 visit, the laundry was air-dried outside, a process that took several days in the humid air.  Nothing ever really dried out, and I sure didn’t enjoy the smell of mildew in my collars.  At the hotel, sometimes my clothes come back with twine tied to them for identification, but still this week I received an extra shirt, and last week one pair of my underwear took an extra day to find its way home.

The cupboard locks.  The hotel recommends not leaving anything laying around, so everything gets locked up while I’m out.


There are insects.  Welcome to the tropics.  Although the hotel is fumigated once a month, I still kill a roach every couple of days (three the night I arrived).  They’re relatively slow and easy to catch, and of the ones I’ve seen, I haven’t missed one yet.  I’ll have to make sure I don’t inadvertently bring back any for my cats to chase.

The hotel has a restaurant attached, where I have breakfast every morning.  I usually have the place to myself.  I eat, read the paper, drink a pot of coffee.  The restaurant is open until 11pm I think, but I still haven’t eaten dinner there.  That’s partly because I’m still full from the enormous breakfasts and lunches, but also because hot weather erases my appetite.  Room service is available all night though, and sometimes I get a call from room service after I get home, asking if they can bring me anything.  After the house-boating trip, I hadn’t been around for several days, and when I got back the restaurant manager called to say, “I miss you, sir.”  Apparently I have a reputation as the westerner that eats only Indian food.  Here’s the goldfish that lives on a ledge outside the restaurant.

Goldfish in front of restaurant

Home, sweet home!

The 13th Floor

February 26th, 2009

On Friday last week after work, Venky, an old friend/colleague from Ottawa who now lives in Bangalore, picked me up at the office with the idea that we would go for a few beers somewhere.  I was still somewhat feverish from the food-poisoning attack the night before, so I was a bit dubious, but it’s been difficult for us to get together due to our respective travel schedules, and I didn’t want to miss the chance.

We went back to his place first since it was too early to go out, and I was able to see where he lived and meet his family.  He lives in the south end of the city, so I experienced first-hand the commute that most of the people I work with have to endure.  It took over an hour for a trip that really should have taken about 15 minutes, but at least we could visit in the car; Venky has a driver.

He’s got a very nice place, in a gated community, way nicer than my place in Ottawa.  His kids were out, so he, his wife, and I just relaxed for a while, then we played some table tennis in the rec centre.

After that, we got back in the car for another 1+ hour drive back downtown.  Even at 9pm, the traffic is bumper-to-bumper.  Our destination was The 13th Floor, an upscale restaurant and bar in a highrise on MG Road.  We sat in the bar side, where the view is spectacular.  We were outside on the terrace, on the edge of the building, our beers and snacks prevented from falling into the abyss by a short plexiglas rail.  Surprisingly, my very queasy stomach didn’t have any trouble with the beer, but it drew the line at the aloo gobi.

Night view of Banglaore from 13th Floor bar Gord & Venky 

Kingfisher with a view Aloo gobi

Cochin Sightseeing

February 25th, 2009

It’s about time I finished the Kochi trip… my blog topics are starting to accumulate!

By 9:30 Sunday morning (February 15), my driver Anish and I were back on the highway heading north to Cochin (aka Kochi) / Ernakulam.  As we left Alleppey, I missed what would have been a great picture: a fellow herding a flock of around a hundred fuzzy yellow chicks along the side of the road, using a stick with a plastic bag tied to the end.  I did, however, get this picture of large number of tigers sitting together beside the road. :-)

Stuffed toy tigers

First stop was Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century for the Raja and subsequently appropriated by the Dutch.  Some interesting murals from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, a few artifacts from the Rajas, but not too exciting.  Only Rs 2 to get in, and as usual, I had to insist that a Rs 10 note was the smallest I had.  Getting change can be painful.

Mattancherry Palace

Jew Town sign Jew Town Betware of touts!
One street over is Jew Town, an area settled by Jews quite a long time before the Portuguese arrived in the 15th or 16th century.  The Paradesi Synogogue dates back to the 16th century, and for another Rs 2 I was able to have a look around inside before they closed their doors for the afternoon.  Photos weren’t allowed here either, but there are some good ones at this link.

Paradesi Synagogue entrance  Paradesi Synagogue
Walking down Jew Street, I found the home of the World’s Biggest Varpu.  “Oh boy, the biggest varpu!” I thought, “…Uh, what’s a varpu?”  Not knowing what a varpu was, I thought it could be something exotic and went in for a look.  After all, I had once taken a detour a hundred kilometres out of my way to see the world’s biggest perogy in Glendon, Alberta.  Turns out a varpu is just a cooking pan, and this one wouldn’t have been big enough to fry the giant perogy.

World's Biggest Varpu!

It was a really hot day.  While I wandered around Cochin, Anish napped in the car waiting for me to come back and ask for a ride to the next place.  I eventually realized everything in Cochin is within easy walking distance, at least if you find it easy to walk in blazing 35 C sun.  Luckily, there is no shortage of places to buy a bottle of water, and it’s only Rs 26 per litre (about 65 cents).

Anish and car

My next stop was the oldest European church in India, St. Francis Church, from the early 16th century.  Vasco de Gama was buried there in 1524 until his body was returned to Portugal.

St. Francis Church St. Francis Church inside

Santa Cruz Basilica is a much bigger church, built in the early 1900’s on the site of some older churches.  Inside it’s quite colourful; I almost expected the figures to be animatronic.

Santa Cruz Basilica Santa Cruz Basilica inside

Finally, one of the most famous sights from Cochin, the Chinese Fishing Nets.  These are huge, cantilevered, framed nets that are lowered into the water from the shore, left for a period of time, then raised back up with whatever fish happened to be swimming over them.  It was fun watching them; each one takes several people to operate.  The resulting catch was for sale out in the sun.

Chinese Fishing Net Row of Chinese Fishing Nets Fish for sale

I was all done with sight-seeing by about 2:30pm, so Anish suggested going to see some martial arts demonstrations.  What I really wanted to see was some Kathikali, a traditional Keralan dance I’d read about in a guide book.  I wasn’t too keen on the martial art demo at first, but then he showed me a brochure about it.  It turns out Kerala has a traditional martial art called kalaripayattu that is supposedly a combination of other martial arts in other parts of Asia, which according to Keralans, are all just derivations and specializations of theirs.  Maybe, but in any case, places that put on the kalaripayattu shows also have Katikali dancing.  The place I went is Greenix Village, and the show was split into two parts, an hour of kalaripayattu, then a break, then the kathikali.  There were a number of options, but I also had to juggle the fact that I had to get to the other side of Ernakulum by 9pm to catch my bus, and also leave some time for dinner.  I bought my tickets, Rs 450 for the two shows, plus Rs 25 for camera privileges.

I had about ten minutes before the kalaripayattu demo, so I wandered around their cultural museum.  It was completely empty (again, this is the off season here) except for me and two guys demonstrating traditional crafts, one operating a loom, and the other weaving bamboo, in the museum’s hot, still air.

Loom demo Bamboo weaving demo

When I went up to the kalaripayattu theatre, I found there was one other spectator.  The two of us had a ring-side seat for the next hour while one of the staff, Muthu, explained to us what was going on in the ring, going through various rituals, use of different weapons (sticks of different lengths, swords, metal flails, etc), holds, and defensive techniques.  One of the guys, who is a trainer for the Kerala police force, demonstrated a hold on each of us on our little fingers that I can tell you is quite effective; very painful.  At the end, the police instructor asked for a volunteer to try some of the weapon techniques.  The older fellow and I looked at each other.  I was game, so I gave my camera to Muthu and took my shoes off.  I avoided getting my fingers smashed, and it was a lot of fun!

Fighting with bamboo poles Sword and shield combat

After that I took a break for dinner.  There was a nice restaurant across the road from the cultural center, so I tried there (Anish still sleeping in the car).  Unfortunately, getting dinner at 4:30pm is not possible in Kochi (or in Bangalore, for that matter).  Dinner usually doesn’t start until 7:30pm or later.  The view was nice, though, so I asked the waiter to just bring me everything on the snack menu except the sweets:  a salad, a vegetable stew, different kinds of bread, a pot of masala chai, and a banana lassi.  While I ate, I watch the cruise ship “Tippu Sultan” (you can read about him in other blog posts) sail past.

Parotta, salad, vegetable stew, appam Tipu Sultan cruise ship
Then, back to the theatre for the kathikali.  There was an hour of makeup application first, which wasn’t too exciting, but the performance certainly was.  I had a front row seat again (there were about 20 of us, all western tourists).  They started with a primer on the basics of kathikali, the meaning of the eye movements and the hand movements.  Then they got started on the actual dancing, which is a stylized performance of stories from the Hindu classics.  I don’t remember what the particular story was that I saw, but it was quite entertaining.  If I remember correctly, it was a god and a woman trying to convince him not to kill a bunch of people, accompanied by a man and a boy on drums while a singer chanted.  I have movies, but you’ll have to use your imagination.

Kathikali makeup application Kathikali dancing

The kathikali demonstration ended at 7:30pm, and it was time to get to my bus.  Anish and I figured we had plenty of time, since my bus wasn’t until 9pm and it would only take half an hour or so to get to the station over in Ernakulam.  Anish had been given orders to make sure I got on the right bus, though, and almost had a heart attack when we drove up to the KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transportation Company) bus stand and watched the Bangalore bus roar out of the station.  My ticket clearly said “21h”, so I was sure that must be another bus.  We went to the bus depot ticket window to make sure, though, and showed them my ticket.  “No, this is Kerala State Road Transportation Company buses only.  Karnataka State Road Transportation Company is over there,” he waved vaguely, and handed back my ticket.  “Over there,” we found a KSRTC office with the steel shutter rolled down for the night.  Now Anish was really concerned, thinking he’d have to chase down the bus with the car.

He walked around trying to find someone who knew something about the “other” KSRTC while I sat in the car enjoying the AC.  Luckily, I had a printout of the bus schedule with me.  There’s only one bus that leaves from Ernakulam to Bangalore, and that’s at 8pm, but it turns out there’s another from the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, to Bangalore which happens to pass through Ernakulam on the way, at 9pm.  Anish relaxed a little at that point, and we waited.  Sure enough, the bus showed up at about 8:50, collected the ten of us who were waiting there in the dark, and we were on the road by 8:55.

The bus was nice, a big air-conditioned Volvo with reclining seats and an attendant to hand out water bottles, blankets (this was an overnight trip), and garbage bags. The only thing this bus is missing, and bear in mind it’s an overnight ten-hour non-stop express, is a washroom!  Well, it turns out it’s not entirely non-stop.  About an hour out of Ernakulam, the bus stopped at a roadside restaurant where everyone got off, had a bio break, bought snacks, etc.  You just have to make sure you don’t miss the bus, and get back on the right bus.  I assume there must have been other stops, but I didn’t notice them.  I put in my earplugs, reclined my seat, snuggled under the blanket (the driver had the AC at 22 C; it was still in the 30’s outside), and slept until 6:30am when we were well-inside Bangalore.

Volvo air-conditioned bus Bangalore bus stand

We arrived at the bus depot about 20 minutes late.  My next task was to find the company driver, Saif, who was waiting for me.  The bus had stopped in the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by other buses parked haphazardly everywhere.  I asked someone where the exit was.  That way.  I asked another person.  The opposite direction.  A third person pointed in the perpendicular direction.  Good thing I had a mobile phone, because I was able to call Saif and find out where he was.  We ended up meeting at the train station, a ten-minute walk away, where the whole journey had started three days earlier.

Back at the hotel I had a shower and breakfast, and I was in the office by 9:30, as usual.

Stuck in the elevator

February 24th, 2009

Today’s minor adventure: getting trapped in the elevator.  OK, it was less than ten minutes, but still.  I’d left the office late, around 10pm, after the building had emptied.  Fortunately, the guard who answered the intercom spoke English and was able to pry the doors open to locate me, then get the car down to the basement.

We interrupt this program…

February 19th, 2009

…for some food poisoning.

I was hoping to finish the blog entries for last weekend last night, but my stomach had other plans.  Everything was fine when I left the office at 19:30 (an early day, but the last couple had been very successful), but by 21:00, I was feeling so ill I couldn’t sit up.  By 23:30, everything had been purged… everything.  Something at lunch had disagreed with me, explosively so. Maybe the curd?  It was a nice enough restaurant, an outdoor place with a reputation for excellent food and cleanliness.  It was very tasty, served south-Indian style in stainless steel bowls on a stainless steel tray.

Anyway, by this morning I feel a little shaky, but much better, at least able to drink water, and no more conversations with Ralph.  These things happen…

Update after the weekend:

Seems my two Indian colleagues were affected as well, though not as badly as I was.  They had mild fever and stomach upset, while I had… the works.  We’re blaming the banana milkshakes.  They tasted great.  :-)
Although things were better Friday morning, I still had to go back to the hotel for a nap at lunchtime.  Not that missing lunch was a problem, as I wasn’t able to touch food again, besides the occasional dish of fruit or ice cream, until Monday.  That didn’t stop me from going for a long drive out to the Western Ghats for the weekend, but that story will have to wait til I’ve finished the Kerala trip story.