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Published: February 15th 2010
Okidokey, so I arrived at 9am in Chennai, sweating my balls off because I'd roughed it a bit and gone non-air-con. Was also slightly hungover still from the Mysore expedition, and ached like an old woman. (Which despite Indian's telling me I am, I AM NOT) I woke up at 8am, an hour before arrival, feeling pleased with myself for not missing my stop, and everyone else in the compartment was fully awake, had folded their beds away and were looking pretty pissed off with me. (If I'm still sleeping, they have to share their seats with the guy who sleeps above me) I had some omlette (again, it came with tomato sauce that the breakfastwalla went and got for me, the only foreigner, specifically) & tea and was ready to go. Sort of.
I was accosted by a rickshawalla (it's ok to call them that, I asked) who was the most polite man EVER, he put the whole nation of Canada to shame in those few minutes. I wanted to buy a pre-paid token, so I wouldn't get ripped off (I had no idea where I was going, it seemed more than likely) and the minute he realised I wouldn't back down, he turned into Kevin the Teenager: threw my bag into the rickshaw, stomped about for a bit, made me sit in his rickshaw while he bitched about me to the rest of his mates, tried to scare me on the ride to the hotel by driving like an (Indian) madman, and just shouted "MONEY!" at me when we arrived. It made me laugh though. The man at the reception was fairly hostile too, but one guy was nice, and I think maybe I was a little giddy from all the sugar that'd been in my tea (and ketchup, no doubt) because that made me laugh a lot too. I figured I wasn't entirely fit for human consumption, and Chennai was hot so I went to bed for a nap. (5 hours: good naptime)
I went for a walk, and found a nursing home that I think my Mum and Cynthia should go live in (it was sponsered by Dettol, no MRSA there!) and a cafe called Hot Puffs and Fresh Juice. Haha. A few days before I arrived, it had been Pongal, a three day Tamil Festival where they have bull fights and a bull run and paint all the cows, and all the cows still had brightly painted horns and looked great. I wish I'd seen that cos I love bull fights, but I didn't know the exact dates. That night, I watched the Sex and the City movie, which, once it'd been edited by the Indian censors, was more like Cuddles and the City. I also watched Burn after Reading. The scene with George Clooney's home made chair was completely ridiculous, because the "offending object" was airbrushed out, and it was just a regular chair. I kind of understand why the Bollywood industry is so huge now (as well as because it's amazing) quite a few Hollywood films make very little sense in their continuity.
I was staying just down the road from the Grand Mosque, which meant that I was woken up every morning in Chennai at 5am by the calls to prayer, and then if I tried to nap, again at 5pm. This wasn't helped by the homeless guy who slept under my window, who would play his Xmas carol ringtones to help him sleep on a night. How does he have a mobile phone, but no house?? Oh India! I'd planned to visit my friend in Mumbai, but the train system here is a bitch and I only found out that day that I hadn't got a seat. I went to a bookshop, which was full of maybe 90% books about Islam, terrorism and how Muslims are trying to take over the world: No wonder Indians hate Kashmiris, their bookshops are really full of propaganda. I visited a fancy shopping centre where the chauffers of everyones cars waited outside and went to see Avatar. It was shit, but it was only 10p for the ticket, so I didn't really care. I also had a samosa instead of popcorn, so it was a good day. However, I think 4 screens is not enough to be called a multiplex, even though I know, technically it is. I bought some malaria tablets from a pharmacist who seemed dissapointed when I didn't want to buy any other prescription-only drugs. I bought a selection of Bollywood CDs and DVDs, including Dhoom which is apparently like Indian Fast & Furious. WIth dancing. Arguably the best plot ever.
Because I'd not got to go to Mumbai, I decided to go check out an old French colony called Pondicherry. Apparently women and men don't sit together on the bus, and I was sat with about ten other women on a seat made for five, even though all the men had spare seats next to them, and I got a bit cranky. I found a hotel called BJs, haha. I made some joke about my passport not having a picture in it, and the rickshawalla called me paggle, which is one of the words I do actually understand in hindi and means crazy. He put the price down then, because he assumed I spoke some Hindi, fool. I stayed near the train station, which was a bit sleazy, but fine. Pondy is famous for having really low alcohol tax compared to the rest of India, and every other building is an off license. I hadn't drank once in Chennai (bad times) and it's really hot there too, so I went in search of cold beer. I found somewhere that looked fine from the outside, but when I walked in, it was just full of men, who stared at me like they'd never seen a woman drinking alcohol before. Maybe they hadn't. I ordered rabbit, which they didn't have, and settled on mutton.
Pondy is nice, but the French quarter is small. They have persuasive road signs, that don't tell you not to do things, but just to avoid doing them. (Avoid honking. Avoid using your mobile. Speed thrills, but it also kills. It's more gentle.) I also found a guesthouse called Golden Shower Guest House, which made me wonder whats included in the price of the room. Theres a lot of French people here, and Indians usually ask if you speak french before asking if you speak English, which is odd. I finally bought some trousers for my salwar kameeze, and went to the beach a few times. They have a few bars, but a midnight curfew like Bangalore, which is infuriating. They have the cutest puppy in the world in my hostel, but the reception guy hates me because I wake him up to let me in too late at night. I wanted to visit Auroville which is a commune type place, but spoke to a few people who'd been, who said it wasn't as idyllic as they imagined, and the Indians who live there are tons poorer than the Westerners who live there. I met a nice boy called Fahim, and two Auzzie girls who are very funny. We went out and met an English couple who were hilarious. Because of the curfew, everyone goes to the beach after the clubs, which is fine, but you can't see who you're talking to. The guy in my hotel had started to freak me out because he's always waking me up for food that I don't want, and asking me where I've been. I'm not sure if it's concern, or whether he's been nosy & wierd. We met two cool English boys, whose names I don't remember, but were pretty funny.
I got the last bus back to Chennai, which left at 3.15am, and got in just after 6am. It was fine, because all the men stayed far away from me, but then they started picking up commuters and the bitchy women nearly broke my ankle by sitting her ugly little fat child on it. Cow. I hadn't hardly slept on the way, and had been drinking for a while, so I wanted to die by the time I got on my train to Trichy. It took seven hours and I'd specifically bought a sleeper ticket (but not aircon, so it only cost two quid) but an old lady sat opposite me, so I couldn't lay down. Her husband was lovely, and talked all about England, which would have been nice if I hadn't felt like dying. His sons and daughters were all very accomplished and were either doctors or lawyers in UK/USA and he was nice. He was a little too comfortable with the stereotypes though, and gave me a generalisation about people from every Indian state, and most European countries which I apareciated. (Keralan's are lazy, Bengali's are rude (everyone laughed at that, so I guess it'd common knowledge) English people don't like to work for more than five hours and are too reserved, Auzzies are hard workers and very much like Indians) His wife was really old and had a little nap after every bite of her food, so I felt bad that I wanted her to move so badly, but couldn't stop the hostility from coming. I arrived in Trichy at about 2pm, and had a shower, ordered room service and lots of bottles of water and went to bed immeadiately. Apparently, because some young Indians can't have parties at their house (strict parents) they rent out a hotel room for a night and get battered in it instead, which I think I heard at 4am that morning, but I was so tired, it woke me for a second and then I was out again. The roomboy was a little too attentive again, and kept coming to see if I wanted anything, it pissed me off, so I ripped the door bell off the wall, which luckily they didn't notice when I checked out the next day. Trichy seems nice, I think its in the desert, and the heat is a nice kind of dry heat. I had a quick look around, but had to get my flight the next day amost as soon as I'd woken up. The airport is really small, and the immigration desk only opened once everyone had checked in, and the waiting area was just a hangar, and the lights kept going off intermittantly. I prayed my bag was below the weight limit, which it almost was, and they let me off. I had put all my books in my hand luggage, which weighed an absolute ton, but no one looked at it fortunately! When we boarded the plane, the women went first, followed by the men. (Apart from one retarded white guy who failed to realise he was the only man in a queue full of woman) It took forever because quite a lot of women were wearing burkhas and we all had to go into a little room to get patted down, so the men wouldn't see. The flight was delayed a bit, but it was fine, I really like AirAsia. I arrived in KL at about 1am, and wish I hadn't booked into a hotel (though it was a bargain because it was an AirAsia hotel) because theres a nice piece of grass outside arrivals and tons of shops open 24 hours. The hotel bed was amazing though, the best bed I've slept on in months. Unfortunately, I'd gained a few hours from flying Eastwards, and wasn't tired at all, so it was a bit wasted on me.
So I'd left India, definitely my favourite country so far. I love Indians, and the fact they feel the need to ask where I'm from, like I always do too. I love the bookshops and could have spent a fortune on books. I love the films, Amitabh Bachahan and how actors are called heros. I bought my first copy of Vogue and Indian Hello. I'm also pretty sure one of the boys I met in Goa is friends with a famous socialite here in India. I love coconut chutney and putting coconut oil on my hair has made it lovely. I love the clothes (not the Aladdin pants and hipppy clothes, but the sarees and salwar kameezes and the bright colours.) I love the fact that I can drink the water out the taps in most cities. I love how blunt Indians are about telling me that I look older than 22, but they're so charming with it and don't mean it in a nasty way, I don't mind. I love how religion is everywhere but in an everyday way that no one seems to mind. I love all the crazy Hindi deities and all the crazy strories. I love how most Indians know more about English history than I do.
I don't like how early bars close in some places, so if you don't know anyone you just have to go home. I don't like how bars in the main cities are either the preserve of only men, or tourists. I don't like not been able to wear mini skirts when the suns beating down. But thats about it. Otherwise I love it, and can't wait to come back next year after Australia.
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