Friday, February 11, 2011

Bangalore-Delhi and home

We're on the home stretch now - five more days, two more in Bangalore and three in Delhi.
We had to move house after two nights at the Catholic Club and had given Club room cleaners some laundry.  I called about 10 a.m. to ask whether it was ready.  No, it will be 11:00 - as they had told me, it's true. Okay.  11:00 came and no laundry.  We had to check out by noon so needed to get it.  A few more minutes, said the clerk, they are doing the ironing.  Never mind ironing, I assured him, just fold and put in a bag, please.  11:30 and no laundry.  Noon and no laundry.  Finally, we asked again and were told it was not dry.  Never mind.  Please put in a bag and we can take care of it.  A knock on the door and a bag of laundry.  Very heavy.  It was soaking wet!  Not even really wrung out.  We decided they had forgotten it and started actually washing it about 10:00!
Fortunately, the Church guest rooms, where Peggy had kindly arranged for us to go, had outside washing lines so we were able to hang it out to dry.  Other than that convenience, however, we found we had moved from air conditioning and Wi-Fi and a lusciously comfortable double bed,  to a small bare room furnished with two single cots with very firm mattresses on a wooden board and no top sheet, a bucket and jug for bathing, a tiny television that didn't work - not that we needed one anyway - and a cupboard storing curtains which I appropriated for sheets.  It was fine, it was only one night, but a dramatic difference.  And of course, cost less too - $12 instead of  $38.

We spent the afternoon seeking the Bank where Richards father had last worked,

The bank was in a large complex - a whole block - mostly new
They were totally uninterested in any history of the bank

and then going to the station to check up on what was going to be involved in getting the bike on the train.  The set up was much more efficient than in Delhi, though it turned out that the train we were booked on had no freight car so that meant we would have to look for the bike on the next train the day after we got to Delhi. 

This house in the Bank complex looks like the Agents residence - maybe where Richard's family lived?

Richard completes the shipping forms at the station

We start packing the night before we set off for Delhi from Bangalore and I look around for my sweater.  My trusty, beautiful, fair isle, hand-knit travel sweater that serves to bolster my pillow at night and kept me warm in the chill of Delhi mornings.  Haven't seen it, says Richard, since you came from Cochin.  I unpack my backpack and carry bag at least twice, but it is not there.  I left it on the train.  I'm awake in the night trying to visualise the compartment and how I could have left it behind.  I know it is absolutely futile, but decide to go to the train station to see if it has been turned in.  Of course it won't be and of course there is no place for lost items to be turned in..  Literally millions of people travel the trains every day and the idea of a lost property depot is unthinkable, but I want to go anyway.  At least it is action and I will give up after that.  So, at 8:30 we get a tuk-tuk and go to the station and are confronted by courteous but uncomprehending faces and passed along from a desk to a shed to another platform to a waiting room till we are getting hungry for breakfast and give up and go back to the Catholic Club.  So be it.  I hope someone found it who can get some more years of wear - unfortunately it has a home in the hot south not chilly north!

In the afternoon, having checked out of the church guest room, Peggy invited us to her house and we had lunch with her family before setting off to get the bike packed up and get on the train ourselves.
Getting the bike packed and ready for the train

Ah...the lessons one learns!  I had already discovered the discomfort of those side aisle beds and it turned out again that we had one upper bunk and one lower side - the lower being our preference in the event that I was still incapacitated and might have to clamber down from those heights in the night to use the facilities down in the space between the coaches.  Our companions this time included an upper caste couple of 55 and 60 - everyone's names and ages are listed on the passenger list that is posted outside the coach - a 23 year old man and another guy whose age I forget but he must have been about 40.  The reason I identify the older couple as upper caste is that they tried to appropriate the best four seats in the compartment.  She was extremely overweight and took up a lot of one of the bench seats - and all of it, when she lay down - and was entirely unresponsive to everyone elses' needs.  The 23 year old worked in the north for a motorbike company, spoke English very well and was a real sweetie.  He recognized the problem and kept checking on me and whether I was comfortable - I guess an indication of how well I hid my annoyance :-)  The 40 year old was very patient and quiet and simply accepted his being forced to sit up on his upper bunk rather than use his seat  beside the 60 year old man.  We also were entitled to a seat, of course, but who was going to push aside the woman who stretched herself over one of the benches.  Quite tricky.  Richard and I sat on the side seats and the 23 year old perched on the edge of one of the benches.  Lest you think this seating arrangement was nothing to make a fuss about, we are talking about a 36 hour train ride with no escape. 
Of course we survived and at some point I moved myself into the space beside the old man and sat using the last few threads of my ball of wool, so he had to scrunch his legs up a bit.  These were benches wide enough for three.  I slept on the side the first night - or, I should say, I lay on the side bed the first night since it was quite hard to sleep but I need less space than Richard.  Nonetheless, he swapped with me and I luxuriated on the much wider upper bed the second night.

Knitting on the train

We pulled into the station in Delhi at 6:30 a.m.  A final few days - the Republic day parade, collecting the bike and returning it, shopping and packing and off to the airport.

The notorious but highly organized Irfan from our first Delhi visit got us tickets for the Republic day parade 10 rupees or 25c  - when Rajeesh from the bike shop had not managed to find any we swallowed our pride and called Irfan - the main reason we returned to Delhi on the 25th was to go to this much celebrated parade on the 26th - and Irfan came through.  We had expected to pay Rs 300 but those seats were all taken and we joined the thousands thronging along closed off and security controlled streets that led to the grounds where bleachers had been set up.  Long and longer lines and waits but after being pushed and shoved along we finally got to the last checkpoint and were frisked.  The list of things one could not take into the grounds was long and included no cameras or cell phones but I didn't think it would extend to emery boards which happened to be in my jacket pocket nor to a squashed roll of toilet paper - never went anywhere without it! - and a little packet of paracetamol.  The big chief who was consulted by an anxious female guard allowed the toilet paper but took the emery boards and paracetamol.  I offered to swallow one on the spot but that wasn't allowed either.  
Once on the grounds, we were pleased we had cheap tickets.  The reserved numbered seats were on the level ground but we went to the raised bleachers and had a great view. 
Lots of military hardware but also wonderfully decorated,huge floats from the various states and from major government ministries like health and forestry.  The show before the finale was a display of extraordinary agility and balance by men on motor bikes (all Enfields) and the finale, a flyover by their equivalent of Canada'sSnowbirds.  The whole procession travelled 8 km - amazing that they stayed balanced in pyramids of up to 12 men on one bikes for all that distance.
A terrific show and fun to go.

Although we did a fair bit of site visiting on our first stay in Delhi, we had not gone to Humayun's tomb, a Moghul building that was a precursor to the Taj Mahal.
Humayun's tomb

The entrance to extensive grounds - a huge park right in the centre of the city 
We walked all around and I suddenly noticed that a few trees had labels.  Since reading A Suitable Boy I had been searching for a neem tree since they figure so frequently in the novel and a Wikipedia picture was not satisfying.  We had found none in the south and Peggy thought they would be hard to find since the leaves, branches, roots and bark have such varied medicinal value.
Anyway, I found not one but two, to my great delight and also found some dropped leaves to keep. 

Neem tree

The neem trees are huge and spread out almost as wide as they are high

We will have to look this one up

We shopped till Richard dropped...but he was very patient...

This was a designer dress - too gorgeous and expensive and no place to wear it!

Couldn't go home without a sari, though

Back at the hotel, I displayed my jacket -- you can see why I would never be in the running as a model!

And here's the necklace I hummed and hawed about and finally bought in Cochin

The hotel in Delhi, by the way, was great - modest but very comfortable, clean, with friendly, efficient service - we didn't put them to the laundry test - and much appreciated Rajeesh arranging it for us. 

On our last afternoon, we went back to the bazaar in Old Delhi.  I wanted to see all the stalls with their thousands of embroideries, ribbons, and sequinned bands, the jewelled neck-pieces and sleeve bands and all the brilliantly coloured and decorated saris.  So, we wandered.  It is from this market that stores are supplied all over the country and while it is thronged with people, the shops are deep caverns piled deep with stock that even all these crowds could not begin to reduce. 
These were racks of rick-rack and ribbons of all colours and textures 
We went also in search of tea and were led up some stairs at the back of a shop into a store room where there were paper bags stacked.  The owner ripped one open and weighed out a pound of Darjeeling for us.

We took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel - probably our last...

Richard said  goodbye to our bike
We picked up our bags from the hotel, stacked everything into the taxi and set off for the airport.
Not home free yet, however.

Adventures never end!
Terminal One, I read on the ticket.
We were delivered to Terminal One and got out, found a trolley and went into the airport building.  Domestic flights? where were the international airlines?
We wandered up and down into another building and up the elevator and down again.  As we emerged, we saw someone official looking - suit and badge - and asked if he could tell us where we needed to go for a flight to Shanghai.
That's Terminal three he said.  You will need to get a shuttle bus.
He was walking with another man who looked on and, recognizing our dilemma, offered to take us to this other terminal since the shuttle could be quite a while coming and he was going there anyway.  We gratefully accepted the offer, not having any idea what this meant.  The other terminal was about 5 kilometers away!
We would have been so late getting there if we had relied on the bus and so frustrated - it turned out that I had read the ticket wrong but also that the ticket incorrectly identified the terminal - the terminal listed no longer existed and had been gone for two years!

But all's well that ends well and we checked in early, got our seats for both flights and sat down to wait.

Overall, it was a long trip back - we left the hotel at 5:00, got on the plane at 9:00 p.m., arrived  Shanghai 4:00 a.m/6:00 a.m., layover till 1:30 p.m., 11 hour flight to Vancouver,  few hours stop to gather ourselves in town and then on the 3:00 ferry to Nanaimo and the 5:00 to Gabriola and home at 5:45p.m. where jet lag set in....

Shanghai layover
A layover of seven hours demands that one not just sit - says Richard.  So we wander the airport and decide to go on the  high speed train, just for the ride.  It's pretty amazing - called "Maglev" for Magnetic Levitation which creates a friction-less air-gap between train & rails by using the magnetic repulsion of similar magnetic poles.  The train travels 30k in less than 8 minutes, reaching speeds of 430kpm (268mph) quietly and in great comfort.
At this point, it is registering 402 km per hour.

The tracks for the train which is approaching

Train in the station


We woke next morning to a glorious dawn sky, a calm sea, and silence. 

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