Monday, March 09, 2009

day 1: jaipur: we take an elephant ride up the fort. if i remember correctly, my she-elephant was called jumpa.

then we drive ?250km to agra, and wake up early the next morning with the intention of catching sunrise at the taj mahal but we end up waiting for that snotty henna-hair-dyed guide whom we ultimately tipped pitiably because he was such.. a pain. i'd told the boys i was travelling with (liwei, joel, suriya) that i wouldn't leave india without seeing the Taj Mahal and they'd taken me seriously (i was very serious) hence the late change of plans to fly to the north instead of starting our travels/electives in the south.

depression in sri ramachandra hospital annexe
after a few days of living it up in hotels in the north, we find it hard to accept the shitty conditions in the hospital annex of sri ramachandra medical college in porur, chennai. seriously, roaches and rats? and depressingly stained walls.. things looked up when we finally switched to A/C rooms, after changing rooms ?5 times, after checking out, what, ?14 rooms.

marina beach, chennai
the beach near city centre in chennai has been cleaned up! these kite runners are cute stuff, though they cut my kite several times.

marina beach, chennai
you will not catch any local female exposing their calves in chennai, even at the beach.

contrastingly, mahabalipuram is hippie-town. perhaps as hippie as india gets.

sunrise at mahabalipuram
we'd woken up at.. ?4am to catch our ride down to mahabalipuram but missed sunrise (again) by a few minutes. this time, it was the driver who was late. then again, it was (rare) cloudy day anyways..


nasserin in kalpakkum
further down along ECR (east coast road- the highway in the south that runs along the.. east coast) we come to kalpakkum where suriya lived when he was very little. this is nasserin, the adopted daughter of uncle iqbal, our very cool host. she is standing on the roof of her home, where they leave coconut shells out to dry. i play five stones with nasserin for the longest time. and these are real stones we handle btw. ECR holds also memories of the crazy motorcycle ride with speed demon hamza when i actually begged him to slow down because we were going to Die, but he thought i'd meant he was too slow... kalpakkum will be remembered for great hospitality, briyani and.. puri!

even further down south is pondicherry of which i'd high expectations of. but the overall gloomy disposition of folks that evening made this a boo-boo trip.

after our second trip to kalpakkum, this time for yasser's wedding, i decide to skip school and spend friday at CMC, vellore where mag, violet and other folks were. CMC (christian medical college) is such a great place! motivated, clever students, PGs and doctors for one. and vellore's such a cozy town that's so much cleaner to boot. we take two long bus rides from k to v, transiting at kancheepuram. after which we took a bus to bagayam, not before going on a bus that was heading in the opposite direction.

cotton candy boys
crazy cotton candy boys who were initially grouchily trying to make sales and were unhappy that we'd only bought one packet but they cracked up when we began a tossing game of the toxic-looking candy through the bus window. this was outside the vellore golden temple where phototaking is strictly prohibited. it was all a bit strange, the devotion for one particular man whose picture was hung up all over the temple grounds.

demonstrators in vellore

demonstrating in vellore
the first week we were in campus, there weren't students around because of strikes in tamil nadu triggered by the persecution of the tamil tigers in sri lanka. demonstrations continued through our stay and here, these are folks who lined up ?3km along the road, raising flags and chanting, for a while before they dispersed for dinner.

bombay, baby
and this is Bombay, Baby. when we got lost with kuku and boomba getting back from worli to andehri, the first bit of fun in bombay that day after long hours of sitting in a posh condominium apartment to which we were invited for a housewarming party. eventually, we managed to cover ground in colaba (taj hotel, leopold cafe), bandra, juhu beach, bandstand, etc and believe me, t'was a relieve to be out on the streets. oh oh and we met a bollywood actress, a crime news tv presenter, pilot (to-be) and pilots of the bosses of the TATA group. the former 3 are siblings by the way and we had good coffee/cake with the latter.

so. i am back in sg and i am feeling... lost. strange, ennit. i guess this is post-travel blues. i guess i miss india. i guess i am not ready for usa yet.

had helluva good time at mag's place- her family threw a homecoming party. great food, drinks and company; her 89-year-old gramps is a coolio ol' dude who lectured on bisacodyl and the bark of some tree. at 4.30 am, i was wide awake after chugging down masala tea (and tea leaves) and running madly in the carpark in a futile attempt to reach the car before the carpark wardens (aka Fatimahs) issued summons. luckily (or not) i haven't got postings these two weeks.

it's hard to describe what i have seen of and what i feel about india. when pressed, i repeat the same comments about how it is so 'colourful', how the locals are so warm, and then how the poverty/inefficiency is heartwrenching/despairing. ugh, the lack of expressivity.

(dammit, i am grumpy again! i'd like to blame the awfully wet weather..)