India Diary: from Kanyakumari to Rameswaram, Bangalore and Goa

It’s been a couple of days since I posted my last entry about my visit to India.

Meanwhile I went to several places in south India.

1. Kanyakumari: Saw the sunrise which is more or less similar to the one that I had seen from Nagarkot a few months ago. Ate food on banaba leaf.
2. Rameswaram: Slept outside a hotel gate.
3. Madhurai: Went to Meenaxi temple wearing dhoti.
4. Bangalore: Gatecrashed a handwriting workshop.

The other experience: Bus journey (sleeper coaches), shivered all night on AC.

Here is the detail: I went to Rameswaram (from Kanyakumari via Madhurai) on Thursday I think (I will confirm the days when I get time as I am not keeping tack of days really). I stayed there for a night and half a day. I reached Rameswaram at around 4 in the morning. The autowalla who took me near the temple from the Railway station helped me to look for room in hotels but no success. All hotels, at least those around the temple, were occupied. Or perhaps that was a bad timing, people were sleeping on the reception desks and floors. When woken up by us they would simply give us a  reply: no, nahi, room nahi.

It’s still dark and I was already there… very tired because of whole night of train journey. I had started from Kanyakumari at 5:50 PM, reached Madhurai at around 10 PM, stood in a long line for the ticket there and left Madhurai at around 11:30 PM. There were very interesting young folks in the compartment and we talked a lot (as and when the horn of the train permitted us to talk) and I felt that the distance was covered very quickly.

I could see no seat unoccupied in the general compartment of the Rameswaram-bound train. I was pleasantly surprised when a man offered me his seat. I really needed that. I thanked him a lot.

About 45 minutes earlier, as I was climbing down a huge staircase of the train station, an old woman had taken refuse to my right arm. “Bhagwan is everywhere,” she said in Hindi as she clung on my shoulder. We came down slowly at her pace.

As soon as I was in the Rameswaram-bound train, I started reading the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. I was very much hooked to the book. Totally captivating story. The story of the suffering of women in Afghan society is so touching and heartbreaking that I almost cried several times in the train. How can a society be so barbaric and treat its women in such a devastating way? I wanted to punch right on the noses of Afghan men.

Back to reality. I finished the book by 1 AM I think. The train was still moving. I wanted to sleep. It was difficult to nap on the chairs of the general compartment. Still, I managed to get some sleep for an hour or so…. frequently interrupted by the cold wind and the fear that someone would walk away with my luggage!

I reached Rameswaram to find that no rooms were available. Too many Hindu pilgrims in the town, I thought. I decided to sleep on the doorstep of a hotel. I was so very tired. I was regretting for taking that train and coming all the way to Rameswaram from Madhurai instead of staying in Madhurai for the night. I badly needed some sleep. Body was aching. The backpack suddenly became too heavy to carry. I wandered around for a few minutes, went to the nearby beach in the darkness. The water was calm and the breeze was cool. I stayed on a bench for a few minutes. But no longer. The cemented bench and concrete footpath were too cold for me to lie down and take a nap. I came back to a nearby hotel where, I was told a while ago, rooms were occupied. I rested there, just near the front gate of the hotel, on the floor, for about an hour. That was quite an experience of backpacking.

As the dawn broke, I was up and moving around looking for a room. After knocking a few reception desks, I managed to find one. I was going stay there for about six hours. Rs. 350. Deal done. As soon as I entered the room, I think, I was snoring.

Woke up at ten, thanks to the alarm that I had set up on my cellphone, took shower and went out to see the temple. I didn’t go inside. Also visited a Ram temple a few kilometers from the main temple, thanks to the insistence of an autowalla who milked a cool Rs. 100 from me for the 4-kilometers ride. The beach near the Rameswaram temple, basically used as for poojas and offerings and holy dip, is dirty and filthy.

Okay more details in next post.

It’s 9:27 PM and for the past one and half hours I am trying to copy photos from my camera to iPod. The process is very slow. It’s about 2 Gigabytes of photos.

I came back to Madhurai from Rameshworam in train in the evening. It was almost 9:30 PM. A very interesting family came in the compartment. Soon I found myself talking to them and laughing a lot. More about that in one of my next posts.

The next day, I went to the Meenaxi temple in Madhurai wearing dhoti. Detail in next post.

From Madhurai, took a bus to Salem at about 5:30 PM. A Tamil boy who was fresh out of a medical school and didn’t understand Hindi was my seatmate. Arrived at Salem bus stand at about 10:30 PM.

I didn’t stay in Salem. From the Salem bus stand I took a bus to Bangalore at around 11:30 PM. A very first experience of driving in a sleeper coach with full AC. What a journey. I was shivering during the whole journey. More in next post.

Arrived in Bangalore early yesterday morning. Two free cups of coffee from a stranger! A gatecrashing into a handwriting workshop in a nearby medicine college (remember my article on handwriting) and a quick kinmel (shoppnig) of ‘Rupa ka baniyaan’ in a crowded Bangalore market. “Rupa ka baniyan hey,” said the old salesman as I put on the ganji on [It’s Rupa’s vest]. What an opportunity to deliver that famous dialogue from a garment advertisement! “Toh Rupa kya pahnegi?,” I shot back [Then what will Rupa wear?]. He smiled…ear to ear!

In the evening, at 6 PM, I boarded a sleeper coach bus to Goa. This time, fortunately, no AC! The restaurantwallah on the highway wouldn’t serve food to a standing customer. I didn’t eat. (More on this later.)

Arrived in Goa at around 11 (after almost 18 hours of bus ride) this morning. I went to the Madgaun train station in a local public bus (the driver makes me very confused about where to stand or seat in the bus) and reserved a ticket to Bombay for tomorrow evening. I am tired of traveling in buses (though the last two were new experience). I showed my passport to secure the ticket of Sleeper class that is available to foreigners. That was a huge relief because I know its far easy to travel in train for 12 hours (from here to Bombay) than in a bus. The train journey is cheaper too. As I got out of the station with ticket on my wallet, a motorbike-taxiwalla was already trying to pursue me to hire him. He brought me to a hotel near Kolva beach where I am staying.

The evening. “A lot can happen over a cup of coffee.” That’s the slogan of the coffee house near the beach here. And that’s so true. Things did happen. Here is a quick background: I had brought Palpasa Café, the novel by Narayan Wagle, with me planning to gift that to a girl here in Goa. The novel begins with a romantic scene in Goa’s Anjuna Beach. Palpasa and Drishya meet there for the first time. I had also mentioned about my plan to Narayan. This afternoon I was looking for a girl (to give the book of course). I couldn’t find.

In the evening, after watching sunset and taking several photos on the beach, I entered into a very nice coffee shop (which reminded me of the Himalayan Java in Thamel because of the similar atmosphere inside). I ordered Café Latte and Black Forest (both for a special reason. Yes, they had Black Forest there!).

Then, in a dramatic fashion, I found a girl. [More in the next post!]

What next: I plan to visit a local church tomorrow morning. Then perhaps the beach again. Then no idea. In the evening, I will take a train to Bombay. Will reach there the next day (early Wednesday morning). That would be on 8th. Early on the 10th morning, I will take a train to Gorakhpur.

My India cell number: 9454746846 (Yes, text messages are welcome though I may not reply!)

[It’s 10:45 PM and the photos are still being transferred. I will upload some of them when I get time in the next couple of days.]