Tag Archives: Bangalore

Birthday Day

The day started with a hearty mutton fry made by Sellappan’s mam, and I gave Sellappan his cookbook gift I had kept secret since arriving. We went for the bus early and I enjoyed travelling back on the 3.33 Electronic City Express in the daylight, watching the scenery change as we left the hills of Salem and went back to Bangalore. We got a phone call from Sellappan’s building manager in Bangalore to say that Holi was being celebrated downstairs – where were we? I had stayed some extra time in Bangalore especially for Sellappan’s birthday and Holi, so I knew what was ahead, but this was a day early, and we certainly weren’t dressed to be covered in powder paint and coloured water!

We got back to Bangalore and took a rickshaw back to the flat, where we saw all kinds of coloured carnage unfolding! The building manager grinned through his colours and approached menacingly – only Sellappan’s cry of “New shirt! New shirt!” saved us from a full on attack! We did, however, receive some green colour on our faces, with cries of “Happy Holi!” We went for the lift before anyone changed their minds!

We unpacked, changed into more suitable clothes and went back out to get supplies for Sellappan’s birthday party. I was pleased I’d brought a backpack for all the snacks and sweets we ended up with! Eventually the shopping was done, and we got back to find another group of about ten people all celebrating Holi. We just managed to put down our bags and take phones out of pockets before all hell broke loose! Between all the different colours of powder, the super soakers and the silver and gold face paint, we were all thoroughly covered in short order!

We must have been playing for a while, as Sellappan’s friends began to arrive – I say began to arrive…three of them walked towards the apartment block and when they saw what was going on they walked slower and slower… clearly not wanting to get too messy! They escaped with some silver paint to the face, and we all headed upstairs, carefully not touching anything.

Sellappan graciously allowed me the first shower, and it took forever to get the colours out of my hair – I couldn’t even tell if they were off my face or not. The soap and shampoo ran magenta into the drain, and I finally managed to come out with some semblance of normality. Poor Sellappan was still standing not touching anything and trying to avoid dropping more powder everywhere. Once he was cleaned up, more people started to arrive and we spent a lovely evening wishing Sellappan many happy returns – with the help of two cakes! Plenty of people managed to squeeze into the flat, and the evening was a great success!

Last Minute Rush to Wait – and Geocache 13, not so unlucky

Today we finished up lots of little odds and ends, but first we paid a visit to Naveen and Ashwini, who wanted Sellappan to come with them to view a property they were thinking of moving to. Once we’d had a look around and a chat about it, Sellappan and I went to the Forum mall. We went for a geocache first – my first attempt in India (GLDJ1M23). There aren’t many in India at all, but there are a couple in Bangalore and this one was close to Sellappan’s place so we were able to go for it in the morning before work. Thanks to the hint, we got to the right spot almost immediately. Unfortunately, there were lots of people around, and while we were surreptitiously searching, someone came up to us to ask for money. Eventually Sellappan persuaded them they were on a hiding to nothing and we zeroed in on the likely spot. I couldn’t see anything obvious at first, but sitting down on the wall for a think we dismissed most places around us until only one remained. Sellappan stuck his hand down the back of the likely spot and bingo! Cache in hand! The log was signed and the cache was replaced quickly.

Signing the log book.
Signing the log book at the bus stand.

We crossed back to the mall for the next few tasks. We went to a bookshop and I got some comics as a gift, and got three books for myself in case I needed something to read on the plane. One of these was a second copy of The White Tiger, a book which I had enjoyed before visiting India – I wondered if it would feel the same having been there. We also managed to find a Chumbak store to get the motorbike shirt we’d seen when we were waiting for Sujay and Kallu at the cinema across town. Time was running out, so with everything stuffed into my backpack, Sellappan dropped me off at the flat with some brunch before going to work.

After work, we were making full use of the fact that Mohan and Kowshalya were back in town, and so went out for dinner with them to a restaurant specialising in food from Andhra Pradesh. We had to wait a little while before getting into the restaurant and getting seated which normally isn’t a problem, but we had a bus to catch! Sellappan, Mohan and I enjoyed some non-veg dishes while Kowshalya stuck to the veggie options. We left it at that and paid the bill before rushing back to the flat, picking up our bags and heading for the night bus to Salem via rickshaw.

We made it with some time to spare, and then Mohan and Kowshalya appeared on their bike to keep us company. It was really nice of them to do so, especially as we ended up waiting ages for the bus which was late! Eventually we got on and Mohan and Kowshalya disappeared off into the night.

We hadn’t managed to get our usual seats of 17 and 18, and ended up sitting in the back row of the bus, which felt very strange after always sitting in the middle. Clearly this didn’t bother me as much as I thought, as the next thing I knew I was waking up on the outskirts of Salem, with Sellappan laughing at me because I’d actually managed to nod off before he did. My bus sleeping level: Advanced.

We got off at Salem bus station and got to Sellappan’s house by taxi, and had a nice morning’s sleep on beds that didn’t move.

Closing Time, or, The Day I Beat Myself Up

Today I suffered from a clumsiness epidemic which started more or less as soon as I got up, as I put my face in the wrong place when Sellappan stretched. I’m sure it looked very funny as I got smacked on the bridge of the nose!

Unfortunately Sellappan lost a glove yesterday, so the first thing to do was to go to Decathalon and get a new pair. On the way down the stairs he passed me the flat keys, and I chose this moment to slip off a step and land on my backside. If you’re counting, that’s two! We set off across town to pick them up and discovered them in a sale bin for a bargain price! Phew! We came back and went to food point for breakfast and to pick up my packed lunch. Breakfast was idly and vada with coconut chutney, tomato chutney and some veg korma. For lunch I went for my tried and rested parotta and egg masala – a boiled egg in an onion and tomato sauce. Sellappan dropped me off at home and went to work.

I spent the day in the flat wondering what my third injury of the day would be and feeling very suspicious of inanimate objects, I chose to sort out my suitcase a bit as everything was very jumbled. I sat on the floor next to the bed and sorted it all out, but THWAK! I bashed my knee on the wooden bedframe… Ouch! At least that was the third one out of the way!

I got a call when Sellappan got back to the apartment to come down as Mohan and Kowshalya were coming to dinner with us. We went to a non-veg restaurant which was just about to close (they must have loved us….) and had a huge and varied meal which consisted of plain rice with fish gravy, mutton gravy, chicken gravy, mutton fry, a chicken dish, another fish dish, some potato, buttermilk and something which might have been rasam but I didn’t get that far! There was also a boiled egg. I should say that most of the gravies are very thin and everything is served in little cups – the emphasis is on the variety and not the quantity.

The Spread, with Mohan's hand

It all had a bit too much chilli for me, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed! We managed most of it, with Mohan definitely taking the hollow-legs crown that evening. We finished off with a small cup of dessert. By this time all the other chairs were up on the tables and sections of the restaurant had its lights off! Whoops. We had a sprinkling of brightly coloured mouth freshener on the way out. As if this wasn’t enough, we stopped on the way home for sweet paan (no thanks) and made it back to the apartment at about midnight.

Jacks and more Ice Cream

Mohan came to pick me up in the evening and we went over to his place to meet Sellappan when he finished at work. While we waited, and between phone calls, Mohan and I discussed fruit – mangoes in particular. He picked my brains about the mango market in the UK and what products mangoes were in, what the quality of mangoes was in the UK and how expensive they were. It turns out that he is interested in exporting mangoes to the UK and needs a man on the ground to check out the market – maybe I’ll get some free samples..?

He brought in a couple of stones from the heap that has been unceremoniously dumped outside his house and we played jacks for a bit, feeling like we were dong OK until Kowshalya came out of the kitchen and wiped the floor with us, with much criticism of Mohan’s technique which he didn’t take lying down!

Sellappan arrived and the stones were put aside for us to have our food, expertly prepared by Kowshalya. We finished it up quickly and then ice cream was suggested… Who could say no? We went to a nearby ice cream shop with lots of awards to its name, specialising in fruit flavours. Kowshalya and I both had the strawberry flavour which was lovely, and a very nice end to the evening.

Naveen’s Birthday

On the evening there was a knock at the door and Mohan arrived with a birthday cake for Naveen, a little while later Sellappan came back with Mohan, and we took the magic relighting birthday candles, a bottle of wine which we’d wrapped, and the cake along to Naveen and Ashwini’s place. Mohan went home.

When we got there the lights were off and everyone had gone to bed! The light clicked on and Ashwini invited us in. Naveen got up too and Naveen’s mam was also visiting for his birthday. Sellappan unwrapped the cake and stuck the candle in between the piped “Happy Birthday Naveen” on top of the eggless sponge. We sang Happy Birthday in a range of keys and Naveen blew out the candle, which relit several times before Sellappan revealed the joke.

We got through a good bit of cake and took pictures before leaving Naveen’s clan to sleep in peace.

Sizzling Cinema

We had a lazy morning and got up ready for breakfast, Alka had cooked a delicious stew which we really enjoyed, and then we spent some time just chatting (mainly about Christmas for some reason) and then discovered there was a Hindi movie playing that we thought we’d all enjoy. The movie is called Queen (trailer), and the premise is that a jilted bride goes on her European dream honeymoon alone. As Sellappan, Alka and I met in France and Manu has travelled to Europe too, we were all looking forward to seeing someone else’s first time experience and how it would be portrayed in the film.

The film turned out to be absolutely hilarious, with a great cast – I can’t speak for the Hindi jokes but most of the humour was situational or was easy to guess what was being said, maybe it was all a bit predictable but it was a really fun film in any case.

Our faces still hurting, we went to Kobe Sizzler, a chain reastaurant serving food on sizzling platters. I chose a buffalo steak which came with chips (best chips in India so far…) And boiled veg with a rich mushroom gravy. It was very pub lunch and of course arrived in a cloud of steam and sizzling noise.

Once we’d finished, we somehow managed to get out of our seats and drove to the beach. The sun was still a bit high, so we sat on a bandstand while it got a little lower. The beach was absolutely packed, with lots of people playing in the water and even more eating snacks on the sand. While we sat, a cow wandered over in search of something to eat while its hooves sunk into the sand.

We took off our shoes and walked over the ultra-fine white sand down to the shore. The sand was so light and fine it squeaked a little underfoot and lay on our feet like dust. We sat down on a ridge and took in the lovely sunset (west coast beach!) As kids came by to sell us skinny cones of peanuts and the ice cream man tringed his bicycle bell to drum up some business.

Once the sun was down we headed back into town for ice cream sundaes (because beaches and ice cream go together like…) in a parlour which was under a beauty salon called Queen’s, which was a nice parallel. We headed home for a was and brush up and all of a sudden it was time to get back onto the bus again!

Manu and Alka dropped us off at the stop and we climbed aboard to head back to Bangalore. The journey was smooth, and we got back to Bangalore at about 4.30am and hunted for the bus back to the flat. We got it just fine but it took about a hundred years to get out of the bus station along with all of its friends, so by the end of it all and after a rickshaw ride we got back to the flat at around 6am… Sleep time!

Night Bus to Mangalore

As we often do, Sellappan and I planned to take the night bus to Mangalore, and so my day really started when he came back from work and we picked up our backpacks and went out to get food and to buy sweets for our hosts.

We walked from the flat to a particular place that Sellappan knew that was a combined restaurant and sweet shop, which served our needs very well! We filled up for the journey and eventually Sellappan managed to stop a rickshaw after several drivers refused our journey. We crossed the city to the bus stand and boarded our bus.

I’ll describe the phases of a night bus journey for those of you who may be interested! The buses we have been travelling on are mainly air conditioned, large coaches, some with double rear axels. The seats recline quite a way, too. You board the bus by showing your ticket (which you can have texted to you) and showing ID, stash your luggage above your seat and settle in.

Blankets and water bottles are often provided, and once everyone has boarded, the bus will fight its way out of the station and out of the city. Our journeys usually start between 9 and 11pm, and most people immediately start to snooze, even if they haven’t reclined yet. The conductor will come around and check tickets again, and as the twisty city roads turn to flyovers out of the city, the interior lights are switched off.

Once the bus is on the highway (and for me, at least, depending on the bounciness of the roads) everyone chucks their seat back and dozes off, usually before midnight. Between 1 and 3am the bus will pause at a rest stop, which will awaken some of the passengers (like me). The light switch on will awaken more, and almost everyone will be woken up by the kerfuffle of people disentangling themselves from blankets and displaced layers of clothing and luggage to get down for a walk, a snack, a drink or a trip to the loo.

The rest stops are generally in the middle of nowhere and will have a snack shop or two with a tea stand, and maybe a few stalls selling hot food. There will also be toilet facilities which you can gamble on if you like – it’s not easy to judge a toilet from the outside of the building and I have been both pleasantly surprised and very disappointed by entering a toilet block on many occasions.

Pile back onto the bus if you bothered to get down, and resettle yourself in your blanket for the rest of the ride. You’ll cross through toll gates which might wake you up with their bright lights, creeping speed and triple speed bumps. Keep your eyes shut as you go from the highways to the outskirts of towns, and don’t bother trying to work out where you are by shop signs unless you know where the route goes. You’ll only end up squinting uncomprehendingly at bright lights from your dark chair. Eventually though you might spot a few with your destination city written on them.

The bus will stop many times before its terminus, and the conductor will beatbox the name of the stop repeatedly, and loudly, to make sure everyone gets off at the right place. Eventually your stop will be called and you dig yourself out of your blanket fort – even more of a challenge if the person in front of you is still present and reclined – and you wobble to the front on potentially dead legs, depending on how you slept.

I had my most triumphant night’s sleep on a bus yet, and Sellappan and I jumped down in Mangalore only a few minutes’ walk from Alka and Manu’s place. Alka had been with us in France, so I was really looking forward to seeing her again and to meeting her husband.

Once the lift reached their floor we were greeted with excited noises before we’d even opened the lift door! Alka and Manu gestured us in and we spent ages just chatting and catching up, before eventually tiring at about 7am. Alka and Manu went to work for the morning and we slept a little to catch up.