I’ve recently been looking through my photographs from last year and decided to upload a few of these to Flickr – here they are! You can click through to see the full size images. I’ll add to this over time, and will also be adding pictures to the blog posts I wrote while I was there.
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!
While Sellappan ran some errands, I spent the day relaxing and playing with the millions of photos we’d taken on our trips. Zubair popped over and we all had some snacks thanks to Sellappan’s mam.
Later in the evening, Sellappan and I went to see the Doctor at his surgery. As we were chatting there was a sudden rush of patients, so we left and Sellappan took me to a department store where he wanted to get a souvenir for me. He ended up choosing a stainless steel dinner set – I had asked for a plate, which was included in the set – and he got it engraved with the dates of my trip. It’s common practice to engrave cookware with names. As Sellappan’s birthday was coming up, he also needed to get some party supplies like paper cups and plates, so we got those too.
We paid a visit to a kitchen showroom for Sellappan’s mam, accompanied by Zubair. We also went quickly to a CD/DVD shop to get the soundtrack for Highway, the Hindi film we had enjoyed so much. We even managed to squeeze in a few more minutes with the Doctor, seeing as his rush had subsided.
We went to a restaurant and met up with the whole Salem network for a meal. The young waiter ran around for us like the floor was made lava, and we got lots of different dishes. I finished off my meal with a sweet lime juice which was very tasty. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone, and we left to the sound of “Happy Birthday” and “Safe journey home”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.