The bus from Omkareshwar had chillies hanging from the rear-view mirror and plastic flowers interspersed with marigolds adorning a shrine to Buddha on the dashboard. Allegedly this wards away evil and protects the bus, spiritual insurance so to speak. If I was a deity I wouldn’t be appeased or impressed by plastic flowers though. I think perhaps good driving skills may be better protection.
We drove past a building reminiscent of the Disney Castle situated on its own in the middle of a dusty field - Khandwar’s answer to Vegas I’m sure. As we reached the outskirts of Khandwar I saw an area of buildings sporting large sticks topped with red/orange coloured flags signifying ashrams/Saddhus in residence ;) An ‘ole ‘eap of dem by the look of it. I also couldn’t help but notice a young boy squatting by the side of the road with a poo hanging out of his arse. My gaze was transfixed (revulsion killed the khat), and as if by magic my desire to have lunch disappeared.
Our train experience this evening has thus far been radically different to our initial Indian rail system exploits on arrival from Sarf Afrika. We found our pre-booked coach easily and have the luxury of a 4 bunk cubicle complete with AC, fan, bedding and individual lights, with nobody shouting at us and floor space that is clear of people sitting on it. Wicked. We’re sharing our cubicle with a Punjabi granny, and have had a good chat with her in Hinglish. Auntieji doesn’t think much of our love marriage, is horrified by our lack of children, and dislikes McDonalds and Chinese food. Fortunately we managed to scrape back some points by our being pure vegetarian and teetotal. She did however insist that we need to get our acts together and have at least 1 child, and that we must do puja (prayers/offerings) to help the process along. Our laughter attracted the attention of the guy in the cubicle across from us who came to join in the conversation. He works for the Indian railways and had excellent English which helped the flow of the conversation somewhat as he adopted the role of translator. Both he and Auntieji grilled me for some time on my thoughts about love, my relationship to Nikki, and differences between the Eastern and Western mindset. I was solemnly told that I must answer all questions honestly. We laughed and I agreed to do so. There was much head shaking, nodding, raising of eyebrows and discussion going on between Auntieji and Uncleji as I spoke. When I finished Uncleji told me that this is what he and Auntieji had decided - I had given good answers, and that we were both quite Indian in our outlook on life. I felt like we’d just passed an entrance exam ;)
After a dinner of mitha (sweet) chapattis prepared by Mamaji before leaving the ashram this morning, we hit the hay to get some hours in before our 3.50am arrival in Mumbai.
4.45am - I never thought I would find a useful phone app, but I was proven wrong this morning. I downloaded a Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw tariff app at a hotel in Khandwar yesterday as I thought it might help. Upon our arrival in Mumbai we got a metered taxi to Andheri West which I thought was a fairly safe option. When we reached Laiq’s place, the fare on the meter had rung up Rs 1300. Our train trip from Khandwar in 2nd class AC cost us Rs 2000 for both tickets! At that point I jumped on my app, input the mileage and the resultant taxi night fare came up as Rs 650. So we told him we were going with that price. Amazingly he didn’t really argue the point, which I guess implies he was indeed trying to fleece us (although I didn’t think it was possible to tamper with meters, but then again in India anything is possible).... Big up the Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw tariff app developer. Good boy.