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200311-India-20-12

On the Shatabdi to Bangalore

Subu and a TCI rep drop us off at Chennai railway station for our 6am train to Bangalore. The station is lively but not as mad as I expected it to be, probably due to the early hour. The trains are relics from the past but look very comfortable. We find our car and seats, then the TCI rep leaves us. Inside the seats are numbered and arranged in airplane style, three on the left, two on the right, with fold-down tables and individual fans overhead for each row. The décor is light-blue throughout (cheapest paint?) The windows are darkened. Train leaves on time, which is a novelty for us!

Train attendants come round with trays with biscuits and a few sweets, then with masala tea, and later in the journey with breakfast, idlis with sauces. I go for a wander but all the carriages I can reach are exactly the same set up. In the spaces at the end of each carriage two train staff are preparing the breakfasts, heating the sauce in a metal bucket and then dividing it over the little cups.

The journey takes about five hours. We arrive in Bangalore at 11am. Glad we have at last managed a proper train ride. Ok, so this was the deluxe version of an Indian train but it still felt like “proper” travel instead of just sitting in a plane.

At Bangalore we take a taxi to Rajesh (*) and Geetha’s flat, in Raheja Residency in the posh Koramangala district. Rajesh comes down to meet us. Geetha has had to go out for a music recording or something. It’s good to see Rajesh again. I got on very well with him back in London and it’s good to be a guest of friends rather than a foreign tourist. Their flat on the fifth floor is simple but light and spacious, with a small balcony. I feel a bit of “vertigo” stood on the balcony. Rajesh and Geetha have prepared some lunch for us: dal, an okra dish, rice, paratha, and a minty/tomatoey/yoghurty dish. Even though I’m not hungry I do it justice. Ness also has a bit despite feeling pretty yuk and getting worse as the day goes on, now turning into a cold rather than just sniffles. After chatting for a while, freshening up and Rajesh checking emails and answering several calls, we head into town. Rajesh drops us in the shopping district (Bridge Road and MG Road). He has to pop into the office for a couple of hours.

200311-India-20-25

With Surya and Geetha

We wander up and down the two streets for a bit, have a couple of espressos and cups of tea, do a bit of shopping for silly stuff. Bangalore has a totally different feel to the other places we have seen and is much more westernised, obvious from the shops and the people. There is a Santa’s grotto outside a shopping centre, a Barista espresso bar which would be at home in London, people chatting on mobile phones, young people are dressed in western dress, especially noticeable on women, and their attitude is also different, more confident, taken up with their own world. We are certainly not a novelty here and see many other westerners, tourists as well as business types.

We catch a rickshaw cab back to Rajesh and Geetha’s and get there by 6pm. By coincidence we end up sharing the lift up with Geetha who we had not met until now. Rajesh is still at work. We chat with Geetha and have chai on the balcony until Rajesh gets back. Later we drive into town and go for dinner at a smart Punjabi restaurant, Samarkand. The theme is Afghan/Punjabi, waiters are dressed up, the menu is quirky. The food is fantastic, though a bit lost on Ness with her bunged ub dose. We round off the evening with a cognac at the flat and then try to sleep on the most solid bed we’ve had so far, plus I feel full of wind which won’t come out (does later, aah, relief!)