India and the longest journey ever undertaken Part 1

One story i wanted to recount to you about Gokarna that was left off of my recent blog post was one which involves a certain drink here, one i believe to be illegal in some parts of India, although like many things illegal, substance wise at least (I’m not talking cow bumming and the such), it shouldn’t be. The drink I’m talking about is Bhang Lassi.  It’s a way of drinking Bhang that doesn’t need the presence of Alcohol and therefore makes it a much more pleasant (too pleasant sometimes) ‘aperitif’.

On the evening I’m referring to, mine and The Tiny Pole’s last in Gokarna, it was decided by the latter that she was to try the mysterious concoction with a newly acquired friend.  After over an hour of waiting, this refreshment arrived and, having been given permission to try, i took a ‘coupla’ mouthfuls.  ‘Mmm, Delicious’, i quipped and thinking nothing of it, sat down to resume my chat with Perry NorthGlide about the inherent selfishness that seems to reside in young people, especially girls in their mid-20’s, these days!  About an hour or so later, a chuckle appeared out of nowhere and suddenly the direction of my mind took a vicious 720 degree turn and i was, how do we describe such feelings in the West?……, ‘High as a Kite’, ‘Away with the Fairies’, ‘Totally rock n’ rolled’, ‘Bhanged out of my tiny li’l mind’.  After two mouthfuls!!  Unfortunately for The Tiny  Pole and, later as i was to experience, myself too, she had a good half a glass, ‘at least’!  And being so petit and not of a past that had consumed much in the way of such things, the effect on her was rather more, how should i put it… Gargantuan!  Within half an hour or so an Almighty glow appeared to ensconce itself around her tiny frame and a giggle sounded out from her rosy lips.  She was as high as Hunter S Thompson had ever been!!

Once time had passed at what seemed like a minute every hour, a silence took hold of her at about the same time as a permanent grin plastered itself all over her moosh!  Even in my state of complete dishevelled-ness, i noticed this.  But i didn’t realise to what extent this person had been affected by the BHANG until it was time for her to leave…

Having been made aware of her desire to part company with the company, i gave her the key to the room we were sharing and bade her farewell.  However, I was drawn to her attention by a concerned Jew who said that maybe i should walk her back to the room as the conversation he had just had with her made about as much sense as a dinner consisting of Liver and Bacon.  Mutually concerned, although less so, it has to be said, due to my intoxication, i inwardly sighed as my next drink arrived and said ‘sure, come on you tripped out weirdo, let’s get you home to bed’!!  Bed was a 5 minute walk along the beach.  30 minutes later, we arrived.  The extra 25 minutes were due to the fact that The Tiny Pole stopped me every 3 seconds to ask ‘Saul, was that real, what we just experienced, was that real, did it really happen?’.  ‘Did what really happen?’, i respond.  ‘That, that whole evening, did it happen or wasn’t it real, did it really happen?’.  ‘Yes, it really happened’.  ‘But did it REALLY happen?’.  ‘Yes, Tiny Pole, it really happened’.  (3 seconds later)  ‘Is this really happening or is it not happening?’.  ‘Yes, Tiny Pole, it’s really happening?’  ‘But how do we know it’s really happening?’.  Stumped at this, again due to my intoxication, i muttered something about starfish and that seemed to suffice, for all of 3 seconds before… ‘Saul, are you sure that this is all really happening?’.  ‘Yes, I’m sure’ (although inwardly i cant say for sure i agreed).  Three seconds later i heard ‘Saul, did that real’ … and so on and so on for what seemed like the duration of Songs of Praise before we reached the room.  ‘Do you have the key, Tiny Pole?’  Then, realising that such a question was clearly too troubling for a mind that was trying to comprehend the reality of the Universe and herself within it, i delved into her bag and rummaged…… and rummaged…… and rummaged…… and rummaged…… and rummaged…… and pretty much rummaged again, before emptying the entire contents over the floor, to find nothing remotely resembling a key to a room within which, by now, she should have either been sound asleep or conversing with the mosquito’s on the creation of black holes and salmon.

So, back to the scene of her demise we went, all the time having the same conversation we had been having for roughly 45 GODDAMN MINUTES on the nature of the immediate reality we found ourselves in!!  And yes, there on the same table upon which i had passed the key over which now seemed like weeks previous was the device i was so praying half an hour before was camouflaged at the bottom of what seemed like Mary Poppins’ sack!  We had taken so long to return to this scene that the majority of people had retired.  And by retired, i don’t mean turned in for the night, i mean reached 65 years old and devoted the rest of their lives to crosswords, gardening and smelling of cabbage.  Another half an hour of endless questions of the same monotony later, we were back at Bates’ Motel.

I was preparing for a night of tripped out conversation but looking over at The Tiny Pole, i saw that it was now the job of the sleep Angels to tell her to shut up asking the same bloody question ten gazillion times and so into a peaceful slumber i too slipped, interspersed only periodically by the incessant bzzzzzing of the local wildlife in mine earshole!!

They say that Bhang is made from the ground up buds and leaves of the annual, flowering herb the Botanic fraternity refer to as Cannabis, to use its correct latin nomenclature.  But sometimes, the extraction of the latex within the seed of the Papaver Somniferum is added for extra ‘potency’ as well as for more of a ‘psychoactive’ experience and it is this added ingredient which i think made for the evenings extra and unsuspected ‘entertainment’ from a particular North European source.  Still, i did pee myself 8 times at the hilarious state of my travel buddy, even if it took an hour and a half out of my life to just wander backwards and forwards across a freezing, deserted beach in the wee hours of a morning.  ‘Priceless experiences one garners on such trips to foreign shores’ i dreamed…

The following story though, is about as epic a story as i have ever told.  It may not be the most epic story any of you have ever read, it doesn’t have the suffering brutality of a Dostoevsky or the sinister and atmospheric scenes of a Dickens, neither will it enthrall you like the emotively bizarre and mysticism of a Murukami and for that, i am minimally apologetic!  But hopefully, i can recant the tale in a light that will at least ensure you don’t nod off in the next 6 hours it will take you to peruse it!

The tale involves quite possibly the longest journey ever undertaken for the biggest damp squib of an ending since that bloke sold all of his belongings to go across the World to win back the heart of his wife only to find her in bed with TWO of his friends AND her father!!!  OK, i made that up, but hopefully it infers what i am trying to say.  Then again, you could just read the story and make your own conclusions…

At 2p.m on Thursday 29th December, a beautiful man of impeccable taste and rippling biceps left the beach of Gokarna in the Indian state of Karnataka, waving so-long to his hordes of newly acquired devotees and made his way to the local bus station.  Full of beans at the endless possibilities that lie ahead for him, he jauntily ascended the steps of his guest house to the street above to catch a rickshaw to his first destination.  Although the rickshaw driver had no idea what the man was saying, our fellow waffled on about the excitement he felt of undertaking this mammoth journey to meet up with his very good friend in a town in the far reaches of Northern India.  It was an excitement he had seldom experienced, in fact, it could be said that it was an excitement only felt previously during games of hide and seek and whilst being one of the ‘hiders’, hearing his pursuer approach rapidly and voraciously only to drift past in nonchalant ignorance of the space within which he had contorted his vast, muscular frame.

For many minutes he regurgitated the details of his upcoming trip to the blissfully unaware driver, not caring that the conversation was as one way as the Germans march across a European continent, only halted thanks to a small Island of people devoted to a stiff upper lip and a incomprehensibly miserable demeanour.

Once alighted from this death trap of a machine, the bus to Kumta was boarded and so began, in earnest, the start of a journey so epic as to make Lawrence of Arabia’s seem like a nip to the local offie!

The bus journey to Kumta was to take around 45 minutes, giving our man in Gokarna over an hour to wait for a train that would move him through over 800 km’s of the Indian countryside.  In fact, lets take this time to have a gander at the journey plan of our hero so we can enlighten ourselves with the quest.

His great friend, Marta Calvo-Hongkongphooey was residing in the mountainous town of Rishikesh in the state of Uttarakhand, Northern India.  As New Years Eve approached, our mans only goal, his life’s one desire (apart from being shouted at by a troupe of the Worlds finest burlesque dancers at how naughty he had been recently whilst being fed lemon and honey Lassi through a ten-foot long-curly-Lilac-coloured-straw) was to reach Marta before midnight on December 31st so he could see in the New Year, a very important New Year for many reasons, both personally AND Globally, and thus do so with a smile across his wide and voluptuous chops.

HIs bus from Gokarna was to take him to Kumta, where he would have to catch the 16:20 overnight sleeper-train to Mumbai, arriving at around 04:30.  From Mumbai Central Station he would have to make his way, by bus, taxi or rickshaw to another one of Mumbai’s stations to catch the 07:55 train to Delhi.  Again, this was a sleeper-train and having caught this train, our fine young fellow would have to busy himself for over 27 hours before arriving at India’s capital city, where he would alight to catch another train North to the Holy city of Haridwar, 24 km’s away from his final destination of Rishikesh.  This last 24 km’s would have to be travelled by either bus or, if time wasn’t on his side, rickshaw, thus finishing his journey as hit had been started.  The total amount of Kilometres undertaken would be close to 2,750 all of which had to be completed within a 57 hour and 59 minute time frame, from the moment he left Gokarna to the moment he arrived in Rishikesh and more importantly, Marta’s warm salutations.  Even thinking about it created a sweat of such epic proportions to remind him of the story of Noah and his orgy of bestiality aboard the most famous of Cedar-built cruise liners many years before.  This being India however, the adventure was less about the destination than it was about the journey and with this in mind and with a stoic self believe, success was the only thought in his vast, mensa-like mind.

To do this, time and fortune had to be on his side as, being India, anything remotely possible could happen to crush his dream and send him into a state of despair that not even his true life’s desire could drag him out of.  To spend the first few moments of New Year 2012 alone would be simply too much emotional agony for our man to bear and so it was of the utmost importance for both him and the Universe that he should make this journey within the time limits given.

And so it came to be that our Hero found himself on that local bus to Kumta train station, chatting to some young men and trying to learn a few words of Hindi, rather unsuccessfully one might add!

Alighting at Kumta and being pointed in the right direction, he walked the 20 minutes or so to Kumta station and as he walked up a dirt road, alongside the tracks he would have to cross to get onto the station platform, this song came to mind

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBeTeeh3lUQ

Crossing the tracks in any country in the World can be a dangerous undertaking.  Crossing the tracks in India takes on a whole new danger as it’s not only the trains you have to be aware of.  When you use a toilet on a train in India, you see directly where that waste goes.  That’s right, it goes straight onto the tracks.  And although there are signs on trains that state that passengers should not use the toilet whilst the train is stationary in a station, seldom are the signs adhered to.  And so, it was with a fleet of foot not known since Nijinsky that our protagonist VERY carefully made his way from one side of the station to another, Maceo and the Macks still ringing out in his mind’s eye.

The time was around the 15:30 mark and so an hour or so had to be spent waiting and with this in mind, a few snacks and some liquid refreshment were purchased for the journey ahead and some polite conversation undertaken with those who were interested and well versed enough in the Queens English to do just so.

At 16:20, he gazed down the tracks, whilst the blazing afternoon sun, coupled with a hint of apprehension, produced a bead of sweat on his perfectly chiselled features which ran , unhindered, down a face some had hinted at being Jesus-like.  This wasn’t a simile at which he minded.  After all, having features refered to as Godly, how could one?!

With no train in sight, the thought of only having 3 and a half hours to make his connection and the failure of doing so crossed his mind but being of a positive disposition, that thought was quickly quashed and replaced with a relaxed assuredness that all would be fine and that, this being India, things were bound to run a little different to the timetable given…

3 hours later, at 19:20, when the train had still not arrived and the sun had taken its daily bow, a panic took over that drew attention from the locals, also still waiting for their night train to Mumbai, in the form of wails!  And although these wails were of an internal nature, the energy that poured forth could be felt by the Monks of Buckfast Abbey.  For to catch the connecting train in Delhi, this train would have to be Japanese-like in its efficiency from this point on.  And it still had not arrived.

However, within 10 minutes, he was stretched out on his third-tier bunk, hoping that this vehicle would, with God-speed, make up lost time and get him to his connection with aeons to spare.

How pitifully wrong he was to be…

After a nights sleep, relatively undisturbed, he made his way along the carriage, 2 hours after the train had initially been expected to reach India’s filthy and rancid smelling capital.  2 HOURS LATER!!!!  He quickly asked if he had flown past his alighting station whilst dreaming of Sweet Lassi and the Burlesque Troup that took up a good few per cent of his daily thoughts but much to his relief, they were still 2 hours from Delhi.  2 hours?  A quick calculation enabled the realisation that of course the connecting train would be missed and so a new decision on how to progress to the final destination had to be arrived at.  This being December 30th, he knew that every seat on every train in the whole country was likely to have been booked.  ‘Hell’, he thought, ‘What on Earth am i to do, I’ll never get on another train without bribing someone a significant amount of rupees and even then, the possibility is scant’?  With a panic in his welling eyes, he asked a fellow passenger about his chances of getting to his final destination.  A smile boke across the portly fellows face as he listened to the intentions of our plucky traveler and a sneer at the smile broke across our own man’s gait.  ‘There is nothing i can do’ he mused, ‘but leave it in the lap of the Gods… well, apart from relieve myself in a hole in the ground whilst hanging onto a handrail for dear life, trying to make sure i don’t urinate all over my dropped trousers’.  And so, with his mind trying to come to terms with the ramifications of his missed connection and the possibility of spending the first few seconds of New Year’s Day 2012 on a government bus being druelled on by an aging lady with one HUGE tooth attached to her gums, this is exactly what he did.

to be continued…

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