Go-go-go from Goa.

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End Mar 25, 2009

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Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taking a sleeper bus has usually been a less than pleasing experience in the past, usually a row of seats and a cramped little space above with my own 6 foot frame and that of a usually overweight and smelly man chewing guthka and spitting it out the window in such a way that the particles flew back into my side. . .
Waiting at Mapusa bus stand, I expected the same, but was in for a pleasant surprise, which I shall explain shortly.
I had timed it in such a manner as to reach mumbai close to the airport around 10 am, and jump a flight to Delhi at 1 pm. Of course barring major delays caused by overturned hay or log trucks, the bus driver being lost, etc, I would have plenty of time.
The first bus from "Paulo Travels" that pulled up did not look promising. Rusty rear quarters and primer spots, dents in the side from colliding with god knows what, and a pronounced list in the suspension promised a rough ride. Fortunately, this was a bus through Karnataka, and not my own scheduled bus. A couple of others arrived, neither my own, and at last, fifteen minutes late, a shiny new thing approached my end of the bus stand that said "paolo" on the side, and sure enough, it was my bus. . . This was a bus of a different kind than the (non) sleeper buses I had experienced in the past. All sleeping berths, no seats, more like a 2/AC sleeper train than a bus. Also to my great joy, I had the whole berth to myself. The whole way! Sometimes, when one is very, very lucky, things work properly in this country of chaos. A couple of snoozes later I arrived at Andheri, the closest thing to an "airport" stop in mumbai, and was on my way 50 rupees later to the airport. Ticketing, security, all no problem with 2 hours to wait.
Flight on time, prepaid taxi, Lord Krishna hotel, including tv and attached bath on the day before Holi with a roof top restarurant to watch the show from. Perfect.
Amazing how small pleasures make your day, when things go according to plan in a country that flies by the seat of its pants at all times. It's the little things that make it slightly better, especially when one is annoyed, as I have been guilty of so chronically this trip.

Let me explain a little about "Holi" or the Festival of color, here in India. A hindu tradition, it involves the exchange of toxic dyes between participants. Any walk down a street or alleyway will result in the walker being doused in either colored water or powdered dyes which are near impossible to wash out of skin and clothes, and many times made with chemicals of unknown origin, perhaps scraped out of the soil of Bhopal or something. Inhaled, many of these can cause respiratory problems, burns, or any manner of mild skin irritations. There is a push in the media for people to use natural compounds, but these seem to either not be available to the poorest, or too expensive. Perhaps the push seems to have worked a bit though, as I did not see anyone this year screaming and clutching at their eyes or scratching at their chests, as was often the case in years back.
Other, more malicious Holi participants just throw bags of sewage, mud, or rocks at unwitting passers-by. Nice Holi gift--"here, have some Cholera." All in all it is mostly just a bunch of Indian men acting like barely post-pubescent teenagers, and I can see that any day of the week without the hassle of being covered in toxic colored stuff.
Nice to watch from above, but one participates or "plays Holi" just about once, and then the smart ones just go somewhere high up and wait it out.
The use of the bright colors is supposed to bring good luck, happiness, and chase away evil spirits, but I'm not so sure that works so well, because today, the same beggars and street touts are on the same spots they always occupy, and I have seen more children crying and people upset on the day after Holi than on the days preceding. So much for chasing out evil.

Fun to watch, and fun for the participants, provided you do not get hit with a bag full of human waste, mercury-based powder, or get beaten by the police with a "lathi." I'll stick to the less dangerous fun of perhaps free-climbing a loose rock face at 3000 meters, swimming alone in shark-infested water at night, or even riding an undependable vintage motorcycle through central india in the heat before the monsoon (this latter being what I should have done this time round). I can think of better and more fun ways to poison myself as well. Hell, one needs to enjoy the poison, otherwise what is the point?

So, I am actually happy to be back in Delhi, an urban place I understand and have even grown to love over the years. I think I'll just ride it out here, chai in the afternoon, and good food from the streets and rooftops. Tired of moving, especially when I am not at the handlebars. Also I've never been much of a believer in empty and superstitious religious ritual. Just in observing it! A week till my flight back to civilization. . .
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starlagurl on

I guess the festival has been pretty hyped up over the years... that certainly is pretty frightening. I hope you can dodge the human feces this time!


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