India on a Bullet: Memoirs of a hoon
Went to India. Hooned.
It’s about a 20 minute read.
Best viewed here with Google Tour Builder.
The getting arrested in Mumbai story is legendary.
High speed chase. Guns.
It’s a wild ride.
If you can’t open the Google Tour Builder link then read on from here…
Want to make 1.2 billion new friends? Buy yourself a Royal Enfield motorcycle, tour India and you’ll get instant admiration from Indians the world over. For many, it’s a dream ride. A trip of a lifetime. But understandably, few have the courage or means to live their dreams. Not me. I lived this dream. And here is the retelling, “INDIA on a BULLET”
You don’t just buy
a Royal Enfield. You join anexclusive
club. You become a part of motorcycling history. A legend
. Royal Enfield is one the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturers still in business. My weapon of choice, The Bullet 350
, is the longest running motorcycle model in continuous production. Hard crafted in a Chennai factory since 1955, it’s – “Made like a gun, goes like a bullet“
Staying true to its original spec, my 2011 model was far from modern; drum brakes, spoked wheels, and a kick started carburettored 346cc single cylinderd donk good for 19.8 bhp @ 5250 rpm.
It was enough to reliably get me through 4000 odd kilometers around the subcontinent from Chennai in the east, all around the southern coast via Goa and then north to Delhi; dodging swooping birds, stubborn cows, erratic goats, menacing trucks and careless pedestrians over pot holed roads. The Bullet is unstoppable.
I practically stole this bike. It was sitting in the freight yard at Chennai Central Railway Station, packed and ready to be shipped and sold in Varanasi. I was at the station with the bikes owner, a Californian bloke who I had met in Mahallapuram the day before. He’d done a 4 month tour on the bike with his missus and they were shipping it to Varanasi to flog. I said, “Don’t bother sending it to Varanasi mate. Let’s go take it off the train and I’ll take it sight unseen for 70,000 Rupees”.
He agreed. We shook hands and went to the traino the next day. Eagerly, we cut the twine and cardboard protective packaging from the bike, gassed it up and hooned down the train station loading dock, whizzed through the front gate and throttled past some angry guy trying to assert his authority.
One of the troubles with India is that it’s frequently retarded with unnecessary bureaucracy; Paperwork. Signatures. Permissions. Supervisors. Authorization. Approvals. Permits. Authority. Jurisdiction. Et cetera. It’s best to just avoid that rubbish and do whatever is easiest for you at the time. This rule especially applies when dealing with some wanna be authority (like traffic police)… But that’s a story for later…
For us, at the time, it was far easier to skip the incomprehensibility mind f#ck it would have been arguing at the freight desk to alter the shipping manifest. We just jumped on the bike and hooned the hell out of there. Yeah it was the wrong thing to do. Yeah, some bloke chased after us. Yeah, he yelled some angry BS at us. But, really, so what? This India on a Bullet motorcycling shenanigans wasn’t about compliance. It was about freedom. It was about living life, being free and not giving a f#ck.
“Avoiding the big cities, they’re shit”
This is the best advice I received about India. If you were to follow any advice about India, this is the one royal nugget you should follow as best you can. Big cities in India are shit. Mostly. Especially Kolkata. And Delhi. Chennai was no exception. I only came to Chennai because airport. As soon as I arrived I was in a shitty mood – The flight from Sri Lanka was rubbish – Indian immigration were being dicks and I got woken up napping in the arrival lounge with a couple of MP5’s in my face – Air India broke my backpack and I couldn’t find anybody official to complain to – There was no free WIFI at the airport – I couldn’t buy any water at the kiosk because they had no change – The taxi touts were annoyingly over persistent – The way to the train wasn’t evidently marked – I got misorientated and I had to ask directions to the train from strangers…two times! >.<
(My whole India trip on the bike I only asked for directions twice. With Google maps and India’s surprisingly good 3G coverage I seldom had to suffer the indignity of asking directions. Here’s some useful advice when asking directions in India – you’ll often get 3 different answers from 3 different people. Take their guidance with a grain of salt and then download a compass app on your smartphone. Or just buy a compass. But yeah, just learn how to navigate yourself rather than rely on Indian directions because this happens
So yeah after my shitty arrival in Chennai something incredible happened… And this is the beauty of India… This is why India just flows the way it does… It’s in this spirit that holds the entire country together –
A random helpful stranger… A local… Asked me,,, if I needed any help… So I said, yeah mate I need to go to um
I had no bloody idea even how to pronounce the name of this place let alone how to bloody get there. I just pointed at at on a map on my phone. And this bloke did me a solid. He paid for my metro ticket. And then he went out of his way 2 stations and walked me to the bus stop and waited for me to get onto the right bus. What a champion! Cheers mate, although I forgot your name and lost your number (my bad) I’ll cherish that moment of stranger generosity.
Side Note – Sometimes, in travelling, you may become suspicious of strangers trying to help you out. They may want to scam you or rob you etc. Sometimes, a stranger, sees that you are lost or in trouble and they genuinely want to help you because you’re a foreigner and they want you to feel welcome in their country. But if you’re like me and you were taught about stranger danger in primary school, my advice – do your absolute best to wear your “I don’t any help I’m fine thanks face” at all times. It kind of looks sort of the the same as your serious/angry face. If that doesn’t work and a stranger has engaged you and is still trying to “help” you, smile and say, “Sorry I don’t speak English” then walk away slowly. Or run. Running is good. If their help-a-foreigner tenacity is greater than your tolerance to annoying strangers, there is no shame in running away. Unless you actually need the help from this local stranger. If that’s the case, smile, and use your words with a big dose of body language. Ask for help (politely works best) and then thank them. If they ask for money, it’s okay to say no and run. Or you can cough it up, if you want to. *serious face.
So back to Mahallapuram. It is an AMAZING place. Very chill. Very laid back. It caters well to the foreign tourist (hippies). It was one of the cheaper places I stayed in India – 350 rupees/night for that beach side view in photo number 10. What makes Mahallapurum so amazing is rock carvings. It’s famous for rock carvings. As illustrated in photo number 1.
Throughout the day and half the night, you can hear the stone carvers skillfully tapping away at rocks, creating amazing sculptures, priceless masterpieces and shinny little tourist trinkets. These shinny little tourist trinkets can be found for sale at most major tourist attractions throughout India. If you really must buy a nicely carved rock, Mahabalipuram is the place to go. The streets are full of them. Best price too. And if you ask really nicely, you can get a custom piece carved. Fancy a rock carved masterfully to the fine contours of your own face? Mahabalipuram. For the entrepreneurially minded, Mahabalipuram is also a great place to get nicely carved rocks at wholesale prices.
However, I wasn’t interested in entrepreneurialism in India. I was only interested in getting a bike and hooning around, absorbing all the cultural intricacies that India has to offer. And getting a bike was super easy because it happened to be my lucky day.
It was about 50 clicks south from Chennai to Mahallapuram on the bus. I was half enjoying the scenery along the way. Rabid development. Laissez-faire construction. Nothing here really seems to be being built to a master plan. There is no real grand vision. The urbanisation along this corridor is just plain messy, which is a shame because the natural scenery is quite pretty. Plenty of greenery. There are a couple of resorts and wally worlds down this stretch of road. From the outside they looked mildly impressive. But I’ve been told they are expensive and ordinary. Such is life.
The bus came to a random stop along the highway. There was a small road veering off to the left that looked like it went somewhere nowhere. The bus driver told me to get off the bus. I did. Hesitantly. Could this really be my stop? It’s in the middle of nowhere? Meh. Oh well. I’ll just keep walking down the nowhere road until I find something, anything. I was expecting to see the coast and ocean. I was expecting to be delivered to the town centre. Um no. 30 minutes later of a nowhere road that was slowly morphing into something that looked like a town was nearby, bloke on a motorbike hollers at me. Says he has a room in his guest house. He’ll give me a ride there to check it out. Sweet, my legs were getting tired already. So I was on the back of the bike with my backpack on my back packing it down the nowhere road which has finished its metamorphosis; there is now town vibrantly carrying on on both sides of the road, local people doing local people things. And then I see… hippies. (A hippie sighting in India isn’t such a terrible thing. It’s actually a small blessing because it signifies the immediate area you are in has enough appeal for a foreign tourist.)
And then we get to the guest house. It has a bed and a bathroom. And I can see the sea. Winning. And then there are the other guests staying here. A Californian couple who conveniently have a bike to sell me. And this is why I loved being in India. Things just happen in India. India flows. You don’t really need to think your way around India as much as you feel your way around India. There’s something about the universe at play here. You think it, it happens.
My first day arrival was testament to this hypothesis – arrived in Chennai not knowing where to go or how to get there; stranger takes me from the airport to the metro, pays for my ticket, 3 stops out of his way to the bus stop; get off the bus, hesitantly, walk down a nowhere road, hesitantly, stretching my legs for 30 minutes hesitantly; local picks me up on a bike hesitantly, I check into a guesthouse not hesitantly; Californian couple have a bike to sell me definitely not hesitantly.
(Hesitation = no flow… Just go with the flow).
In the space of roughly 5 hours I’d gone from pissed off and lost at Chennai airport to laid back and relaxed in Mahallapuram with the keys to my new bike. This state was achieved with very little thinking on my behalf. It all just happened too easily. It flowed. Like magic. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. This state of flow would continue as I kept traveling throughout India.
*Except when I tried to get a sim card in Mahallapuram. It took 4 freaking days to get activated!
(Tim’s travel tip: don’t purchase a sim card in a small town. Get a sim card in a bigger city. They’re more efficient at their doing jobs and they know what they’re doing.)
After waiting 4 days in Mahallapuram it was time to gtfo. I had to be Goa by the 28th. 14 days to ride 1500+ kilometers…
According to my calculations I had to ride approximately 100 kilometers per day to make it to Goa in time for my NYE booking at Prison Hostel
. Puducherry was about 100 kilometers from Mahallapuram. This motorcycle touring thing was so planning. Much forward think require. Yeah nah. It was pretty easy – just ride on and enjoy the scenery!
Usually I would arrive in a new town in the late afternoon, find a lodge* then go find something delicious to eat. Mostly I’d try to eat street food so I could have a walk around my new surroundings and eat at the same time. Accommodation varied from 350 rupees/night guesthouses to 10,000 rupees/night 5 star hotels. Most places I stayed at cost between 800-1200 rupees. Some had hot water. Most had cable TV. Because TV I would stay up late and sleep-in. Because sleep-in I would get on the bike around midday and then ride until sundown. When the sun goes down, finding a place to sleep gets more and more difficult; bed space books out, especially if there is some holy festival or a wedding going on.
I would use Google maps and aim to stay at towns that looked more densely populated because the chance of finding a lodge would be higher. Or I would aim to stay in a town that had a funny sounding name like Cuddalore or Mysore.
I didn’t stick around Puducherry for very long. It’s suppose to be a nice place with French architecture or something. It didn’t impress me much. Its notoriety made it a slightly more expensive place to stay apparently. That’s why I didn’t bother staying in Puducherry and kept riding to Cuddalore…
I have a Chinese friend who was crazy about me visiting Puducherry because she was a big Life of Pi fan. According to her Pi was from Puducherry. I didn’t See Pi. I took some photos of things. Then I left.
*Funny thing I noticed when trying to find a place to stay in India – If there is a sign out the front of the building saying “HOTEL”, quite often it is not a hotel in the traditional sense, it’s just a restaurant. If you want a bed to sleep on, you need to find someplace that has a sign saying LODGE, LODGING or GUESTHOUSE.
Cuddalore has an interesting history. The British and the French fought a war here -the Battle of Cuddalore
and the French got pwned
I had my own battle in Cuddalore. A battle with my taste buds! It’s where I had my very first masala dosa. Oh my WOW! So om nom nom! This meal became a regular staple throughout my India travels…
And when ordering this meal for the very first time, I had to deploy the “go with the flow” strategy. There was the inevitable communication barrier. Nobody in this restaurant spoke any English, the menu was written in sanskrit, there were no pictures of food for me to point at and I hadn’t learnt any local language yet other than, “namaste”. The waiter came to me and said, ‘blerdy blah da blerp blerb masala dosa’. I nodded my head in agreement and then masala dosa appeared. Winning.
Other than agreeably nodding your head at a waiter when you don’t know how to order in a foreign restaurant, here’s another completely unrelated Top Tim Travel Tip – If you’re looking for accommodation in a strange new town and don’t know where to start, try looking near the bus or train station. Be warned though, accommodation near major traffic hubs can be loud, especially in India where horns are used liberally.
“You don’t think your way around India, as much as you feel your way around”
You’d think riding through some of these Indian towns would be easy; assume that the highway would cut straight through the town centre and you’d be in and out and on your way to your destination. Yeah but nah…
The highway you rolled in on seldom goes straight through these towns. There are unmarked t-junctions (and c and j and x and z junctions) half finished road works with inexpilcable diversions, dead-ends, flyovers, lay overs and fall overs, road blocks, check points, twists, turns and catawampus round-abouts that completely disorientate you. If you’re bad with maps and direction, orienteering your way around India will be your worst nightmare. Finding your way on Indian roads without constantly checking Google maps or asking for directions is a masterful skill. From my experience, the less I thought about which way I needed to go, the easier it was to get there. I Just went the way that felt right – go with the flow – and more often than not, my feelings didn’t lead me astray.
On the odd occasion that I did lose it and get completely off the mark, I could rely on 4 methods to find my way;
1. The position of the sun or another landmark in relation to my location.
2. Google maps.
3. A compass (smartphone compass apps are useful if a map won’t load).
4. Ask for directions.
Like I mentioned earlier, I only asked for directions twice when I was riding through India; only when it was an absolute last resort. I’d prefer not to try and ask which way Ramanathapuram is. I’d feel a bit stupid trying to pronounce Ramanathapuram to a local and the blank stares I’d get wouldn’t be helpful.
Getting temporarily off-course can lead to some amazing discoveries though.
I decided when I was riding down through this part of the world that my legs needed a sun tan. I rolled up my shorts for one day… If you’re riding through India on a motorcycle, you need to protect yourself. Wearing a helmet is optional but I’d advise you to wear one. It’ll prevent your head from getting sun burnt and it might save your life. One time I was riding and a bird hit me in the face. Pretty sure my helmet saved my life that time. And if you’re a whitey like me, be sun smart and wear sunscreen. At least on your face. It’ll prevent premature ageing. And probably skin cancer. If sunscreen isn’t your thing, then find something to cover your face, a piece of cloth with a skeleton printed on it will do then trick. Covering your face up like this also has the added benefit of keeping dust and traffic emissions out of your lungs. And sunglasses. Don’t forget your sunnies!
“You should go to Rameshwaram man”
When you’re traveling and somebody recommends that go you visit some place, take their advice! Rameshwaram is heralded as one of the holier places in India for Hindus to take their religious pilgrimage. This fact was clearly vindicated when spotting the many gangs of Indian men sporting painted foreheads and wearing matching dresses and the intensifying racket of drumming could be heard; classic indicators of the devout Hindu practitioner.
According to Hindu mythology, once upon a time there was bridge across the sea connecting India to Sri Lanka. That would have been pretty gnarly because riding into Rameshwaram was pretty neat – you’re riding so close to the sea in some places you can feel the salty spray hit you in the face. And then you ride over this huge 2 kilometer long dilapidated old bridge that connects the peninsular to India. Riding across that bridge while attempting to shoot a video and dodging buses skill level = ordinary.
And then you just kept on hooning east as far as the road will let you. And if the road isn’t your thing, try riding on the sand. And that’s where I met my bikie gang. They were trying to avoid taking the 4 x 4 tourist jeep that takes you all the way to the edge of India. There is a train line that runs parallel with the road and it use to extend a few hundred meters further on and out to an old fishing village. But then a cyclone destroyed it. Amazing British construction…Now it’s a tourist attraction accessible only by a tourist jeep. The bikes didn’t like the sand. The beach was surprisingly clean and devoid of people. So we swam for a bit. And then we drank beers and played cards.
* Useless fact: Rameshwaram has the tallest TV Tower in India, standing at 323 meters.
One of the benefits of being in a bikie gang is that if one of you has trouble, your brothers will back you up…
The first day riding with my new gang and my clutch cable snapped. I didn’t have a spare. The next town was pretty far. They helped me out. Lucky me.
And then we stopped for gas and I saw emus.
A pit-stop with me bikie mates for a traditional Tamil Nadu lunch. Warning: traditional means you must follow rituals;
Step 1. Pour water into cup.
Step 2. Pour water onto your banana leaf to clean it.
Step 5. Fold your banana leaf in half to signify you’ve finished eating.
Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari was probably the longest ride I did in India – near on 300 clicks. It’s India’s southern most point (not counting Great Nicobar Island
) and it’s where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet. Religious pilgrimage draws millions of Hindus here annually and I’ve never seen so many colourful buses in one place at the same time before. Everybody
comes here to party but especially the women – something about a praying for marriage thing goes on here.
Due to its geographical location, you can see the sunset and the sunrise over the ocean in Kanyakumari. Mmm luminescence… so descending… much ascending. Very photo opportunity…
Sometimes when traveling, you visit a place that just has a nice vibe to it and you’re inspired to stick around. I decided to ditch my bikie gang and I stayed here an extra day because nice vibes…. and …. because …. laundry.
When I was riding around the southern coast to get to here, I was amazed to see so many wind turbines spinning up the electrical.
Alleppey gets a favourable write-up in most reputable guide books and it’s not hard to see why – long wide beaches, canals, cheap beach huts, seafood and beer. Renting a houseboat and cruising the backwaters is the typical tourist thing to do here. I just stopped for ice cream. Then I kept riding to Kochi. If I had time, I would have stayed in Alleppy for longer. Tropical Chill. Shanti Shanti
The local fishermen are still operating the chinese fishing nets
. They don’t catch anything here anymore because over fishing and pollution from the port nearby have decimated the fish stocks. You can buy seafood from these fisherman but its quality looked questionable. If you’re game and you really want to try some fish you can buy some here and the restaurants nearby will cook it for you. You can also pretend to be a fisherman here too by standing nearby the fishing net and snapping a photo. Be warned though, it’ll cost you a hand full of rupees for the privilege.
I liked Kochi so I stayed for 2 nights. Bloody nightmare trying to get out of the place though – traffic sucked. It’s a city though so that’s expected. Also a bird shit on the seat of my bike. That’s good luck yeah?
My bikie friends told me to go here. It was same same but different to the rest of Kerala. Saw a giant shell. Took a photo. Saw a church. Took a photo. Saw a house with Christmas decorations. Took a photo. The I left.
Riding through Kerala I noticed there are lots of churches, a few mosques but not as many Hindu temples. The houses are along the coast are also very colourful.
My bikie mates also told me to go here. It seemed popular with French tourists so I didn’t stay for long.
My ride along the coast ended in Kannur and I headed inland to Bangalore. A highlight on the ride to Kannur was putting the bike on a ferry to cross a river and waiting for a train to go past.
Warning: The follow slide contains course language and parental guidance is recommended.
Riding through the mountains to Mysore was fun;
mountains = curves.
curves = dangerous.
dangerous = fun.
Adding to the danger were the numerous oversized trucks cutting through corners and impatient Maruti Swift drivers trying to overtake around blind corners. Every fucking time it was a grey coloured Maruti fucking Suzuki Swift. If you drive a grey Maruti Suzuki Swift congratuFUCKINGlations you’re a fucking dickhead. EVERYfuckingTIME! Seriously what is it with fucking Indian drivers and their lack of patience and courtesy for other drivers?
I really had an angel flying with me on my way to Mysore; I almost got Mysored in a big way going through an intersection along highway 33… So I’m hooning down the fucking HIGHWAY and this dopey cunt on a moped decides to cross the intersection WITHOUT fucking looking. I’m on course to seriously t-bone this motherfucker and get a face full of road at probably 80km/h… Instinctively, my right hand squeezes the brake lever tightly. Front wheel locks up – shitty drum brakes are shit (I staunchly advise that you get a bike with a front disk brake). I manage to wash off JUST enough speed to miss this cunt. I’m collision free but… the brake lock up has caused the front wheel to come unstuck. The front starts washing out and the bikes leaning over, falling to the left. I push back hard on the left handlebar to correct it. Bike wobbles back to the right and back to the left again. I apply equal parts of pressure with my palms to the handle bars to steady the bike. Front wheel comes back into traction. Bike goes back to running in a straight line. Saved it. Continue riding to Mysore albeit, at a less fast pace.
Yeah I missed that careless idiot on the moped but, had I have staked it and eaten a tarmac sandwich, he probably would have been completely oblivious to the pain he’d just caused. I’d have been left there laying on the side of the road banged up and all my sore just outside of Mysore. It’s not uncommon for hit and runs to happen in India. But then again, it’s not uncommon for drivers to be bashed to death if they are found to have killed somebody with their incompetent driving.
Made it to Mysore. Celebrated life by eating pizza.
Big cities = big city problems.
Bangalore is a big city so it has big city problems – pollution and other logistical and socioeconomic problems are amplified in big cities. Governments in these big cities are perpetually playing catch up to deliver effective solutions to these problems; seems progression in India is continually retarded by corruption, incompetence and too many layers of bureaucracy.
Bangalore is considered one of India’s boom cities mostly because the worlds corporations outsource mundane IT support and call centre jobs here. Consequently, these up and coming IT go-getters come to Bangalore looking for that dream IT corporate job. Most of them fail. Bangalore – it’s a city of broken dreams…
Despite all the broken dreams, I was never hassled by beggars in Bangalore…
Maybe because it was Christmas time?
I got into the festive cheer by purchasing a Christmas hat, buying myself some Christmas gifts and having a scrumptious Christmas dinner… at McDonalds.
And see that photo of the pricing sticker gun in the green basket? It’s a discount machine. If you leave one of these things lying around unattended in a shop, then I’m going to use it and put my own price on things. Half price Christmas hat oh yeah!
The highway from Bangalore to Hassan was very decent for Indian standards and there was little traffic so I rode really fast. I never knew how fast I was actually going because the speedometer on the bike was broken. I used a tank of gas in about an hour of riding that stretch so that meant I was gunning it wickedly. There is no fuel gauge on the Bullet 350; you ride until the bike stops making noise and then you screw your fuel tap into the reserve position. This will give you about a 50 kilometer range to find gas. When the engine starts to asphyxiate you can crack open the reserve tank whilst still in motion and continue riding without stopping the bike – if you’re talented. Otherwise stop, screw, restart, continue, look for a gas station. Surprisingly gas stations were plentiful throughout India, you didn’t have to go far to find one. And to fill an empty tank on this bike would cost between 800-900 rupees and would be good for 500 kilometers of conservative riding.
Back to riding along the coast…
Stopped for ice cream…
Saw cows enjoying the beach…
In India it is very difficult to be alone. There are people everywhere. I stopped the bike at what I thought would be a secluded beach so I could go for a cheeky swim. Then boom! A million people came to join me…
Goa. What happens in Goa, stays in Goa. Go to Goa. You’ll see… Go on… Goa… It’s great!
All I’m going to say about Goa is that it was one of the best NYE parties I’ve ever been to.
And take care of your stuff – I almost had my bag of important things stolen by a house intruder and I had money stolen out of my backpack. And not just any money – Nepali Rupees, Emirati Dirham and US Dollars. Useless currency in India unless you can provide the documents to exchange it…
After having money stolen out of my bag at the hostel I decided to gtfo of Goa. I was heading to Bombay. It’s a 600 kilometer trip. Couldn’t ride it all in one hit. Needed a couple of pit stops along the way. Staying in some of these little villages is pretty sweet. They are very welcoming to the foreign tourist. Especially if you’re a motorcycle tourist riding a Royal Enfield…
I didn’t want to stay in the heart of Mumbai – reeks of big city problems – so I stayed in its neighboring satellite city across the ditch – Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai holds the distinction of being the world’s largest planned township. That means its been sensibly planned – wide open roads neatly lined in grid formations for the traffic, big flashy apartment buildings for the rich people and open public spaces to cater for the thriving slums of poor people.
I would rest, recuperate and wait in Navi Mumbai. A month of solid riding and Goa had taken its toll on my body. Aches and pains were becoming irritating – I almost booked an appointment with a physiotherapist. Motorcycle touring is not as glamorous as it sounds, it’s actually hard work. Sitting on a motorcycle for 6-8 hours a day isn’t comfortable. And you need to concentrate 100% at all times because India… Trucks, buses, cars, cows, goats, birds, bees, pot holes and pedestrians are all conspiring to kill you. Take care.
The entire time I’d been riding up until this point was to get me from point A to point B. I hadn’t taken a leisure ride – I hadn’t gone for a quick fang…
Riding without a heavy bag on your luggage rack is considerably better – acceleration is better, handling is better, braking is better. All this adds up to one thing – hooning is better. So one afternoon in Navi Mumbai I put my hooning face on and proceeded to cross that bridge into Mumbai. It was fantastic! I was speeding, flying over the bridge, taking shortcuts over footpaths, weaving in and out of traffic, and beeping my horn carrying on like a lawless yahoo.
I’ve always been of the opinion when riding/driving in another country, do as the Romans do. That meant traffic lights here were a suggestion, not a direction. I’m also partial to believe that everything is legal until you get caught. That being said, the next slide is a retelling of my “Getting Arrested in India” story…
Mumbai Police Station
“Getting Arrested in Mumbai”
WARNING: if you’re a traffic cop and you’re reading this and if you take offence at being called a turd then good, f*ck you, go k*ll yourself.
I’m hooning down Worli Seaface Road (that road where the motorbike is on the map) and there’s a red light. There are no cars or any other traffic in my immediate vicinity, except for the traffic light there is nothing worth stopping for. I twist the throttle and roll on through the intersection (a very common motorcycling habit, practiced all throughout India). Unbeknownst to be me, a lowly traffic cop spotted me and obviously radioed through my violation to his cronies. Further down the road a turd wearing a uniform is easing from the kerbside and is encroaching into my lane in front of me. He has a whistle in his mouth and his white gloved hand is outstretched making some kind of incomprehensible waving gesture. He wasn’t specifically pointing at me or motioning for me to stop. In my eyes, he was just a turd wearing a uniform blowing a whistle trying to cross the street flailing his arms around. I chose to ride on, ignore the turd.
*And traffic cops – what’s the deal with the whistle anyway? You can’t even hear it with all the traffic noise and I’m wearing a helmet. Seriously what’s the point? Are these turds mute and their only way to communicate is via a whistle? Or is the whistle just a token trinket that gives a turd a false sense of empowerment?
I was heading to Juhu Beach to look for a hotel (that’s the beach to the north on the map) and riding over the Seaway (that bridge on the map) seemed the fastest and most logical way to reach my destination. A sign caught the corner of my eye as I was infiltrating the Seaway. Instantaneously I deciphered and rejected this vexatious message;
“2 & 3 wheeled vehicles are strictly forbidden from entering the Seaway.”
Great, I thought. That’s handy. No annoying slow traffic along this road. I also thought how lucky it was that I wasn’t on a two wheeled vehicle. My vehicle had no wheels; I was riding a rocketship.
Because of my obvious transgression of entering the Seaway on a two wheeled machine, purposefully contravening Seaway decorum, I decided to operate my rocketship at max speeeeed; If i’m moving so fast and ripping through the space-time continuum then perhaps I would become invisible and “they” wouldn’t notice my delinquency? But then, a turd emerges from his sitting cavity, recessed in the side of the bridge. This was a lower class turd. Obviously. On bridge duty and with no fancy uniform or whistle, yet still blindly obedient to carry out his ever so important task. And just like the polished turd on Worli Seaface Road, this guy did his walk out in front of traffic violators and try stop them thing. And again, I prudently ignored his authority.
Common practice among traffic police all throughout Asia (and probably the world) is to target whiteys for traffic violations because white people are a considerably easier target to solicit bribe money from – we’re considered to be monied and we’ll try pay our way out of trouble. It’s best practice to just ride on when police are trying to stop you in most situations. Usually they’re too lazy to chase you anyway. Unless…
You pissed off a robocop; that unrelenting copper who’ll stop at nothing to try catch a baddie, a law breaker. IMHO the police “business” is burdened with a spectacular failure ratio at actually enforcing “law”. It’s virtually impossible to get everybody to follow the law at all times. There will always be infractions, whether deliberate or accidental, and police typically have an incredibly poor record at catching perpetrators. So when a robocop thinks he might be a chance at finally catching a lawbreaker, he’ll try really really hard to try get you…
Hooning down the Seaway at warp factor 5, I notice a white SUV tailing me. I take note, it’s a white unmarked SUV. I proceed regardless, reaching the end of the Seaway approaching a tollway. Now in India, there is always a lane for motorcycles to bypass tolls but because motorcycles were forbidden on the Seaway, no such lane existed. Bugger. I might be forced to stop and that white, unmarked, SUV may come over and try interrogate me. Initially that’s exactly what I thought that white unmarked SUV was – a concerned citizen (vigilante) wanting to know exactly why I was riding a motorcycle on the Seaway…
I picked an empty lane at the toll booth to make an attempt at passing through without stopping. The toll operator saw me coming, exited his troll booth and cautiously motioned his way into my lane, hopelessly aiming to intercept my approaching bike. Now that really is commitment to the job, lets be honest. This guy was willing to put his body in harms way to try and stop me. He went for the key grab to try disable my bike. I fended him off with my left arm and then snuck through the gap to the side of tolls boom gate.
Not thinking I was off scot-free just yet, I gunned it down the highway, weaving through traffic to put distance between myself and anybody that was trying to follow me. And then robocop in his white unmarked SUV appears to the side of me. He’s getting closer and closer by my side until he’s encroaching into my lane. That’s just not cricket I thought, I need to get away from this guy. Using cunning maneuvers, I weaved through the traffic ahead, putting cars between and distance between me and the white unmarked SUV following me.
The fucker did it again. He’s caught up and he is aggressively attempting to cut me off. As I’m on a bike and this guy is in a white unmarked SUV this situation is starting to get a bit out of hand. What the fuck is this guy doing? What’s his problem? Is he a vigilante? Is he a gangster? Why would a white unmarked SUV be driving in such a reckless way, trying to crash into the side of me? I really didn’t want to stop to find out so again, I made my escape by riding through gaps in traffic that only a motorcycle could take.
A little further down the road and boom. He’s at it again, next to me veering across my right hand side coming at me with determination. And then I see the gun. Not pointed at me but on display, clasped in the front seat passengers hand. It was then I decided it would be a good idea to pull over and stop. I wasn’t going to argue with a gun.
I’ve pulled over and I’m wedged between the bike and the concrete barrier on the road side. Good cop gets out of the drivers side of the white unmarked SUV and confiscates the keys to my bike. Bad cop gets out of the passengers side and pistol whips me in the face. Bad cop was obviously well seasoned from years of inept policing in his career; alienated by an accumulation of impotency, failure to catch all the bad guys, taking his rage out on the one he finally catches.
Bad cop asked me why I didn’t stop at the red light, why I didn’t stop when the police on the roadside were pointing at me, why I drove on the Seaway riding a 2-wheeled vehicle, why was I speeding, why I didn’t I stop at the toll, where is my ID, where is the paperwork for the bike. Naturally, I had valid excuses for all these infractions but I decided to go on the offensive, speaking with absolute displeasure at the way this vigilante white unmarked SUV was recklessly trying to run me off the road trying to kill me. My raised tone immediately incited a crowd of 50+ curious onlookers (witnesses) from the roadside.
NOW YOU LISTEN HERE MATE, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TRYING TO DO? ARE YOU TRYING TO FUCKING KILL ME? WHAT’S THE FUCKING DEAL WITH THAT RECKLESS DRIVING? I STILL DON’T KNOW IF YOU’RE GANGSTERS OR IF YOU’RE ACTUALLY THE POLICE? YOU’RE DRIVING AN UNMARKED WHITE SUV, HOW AM I SUPPOSE TO KNOW IT’S A POLICE CAR? YOU’RE NOT WEARING A POLICE UNIFORM AND YOU HAVEN’T SHOWED ME ANY ID SAYING THAT YOU ARE POLICE? FOR ALL I KNOW YOU’RE GANGSTERS AND YOU’RE TRYING TO FUCK ME BECAUSE I’M A FOREIGNER.
Pistol whip. Blocked. Finger pointing. Don’t you do that again cunt. I’ll fuck you up. Mean face. 30 minutes later I’m in the back of a police car. I know this one is definitely a police car because it has police written down the side of it and I know the 3 other occupants in the car are definitely police because they’re all wearing police uniforms. At the police station…
I know you wouldn’t have expected it, but I’ve had a little bit of experience when it comes to police. They’re all pretty much the same. They work in a pretty challenging job. They’re barraged with the dregs of society on a daily basis. Policing and police work is eminently an ego driven activity and there is a holier than thou mentality. Indian police are no different except they, like most Indian men, are profoundly bromosexual.
(Relationships between Indian men are far more intimate when compared to men of other cultures. It is common for an Indian man to hold hands with another Indian man while they are in public or to display other close contact public displays of affection. This would be considered an act of homosexuality in some cultures.)
So at the police station…
I’ve been seated and I’m waiting. I can hear some officers talking among themselves in Hindi. They’re all looking at me. I can hear blahdy blah blah two thousand dollars. Could this possibly be my penalty for an afternoon of hooning in Mumbai? A fine of this magnitude for the alleged crimes I committed would almost be on par with a fine dished out for the same offenses in Australia. If it was, I’d flatly refuse to pay it anyway. 2k was far too steep. Maybe I could go to prison instead, in lieu of payment?
And then I’m finally summoned to the police desk. I see paperwork. It’s written in sanskrit, completely illegible to me. The officer asks me to write down my name and contact details. I comply. He asks me for my drivers license. I hand him my Western Australian drivers license. He notices that It’s 3 months past its expiry date. He questions its validity. I spin him a yarn, “In Australia we get a 90 day grace period from the date of expiry till renewal”. Fortunately for me, this same grace period also applies in India. Expired license, not a problem. (Actually, I told the police officer a bald-faced lie. In Western Australia you only get a 30 day renewal grace period).
The drivers license wasn’t enough to satisfy this cops need for my proper identification – he wanted my passport. Despite the expectation that you must, I almost never carry my passport with me when I am traveling around inside a foreign country. If there is a safe place to leave it behind, I will leave it behind. It’s just too cumbersome to carry around all the time and there is more chance of losing it if I have to take it everywhere. Usually I will carry around a photocopy inside my wallet but India’s incessant need for passport photocopies meant that I didn’t have one with me at this time. I did however, have a scanned copy of my passport stored in the cloud, accessible via an app on my smartphone. Bluetooth. Send. No problemo.
Top Tim Travel Tip
– Always have a copy of your passport handy, you’ll never know when you’ll need it. A photocopy is good but failing that, at the very least, have it stored someplace online that is easily accessible and safe (try emailing it to yourself so it’s always in your inbox or use a trusted cloud storage service like MEGA
) or have it stored somewhere on your smartphone.
And then he asked me for the paperwork for the bike. In India, you keep the paperwork stored on the bike somewhere, usually under the seat or locked in a side panel. I never bothered to sort out the paperwork when I bought the bike. I didn’t have paperwork. This is a problem. To the police, the origins of the bike are unknown. It’s registered in another state – Himachal Pradesh. There is no documented proof that I actually own this bike. In the eyes of the law, this could have been a stolen bike I was riding. And then this is when my superior ability to bullshit my way out of trouble comes into play. BS BS spin a yarn. No problem.
Now it’s time for me to hear the charges;
failure to stop at a red light, failure to stop for police, driving in a prohibited area (the Seaway), speeding (197 km/h), reckless driving, failure to produce necessary registration documents, failure to produce necessary driving documents. Not a bad little rap sheet for a cheeky afternoon hoon. What would be the damage I wondered? I’m directed to go sit back in the waiting chair. I wait. A cop with 3 stars pinned on each shoulder of his uniform struts over to me. (Want to know a police officers rank? Look at the shoulders of their uniform.) 3 stars meant this cops rank was pretty high, he’s the boss. He would decide my fate.
At first there’s a little blah blah lecture about road safety. Then I hear blah blah we’re going to seize the bike. Blah blah you’ll have to go to court on Wednesday. Then he had the gumption to ask me how much money I had on me. I’d just visited an ATM so I had 10000 rupees. He said don’t worry, we’ll write a receipt to prove it’s not a bribe we’re taking. That cheeky little so and so.
Police will always try to intimidate you, invariably dispensing their worst case scenario dogma. Don’t buy into it. It’s just scare tactics. This cop could sense I wasn’t taking any shit. I think he appreciated it. It was an entertaining discourse, the mood in the police station lightened. What’s the worst that could happen anyway? Bike seized, maybe $2k or 10000 rupees lighter and a day in court. In exchange I’d have a captivating story to tell. So be it. Whatevs.
3 star cop leaves and then I’m sitting back at the front counter in front of admin cop. 5 minutes later and the key to my bike is placed on the table in front of me. Admin cop tells me to go into the other room and go thank 3 star cop. Perplexed, I do as I am told. I find 3 star cop in the locker room around the side. He asks me if he can take a photo. We pose together and snap a selfie. Then we shake hands. I leave. Free to go. Ride on
\m/ >.< \m/
Besides the traffic and pollution, Bombay is a tolerable city to be in. Maybe because beaches. Maybe because Bollywood. There are some interesting things to see and do in Mumbai, like be an extra in a blockbuster Bollywood movie called Humshakals
. I was also in Mumbai to intercept a special lady. She would be riding pillion with me for 2 weeks. Good times. In preparation for her majesty, I had the bike thoroughly serviced – thanks Happy Cycle!!!
FYI 4900 rupees = oil change, new oil filter, new air filter, new front brake liners, new back brake liners, new clutch cable, new front brake cable, new speedometer cable, new throttle cable, new side panel lock box lock, new kickstart rubber, 2 replacement bolts on the luggage rack, a general bike clean and the chain cleaned and lubed.
To get to Elephanta Island you must embark aboard the boat at the Gateway of India – the exact same location where terrorists infiltrated Mumbai in a 4 day siege in 2008
. It’s a about an hour boat ride to the island, concealed in the distance by a thick blanket of Bombay smog. Arriving at the jetty, I saw my very first dead body. It was eerily floating face down, stiff with death, meters from the jetties edge. It was late afternoon when we arrived so we had to hastily make our way through all the attractions or we’d miss the return boat. There were some caves or something, 2 big guns, a billion trinkets for sale and 2 monkeys raping a dog. Exciting stuff.
It was best to get out of Mumbai early, evading the traffic with a 6 am start. We had a long ride planned – 335km to Aurangabad. It was wishful thinking trying to get that far out of Mumbai in one day, especially now since the bike was laden with more weight. A heavier bike is a slower bike. Consequently, this also meant readjusting my riding style, no more hooning 🙁
Using Google maps to pick one of the many passages east out of Mumbai, I chose the one that would seem to be the most scenic rather than use the suggested route that Google recommended. A word of advice – the Google doesn’t know if the vehicle you’re traveling in has 1,2,3 or 75 wheels. It will suggest a route without taking into consideration that your vehicle maybe forbidden from taking the road it proposes you to take.
I was surprised with the vastness of the Maharashtra state, seems Mumbai extends east forever, there were developments as far as the eye could see. It was several hours before we reached what I would call the countryside. Ascending through a mountain range was picturesque; we stopped to take a few pictures. Frequent photo stops would mean we’d fall short of Aurangabad, so Ahmednagar…
Maheshwar has cool ghats. It’s a relaxing place. Spent 2 nights there. That is all.
AH47 is a national highway that runs through the guts of India connecting Indore with Gwalior. It’s a major arterial road that supports the fruits of commerce to millions of people. On long stretches of this this road you can not travel faster than 15 km/h. Why? Because this is the worst road in all
of India. It literally sucks. I saw pot holes swallow entire Tata Nanos
regularly. Busted trucks lay wasted on the side of the road. This was not
a comfortable ride. The bike made it through effortlessly though. Same couldn’t be said for the luggage rack; a support brace had cracked at the weld and compromised the racks structural integrity. It would need some fixing if we were to continue. MacGyvered it with rope and kept going. What else can you do?
In the case of shitty roads, you can petition the government to make better roads India! FFS. Hopefully Modi will make this his priority. That road was seriously beyond a joke. The speed of economic development is intrinsically linked to the infrastructure that supports it. Slow roads = slow movement of commerce. The opportunity cost and economic benefit of having an efficient transportation network far out-ways the capital expenditure to procure it. Building functional roads creates jobs because goods can get to market quicker. The flow of money will only accelerate as fast as the cars can drive and the trucks can truck.
WARNING! Indian people love their music deafeningly loud. Partook in a random grandiose parade through the town centre. It was a wedding celebration. Weddings in India are legendary for their extravagance; some ostentatious matrimonial commemorations will blowout for an entire week and guests typically number in the hundreds.
Caught up with my buddy from the daze working at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel back in Perth. We had a look at the amazing Gwalior fort (zoom in on that hill on the map) and then we cooked at his parents place with his Mum and cousin. An amazing master chef talent. Super delicious! Then we traveled together to Khajuraho and Panna Tiger Reserve. Good times! Thanks Raj! Your hospitality is outstanding mate 🙂
Khajuraho has the most amazing rock carvings in all of India. Inspired by the Kama Sutra there are some, um, amazing pieces.
Panna Tiger Reserve
We tried to find tigers to shoot. Failed. Shot some other nice photos though. Good times!
Jaipur is known as the pink city. It is pretty. I like it. There are many interesting things. But this is where I bid farewell to my princess and then rode the long, cold journey north to Delhi alone 🙁
Caught up with my buddy in Gurgaon. Drank beer. Ate pizza. Shared Knowledge. Crashed on the coach. Good times! Cheers Chunky!
Delhi: best to be avoided…
Delhi has a bad reputation. It’s not hard to see why when you get there. The traffic is beyond stupid. Air pollution is now officially 50% worse than Beijing. It’s full of scumbags. If you have no good reason to go to Delhi then DON’T GO THERE…
Unfortunately I had to go to Delhi 🙁
There were two missions I needed to complete;
Mission 1: Acquire New Passport.
I had no space left in my old passport, needed a newbie. Getting a new passport would be pretty easy, visit the Australian High Commission and apply. My only dilemma, to shave or not to shave? I was pretty impressed with my beard and I had grown quite fond of the attention it had garnered me. Complete strangers would appreciate and ask if they could touch my delicate facial rug. Often, I would let them. I couldn’t resist. Stroking my beard was a wonderfully pleasurable experience; its bristles were a brilliant hue and it felt coarse to touch at first, but once your fingertips delved deep into its intricate fibers, rubbing my face became a titillating adventure. I couldn’t keep my hands off it myself either. I become very close with my beard. Attached. It was half a years effort. My beard exemplified my masculinity. It made me feel far more manly. In an ode to my beard, I decided I would immortalize it by leaving it attached to my face for my passport photo.
Mission 2: Exchange Bullet for Cash.
I had 2 weeks left on my Indian visa. I couldn’t pack the bike up and take it with me to continue the journey to the Middle East. I had to offload it. Karol Bagh is home to the biggest motorcycle market in India. It was here that I would find a likely buyer of my precious Bullet. It was way way easier done than said. Way easier than I had expected. The hardest part about selling this bike was finding the bike market in Karol Bagh. I deployed my don’t think, just feel your way around strategy and I found the market with relative ease up the road. It was within walking distance of that teething cesspit of shiftiness -*Paharganj. There are thousands of motorcycles lining the streets at this market. I masquerade down the road with deliberate intent to find a worthy buyer of my treasured machine. I’d advertised the bike for sale online, but that reeked of effort finding a buyer that way. Finding a buyer in Karol Bagh seemed like the best option. I wasn’t wrong. Casually strolling past a shop, I lock eyes with the vendor. He approaches and asks me if I want to buy a bike. “Nah mate. I’m sellin'” I politely retort. He’s interested, so I legged it back to Pahar-grunge to collect the bike.
Returning an hour later with the bike, my new mate Benny gives it a quick visual inspection. He asks me for the paperwork; something that I didn’t care for at the time when I bought the bike. I never had the bike officially transferred into my name after I bought it from the Californian. Rookie mistake. Benny proposed a solution. He’d deal with the missing paperwork if he could take the bike for 50,000 rupees. I agreed. We shook hands. 50,000 rupees cash in the hand.
Now the next time I go to India to buy a touring bike, I will go directly to my mate Benny in Karol Bagh and buy a bike straight from him. He was a legit guy. Getting the ownership paperwork sorted when you buy a bike is kind of a big deal, especially when it comes to resale. I was kind of compelled to sell the bike for a 20,000 rupee discount because of my ‘clerical avoidance syndrome’.
The hot tip is to buy your bike direct from a dealer who will arrange the necessary papers. Buying a bike from a random foreigner may equate to difficulty down the track.
*Paharganj – Teething cesspit of shiftiness
It’s very rare that I feel threatened when I am in a new strange far away foreign place. But Paharganj. I didn’t want to leave my hotel room. And for good reason. I walked down the street looking for food the first night I arrived. I found myself sandwiched in a narrow gap on the footpath, obstructed between a pole and a parked car. All of a sudden 6 guys had surrounded me, blocking my intention. It was like being in a crowded train, that sardine packed in feeling. But this was a gang. These 6 guys had deliberately barricaded me into this tight space. This was a gang of professional thieves. They had gone for my pockets. I’m always a cautious guy, especially in tight crowds. These guys were pretty good though. My important things were pocketed inside my sports pants with the pocket zips zipped up. As I was barging through these assholes, both my hands were instinctively by my sides, protecting the important things (my phone & wallet) zipped away inside each pocket. It was that split second afterwards that I realized what had just happened. They were so quick. The zip on my right side pocket had been opened. This motherfucking pick pocket gang was good, but not that good. My zip was down but my wallet was still in my pocket. The natural instinct to guard my pockets and my ability to barge through thwarted their attempt. I turned around after the incident and made eyes with one of the gang. I gave him an intense deep death stare and mouthed the words sucked in cunt. Very nice try, but you didn’t get to steal my shit. In hindsight I would have gone back and caused a scene with this pickpocket gang. Take all 6 of them on in the street and cause a public disturbance. But yeah, it all happened so quick.
The pickpocket violation, the farcical traffic situation, the disproportionately high number of scumbag inhabitants and the seriously tainted air all contributed to me vigorously hating every second I was in Delhi. The absolute best advice I can give you is, don’t fucking go to Delhi.
Because sold bike, I caught the train from Delhi to Agra. It’s only a 5 hour train ride so there is no need to upgrade to a fancy ticket regardless of what anybody tells you. When you go to buy your Agra ticket at the Delhi traino, chances are some asshole will approach you and tell you to go buy your ticket from the travel agent across the road. In the likely case that this happens to you, stare that cunt directly in the eye with your best death stare and tell the cunt to fuck right off. He’s trying to scam you. This is the part I hated about Delhi the most. Scumbag scammers.
Like I said, there is no reason to upgrade to a fancy ticket taking this train. There is a simple joy in taking cattle class with the poor people. You will meet some genuine folk this way who will typically make it their duty to make sure you have a comfortable train ride. This means being offered snacks, banter and being given priority seating; sitting in the carriage doorway with your feet dangling outside the train and feeling the breeze hit you in the face as you peer head outside the train will be a defining moment in your life.
I made two friends on the Agra train. They were both from Nepal, tourists in India for the first time. I’d recently been to Nepal, so this made it easier for me to shoot the shit with them. Together, we would explore Agra and the Taj Mahal. How great I thought. Somebody to take photos for me.
People only go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and maybe Agra Fort. If you get your timing right, you can be in and out of Agra in one day and see everything you need to see. There is no need to stay any longer. I got stuck in Agra for 3 days. Sometimes the trains in India are fully booked.
Top Tim Travel Tip: To avoid disappointment, buy your departure train ticket to your next destination as soon as you can at your arrival train station.
Oh my WOW! The Taj Mahal is absolutely in-freaking-credible. There are not enough adjectives or adverbs in the world to describe how amazing this building is. Stunning. Beautiful. Magnificent. These mere words do not give justice to the ever majestic Taj Mahal. You must see it with your own eyes. And you must stand in front of it and capture a picture of yourself hand raised, fingers pinched as if you single-handedly placed the Taj Mahal in situ like some kind of giant god.
Be warned though, you can not under any circumstances bring any toy with you inside the Taj Mahal complex. Security screening is extremely thorough here and my happy meal toy Optimus Prime was confiscated at the front gate. I was not happy
. This is the place where they publicly burn dead bodies on the banks of the Ganges River. Its a place where you can wash away your sins, trying your luck, by bathing in that sacred Ganges. It’s a place where one is impelled to reflect upon life. And decide. Is it really worth it? Jumping in that river is a pretty epic
thing to do. It is, after all, the 5th most polluted river
in the world. For 4 days I thought about taking a sin cleansing dip in that river. On the forth day, I finally decided. Not worth it. I’ve worked hard for my sins. Why would I want to wash them away? What a silly thing to do! My
sins are my
life. I’m keeping them for myself. This river wasn’t worthy to carry my sins anyway. The only thing this river is good for is carrying boat loads of tourists at dawn to take colourful photos of the ghats…
Indira Gandhi International Airport
“India didn’t want to let go of me”
Literally… My Emirates flight Delhi > Dubai was delayed 2 hours… And then another hour… And then another 2 hours delayed… Finally we boarded the plane, passengers seated, seat belt sign goes on and then we continue waiting on the tarmac for another 30 minutes… And then the captain makes an announcement…. “Yeah nah flights cancelled, bad luck everybody”… The entire cabin collectively sighs in disbelief… The feeling of disappointment filled the plane,,, nobody was happy about this…
I wasn’t overly stressed about the flight being cancelled, in fact it worked out well in my favour; I hadn’t booked any accommodation in Dubai for the night of my arrival, I’d only booked for the following 2 nights (24th& 25th). So for my impending night of bedlessness on the 23rd I got to stay at a 5 star hotel and had a delicious buffet dinner – courtesy of Emirates incompetence. The flight cancellation really did piss a lot of passengers off, especially those going to Dubai to do ‘business’. It was the way the Emirates staff handled the whole situation. It was very very ordinary -far from professional – and I’ll think twice before flying Emirates again…
That being said my entire time in India can be summarized with one word –
I never really had any great aspirations to go to India, I wasn’t completely infatuated with the idea of traveling there; to be honest, Indians weren’t my favourite people, and I knew nothing about the place except Bollywood, Taj Mahal and curry. It was a cheap flight out of Bangkok to Kolkata that mostly inspired me to get there and the fact that India is known to be a relatively cheap travel destination – keeping my extended travel dream alive – and it would be just another visa and stamp in my passport…
But wow it changed me on so many levels – and my affinity for Indian people elevated…
My experience and interaction with Indians outside of India wasn’t entirely splendid; in Australia, I’d made several Indian friends, either through work or study, back then I wouldn’t have exactly called them my ‘best friends’. Because ubiquity (about 1 in every 7 people on the this plantet is “Indian”) it is very easy to stereotype, compartmentalize and judge Indian people without really getting to know them i.e it is very easy to misunderstand Indian people. Before going to India, I really did misunderstand Indian people and I did not hold them in high regard – I would never have considered an Indian to be become a ‘best’ friend.
And this is the beauty of traveling and keeping an open mind and an open heart…
Perspectives shift, judgement evolves and our opinions change. You begin to understand more about life, more about humanity and where we all sit at the global dinner table. Indian people are lovely. I’d never experienced this kind of lovely on such a grand scale among so many people so much so randomly before – compassion, humility, generosity, a genuine care and respect for each other. Common traits of Indian people, a huge close-kit family of 1.2 billion people…
TO BE CONTINUED…