Sat. September 7th
A busy sort of day after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages. Ah, the benefits of Dunlopillo and the conscious need for the deep state of unconsciousness. I only woke up twice, once to visit the loo, and again to switch on the ‘super-speed’ fan to drive away the mosquitoes.
I then idled up to the station and reserved a sleeper berth to Bangalore for next Tuesday night. Brushing off the girl beggar who kept kissing me feet – Jesus Christ, whatever next? – I ambled to the 119 bus stop. Of course, this wasn’t signed, so I had many conversations along the way, and then spent the siesta hours at Golconda Fort.
Each fort I see leaves me vastly impressed with the sheer scale and planning ingenuity of the long ago builders. The Qutub Shahi Dynasty built this massive and expansive fort of granite, starting in 1518, and it became its seat of power. Use was made of natural features, in this case a granite mound that is 400 feet high; the Golconda kings gave themselves security and splendid views.
Generally much remains in spite of sieges and the ravages of time wrought by house builders. Indian tourists too leave their mark by scratching names. dates and addresses on the 400 year old plasterwork. Strange creatures are Indian tourists, still at the novice stage, like the Japanese twenty years ago. They travel in noisy groups with the Instamatic to hand so that they can prove that they’ve been there. Yet, of course, they barely arrive.
Sitting quietly alone eating lunch, admiring the flocks of parakeets sailing among the trees below and reading my Lonely Planet Guide, I become an attraction to gather around and point at noisily.
On the bus back into town, for the first time ever in India, I was offered a seat. We shared the same square foot until he got off. Which country are you coming from, sir? Germany?
Back in my monastic cell, I bucket shower, then read some more of William Least-Heat Moon to garner some more quotes, rhymes and reasons for my own travels. I do my accounts and work out that if I cash my remaining travellers cheques in order to remain cash solvent here in India, I will have survived on £5 a day. That includes travel, board and lodging but admittedly, apart from my Walkman batteries, few luxuries. Either my needs are basic, or I’m just plain miserly. Anyway, no more comfortable transport for me until I Air India off and away to Singapore.
I then headed off to the Iranian-run meals café next door. I wanted eggs; to me, a vegetarian, eggs are ok, a good protein source.
I’ll have egg biriany, please.
No chicken today. Today is a Hindu festival – no mutton.
So I’d like egg biriany and a strong coffee, with a little sugar – now please.
This was eventually translated by the cook: You will have the coffee after the meal …
But I … I get pickles and thin very salty curd as extras.
The cook stayed on to tell me how much he admires the English; whilst Emperors of the Raj were keeping India affluent, we, the English, were fighting World Wars and starving.
He knew too an Englishman’s dietary needs – custard and sweet bread puddings to end a meal, however spicy the main courses. And Christian folk tales as evinced in Indian religious lore. These, you know?, were related in a very strong Welsh accent learnt at sea while an under-chef in the British merchant navy until 1973. His mentor was from Cardiff and taught him how to make the custard.
This, naturally, did not appear on the menu. Nor did the bread pudding.