The avid fans of my long winded and extremely boring and exaggerated narrative of my trip to Hampi (who by the way are practically non-existent, I did receive a few emails in my inbox from people threatening serious action if I didn’t stop though!) will by now know what to expect whenever I start describing any journey of mine. Trivial commonplace incidents dressed up as ‘Dan Brown’s ultimate plot twist’ moments (sorry Dan Brown!), everyday people disguised as the most maniacal of human beings out to get me etc etc.
So I seriously hoped to tell you that my trip to Bangalore (at least my onward journey there) was seriously different! Except it seriously was not. Unfortunately for you- but you do have a choice- stop reading right here and go to the next blog talking about pleasanter things or carry on and get bored and then send me emails threatening serious action.
So you’re still there….anyway to carry on with my narrative and journey- the first thing that surprised me most awesomely was the swanky new train waiting on platform 2A (not going to the local version of Hogwarts unfortunately) at 5.40 am (yes it was that early! on a Saturday too!) at Chennai Central Station. Apparently this is the new Chennai Mysore Shatabdi Express. Clean roomy interiors, leg space, broad windows with smart shades, retractable seats and all that. I wondered why some people ever complained especially on such short journeys, but I learned later that there was a mean evil cousin to this train which ran a similar route- the Bangalore Chennai Shatabdi Express which lured unwary people into its trap. Now that train apparently is all that this train wasn’t- dark, grimy, prison seat chairs, bumpy rides etc etc. Anyway I had the beginners luck and I for sure wasn’t stuck in the wrong train.
I was quite lucky this time- I gamed the Indian Railways reservation system to get a window seat and I actually won! So I settled comfortably to sleep the next four hours away. Circumstances prevented me from embarking on my plans but the journey was exceptionally short and by 10.30 am we were pulling into a flower bedecked Bangalore city. Coming from the sun scorched, sweat drenched Chennai, the sight of row upon row of bougainvillea and other flowers just amazed me. I would have stopped to just take pics of these flowers except that I had a workshop to get to- a workshop that I was already late for by about 2 hours.
So I rushed out to the pre-paid auto counter as directed and stared angrily at the guy who was trying to get ahead of me in the line. This was my proud moment you see- I knew the smart thing to do- get in line to get a prepaid auto and not get ripped off by the regular autos – except I should have known better. No sooner had I gotten to the counter than I was expected to pay up the service fee (instructed in kannada). Not understanding (as I have never taken a pre-paid auto before- hey! I come from Chennai! We don’t do pre-paid autos here ok?) I put a currency note of high denomination on the counter only to be yelled at that they had no change and could I drop the exact change please! Except I didn’t know what the exact fare was for me to tender the exact change. Turns out some good samaritan (or somebody impatient to get to the front and irritated by not being able to get there by some gawking tourist who didn’t know her way around) finally dropped a one rupee coin on the counter whereupon I was given a token (I had already yelled out the address) and pushed out of the line to go get my auto and told to pay the driver the fare printed on the token. I didn’t thank the good person who dropped the coin for me. I was too dazed and my pride too bruised to be able to do anything but to meekly walk to the auto and get in. I was thinking that I would have been better off with the bargaining sharks (What!!!! 250 rupees? I can go to Chennai with that money!)
My auto and the driver seemed like nice people. The weather was pleasant. The traffic though was horrible. Seriously for that one reason I’ll trade to be in Chennai any day. Not that we don’t have our traffic issues but that’s a different story. The more important story was that pre-paid autos do not have any motivation to get you all the way to your destination. Especially when the aforementioned pre-paid auto is not completely familiar with the address and thinks that he may have to travel out a bit to get you to your destination. The closer I got to Koramangala, the faster the auto lost speed with the driver trying to convince me that the 80 feet road was actually the 60 feet road (give or take 20 feet) and could I get off? (Close I do not understand Kannada so I’m giving a rough translation).
I had no intention of getting off and walking around in a strange city and so I just kept repeating the address to the driver and asking him to get there with no effect. I started getting desperate very soon and actually started pleading the driver to at least just ask directions from another auto on the road (this is a very Chennai thing! Auto guys vie with one another to give directions just to show you how much better off you would have been had you been in their auto). Except this was not Chennai and the only response we could get from about 3 other autos was a shrug which translated to “Not my custom, not my problem”.
Enough was enough at this point so I called the hotel and asked them to give instructions to the driver (that was a joke!). They spoke in Kannada for a bit. The auto guy said he wanted extra cash which I was only too eager to agree (now we’re speaking some Chennai auto language!). So we turned around and went on the same road once again and after about 5 minutes of riding on that road it was clear that the auto guy was still clueless about where he was going. This time though he crisply asked me to call the hotel again and barked at them. I guess they gave him some more confused directions. The auto guy turned around and then approached a traffic signal which we had already passed twice from different directions. I looked at my watch and at this rate I was never going to make it to the workshop.
When suddenly a brainwave struck me. I loaded google maps on my phone and typed in the hotel’s address and asked for directions from current location. Good news- google was able to plot the map within about 20 seconds. Bad news I was nowhere near the location and we were still heading in an opposite direction. But emboldened by my new brainwave I started issuing instructions to the guy after consulting the map. He was intrigued but I waved my phone map at him so he knew that I knew my business. He must have been crushed now that he knew that I was actually smart and so wouldn’t pay him the $$$$ he had hoped to get out of me.
Incredibly enough we reached our destination in less than 3 minutes and I was so ecstatic that I paid the driver more than what he would have ever expected. So much so that he helped me with my backpack (totally unnecessary but I appreciate it dude! Keep the change!)
I charged into the building and asked for where I had to go and on being told the 5th floor got into the elevator and paused to push the button for the 5th floor.
Except there was no button for the 5th Floor….Seriously not funny people!