Sunday, May 02, 2004

Humbleasana Pt.I 

The upside of the fact that so many people are leaving these days is that we have so many goodbye meals and get-togethers. Full social calendar, so to speak. Friday night saw two big groups going to the Olive Garden (“Multiethnic Cuisine”, not the al-overboiled/bland Italian chain we have in the States) at the foot of Chamundi Hill just outside the city center. Usual meeting place: the coconut stand in Gokulam central (coconut wallah branching out, also serving piping hot masala chai in addition to his 7 Rupee coconuts, with a couple of burlap-sacked stone benches and a great view of all the coming and goings at the main intersection), and then people were to share rikshas into town.

Me? All macho bravado- I will meet but drive Scooty- we have made the trek out that way a coupla times, no problem. Convince a couple of other students that the drive won’t be so bad, and how cool are we, driving into town at night, leading a convoy of one other moped and a motorbike. Yaar, I am overtaking vehicles and speeding away and feeling all cool and speedy, as we hit 24kms and hit the town as it's busy going about its Friday night. Have a moment of adrenaline when halfway around KR Circle in the heart of town (known amongst yogastudents as Chaos Circle) I realize we need to turn left instead of continue around the circle, and kinda get to an abrupt standstill trying to cut through a wall of two- and four-wheelers zooming by. Somehow, a gap is allowed, and we make it through unscathed. But boy, so much for leading safely and confidently.

Past town and the traffic is clearing and the dark shadow of Chamundi Hill looms to the right in the rising moonlight. I see the hospital, and tell my copilot (who is responsible for eloquently hand-signaling our intentions to the other twowheelers) that if this turn is not the right one, we will need to doubleback and try again. Sure enough, it isn't, and we do. Take a look around;a route previously easy and familiar, completely transformed in the blinding headlights and unlit roads. Concede that we are “not-really-lost”, but venture into said hospital to ask for directions anyway. The pharmacist refers me to the receptionist who leads me to a nurse who takes me to a lady doctor who asks her son to herd us there on his moped. Said son cannot be arsed. As she chats to me about her trip to Italy (one identifying comment when people look puzzled, as I tell them “my place” is Greece, is where the Olympics are this year. When I get a polite smile that is still curious, I elaborate: near Italy. At which point people tend to smile but also nod in comprehension, feigned or not.), we walk to the riksha stand and after much negotiating with several drivers, find one who not only claims to know where the place is, but will drive us there. Said place, I know, is about 4 minutes from where we are. We start off, get cut off by a bus, lose the newly reformed convoy before the crossroad. Square one. Drive down one road, up another, go back to the hospital and restart the negotiating with drivers who claim they all know where this place is, but all give sideways glances and are asking each other questions. We are saved by yogis on a motorbike, and actually make it to the Olive Garden in time for drinks with everyone, though an hour after we should’ve been there. So much for enjoying a cold one while the others are coughing their way through town on the kamikaze rikshas. Now have the currrayzee drivin’ greek rep to try and live down. Or up to.

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