India in a minor key


my first solo train ride of significant length was pure success.  all aboard for the Mysore Express! – an overnighter leaving Madurai at 7:30 pm and arriving in Mysore at 10:30 am.  being an Indian train virgin, i decided not to rough it too much too fast so i booked the best class they had for a whopping 1100 rupees ($22).  my class was called “AC2″.  that means bunks stacked 2 high with air conditioning.  the next class down is “AC3″ which is bunks stacked 3 high with air conditioning.  “sleeper” is the next which is bunks stacked 3 high without air conditioning. much like Dante’s Inferno, it gets progressively worse the further down you go.  by the time you reach the very last train car, you’re stacked 10 high and sleeping on your choice of either spikes or hot coals.

P1020675Mysore is a nice enough place.  it’s got the right amount of Indian busy.  it has that beautiful palace in its center.  it’s got its fair share of traps, trims and flim-flams, but that’s not why i came here.  i came here to just… be.  i came here to recycle myself in a manor of speaking.  i’m long overdue and it has to happen somewhere.  since i arrived early in the day i had the luxury of choosing my accommodations carefully.  i must have gone to six places before finally deciding on the perfect one.  i tested the acoustics in the bathrooms and the noise factor the ceiling fans make when you crank them to full blast.  i sauntered slowly and mindfully from place to place with my 50 liter pack, my trusty satchel, my guitar and my eyes wide open.

first things first. lock myself in the bathroom with my guitar “Escapo” and my compact battery powered stereo condenser microphone. push record and let the music flow onto the backdrop of honking, yelling and spitting from the street below.  follow this with a regiment of push-ups and a stroll through the city.  it’s beautiful and of course it is.

ok, so “beautiful” may not be the right word to use here.  it’s actually quite polluted, the streets and buildings are heavily neglected and dozens of cows covered in flies feed on the street garbage, but it all seems to work for them here in this little ecosystem of hectic filth. it’s beautiful in my eyes.

“hello, what country?”… that’s how it always starts, to which i always reply “USA”.  there seems to be a thin line between ‘i want to be your best friend for the next 10 minutes’ and ‘just kidding, i actually want some money’ and i still can’t seem to sense the up front difference, especially because they always start off the conversation by stating ad nauseum that their not interested in my money.  the first guy was a nice strapping young lad.  i asked him to direct me to the WIFI knowing he probably couldn’t because WIFI barely exists in the south.  they walk so proud when they have you in their grasp.  they wave at everyone they pass by as if saying “look what i got, what the hell do you got?”.  after being lead to 4 different internet cafes i finally settled on one with regular internet.  i asked the next guy for a good restaurant.  he lead me to an upscale hotel.  these are not the places to eat in India but i chose to eat there anyway because i was fatigued and famished.  he sat with me in a mutual silent stare as i choked down a Kingfisher and some mediocre veg korma.  after regaining my strength and part of my mind i went outside and focused intently on a deep sink hole in the side of the street.  dude immediately follows me outside and demands 20 rupees (40 cents) for his time.  i forwardly and elegantly reminded him that the expectations of our relationship which he himself prior set did not add up to the demands of his current agenda.  he walks.  i feel both good and evil.

i accomplished several comforting tasks during my 4 day stint here:  i found new strings for Escapo who was in dire need of re-stringing, made several recordings, repaired my travel-damaged belongings, slept a lot and watched movies.  i took frequent chai breaks at a favorite tea stall i found in an alleyway near my hotel.  i’d sit with the Indian men lined up along the curb smoking their beedis, or i’d sit alone until i felt comfortable in my own skin.

P1020658i also put my tourist hat on and visited the palace, the market and some small factories where they make incense and tobacco products.  the market was a sectioned off grid of narrow walkways lined with piles and overflowing baskets of fruits, vegetables, incense and spices.  the palace was a marvelous one.  the inside had giant detailed wall paintings depicting the crowds of people that used to hang out there way back when it was functional.  each face was completely unique.  just outside the palace, elephant and camel rides were offered.  entire families would mount the elephants from a special staircase and away they would go.  i wandered into a section of the palace grounds void of people and saw one of the more disturbing sights so far on my trip.  some asshole had tied up a camel to a tree in such a way that it couldn’t sit down.  the rope was tightly wound around its neck, head and through its septum.  i must have stared at it for 30 minutes.  it kept picking up its feet one by one to relieve the pressure of standing.  this poor animal had an expression on its face that resembled both urgent discomfort and extreme stupidity.  i’m no camel whisperer but i know a cry for help when i see one.  i seriously considered cutting him loose and if i had something sharp with me i just might have.  i then wandered a little further and had a close encounter with 3 angry mangy dogs only to be saved by a wild group of children.  they swooped in and threw rocks at them until they yelped and limped away.  that’s enough sightseeing for one day.

these past few days of decompression has done me some good.  i could easily stay a few more, and would if it weren’t for that all too familiar itchy feeling returning to my feet telling me it’s time to move.  i close my eyes, take a very deep breath and pack my bag for the 20th time, then make way to the train station and board a train bound for Bangalore to see an old friend.


P1020630please enjoy this one ditty spawned from the Mysore bathroom recording sessions:

  1. #1 by dani on April 21, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    Cheers to your inspiration and your itchy feet !!!

  2. #2 by Newman on April 21, 2013 - 1:48 pm

    Dude, awesome tune :)..awesome.

  3. #3 by Sak on April 21, 2013 - 7:48 pm

    Thank you for feeding the traveler inside me.

  4. #4 by dj on April 23, 2013 - 7:23 pm

    oh sad camel, i hope someone will save him. great songwriting!

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