24 Hours

This 24 hour journey begins in the afternoon of a fairly ordinary day, when we take an auto to 13th Cross in Malleswaram to pick up Ashwin’s clothes at Modern Tailors. We began with a short walk on Sampige Road where there are lots of local shops.

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Banana stalks

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Carved jaggery

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Construction site temple

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New clothes are ready at the tailor.

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Malleswaram flower market has moved out onto Sampige Road.

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Banana leaves.

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Plastic buckets at the stainless steel shop

I found these beauties in the morning. The beetle is dead but the spider is very much alive. I didn’t want to get too close! I have never seen a spider make these heavy zigzag lines before. There was one for each leg position.

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A hibiscus opens on the roof terrace

I had time to do a little drawing, so I drew some of Tata’s treasures. It felt good to sit and look at something closely.

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Mangoes on the window sill

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Lunch with family friends

This 24 hour day ended with a nice afternoon, enjoying a meal with friends of the family and mangoes for dessert. They are so sweet, they taste like candy.

The Back Story

It looks like these posts are turning into more of a travel guide and less of a personal story. For that I am sorry and I hope it hasn’t been too dry. I have wanted to share the fantastic places I have seen, but neglected to include the experiences. So read on for the back story behind my journey to India’s ancient caves!

Juice stand next to bus stand, Pune

Juice stand next to bus stand, Pune

Traveling to Aurangabad by myself was a big challenge. Although that was part of the point, to go out and navigate India on my own, it was quite nerve wracking at times. I booked the entire trip on my own, arranging bus tickets and finding a nice hotel on Booking.com. I e-mailed the hotel for help with the travel arrangements and a guide for my trips to the caves. A woman named Yvette from The Meadows Resort was very helpful. So I was prepared for my trip, or was I?

Two boys posed for me at the bus stop while I was taking pictures of autos for Ashwin

Two boys posed for me at the bus stop while I was taking pictures of autos for Ashwin

I told Venkatesh I would keep in touch by phone during the bus travel, but when I arrived in Pune with my Indian cell phone it wouldn’t work. I had three days of wedding events coming up so I wasn’t worried. Luckily, my father in law, Gopal, was able to fix the service from Bangalore and by the time I boarded the bus it was fine. Thank god, I couldn’t have done the trip without my phone! I’m sure I would have been standing on some street corner after dark, in an unknown city, and hailing an auto to a hotel I didn’t really know how to get to. Phew! Mom and Dad, please don’t panic, I am now home safe, and I didn’t tell you before hand so you wouldn’t worry!

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A new kind of auto in Pune, carries many people like a small bus

I was dropped at the side of a busy road in Pune, by the Royal Orchid Hotel driver and Leah. I watched them drive off to the airport, leaving me to wait for a bus that was almost an hour away. I was pretty sure I was in the right place so I was okay, just thinking – I can relax once I’m on the bus. The bus was ten minutes early, so I gave them my reservation and found my sleeper berth. It was quite clean and I settled in for the five hour journey. At the last stop in Pune, a family came and told me I was in their berth. None of the bus personnel spoke English, but it turned out I was on the bus that comes before mine. I had to get out and wait for my bus at a stop on the edge of Pune (who knows where). Luckily there was a bus office and I could sit in a chair outside and wait for my bus. I felt uprooted and nervous, but there were some nice people helping me. A twelve year old boy wearing a green t shirt with ‘smart boy’ written on the front sat down and started talking to me. He was very curious and sweet. I think he wanted to practice his English and he had a lot of questions about my family and the U.S. He really helped me get through the half hour wait. He even showed me to a bathroom down a narrow alley and filled a bucket of water for me to use. Finally my bus came, not as clean as the last and it felt like I was travelling in a coffin, but it got me to Aurangabad feeling only slightly nauseated.

Busy street market on the way to Aurangabad

Busy street market on the way to Aurangabad

DSC01297 I had arranged for a hotel driver to pick me up at the bus stand, but when I texted the contact person that I was on the bus approaching Aurangabad, I got a one liner back, ‘sorry?’. This is when I began to get really nervous! Thanks to a working cell phone I was able to get the contact person to talk directly to the driver and I had someone waiting for me when I arrived. Another phew! I arrived at the hotel around 10:30 and it was a ghost town. I was worn out from the trip and had a little trouble communicating with the man at the front desk. The helpful Yvette, it turns out, works at the main office in Bombay – not the resort. Maybe things would look better in the morning, I thought, so I settled into my cottage, locked every door and window and went to sleep. In the morning, another man at the front desk pointed me to the restaurant (he spoke even less English than the one the night before). I didn’t see another guest in sight, just some men cleaning the garden. At the outdoor patio there were two men eating, they turned out to be the only other guests at the resort. Have you noticed there were quite a few men and no women? I was given a menu, and when I ordered, nothing was available. After all, how do you keep a restaurant running when there are only three guests? I was given a choice of four items, I picked one and ordered coffee…..

The coffee came out, they called it milk coffee, but it was really just milk. I said ‘where is the coffee?’. ‘This is coffee Maam.’ ‘But coffee is brown, not white’, I said. ‘Light coffee Maam’, said the waiter. They had little packets of NescafĂ© that had to be added if you wanted to get any kind of a buzz. Okay, a resort without good filter coffee? I would think this would be priority number one! My entire resort experience continued like this. It was advertised as a garden spa resort; with pool, massage, steam room, weight room and hot tub. They showed a wide range of eastern and western foods, and baked goods that they made on sight. I was looking for a little pampering, but this was definitely not the place for it. The room was comfortable, the staff were quite nice, but it was unsettling. Thankfully, my day trips and guide were fantastic. After all, that was the main reason I went. The worst part happened when I went to check out and none of my international cards could be processed through their machine. I didn’t have enough cash and it took two hours of negotiations. Finally, Venkatesh had to call the hotel manager to work something out. By then it was late and I was completely wound up and worried that they were going to kick me out on my last night. I had a 5 am taxi going to the airport the next morning and I was never so glad to go home, to family and Malleswaram. Adventure over!

Ashwin dressed as an auto driver for fancy dress day at school

Ashwin dressed as an auto driver for fancy dress day at school

Lorries and Tractors and Other Three Wheeled Thingamajigs

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Even though I am winding up my book project ‘Sound Horn Okay’, I don’t seem to be done with Indian trucks. I want to keep taking pictures of all the various forms. I’m thinking my next project will be large wood cuts of truck ‘portraits’. Above is a bus that is getting a blessing for Ayudha Puja, a holiday when people bless the tools of their trade (originally weapons). There are garlands full of roses, the obligatory banana stalks and an incense stick in the grill. It looks beautiful and harmless right? Well until you realize they drive around like this for days. I don’t know how the driver can possibly see out the window properly. The public bus below was driving around Mysore Palace at night. It even has a picture of the King of Mysore smack in the middle of the windshield.

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I love the lorries best. Even when the decorations are minimal, there are always some interesting details. A small Ganesha sticker or something hanging off the front (that looks like a thick coil of hair) for good luck. I’m told these often include a lime or sometimes even a shoe. Of course I like the hand painted patterns and images best, but all the layers of decoration are interesting. Most people have images of their religious figures, Hindu Gods and Sai Baba, Jesus and Mary, Islamic text and 786 (Allah number), but many also have decals of Bollywood stars. I see many cows, lotus flowers and demons. A favorite of mine is the demon, painted on the ball joint in the middle of the rear axle, on the lorries.

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The header on the top of the lorrie cab is often the name of the family deity. Underneath in the oblong windows there might be names of people in the family. Many lorries are privately owned and they are tricked out in the same way you might decorate a home. If a driver takes long hauls, these trucks are second homes.

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Some have messages for the road like ‘Sound Horn Okay’, ‘Stop Signal’ or ‘Horn Please’. Others have inscriptions about deeper subjects like population control ‘We Two, Ours One’, meaning couples should have only one baby. The next truck is pretty simply decorated, just a couple of gods (Ganesha and Hanuman) on the front, but I love the ‘Road King’ stenciled on the bumper.

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The three wheeled goods carriers have lots of personality. This one has faces of women painted on the headlights. These are referred to as ‘Apes’.

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The tractors are always fantastic. They drive on the road like any other vehicle and are used mostly in construction. Almost every one hauls a beautifully painted trailer behind it.

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Gopal and Bubble in the background

This tractor below was doing some road repair in front of the Reliance Market at the corner of our street. BBMP stands for Bruhat Bangaluru Mahanagar Palike, which is the Bangalore Municipal Department. Bhoomiputra means ‘Son of the Earth’ and Lakshmi hangs on the grill above.

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And the last truck is a Bangalore Fire Truck. I took this picture just for Ashwin. The guys inside the truck were looking quizzical.

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