Pune playboy?

When Mood Music
2006-03-16 14:33:00

OK, so last time I blogged, I was in Aurangabad. Yesterday I bounced on a bus for 5 hours to travel the 227 km to Pune (Poona). It’s the most westernised city I’ve seen yet, a place where the British imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi and his wife (she died during this imprisomenet) and where you’ll see young women in western gear (jeans and short-sleeved tee-shirts), riding scooters and motor-bikes but wearing full-on scarves covering all but their eyes. Some of them were walking so I presume the scarves aren’t just about avoiding inhaling exhaust fumes. Still, there’s enough young ladies in sarees (with accompanying naked midriffs and figure-hugging vests) to keep my swonnicles revolving at a vast rate.

Here’s some updates and diary extracts about what I got up to in and around Aurangabad.
Friday 10th
very bumpy bus to AJanta caves.
straw hut in fields
rained last night
villages/newspaper (no idea what I meant by this)
urea distribution centre
wheat-growing, green and lush, many trees
pass through Shillod, a big market town
fields of sunflowers
caves so beautiful I could cry
squirrels, then floor alive with ants picking up my crumbs

having been told by the hotel boss that a bus journey to Ajanta would take 4 hours each ay, involving lots of stops, I’m still glad I saved the 1500 rupees (over 2 UKpounds) for the taxi-tour he offered. The bus cost 69 rupees each way, then tour bus to amenity site cost 6Rs, entry to amenities cost 5Rs and entry to the actual caves cost 250Rs. Just as I bought this ticket, the heavens opened. There was a lot fo pressre to hire services, for example, one guy kept on at me for 10 minutes, insisting I should hire him to carry my shoes (since you need to take them off to go into each cave). hen he finally got the message that when I said ‘No’, I meant it, he then asked for a hand-out – appparently for being so good at being annoying.

Again, just as Hans (an american I’m rooming with in Aurangabad – we met up in Mumbai on Elephanta Island)and I were about to leave, the heavens opened again. During this, we were subjected to intense sales pressure. I realy need to learn how to say ‘fuck off and shove your souvineers (which are too heavy and far from unique, so if I should want them, I’ll buy them at the end of my travels) right up your arse’.

Having said that, the caves themselves were superb – I hope my photos will do them justice. It was also interestign to see a wee boy in ear-rings. His parents like him to to decorated but will take them out when he goes to school. (I’m sure he was a boy: his dad’s english was fine and I saw the boy being changed after an ‘accident’.)

I washd some clothes by hand last night. Just now looking for peace before going to Ellora and Dalautabad tomorrow.

Saturday 11th
woke too late to do too much. Bus to Dalautabad (huge hill-top fortress, involving a dark passage). There’s a big military area to the soth-east of Aurangabad. It’s a busy city with many touting for business.

Panchakki (ancient water-heel/aqueduct)

Bibi-ka-thingy (can’t remember)

Sunday 12th
Ellora – the only thing going through my mind is a Marilyn Manson lyric (maybe from Fight song): I can’t believe in a god that doesn’t exist.

Met a young woman called Padmashree – she was dressed fashionably (t-shirt and decorated jeans) and told me she had trained as an ayrvedic doctor but was now taking civil service entrance exams. She told me tht most Indian folk visiting Ellora are newly-weds: hence the magnificent sarees. Otherwise, women generally wear shalwar chemise (as her colleague was) or western gear like her. (Two thoughts: [1] I wish I’d had the nerve to ask to photograph them. [2] I’m a dirty old man!)

At least two groups of people asked me to be in their souvineer snaps. I think they just wanted proof they’d encountered a random westerner on their travels.

Monday 13th
calculated hotel bill (I’ll been putting all my meals and internet use on the bill without thinking about it. In the end the 3 nights plus meals came to 1200Rs [under 20 UKpounds])

Humans suck and I’m human
For the first time in my supposedly adult life, I paid money to see caged-up animals. I’d rationalised to myself that I wanted to see how bad Aurangabad’s zoo was – and it was bad. After a few enclosures of tired-looking deer, a very sad solitary monkey and a rather dilapidated reptile-house, I encountered the elephant enclosure. There were listless adult elephants, not only trapped intot heir enclosure but chained by their left front ankles. One was listlessly swinging his chained leg, as if he hadn’t quite given up hope of escaping his captivity (or a reflex from when that hpe was real) or maybe just trying to vary the sensation. There was apparently no food or water within reach and this is an actively maintained zoo. I escaped past other enclosures containing two tigers, to angry with myself to cry.

[In answer to someone who asked why I don’t like homo sapiens, this is a major part of the reason: we’re the only species who lock up and abuse other species for our own AMUSEMENT. Other animals do what they need to survive and/or pass on their own genome (hence there is ‘murder’ in other species). They’ll eat everything in site, causing problems for other species and being hunted and eaten can’t be anything but terrible. However no other species will be as deliberately barbaric as I witnessed and became part of today.]

I’d paid to see this torture; I’d paid over 500 rupes to go into temples of religions in which I actively disbelieve. And yet I’d refused to give naythign to a filthy woman who was carrying a naked child and previously only given a satsuma apiece to three kids who were frantically gabbing at the bag they were in and turned down the offer of smoking a chillum ith a baba I’d passed in the road. Yet again I feel stupid and evil.

Meal at Pravanth – 100 rupees for thali preceeded by idli and limca YUM!

4.30 bus to Jalna – just make it as it moves off but others stop it t get on as it leaves the bus station. Downtown Aurangabad is full of big cars but still shit roads. My arse is going to hate me. 63km with my rucsac bouncing on my groin.

passed pulse research centre. In Jalna, stayed at hotel Siri Monmadevi (02482 232193/237629). Room was 200Rs but I was offered a massage for 2000 and, feeling rather sore from the journey, took up the offer. Afterwards, granny karate on TV and England lost the second test – hah!.

Tuesday 14th
bumpiest bus-ride yet to S… Raja, passed a religious procession. No-one speaks English or Hindi here. Then shared landrover to Lonar village, then on back of motorbike to top of crater. (The driver wouldn’t let me hold him, for fear of ridicule so this was very hairy!)

Wow, I hope the photos of Lonar do it justice. Me a local guy called Ramesh. He’s a farmer, tour-guide and singer (he demonstrated the latter and has a lovely voice). He took me aroudn the crater to all the temples, explaining a bit about the different gods/aspects that have been worshipped there for many centuries. He also took me to a lovely spring where we washed out feet, hair and bodies and I refiled my water-bottle.

He then took me by bus (it was so crowded we sat in the cab – I as on the engine) to his family farm. He grows wheat, chillis, onions and mangoes. He also took me to his family home where his mum made me a glass of black chai
and huge amounts of family arrived to meet the stranger.

If you’re looking for a guide to Lonar crater, contact Ramesh Saviram Rathole, Taluka Lonar, District Bulphama 07260 21608 or 221113.

We bussed back to Lonar village, ariving just before 6pm. There was no bus back to Jalna until after 7pm, so we jumped into a shared landrover to Sultanpur, from where there should have been regular busses to Jalna. Sipping mango lassi in the evening sun with a new friend was just perfect. There weren’t any buses to Jalna, so after dark (7.30), Ramesh got me a lift on a lorry. Cue 3 hours of bouncing, Indian road madness and fear. At least we avoided the morning’s completely unmade roads but around a a third of the journey was on the wrong side fo the road to avoid potholes. For this journey I paid 50 rupees (plus another 20) for an autorickshaw to Jalna’s bus station so I could find my hotel). I gave Ramesh 500 so am now down to 150 rupees. Morals of the story: don’t have expensive massages and don’t travel without all my kit – there was a bus from Sultanpur to Aurangabad so I could have got to an ATM and food!

Back in Jalna, there were fires in the streets and much pinkness – it’s Holi!!

Wednesday 15th
woke to sounds of children playing around 9.20. Put clean clothes on my manky body. Runto bus station, forgotten my lock, so run back to hotel , collect it then run back. Bus still there. Woman conductor wearing uniform shirt over pink shalwar chemise and blue headscarf.

Autorickshaw to station, visit ATM. Get painted for Holi by some lads who are wonderign along the road. Take 2pm ‘semi-luxury’ (i.e. softer seats) coach to Pune. We do 60 km in 1 hour then get a 20 minute comfort break at a ‘service station’. Somewhere along the road, we pass a circular tower of turds. On the bus, I’m sat next to a women who works at a hospital, counselling HIV patients. She gives me their office number when I say I’m looking for something to do with the rest of my currently useless life.

In the evening, I get a kingfisher lager with my food – in the ‘Grand’ hotel’s beer garden. (The room is a lockable partition in the building. The walls don’t reac the ceiling so I’m very glad I brought a chain and so can padlock my kit to the bed, as well as ensuring it can’t be opened. However, I get the feelign this is an un-necessary precaution.)

Thursday 16th
book into my hotel for tonight so I cn spend today in Pune, checking on the outside world (and hearing that a friend’s emplyers have let her down – grrr!), sorting my onward travel and maybe doing some tourism stuff. Both the map in in guide and the one given by the hotel are crap and I get hopelessly lost ont he way to the bus station. I eventually find it but can’t navigate from there to the cyber-cafe I’m after (I find the right road but there’s no sign of it, just a closed Apple dealership) so ask an autorickshaw driver to take me to the nearest. I’m currently in the nort-east of the main city, a bit too close to Bhagwan Rajneesh’s mega-bucks ashram fr comfort. I think I need to buy some shirts because mine ae all sun-bleached and scruffy, wash some clothes and get out of here.!.

See you later spacecats.


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