OK, I didn’t achieve anything I wanted today, apart from collecting my laundry but I don’t feel bad about most of it. Here’s today’s tortuous prose:
Saturday April 8th
I was in the bathroom when I heard the smash of breaking glass – the hotel lads who had been playing cricket in the yard had hit a six against my window, shattering it. Some of the glass had landed on my bed – which was right underneath the window – but most had been held inside the window-aperture by a metal framework.
I used the bath-mat to protect my feet and shuffled across the room to where my clothes and sandals were, made myself vaguely decent and then opened the door to give the appropriate bollocking and take the sheet off my bed. The lads apologised, swept (not totally efficiently) my room, brought new bedding and then tried to patch the window.
I had originally brought with me some spare screws for glasses hinges and had noticed yesterday that Suriya’s glasses appeared to need a replacement screw (they were held together with wire) and offered to try to fix them. The screws have disappeared, so I took the glasses to a nearby optician to see if she had some spares. She pointed out that a part of the hinge is missing too, so that it would take more than just a screw to fix them. Wasn’t sure what to do next, so went on my way.
On my way to the bus-stop, I was haild by a shop owner who said he wanted just to talk and invited me into his shop. Of course, once I was in there, the sales patter began. I could see I was going to have a hard time getting out of there without buying anything. (OK, I could have just said “you lied”, upped and left but I’m not that hardened yet.) He asked me what I was interested in by way of souvineers and I pointed to my head and camera and said “the souvineers I want are memories and experiences”, then to my chest “and above all friendships. I have about 800 rupees a day to spend and will spend around 600 of that on food and accommodation, so there is nothing in here that interests me.” (This is pretty near true: I could spend a bit more but I’d be cutting into contingency funds.)
“Are you sure?”
“Nothing – well, I’m curious to see what my birthstone looks like but I don’t want to buy any. The best thing I can do for you is walk away so that you can spend your time on someone who might buy something.”
So he showed me a piece, which was small but nicely cut and said “it’s only 2100 rupees”. I told “no chance” so he then asked me “what would you pay?” “100 rupees, this is what I can afford for anything like this” (He appeared insulted by this so I explained again that I didn’t have money to throw away.) He suggested I could economise later (Now I think about it, I’m very annoyed with his cheek.) and asked me again how much I would pay for it. I stuck to 100 rupees as he brought the price down and down, then eventually said “here take it”. I dug out 100 rupees to show I didn’t take anything for free, picked up the stone and left. So I have a piece of stone which is pretty, which cost about the price I think it’s worth, wasn’t inveigled into spending huge amounts but still have bought something I didn’t want. However I do see it as a minor victory because I could have walked away laden with overpriced stuff I really didn’t want. My new aim is to be able to walk away with some of the shop-keeper’s money.
I’ve been wanting to see the Dudhsagar waterfalls since I got here. In fact my train to Margao passed by them, but at 4pm so I couldn’t have seen anything then. So I got a bus to Margao, to try to find my way to Dudhsagar by bus, becuase the trains are few and far between. I was told I needed bus first to what sounded like ‘Savaday’ (but is in fact Sanvordem, AKA Churchorem), then get a bus to Colem/Kullam/Collem (spelling varies according to whether you’re India Rail, the local bus company or a map I’ve bough – and of course these are all transcriptions of Konkani or Hindi anyway), then share a jeep to the falls.
The total bus journey to Colem cost 31 rupees and took about 2 hours. It seemed a lot less because on the Sanvordem-Colem leg, I was talking with a science student and trying not to embarrass his classmates who were also on the back seat of the bus (I was sat between him and them): even asking them if they needed a bit more space gave them fits of the giggles. I think they were slightly impressed that I could read the some of the Hindi/Devanagari signs ont he bus and so be sure the bus was going to Colem. (Come to think of it, I’m pretty pleased with this too.)
At Colem, the student (Rajesh?) pointed out where I could get a jeep to the falls. It turned out that a jeep costs 1800 rupees and that by now no-one else would arrive to share it with me. I was told about a hotel in nearby Molem where I could stay and then be in time to share a jeep. I was offered a lift there by one of the jeep drivers but since I’d already paid to stay in Colva tonight and didn’t have my stuff with me, I asked if he could take me to Sanvordem. Upon hearing he’d want 500 rupees for this (the bus would have cost 16), I demured and then walked toward where the bus had orignally dropped me in Colem.
There, a local shop keeper told me that a train would arrive before the bus and get me to Margao in 30 minutes. This sounded much more like it! I like Indian trains, especially the cool breezes and views from the open doors. Even better, my ticket cost 8 rupees. The train was all second-class (wooden slatted seats) but for 30 minutes, who cares? At one station, theree women who had been carrying huge bundles of wood on their heads got on and stood at the end of the carriage, next to the toilets. A passenger moaned at them a lot – I couldn’t see what they were doing wrong but I think it may have been a caste thing. Also, a police-git just hissed at them to get out of his way so he could use the toilet. Cowardice got the better part of me telling him that he could be civil, even if he did wear a uniform.
The one pain I know about Margao is that the bus station and train station are about 6km apart. I thought I had momories the journey between them in the morning (my bus passed the station) but by the time I got back to Margao, even I realised this was just wishful thinking. I didn’t see any buses and no-one would tell me how to get to the bus station but I was buggered if I was going to spend 180 rupees for a 7km journey to Colva when 30 km had just cost 8 rupees. Can you see a pattern here?
In the end, by playing the “I know what I’m doing – I’m going that way mate!”, “this mode of travel scares me shitless” and “your price sucks” cards, I got a ride on the back of a motorbike to my hotel for 50 rupees.
Again, I didn’t achieve my aim of getting back there by bus but I’m back in one piece and my wallet’s not groaning.
Just in case you think I’m mean, I don’t agree. I do to give money away, so long as I have it and it goes to people who need it. Otherwise, I’ll pay the going rate, whatever that may be, for stuff I want or need, so that I have a chance of having money to give to those who need it.