Bangalore welcomed us with high highs and low lows. From the moment we stepped off the bus in Kalasipayam (the worst part of town), I was NOT in the mood to deal with tuk-tuk touts who demanded we visit three hotels before going to the one we requested. I had a fever, stomach problems, hadn’t slept all night and it was 5am. I simply refused to play the game. So we walked…with our packs, through the crowded, smelly muck, past the action packed morning city market towards the hotel we planned to stay…which had apparently moved to a new location. I sat down on the side of the road for a meltdown. Joshua finally found an empty tuk-tuk, and we paid more than the original offers of 20 rupees for a ride directly to a new hotel. We immediately fell asleep for 5 hours. We woke up with enough time to get a bottle of water and a banana before going back to bed.
But the greatest thing happened on our walk to the store. As we checked the show times for Life of Pi, we ran into a girl that I somehow recognized. Joshua thought she may have been staying at the same hotel. Even in my hazy, un-showered, feverish state, I called out to her…”where are you from?!” We had grown up together in Sacramento and were part of the same swim club. We got her Indian cell phone number (yes, for the first time in a year we have a cell phone while traveling, per order of Ram) so we could connect with her later. As big and wonderful as the world has become during our travels with all the new places to explore, foods to taste and cultures to experience, it has also become surprising small. We now have a network of friends around the world in addition to those we continue to bump into on the road. The trip has given us a feeling of warmth everywhere we go that makes every homesick moment less difficult to endure.
Back in bed at the hotel, we scheduled to visit Shravanth, a friend we met in Mozambique. He had plans for us, little did we know. He whisked the three of us (including Elaine, our re-acquainted friend from CA) to Opus on a Sunday night. We paid more than a normal person could spend in a whole day in India to enter the club for their famous karaoke night…some of which gets paid back to you in coupons for food and drinks. Joshua and I struggled to drink a beer and eat a few pennes of pasta.
Young Bangaloreans, in their hippest outfits and fanciest dresses, sipped $4 beers (unheard of!) and danced like they didn’t care who saw. But, as quickly as the karaoke started, I forgot how poor I was feeling (but also knew we would be home early enough…all clubs close at 10:30pm!).
From the first singer to the last, the quality of the voices was spectacular. It was like Indian Idol on steroids…and the weirdest thing was, the voices did not seem to match the personalities on stage. A nicely dressed, older Indian gentleman did a sweet Aerosmith. A fabulous Korean, did a competitive Britney Spears.
Elaine, Joshua and I wondered where these people were coming from…it was like hit after hit in a converted garage turned club/restaurant where the wealthy youth of Bangalore went to show off their voices and live excessively. One group began pouring a whole bottle of champagne over what must have been “the birthday boy.” Eyes wide, we couldn’t believe the entire bottle ended up showering the boy and the floor without a single objection from the party (I would at least want a taste).
The high of Opus was quickly forgotten when we returned from the evening of revelry to another wave of sickness. Joshua was up every 10-15 minutes throughout the night. I had to negotiate with him who needed the toilet more desperately when we both shot out of bed at the same time. We are close, and this bout with (what was later diagnosed as) dysentery only brought us closer. For over 24 hours, the only things I got out of bed for were trips to the bathroom and one sympathy/pity me phone call to my parents. We were supposed to take a night bus to Goa. We scratched that real quick when my fever escalated. Joshua, too, was unable to rest farther than a few feet from the bathroom because the episodes were so violent and the intervals so close together. The local chemist gave us the “Delhi Belly” special: a stopper, a killer and a hydrator. I’ve never been so happy to part with $3.
We started to feel human by the next day, so with our newly “extended layover” in Bangalore, we decided to get some fresh air. Our first stop was the Museum of Technology. Bangalore is the hub for IT call centers and business process outsourcing so we couldn’t miss the museum dedicated to their specialty (but you’d think the companies would invest a little in the museum…there were more broken parts than working ones). We dragged our weak, haggard bodies to the museum, and instantly we were surrounded by school children on field trips who wanted to practice their English greetings.
They introduced themselves, asked our “good names” and requested pictures. We complied.
But one photo quickly escalated into an assembly line and pretty soon we were shaking hands with the next president of the grammar society. We smiled and smiled and kept smiling through cheek cramps. I know they say it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown, but I question those who tested that theory!
Shravanth picked us up again for a tour of the coolest happy hour spots before we boarded our rescheduled night bus. Why were we drinking and eating bar food the day after our intestine Ironman? Because, we can’t let our bodies hold us back–we have a world to see!
So we sampled local craft beers – inspired by the coaster advertising the illness curing properties of beer, tried Indian nachos and ate chicken wings at Plan B where Shravanth finished 6 of the ABS (a** burning sauce) which might have been the worst decision he’s ever made.
By the time we left Bangalore, we had reached the polar limits of coolness, funness, sickness and misery in just a few days, so I was ready to get some R&R Goa.