Shrine on a busy street around the corner from our hotel. It was open in the mornings and evenings for people to pray and offer flower garlands to the dieties.
I still had two days more in Bangalore! I felt satisfied with the sight-seeing and decided to hang around Kormangala, the neighborhood of our hotel. I walked around quite a bit, went to a hyper-modern mall called The Forum, and a kind of dated cement building, “the BDA complex” that was a sort of mall. BDA was very local with food stalls, bus ticket vendors, fax services, and guys with typewriters sitting outside ready to type documents for locals. Up the unlit staircase, though, were three tourist shops and no western tourists to be seen. Two of these shops were unremarkable but I liked Tribes India. I enjoyed shopping there and at the modern mall, and looking at the shops in-between as I walked around. I also got a Thai style foot massage (yes, I was on vacation!), had as many coconuts as I could handle from the street vendors, and ate great Indian food. With MB, we went out for excellent Italian food, and to one of the many dessert places afterwards.
Fancy dessert above, street coconuts below
Our last day was only half a day since we were leaving on an afternoon train. This was to be one of my favorite events of the trip. I love India Rail. My family and I had ridden many times last year but never in the Business Class Express like we were to do today. We had an adventure getting to the station, since the taxi dropped us off at the subway entrance and a station employee had to walk us, laden as we were with our luggage, across a scorching hot field to the back entrance of the train station. It felt a little desolate and strange but we found the train platform after a short walk.
We were early so there was time to savor the vibrant milieu of the large train station. We saw women in every type of sari from the sequined to the basic, all with unexpected combinations of color and pattern. Many women had ankle bangles, bilateral nose rings, and other adornments. Men, some with hennaed hair, wore skirts or suits or buttoned shirts with dress pants. Some children had startlingly elaborate outfits of shiny fabrics and more bling than Beyoncé. Often, people were carrying suitcases, even the wheeled style designed to be pulled behind, on their heads. Hand painted wooden signs marked the platform numbers. A loudspeaker informed of arrivals and departures in several languages with a musical trill before each announcement. A shrine and food vendors filled the cement area where people awaited their trains. I sighed happily into one of my favorite things in the world: travel, more specifically train travel, and even more specifically, an India Rail station waiting for my train.
It got better as our train arrived on time and we were able to negotiate sitting together. We had assigned seats that were bought separately and weren’t together, but fellow travelers were pleasantly accommodating. We had padded, upright seats unlike the benches and beds of my previous experiences. Then the five-hour trip began.
We were given about four snacks and one large meal by attentive servers rolling serving carts down the aisles. Welcome drink, evening tea, dinner, snacks. No vendors in he aisle, just uniformed ‘meals on wheels’ guys bringing us treat after treat. Outside the window: fields, farmers, sheep, a rocky hill, a deep round stone-lined well with floating stairs spiraling down, trash, parrots, cement buildings, coconut trees, so much to see out the window.
And the sounds: the rhythmic clacking of the wheels on the rails, the tinkling of tea cups on saucers, people talking in Tamil and Kannad and Hindi, the food cart rolling by, random pop music from a cell phone, and the background rumble down the tracks as we went back to Chennai.