Sunday, 28 December 2008

Happy Christmas and a very Safety New Year

After a month of filming prostitutes in some of the worst shit holes in India, Pegah and I decided to treat ourselves and head to the beaches of south Goa for a fortnight wild of bongo-drumming, psychedelic acid raves with the crusties for Christmas. It being the festive season, everwhere was pretty much fully booked. It seems that not even the terror threats can keep a good hippie down, so as a last resort we ended up staying at the newly opened Armando Corner Luxury Beach Huts in Agonda. They weren't luxurious, but they were on a corner and they were owned by a retired sea man man called Armando. We were pleased when the man himself insisted on coming to pick us up from the train station...

Margao Railway Station 6am

Us: Hello Armando nice to meet you!
Armando: You are late, isn't it. You tell me fye thirty, now it is 6am only isn't it?
Us: Yes sorry the train was late, there wasn't much we could do.
Armando: I call you one, two, three, four times.
Us: Sorry but we were carrying our rucksacks and couldn't get to the phone. We're here now though.
Armando: Why you come to wrong exit only? I come to other exit.
Us: Sorry, we just went in the direction of the EXIT sign and waited at the front of the station like you told us to.
Armando: But I come to other side only, you come here. This is wrong side. Big problem now (sweating).
Us: Sorry Armando, but can we get into the car now?
Armando: OK, but you tell me you bring only small bags, this is no small, they are big only.
Us: Sorry Armando, we thought we told you medium sized bags.
Armando: You tell me small bags only, I bring small car because you tell small bags, no big problem fitting the big bags in small car (more sweating)
Us: But look they fit, everything is fine Armando.
Armando: Ok but you come to wrong side of station. I came other side but you came this side only.
Us: OK sorry Armando, can we go now?
Armando: OK, but now we waste too much time talking, we have to go now only.
Us: Ok Armando.

Later, in the back of the car

Armando: You know Bombay blasts, too, too much dead peoples, no?
Us: Yes very sad.
Armando: Goa very most saftiest place, you no need to worry isn't it.
Us: No we aren't worried, thanks Armando.
Armando: Police say Goa red terror alert, terrorists come attack tourists killing them very very blood and violence Christmas and new year – but my Armando Corner most most saftiest. No need you worry.
Us: Oh. OK. So there isn't any threat of terror attacks near here?
Armando: Yes attacks. No attacks from Goa peoples, only attacks from Pakistani, Muslim, Hindu, Kashmiri, other peoples attacking and fighting want to killing tourists. You stay Armando Corner breakfast, lunch, dinner then no problem. Our cook Jimmy is working in U.S.A very bestiest food in whole Goa. No need to go outside isn't it.
Us: So we are safe in Goa then yes?
Armando: Oh yes Armando corner very saftiest place in whole Goa. You will be most safety here only.
Us: Ok thanks. But what if we want to go to another bar or restaurant on Christmas Day for food, drinks, or hallucinagenic drugs?
Armando: No need for to go outside, Armando Corner have bestiest Christmas party, food cooked by Jimmy in U.S.A food, nice music radio playing until 10pm.
Us: But we came here for the crusty free love and all night unregulated beach raves... Where do foreigners go to have fun?
Armando: Armando Corner only so so much fun party. Then 10pm then the police are coming with guns and very violence and smashing towards foreigners making party on the beach. Must very shut down party after 10pm only.
Us. Oh.
Armando: Don't worrying, we are making some quiet party, silent party here after 10pm. My wife and daughter here also and nice 70 years German lady in nextdoor hut making so, so much quieting party.
Us: Sounds great thanks Armando.

At breakfast that morning, we are the only guests staying at Armando Corner, along with the 70 year old German lady.

Armando: How many nights you stay here, how many dinners and lunch and how many breakfasts fruits salad, pineapple, papaya, apple, banana, you have. One every day isn't it.
Us: Erm we don't actually know yet. We only arrived today we'll let you know if we decide to stay longer and if we need to eat.
Armando: Advance booking very most important you telling me how many nights you stay, so so so fully booked every day new person, one man is coming Richard from U.S.A and 70 years German lady is here only, she likes Armando Corner only. Then also other foreigners calling every every day, "I want to stay here Armando Corner," but I tell them "no is space here, fully booked, there is no ways, no ways to stay here". I tell them this because you have the best room only, you came here first. You have the front side beach hut. I give only you the front side, the beach side bestiest side only. Everyone is asking for beach side but I say no only for you.
Us: Thank you. Sorry Armando, we thought we were the only people staying here. There are nine empty double rooms aren't there?
Armando: So, so fully booked only they coming every day but I tell them "NO no is space for you". Very popular Armando Corner, too much popular. In reserve the best room for you Sarah and Pegah only. Very bestiest room.
Us: When are these other guests coming?
Armando: They coming German, U.S.A, UK, Spain, other is every place.
Us: Wow good business Armando, we'll try to stay out of your way then.
Armando: No way! No staying way. You favourite only bestiest guests. Anything you want Armando Corner I give you. Stay here only.

Early one morning Pegah goes for a run along the beach and Sarah does some yoga next to sea. Pegah comes back to the hut.

Armando: Oh I see you running.
Pegah: Oh, did you?
Armando: Yes I see Sarah look she is running too over there.
Pegah: No that's not Sarah. Sarah is over there doing yoga.
Armando: Yes I can see her running too. She is very Athletic, very running fastly only. Good no?
Pegah: no that's not Sarah.
Armando: Yes so much athletic running.

Sarah comes back.

Armando: I saw you running Sarah.
Sarah: I didnt go for a run.
Armando: Yes you were running.
Sarah: No that must have been someone else, i definitely wasnt running.
Armando: Breathing and running very fastly.
Sarah: Yes.
Armando: I used to play football.
Sarah: Oh thats nice.
Armando: You want fruit salad?
Sarah: Yes in a bit thanks
Armando: When do you want it?
Sarah: In about 20 minutes.
Armando: OK, please you tell me anythings you want because Jimmy has too, too much bored, no things to do so he can make you anything you like.
Sarah: ok no problem. can we get some chai with our breakfast too please?
Armando: Tea? OK tea no problem.
Sarah: Can you make Masala chai rather than just normal tea?
Armando: I will make normal most bestiest English tea only isn't it.
Sarah; but can we get Masala chai? we prefer it.
Armando: But English tea is better isn't it, every UK peoples likes.
Sarah: actually we prefer masal chai is that ok?
Armando: Oh but English tea is less problem.
Sarah: So masala chai is too much trouble?
Armando: Yes making too much problem, time is no making chai possible. Jimmy too, too much busy isn't it. English tea OK?
Sarah: OK.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Bangalore Boys

I've just spent two nights in Bangalore, sampling the social and cultural highlights of India's first silicon city. It's a bit like an overpopulated Milton Keynes in a heat wave, except with rickshaws instead of Ford Fiestas. There is just so much here to excite the senses; the bright lights of McDonalds, the toxic clouds of black diesel and the scent of sweetly steaming turd on tarmac. But for me, the best thing is the men.

Like most Indian cities, the ladies stay indoors sweeping and looking after the kids, while their sons and husbands hang about on street corners holding hands, staring at slutty gap year students, spitting phlegm and wearing t-shirts with slogans like 'Sex Machine' and 'Rock God'. False advertising or a message from heaven? I decided to take to the streets to find the best date in Bangalore.

Shopping is undoubtedly one of Bangalore's favourite pastimes. From Gucci to Louis Vuitton, D&G to Abecrombie & Fitch – every must-have fashion item is there for the taking. I hooked up with a style savvy IT consultant called Deepak who promised to take me to the Bangalore equivalent of Bloomingdales for the ultimate consumer experience. I wasn't disappointed. It turned out that his dad owned an exclusive city boutique. When we arrived it wasn't like any boutique I had ever seen before. Deepak and I exchanged a few flirtatious one-liners over brass statuettes of the god Ganesh and plastic trays of bejeweled Bindis. There was no way I was going home empty handed! We chose matching pastel coloured mesh caps with sequins. But I'm no material girl – and I need more than flashy fashion items and smooth talk to keep me interested.

Undeterred, I strolled towards Bangalore's famous Barton Centre – a thriving hotspot for the city's college hipsters, aspiring socialites and the Bollywood stars of tomorrow. Through plastic palm trees I immediately locked eyes with a striking young Bangalorian by the name of Raj. I asked him what he did for a living and from behind mirrored aviators he replied humbly, 'I am a professional dancer and a struggling model.' I tried to hide my excitement as he took my digits and suggested we meet later that night at the underground dance club 'Kosmos'. He informed me that since last year dancing has been banned in Bangalore – but this only added to the thrill. I had a good feeling about Raj.

Chatting up boys is thirsty work. In need of some liquid refreshment I headed to Coffee Day, the Bangalorian equivalent of Starbucks, where their T shirts tell me they are 'Nuts about Coffee'. It wasn't long before I was approached by a distinguished-looking Indian gentleman with a long tendril of snow white hair, going by the name of Krishna. He wasn't my usual type, but as my grandmother always said: 'don't judge a book by it's cover' (or an elderly man by his white toga). He treated me to a cappuccino and impressed me with his extensive network of friends from the United States, Thailand, East Croydon, Stoke on Trent and the Middle East. Despite his authentic appearance and sophisticated good looks, something told me that this silver fox had a silver tongue to match. It was definitely time to make my excuses – but not before he jotted my email address down in his BlackBerry and made me promise to stay with at his farm in Bijaipur if I was ever in the neighbourhood.

With three guys on the backburner I was keeping my options open and was just about to head back to the Komfort Terraces Hotel when I bumped into a suave entrepreneur by the name of Govinda. There was something subtle and mysterious about him that caught my eye. I told him I liked his style. He seemed to be playing hard to get. But I'm not one for mind games, so with a flick of my hair I disappeared into the steamy Bangalore night for some dinner.

Following a hot tip from a friend I headed for Bangalore's premier pizza joint for a slice of the local action. Blushing under the bright fluorescent lights, I gave my order to a shy guy in blue baseball cap and tight fitting T. After a medium cheese burst pizza I plucked up the courage to invite this mystery guy in blue over to my table to share the last of my Coca-Cola. We talked thin crust versus thick, but the chemistry just wasn't there. Hiding my disappointment with a smile I hotfooted it back to my room to freshen up.

Not five minutes later I received the text message I'd been waiting for from Raj, telling me to get my dancing shoes on and to meet him at Kosmos at ten. My night was looking up! As I entered the club, I was grateful that the banging bangra house music could hide the beating of my heart. I spotted him across the dance floor in matching leather cap and jacket. I'd never seen a man's feet move so fast until that night. He bought me a cocktail and put his tongue in my ear. I think I'm in love with Bangalore.



Thursday, 11 December 2008

Holy Cow (Thursday 27th November , 2008)

I'm pretty glad I didn't fly into Mumbai last night. Or stay at the Taj Mahal.
Instead we arrived in Mysore just as the sun went down - and the power went off. Luckily for us we could only see our new flat by candlelight. We spent an entire evening blissfully unaware of our landlord's frisky interior design sense, strolled to a restaurant, ate some curry and finally passed out as a pack of stray dogs howled us to sleep. I think they were singing "welcome to India" in Hindi, doggy-style.
This morning, in the cold light of day, we discovered that our landlord Suresh has an unusually brave sense of colour. As you can see the walls are a stylish melange of vivid orange, candy pink, sunshine yellow with a flash of lime green cornicing. The furniture is wrapped in durable plastic sheets. The kitchen, he says, isn't ready yet - maybe tomorrow, or next day. This is because of “climate problem“. In other words: there was some light rain yesterday. Welcome to India!