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Gravedigging in Bangalore
By Mikey
Thursday, 16th December 2004 08:04

Bangalore was a fresh assault on our senses after the tranquility of Goa. The train ride, our last over night train, was ok except that I didn't sleep very well. We arrived at Yesvantpur station ahead of schedule, a novelty for us, and found an auto driver who eventually understood where we wanted to go. Ten minutes into the journey (Yesvantpur is on the outskirts of Bangalore) he started trying to get us to stay at another hotel. We kept refusing and kept telling him which one we wanted. Eventually he stopped on a road between the bus station and the Bangalore City railway station indicating that he wanted to go no further. There was also a subtle increase in the price that he wanted. Fortunately the map in our guide book was good enough to get us where we wanted to go and after a hot walk with our heavy bags we made it to the Royal Lodge. We checked in without any trouble and after a few minutes recovering under the fan in the room we were off again in search of dead people.

Before going to any churches of cemeteries though we tried to check our email. The one internet bar near our hotel was full and so we wandered around trying to find another one. After many turns we still hadn't found one and simply took an auto to MG Road instead as our guide book told us there were plenty there.

The great thing that we found with Bangalore autos is that they use their meters a lot more than in anywhere else that we've been. Most do it without having to be asked! Consequently, the length of journey that we have been paying 50 to 80 rupees for was now only costing us 20 or 30 rupees. Obviously our haggling skills need work! Anyway, our auto dropped us off at a random point along MG Road but within easy walking distance of St Mark's Cathedral, the first stop in our Upshon hunt. We found a quick-ish internet bar to check our mail and tried to track down the other church needed in our hunt, All Saints. It proved to be elusive but we found plenty of information about the cemetery on Husor Road (or was it Hosur?).

After some stodgy sandwiches in a coffee shop for lunch, we walked the short distance to St Mark's Cathedral. It was only a stone's throw (ok, maybe two or three) from the cricket stadium but sadly no-one was playing there at the time. We went inside the cathedral for a quick look but there were no graves there as we had expected. A man outside told us that the cemetery was on Hosur Road and so we made that our next stop.

The Indian Christian Cemetery in Bangalore is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Christianity is bigger in this part of India (and in Chennai) than elsewhere. We started at cemetery number four and worked our way through to number one with no success whatsoever. As we were contemplating giving up, a man approached us and asked if he could help. It turns out that we were supposed to look up the burial records at the cathedral first to find locations for the graves we were after and that would have to wait until the following day as it was nearing 5pm now. Before he left us, he hinted that someone buried in 1915 would be in cemetery number two and we thought we'd give it one last try before calling it a day. For about 10 minutes we wandered aimlessly until I found some graves from 1914. Hoping that there might be a chance that people from 1915 were nearby, I scouted around and it wasn't too long before we found Hector Marshall Upshon, former Assistant Commissioner of Madras Police. Satisfied for the day, we went back to our hotel.

Back in our room we relaxed for a while and watched an episode of Friends (the one where Phoebe gives birth to her brother's babies) before nipping across the road for a small bit of supper in a restaurant called Volga. Neither of us were particularly hungry, perhaps because we were tired, so it turned into one of our cheapest ever meals in India. Back in the room again we settled in for the night. I found Demolition Man on HBO and let my brain just dribble out of my head for a while. If I remember my student days correctly, Steve and Dan from CTV described it as "Stallone ice lolly makes good."

The Royal Lodge wasn't exactly Raffles, we knew that when we checked in, but it would have been nice if we hadn't been woken by noisy neighbours at 6.30am and then again by someone offering to wash our clothes at 7.30am and again at 8am. If you want a quiet night's sleep, don't go there. They also don't store luggage. We found this out when we tried to check out at 9am and had to go to the bus station and leave our bags with a dodgy bunch of people for a few hours.

We went back to MG Road then and checked our email before having a quick brunch. Just before we sat down to eat a nice bird decided to soil my bag for me, how pleasant. I'm looking forward to getting it cleaned in a few days; at least it smells of disinfectant handwash now and not sweat. Back in St Mark's Cathedral we looked up a couple more Upshons. We found records for John Clement Upshon and Herbert Upshon and decided that finding them in the cemetery would be enough to fill in the time before our train. Who says that we don't know how to have fun?

We tried to communicate our destination to an auto-wallah, although from the questioning glances he gave us throughout the whole journey it was clear that he only knew which road we wanted. Fortunately, we'd been there the day before and by the same route so we just kept giving him encouragement to carry on until we spotted the cemetery on the opposite side of the road. To get to the cemetery though, we had to cross the road and it was very busy. After five minutes of waiting we spotted a suitable gap in the traffic on our side and decided to go half way. We then had to wait in the middle of the road for the other side to clear so we could complete the crossing. We've crossed worse roads in India and Vietnam and never had any trouble. On a bright sunny day we were pretty obvious to people going in either direction so it was a bit surprising to see a motorbike emerge from the traffic and head straight for us. Perhaps he thought he could nip behind us on the wrong side of the road but changed his mind at the last minute or perhaps he was just an idiot but whichever it was he definitely came straight towards us. Given the choice between taking his chances with the oncoming traffic, the bus on his left or two squishy tourists I suppose I can see his logic but after he had clipped both of us and come to a stop we left him in little doubt as to what we thought of him and finished crossing the now empty road.

In cemetery number one we started looking for John and Herbert but found Julia Ann Upshon's grave instead, a bonus one if you like. John's proved difficult to find, even with the plot number written down. Three men tried, and failed, to help us and we were about to give up when I spotted one right next to a building. Covered with a handful of glow-in-the-dark stickers, was John Clement Upshon's last resting place. That just left Herbert. Try as we might we couldn't find it and we had to give up and head back to the bus station. Reunited with our luggage we walked the short but tortuous walk to the railway station and discussed the possible meanings of the Indian head wobble. Except for a brief bit of platform number confusion, we found our train waiting for us and got on board.

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