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Wednesday 15th December - Bangalore to Chennai (Madras)
By Claire
Thursday, 16th December 2004 08:06

We had intended to have a bit of a lie-in this morning but by 6.30 every Indian man in the hotel started shouting and banging on doors. At 7.30 and every half hour thereafter someone knocked on the door offering to wash our clothes. We checked out at 9am. The hotel refused to store our luggage for us though, and we had to trek across a few roads to the cloakroom of the bus station. It was run by a few shifty-looking men but by this stage there's nothing incredibly valuable in our bags (except for one or two Christmas presents) so we were happy to trust them. We went out to central Bangalore again, checked our email and had some brunch, and then popped back to St Mark's Cathedral to have a look at some burial records. We found plot numbers for Herbert and John but the others may have been kept in a different church, or in a different register. It was nice to see the name Upshon written in old-fashioned handwriting, in real life.

It took a while, and a policeman, to convince an auto-wallah to take us out to the cemetaries again but we managed it. We had to cross the road, which was three lanes (or seven autos) wide in each direction, so we went halfway and waited for a space. Three minutes later a motorbike took one look at us standing in the middle of the road and veered straight for Mikey, crashing into him and over his foot, and then into me. None of us were knocked over, but I think we all ended up with bruises and I've got a tiny cut on my hand as a souvenir. It's a bit embarassing to be hit by a motorbike, a bit like being mauled by a donkey, but better than an ice-cream truck or milk-float, I suppose.

In the cemetary we wandered for about an hour and discovered Julia's grave by accident. John's plot number was hard to find, and it took three men to help us find it ourselves. They kept doing that incredibly infuriating head-wobble beloved by Indian men all over the country. Everyone does it and I hate it, it's a bit like a shrug but it can mean "Thank you for your tip", "I don't know or care", "I'd love to take you to the station", "Whatever you wish to pay me", "I don't know the way", "I'm grossly ofended by your offer" or "Please continue to have a delighful day in my splendid city", and there's no way to tell which one they mean. John's grave was the very first one in a row, more or less the doorstep of the house of one of the families living n the graveyard, and it was covered in glow-in-the-dark stickers of ghosts and dynamite, which was interesting. We didn't manage to find Herbert, and we think Septimus and Florence were burried elsewhere, but we've found three of my great-great relatives, so I'm quite impressed.

We went back to the bus station for our bags (which were still there) and crossed through an incredibly busy and noisy underpass to the train station. We tried to ignore a porter but he insisted on telling us which platform we needed. When we got there, to completely the other side of the station and via four flights of steps, we found the train was actually standing on platform 1. We got on the surprisingly empty train which left exactly on time. A man selling nuts offered Mikey some 'yum-yum' and suggested we 'settle down' now.

The ride was a long seven hours of nothing much. Now that we've taken our last train in India I can say a few things about their safety record without anyone worrying. There are about four hundred derailments a year (there was one last night, too, with about thirty people dying) and around eight hundred people are killed annually as a result. We're all advised to lock up our luggage with a chain to prevent pilfering at night and armed robberies are supposed to be quite common. The day before we went to Kanpur a robber was actually lynched by passengers on the train we were travelling on. I'm glad we didn't see that. We're not supposed to accept or buy any food or drink from anyone because it could be poisoned or drugged and signs in all the stations warn of 'doping'. It's quite a scary way of travelling! And while I'm on the subject, and not intending to tempt fate in anyway, around four thousand bombs go off in India every year, something I've never heard about at home. There were five last night in a town we were hoping to go to a couple of weeks ago but didn't have time for. There's a whole lot of things going on that no-one ever hears about!

We were met at the station by a man who insisted we get into his pre-paid taxi and he took us to our hotel. He tried to drag us round the corner to a different place but we insisted that we had a reservation here. The hotel owner and the taxi driver had a few words, presumably about commission, and the proof that Mikey's name was in the book put an end to that. The hotel was quite grotty, hot water arrives in a bucket fifteen minutes after you request it, and there are no sheets or towels in the room, but it'll do for three more days! We read for a bit and went to sleep.

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