It’s weird when 2.5 days of your life go by and you haven’t slept during any of them. Flying east will do that. It’s dark, then light, then dark again. We drove in cars (30 mins), flew in planes (7 hours), lounged in the Paris airport (5 hours, croissants were consumed), took another flight (9 hours) and finally, finally landed in Bangalore. There were a few loose ends to ties up (money exchange, customs), but the worst was supposed to be over. All that was left was a 3.5 hour cab ride from Bangalore Airport to our apartment in Mysore. Everything was pre-arranged, the driver was going to meet us outside, placard held high and ready to go:
But, no. Oh, god no. We did not know what we were in store for. The driver introduced himself (something that started with P?, Mr. P to us), asked about my name, (How you say? ‘Kee-andy?’) and then we spent a good 20 minutes ambling through the airport looking for his vehicle. Finally, he found it, I gave him 100 rps for parking fees and we were off.
Except, there were no seat belts. Obstacle number one; no big deal. It took a good long while and some maneuvering to get the backseat down, but eventually Cara and I were safe and secure watching our driver mess with radio stations and announce the language each new song was sung in, (“This one – Kannada language! This is Hindi!”)
We are driving … and driving… and then… stop. Emergency lights go on, the whole car moves in reverse – on a dark highway – in moderate traffic – at night. Confused, we ask what’s going on. Our only answer is the driver jumping out of his seat, walking to the middle of the road, and waving his arms at oncoming traffic in an apparent attempt to flag someone down. When he finally gets back, we turn fully around and go in the opposite direction. He was lost. But he assures us now, “No confusion” and we drive for a while. Then, again. Stop.
This would become a habit. Drive, stop, park car in the middle of a highway, flag someone down, ask directions, backtrack. Repeat, repeat, repeat. There were a multitude of bumps along the way, not least of which were the first 2 hours we spent lost in Bangalore city flagging down anyone and everyone around. Things were hopeful for a bit; we were following a car also going to Mysore, but we lost them somewhere between giant cement trucks and hope was dashed again.
After a few hours, we started to desperately plot an escape. Maybe we could get out of the car and flag down another taxi? Cut to: dark streets and aimless wanders, a woman burning trash on the sidewalk and a pack of hungry dogs limping by. Okay, so no. We had no choice. We had to trust Mr. P to get us to Mysore, even if it took days.
It felt like days. Weeks maybe. He was lost at every fork in the road and just when things looked good again, he stopped to have Chai.
Finally, after 3 hours, we were securely en route to Mysore. I still have no idea how we found Mysore Road.
We drove with Indian music blaring out of the speakers; the radio continuously cycling through the stations during most of the journey. We flew over speed bumps (“speed breakers”) and had several close calls of collision with construction barriers and curbs along the way. At one point we were driving the wrong way on a one way road. We picked up a random hitchhiker, cause – why not – and had many stops for him to “make urine” as he said. Then, of course, with only 45 minutes to Mysore, we stopped at his house so he could change clothes. At this point we were begging to keep going. Our arrival time was already 2 hours overdue, and I was close to hallucinating with fatigue.
But, no. Laundry time it was. Sigh. Okay. We waited. Eventually he came back, got in the car and prayed…I almost joined him. Then, the final leg.
We watched attentively as the kilometers ticked down en route to Mysore. We finally arrived, too tired to be glad to see the “Welcome to Mysore” sign above us. There was more confusion over actually finding our house. He was back to the flag-down approach. He finally called his boss (who arranged this ride), and I was close to running on foot to escape the clutches of the horrible cab.
Eventually, his boss directed us to our beautiful apartment in Gokalum, Mysore. We paid and got the hell inside.
It was 6:30am, our roommate, Kitty, was waking up and about to get ready for practice. I was a zombie, longing for sleep and had made the best attempt I could to be friendly before crashing into bed. Cara traveled with Kitty to the Shala and to get some bearings in the city. It wasn’t long before I realized I was allergic to my bed. Great. Now I can’t even sleep! After using half a roll of toilet paper to blow my nose, I resigned myself to open-mouth sleeping and my body just gave up. I slept until 2:15pm.
I could’ve slept forever, but the alarm went off just after 2 to ensure we didn’t miss shala registration (3:30pm) and had time to take care of a few necessities that day. Cara and I dragged ourselves to complete additional money exchanges with a wonderful man named Shiva.
He is a Mysore standard, and has been helping all of the confused Westerners get money, shelter, and transit for years. He feels this is his duty.
Cara was lovely and gregarious in answering his questions. His response to my attempt to answer: “You don’t have fresh mind. I understand, you travel.” We snapped a few photos, and my non-fresh condition was only confirmed.
We got our money and a few tips on things to do in the city and headed over to registration. It was a breeze. Sign your name, fill out a form, wait to be called. In no time, Sharath was calling us into his office and giving us a time to practice (10:30am). We handed over our stack of rupees and that was that. The rest of the day was ours. I was slightly more awake when we ran into Matt, another Back Bay regular, who guided us over to the local coconut stand for some refreshment and conversation. It was wonderful to see a familiar face and share some laughs over coconut waters. He told us where to get some necessities and then we parted ways. It was time for some food/clothes/water acquisition before calling it a night.
All of these were accomplished at fabulous little local shops. We walked away with scarves, bags, kurtas (the traditional, long shirt-dresses) and picked up some ayurvedically-friendly dinner supplies at the near-by market. It was an easy night. Cara used her skills to make an extremely welcome warm meal and then we headed for bed. We had a long morning to enjoy the next day, but it was still the first day of practice. We wanted to be well rested, and I was still tired from our journeys. Sleep was welcome and fast to come on. Finally, we’d arrived.