Arrived in the town of Salem at some disgraceful hour of the morning – it wasn’t even light yet. The bus was an old rust bucket held together with gaffer tape, but I did manage to get a few hours shut-eye. The bus station, like everything in India, was TEN TIMES everything, so there was possibly 200 buses crammed in there, all tooting their horns like it was Eid in Rusholme. Which is wasn’t, it was four in the morning and damnit, I’m convinced that Indians drive by means of echolocation, because they seem to think that pressing a button that goes PARP! every two seconds is more important than, I don’t know, TURNING YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON AT NIGHT, or maybe DRIVING ON THE CORRECT SIDE OF THE ROAD. I’d love to see an episode of Indian Top Gear where they slag off the Bugatti Veyron on the grounds that the damn horn just isn’t LOUD ENOUGH.
Yes, it does go faster than any other car on Earth, but, seriously – does it wake the neighbourhood up at the morning with a ear-splitting HONK HONK HONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNK…? Don’t think so!
Another thing (while I’m having a moan) is the rather startling attitude the Indians have concerning what is rude and what isn’t. For instance, on the train last week, I was lambasted by an elderly Indian woman for crossing my legs in the incorrect manner, but here’s a list of things that the majority of Indians don’t seem to regard as rude in the slightest…
1. Blaring car horns 24 hours a day
2. Blatantly staring at you with a dead-eyed expression*
4. Going to the toilet in public
5. Eating with fingers
6. Hacking up at the top of lungs in public
7. Pushing you out of the way in a queue
8. Pushing old ladies out of the way in a queue
I could go on.
So I will…
9. Making you wait for three hours for the slightest bit of bureaucratic nonsense
10. Throwing rubbish on the ground
11. Treating lower caste people like shit
12. Being gob-smackingly racist (usually targeted towards Muslims)
13. Invariably making stuff up when they don’t know the answer to something
14. Driving like maniacs
15. Never saying sorry
16. Reading over your shoulder when you’re writing stuff – STOP IT! STOP IT NOW!!
*yes, you get stared at in Africa, but at least it’s usually accompanied with a warm smile and a friendly wave.
Anyway, I muddled my way through and somehow found the next bus that was leaving for Madras (now inexplicably rebranded Chennai – maybe ‘Madras’ means ‘Scunthorpe’ in the Tamil language). I arrived around noon and headed to the station to grab a ticket for the next train to Calcutta (now Kolkata), but tonight’s train was sold out, so I had to get a ticket for the train in the morning. No biggie – I’d just be arriving in the morning rather than late at night. I had a little mooch around Madras, but to be honest with you, there wasn’t much to see, even the Lonely Planet struggles to come up with interesting things to say about India’s 4th largest city – so I’ll just tell you that Winston Churchill was stationed here when he was in the army, and he still owes 50rupees to the Yacht Club (or something like that).
Had an amazingly depressing time that night trying to find somewhere to drink coffee and do some work on the website. As I putt-putt-putted around on an autorickshaw, everywhere was shut, or empty, or both. Eventually I returned to my hotel and just worked on my own in my room. Yeah, Madras, or Chennai, or whoever you are; you’re ‘not that hot’.