Monday, 1 February 2010


I wrote a blog earlier about Indian driving, back in Kerala, where it seemed extra crazy

Well I take that back

Very back

Because, after this trip from Hospet to Badami up that main artery up the middle of south-Central India I don’t so much feel shell shock as like the survivor of a long career as a First World war pilot

Or a tank crew from Stalingrad to Berlin or the Elbe


Unlike Kerala it was not at all a vicarious thrill to be sitting behind the seemingly sane driver, in his light-brown uniform and hennaed hair, driving like a BLOODY MANIAC, it is insanity by proxy to be looking up the road at the oncoming which looks very like incoming, thinking, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TRY THAT?! YOU ARE NOT? YOU CAN’T!!! OMIGOD HE’S GOING TO!?! … and life didn’t get precious, it got throwaway, cheap, irrelevant even, OMIGOD? YOU’RE NOT? O YES HE IS, so I’m not silently egging him on, I’m silently quailing, aghast, horrified, nerve-shredded, end-of-tether shredded…. As we barrel north up the road full of trucks as I calm a bit into uncapitalised thinking, You aren’t are you? You’re not? You’re not? OMIGOD, yes he is, he’s overtaking there, here, he’s heading for that gap.


And its two lanes, its one lane, its two lanes, its one and a half lanes, its one lane, its two lanes its less-than-one lane its OMIGOD he’s going for it again, THAT’S MADNESS thank god for the the roadbumps, even though they are semi-flattened, OMIGOD, No, OMIGOD, omigod

And Priscilla is saying, Don’t look, don’t look, read a book, read a book Jem, and she’s reading To The bloody Lighthouse and OMIGOD… NO… NO… and after a what, a two hours of this, OMIGOD, YOU’RE NOT? YOU ARE! THAT’S INSANE!! THE GAP, THE GAP, OMIGOD WE DID IT, HOW? THAT WAS MADNESS, YOU COULDN’T HAVE KNOWN FOR SURE WE WOULD MAKE THAT? YOU COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN FOR…? YOU COUL… YOU… and we go past a fairground with two Ferris wheels and Priscilla says what I’m thinking, that the Ferris wheels of the fairground are spinning way faster than any Ferris wheels I’ve ever seen and why?... why???...  because the guys running them used to be bus drivers… OMIGOD NO, and this guy might be insane but he has his limits, his madness has its boundaries, cos there are things he won’t do that others will… cos that berk of a bus driver, in a battered white and orange bus just like ours, he overtook late to slide gradually past us and only just, only just!! get in the gap between us and the huge 40 ton lorry coming the other way… and then he stopped a mile later… but that’s nothing to the guy just after who has, again, a long long, longer-than-anything-in-Europe truck and he’s barreling down the hill straight to us, straight into us at us at us, so our nutcase slows, and slows, and the other guy he’s overtaking is, I think, slowing YES HE IS and OMIGOD we’re down to a horribly tiny absolutely necessary 5 bloody kmh, 5?! 5!?!?! when the guy whips horribly close, horribly horribly close, feet, inches, into the small gap between us and if he hit it would be mass death of 30 40 50 people and the guy has whipped past us and he’s gone and even our nutcase wipes his brow and O JESUS, it was so gripping I FORGOT TO PANIC… and who cares about the rolling countryside? the dried browns? the haystacks and the goats? the question of whether rice is related to sugarcane cos the one is very much a giant version of the other? who cares…cos OMIGOD… IT DID HAPPEN… 50 people within touching distance of mass death… THE TOSSER… do I fear death? I dunno, but I fear pain and I love my sweetheart and she’s too young to die and, and, and… I didn’t mention that when we finally, finally, got on the bus, after 90 excess minutes in a hot crowded and helpful Hospet bus station, the bus immediately got caught in a three way row, one way from a knot of five shouting people having a go at the driver for some reason we had no cause to guess at, AT THAT STAGE, and another from a pissed off bus-driver irate as hell at our guy cos the other driver, not-a-nutter  him, he couldn’t leave the bus station cos HennaMan was in the middle of the two-bus-wide gap between the four-parked buses jamming up the whole works shouting at a knot people all not-enjoying-themselves shouting at him enjoying-himself-shouting-at-them… and neither did I mention the three other shouting rows as we rolled along… our driver extra willing to give us as good as he gets at other drivers as utterly insanely cavalier as ours …and, before this, I was starting to have an previously-unmentioned and barely splicable too-much-coffee beer-last-night not-enough-sleep Existential Crisis but this, this, THIS!! has steamrollered it right flat and dead and gone… and now, NOW! now, I don’t want to sleep because I know what sleep is made of… and I couldn’t drive here fulltime in India because I would never sleep enough for fear of the dreams the driving would give me, cos, OMIGOD, I’m still alive, isn’t it good, now, easynow, to be in the cushioning, softening, easing, darkness driving along the nice light-caught avenues, yes avenues,  to our destination, ex-capital Badami… cos he, he, henna-head, ain’t so mad at all on the smaller roads, in the dark, with the bullock-carts and the herds of goats and the women walking back from the fields and the men standing by the roadsides… though even then, in some last-gleaming-of sunset village three young earnest men on a motorbike are giving a quietly angry talking to our driver …and, softly, I barely notice, or care, as we arrive, alight, land, escape, survive, get off, stagger,clutch, clutch at, clutch at air, at life at… at… at

We a






And me, I spent ten days in Hampi generating a nice calm all blown into sudden dust by a series of OMIGOD TNT explosivitionbangnesses, OWWWW!

I wrote a blog earlier about Indian driving, back in Kerala, where it seemed extra crazy

Well I take that back

Very back

A long way back

All the way back to beyond the worst hitchhiking stories

All the way back beyond the best movie car-chases                        

Quite frankly, almost all the way back beyond the bloody big bag kind of way back

Where, now, I think, survivor, frazzled, Russian infantry from the Volga to the Elbe

O m i g o d


O m i g o d

but it ain't so bad cos it did get us here, in one piece

to badami 

which turns out lovely

iffy hotel

nice veg

great market

nice old streets of whitewashed houses, rather like Greece

but what makes it are the ornately carved cave-temples

the large tank

and the walk up to the South Fort to look down on the town and the countryside west

where next we pedalled slowly, left then left then left along dirt tracks, stony tracks, red brown dirt tracks, through identified crops, along avenued roads, past tilling peasants, under high palms...

with a pleasant ease to it all


next stop pattakadal for the lost ruins of another empire

before bijapur, ditto, and bidar, ditto

after hampi, ditto 


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