Monday 8 September 2008

Travails of a Cyber Backpacker

More pictures here: Nona in Rajasthan

The 1233 for Luton left from the spanking new St Pancras International where I took the Eurostar to Paris a few weeks ago. It is a sort of extension right at the end of the building and I had to dodge people with bags and trolleys as I was going against the flow to catch my train. I wasn’t fussy about where I sat as it wasn’t going to be a long journey and I reckoned that the half an hour journey would take me through a few more chapters of Preeta Samarasan’s “Evening Is the Whole Day”. I really wanted to know the goings on in the big house in Kingfisher Lane after Chellam’s unceremonious departure.

The seats on the First Capital Connect were quite comfortable, and minutes after it pulled out of the platform, we buried our heads in our reading materials. The young teenager opposite me was devouring the pictures in Heat magazine while the gentleman on my right concentrated on The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

It took awhile for me to realise that I was staring for a good five minutes on page 44 with not a word sinking in. My mind was making its own journey and so I looked out of the window to see how the suburbs of London was being treated in the last few days of summer. Hedges were already neatly trimmed and shrubs cut in preparation for autumn, but there were a few optimists with their BBQ sets still outside their conservatories, hoping for one more sunny day to return.

According to the BBC weather forecast, we were in for a long wet and windy spell and true enough rain began pelting on the windows and I was thankful when we disappeared under a tunnel.

As we emerged from the tunnel, I blinked a few times. Right before me were clusters of huts with zinc roofs dotting fields that looked barren and dry with nothing to offer skinny cows and even skinnier goats roaming aimlessly in search of food and water. Pot bellied children clung on to their mothers’ faded sarees, as they walked gracefully balancing pots of water precariously on their heads. A few turned to wave at us without spilling a drop of water.

I turned to look at my travelling companions to see whether they were witnessing what I was witnessing. The girl with the Heat magazine was no longer there but in her seat was a fat woman trying to calm her baby by suffocating him with her ample breast. The gentleman with The Reluctant Fundamentalist too had disappeared and next to me was a skinny old man in his dhoti snoring loudly and plainly oblivious to both screaming child and ample breast. In fact the whole carriage was a scene of pandemonium. There were fans whirring from the ceiling of the carriage and there were people, sitting on the floor, being trampled on by a couple of cross dressers in their bright coloured sarees, making their way to the next coach. They ignored hurls of insults and lewd jokes, pulling their tongues out from chilli bright lips, which served to excite their teasers even more.

Looking out of the window again, slums with dilapidated houses in various stages of neglect and repair whizzed past and billboards displaying the latest that Bollywood can offer had the handsome Shahrukh Khan staring unsmiling at me. And as if on cue, a melodious and haunting sound of the sittar pierced the midday air, followed by the beat of the tabla, prompting the passengers on the floor, the cross dressers with their tongue sticking out, and the fat lady with baby at her breast to jump on their feet and break into one of the most syncronised Bollywood dance I ever saw.

Even the snore of skinny man next to me sounded melodious and he suddenly opened his eyes and broke into a Mohamad Rafii number.

I would have joined in the fun if not for the announcement that the train was approaching Luton and a reminder for us to take all our belongings. Like a dream rudely interrupted, coach C of the First Capital Connect returned to its normal albeit boring calmness as it pulled into Luton station.

I stepped onto the platform into wet and soggy Luton, annoyed that my dream of India was interrupted. I put it down to the puasa as well as the many sms’es and reports that I received from Nona about her train journeys since arriving in Mumbai. After a subtitleless Bollywood movie in Mumbai, she and her cousin took a train to Ahmadabad, before going to Udaipur where, hot on her heels was a very enthusiastic young man with chat up lines, that will make you roll on the floor laughing.

Example of chat up lines :

Did it hurt you when you fell from heaven?

Which country is suffering now that you are not there?

(And I thought the best dialogues come from India!!)

Anyway, Nona and my niece and friend are having a wonderful time in India. Right now they are in the picturesque mountain resort of Manali, after a 15 hour car ride from Delhi. A punctured tyre, stops for mutter paneer to break their fast, they arrived in pitch dark Manali at about midnight.

“Its like Geneva, mama,” she gushed on the phone to me from the balcony of her hostel when morning unveiled Manali’s beauty with the snowcapped Himalayas in the background.

That is indeed a stark contrast to the experience camping in the heat of the Thar Desert of Jaisalmer, where they started their first day of Ramadan. If I could expel the nagging feeling, I think waking up for sahur, in the early morning before the sun rose in the Thar Desert, being served with boiled eggs by two male guides, has a romantic touch befitting any Bollywood movie.

Well, her journey had taken me on my own journey of India via google and blogs published on travels in India. I made the same train rides from Mumbai to Ahmadabab to Udaipur, where among the ruins of a palace she was surrounded by locals who touched and stared at her. Sleeping in the trains during the nights seemed to be the norm, a cheap way of travelling without having to stay in hostels. From Jaipur they left for Jaisalmer in the soaring heat that I could almost feel from cold and wet London. I prayed for their safe journey to Agra where they feasted their eyes on the Taj Mahal before moving yet again to Delhi.

I caught up with them in time at a travel agent where they booked a car and a driver that had taken them to Manali, then to Shimla and back to Delhi.

The next few days will see them making the tracks to Sikkim in the west and then a two day train ride to Bangalore. After that, I think, I should be able to rest (my fingers) after crisscrossing the Indian continent, thanks to Google.

Other train journeys:
Manchester Musings
Tales From The Tracks
On the 1302 from Kings Cross with Tunku Halim
Training My Thoughts
As I Was Munching Muruku
A Malay Experience in Roman Exeter
Train of Thoughts
A Story Untold


Pi Bani said...

Jadi cyber backpacker pun jadilah Kak Teh. Nanti cuba ikut jejak langkah budak muda-muda tu jadi real backpacker, kot time balik jadi backacher le pulak... :)

melayudilondon said...

Ah kak, what an adventure. You jangan pulak joget bhangra on the 12.15 to Luton.

Anonymous said...

"Oh! All the places we will go!"


Royalshoppingarcade said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Shows how much you've been thinking about Nona, kan?hhehehe..sampai termimpi2..InsyaAllah they'll be alright.
Take care

D said...

hehehe... so this was what you said you were working on last night! your daughter is a real adventure-seeker to do all these in Ramadhan! I'm sure she'll be well, InsyaAllah.

ps: dont forget to text me ms b's number!*wink

ZABS said...

Salam Kak Teh,
Sampai termimpi2 rindukan anak. Tetapi ada bonus dapat jumpa ShahRukh.

Madam Tai Tai Again said...

Hi Kak Teh, alhamdullilah all the girls are safe and sound at this stage of the journey.

Being stared at is something normal in South Asian countries. Here in Bangladesh, men esp just love to stare. But they don't mean any harm, it's just their fav past time thing. That and korek tahi hidung! Yuck!

Nona will be spellbound by the beauty of the Taj Mahal. She may have seen many pictures of it, but the real thing is so awesome.

I hope one day you will travel the paths your daughter has travelled on..instead of just daydreaming about it from St Pancras to Luton. :)

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Kak Teh
Interesting post but somehow I'm still not sold on the idea of going to India.
I hope Nona is enjoying herself.

Ordinary Superhero said...

Cyber Backpacker? Ada ka? Missing someone too much or is it because of fasting month. Cheers, dah lapan hari puasa, tak lama lagi nak raya, yeay!

elisataufik said...

tapi nothing beats being there yourself, lah kan?
I've always dreamt of going on a train trip in India.. tapi risau bau lah pulak.. hee hee

Kak Teh said...

pi bani, hahaha - yang backaching tu tak pi mana pun dah ada dah! IN fact sitting here, googling the places nona mentioned pun dah cukup to give me backache.

melayudiLondon, itulah dinamakan aktiviti tambahan bulan posa.

kenny dear, yes, indeed and it is made all the easier these days by Google.

Kak Teh said...

pu3 - yes, i do think about her a lot, where she is, what she is eating, where she is sleeping - so much so, when i spoke to her, she said: mama you are asking the same questions over and over again!

D, hahahah! you caught me there. Yes, that was the assigment I was doing when you called. Well, researching via the internet pun kerja jugak, kan? Yes, will sms you.

Zabs, jumpa dalam mimpi saja. Kalau jumpa personally mungkin real bonus. Inis emua permainan mimpi siang hari disebabkan kelaparan.

Kak Teh said...

madam tai tai, after looking at the pictures of places that she went too, I really hope that one day myhusband and I can make that journey. My husban dloves train journeys and we can certainly rough it out in hostels and Indian trains just to see India.
err, nona tak mention pula korek hidung!!

fauziah, the only thing that i am worried about is the food and the hygiene. My tummy is so sensitive. But surely in your many travels you must have been in India?

OSH, I put it down to fasting month sebab tak boleh makan dalam train. Yes, cepatnya masa berlalu dah lapan hari berpuasa.

Kak Teh said...

elisataufik, I know - i was told about the bau dalam train, dalam teksi...nak buat macam mana. Takkan nak pakai mask kut, kan? BUt I think the beauty in India will leave a bigger impression.

narain, ada pulak yang ambik kesempatan iklan Indian Railway. Thanks.

Chahya said...

Nice pics Kak Teh...
Wish I'm more adventurous... ni I nak pi belajaq oversea pun pikiaq puluh2 kali...penakut!!
Maybe berani sikit kut lpas2 ni...

Kak Teh said...

chahya, kak teh dulu pun penakut juga. Budak2 sekarang ni tak takut - very adventurous.
Oh gambar tu kak teh ambik drp website. My daughter belum sempat upload sebab internet very slow.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh
Ah the memories of those train journeys from Penang to Bangkok are relived. On one such 18-hour trip, to while away the time, I immersed myself in the 800-page The Andy Warhol Diaries, much to the chagrin of the guy sitting next to me (who is, in his own word, from Zealand Baru). He was desperately hoping to find a chess mate.

When I took a break from Andy Warhol, he asked me tentatively "Do you like his music?".

"Well, although he looks like a pop star (remember Kajagoogoo?) on the cover, he's actually a pop artist." was my best response.

When the train stopped briefly in Hatyai, we were accosted by elderly ladies, all uniformly dressed in white blouse and blue sarong, who wanted us to buy their local viands. They all put on the same name tag with the following inscription "mim kaf alif nun alif sim lam alif mim". But I had my doubt ...


ManaL said...

Ade reporting style Michael Palin tak si Nona nanti?
The only backpacking i did was across european countries from Scandinavians to poland to hungary all the way to spain and holland. I pon buat jugak tidur in a couchette cabin with my friend yana and we spent almost 30 days "merayauing" and learning so many things including languages. Dah la tahun 1998 tu blom ade euro and we had to be quick in calculating currency exchanges too.

I bet nona wont find it that difficult esp that India is already 1/4 of britain and curry is like the national cuisine? I love travelling meself and I'd love to see the many faces of India.

Kak Teh said...

aMiR, your story reminds me of someone who was tryong to chat me up. I had with me Roget's Thesaurus - this guy said - is that a good novel?

Anyway, nona is really enjoying herself - had just been skyping with her and could see her face, hear her voice. I love the pictures she sent me.

Manal, wow, you are well travelled as well. You should be writing about it. Nona has just sent me two pictures and i am hoping for more. Just cant wait to see them. I think India is certainly the place to go.

Count Byron said...

Beautiful! Stunning! Melodious! Colourful, and I love them all! including the chili-red lips of the cross-dressers. Kecoi bila teringat chili merah tu, buat sambal asam.
Thank you for splashing such wonders and painting this net with heavenly descriptions.
Simply superlicious
Thanks KT

Anonymous said...

Hi Kak Teh,
Pick up lines yg mamat india ckp kat Nona tu ada disebut dlm 2002 Hollywood movie-The Perfect Man. I think he must have picked the lines from there. Anyway, I wish my gals with grow like yours, so adventurous.


MrsNordin said...

You really miss your daughter, don't you?

But I think, you tell the story very well indeed. As if I was there too (albeit in your dreams)! I wonder if she could do the same...

Love the second picture! Always saw it in magazines, but Nona is lucky to be part of the scene personally.

Typhoon Sue said...

eeeeee... syoknyer backpacking. teringat zaman dedolu...

i'm thinking of going to india myself, maybe next year, but not planning to go backpacking lah -no energy for such adventures lagi dah. setakat nak sight seeing and shopping sikit-sikit udah le. India's a beautiful country no?

wanshana said...

Kak Teh,

I could almost visualise every single thing you wrote here, even to the bollywood dance part :)
(coz' I used to watch them movies back to back when I was younger, and had the 6 hours to spare. Hehehe!)

Looks like Nona is having a wonderful time globe-trotting. Such precious experience.

I'm sure you just can't wait to have her back with you.

Selamat Berpuasa and Berbuka, Kak Teh. Menu malam ni menu bollywood jugak ke? Rogan Josh? Delpiaza? Vindaloo? Hehehe!

Kak Teh said...

Count, thanks for lovely words..itulah dah too much time on my hands, waiting for sms'es, skpe phone calls etc. The day she arrives Heathrow, I should be able to sleep well.

Anoy, on one hand we want our children to be adventurous, but on the other hand, we want them safe near us. macam mana tu? Thanks for telling me the origins of the chat up lines. corny betul!

Mrs N, yes I like the second picture too. I knew that Nona would take pictures like these as she is so much a people person. She loves children. I have yet to see pictures of India. It is quite difficult for her to get good internet line to send pix - we skyped yesterday and that was when she managed to send those two. Now she is on the way to picturesque Shimla before returning to Delhi.
Her travels made me want to do the same.

Kak Teh said...

sue, kak teh dulu bukan jenis adventurous - nak ke mana semuanya mak ikut. tapi i think she gets this from my husband who backpacked from Londom to Mekah. and yes, memang kak teh pun nak pi India jugak teringin sangat.

Wanshana, yes, missing her very-very much. everytime i see a backpacker, I thought of her. Oh yes, rogan josh - my eldest daughter made it two nights ago - out of a packet - of course - tambah daging saja. last nite we had nasi tomato because out eldest son came to buka puasa.

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Kak Teh
Haven't been to India, either on assignment or on my own. After the stories I hear about India, I don't think I'll go unless circumstances state otherwise.

Kak Teh said...

Fauziah, I have heard horror stories too, especially on the food front but i will give it a go if and when ada rezki. Not very likely laaa i get to go on assignment, kan?

Anonymous said...

Nona is having so much fun!!!

Boy, their pick up line is really something eh? I would have bursted into laughters if I were in her shoes. *LOL*

Opps, I saw my name there. But D, I texted u 1-2 weeks ago.

kay_leeda said...

Salams Kak Teh,

The journey is so vivid. It gives the feeling as if Mother & Daughter are at the same place same time.

Indian Railways Trains...ahh something you ought to try. Overcrowded, hot and humid and yet so colourful, so spiritual. And yes, if you are lucky, you'd get Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar blarring in the background.

You should try doing India too. Nothing beats watching the sun setting by the Yamuna River with the awesone Taj Mahal in sight. So melancholy... so majestic. The vibrant and colourful Rajasthan, the lovely golden beaches of soft sand in Goa, the majestic Kolkutta and many, many more.

No worries about the girls in India lah Kak Teh. They'll be OK, InshaAllah.


Kama At-Tarawis said...

wow, nona seems seronok bagai nak rak and nona's mom terkial2 berskyping, sms-ing, e-mailing and whatnots kerana kerisauan dan kerinduan anak..kesian mama nona..sampai mengigau disiang hari..hehehe kak teh..:)

Kak Teh said...

Puteri, Inilah yang dinamakan Drama Mama ke tahap max! Bapa dia cool saja. Tapi kalau kita berskype tu dia yang sibuk, dia sibuk bawa kucing dia, seekor lepas seekor nak tunjuk kat nona. Dan banyak juga syarahan-syarahan bulan posa yang sempat dia beri melalui skype kat anak dia tu.

Kak Teh said...

Ms B, yes, they are having fun. But soon she will have to be back to start Uni and had better enjoy now. She must work hard at uni and at work too if she wants to continue her globe trotting habits.

Kay_leeda, believe me, I am with her! I am there in the car, right now, as they drive down the slopes from Manali to Shimla, as she takes in the fresh air of the mountains from her balcony, as she bargains for the earings at the market place.
She has described Tajmahal too and in love with Rajasthan and the people. Just look at the pcitures of her and the students as well as the women. I love it!

Ezza Aziz said...

Salam Kak Teh
Kak Salma suruh saya baca blog akak to improve my english..nampak nya kena bawak kamus balik la niiii.
Salam perkenalan dari saya di Klang.

Kak Teh said...

Salam Ezza, ish ish ish kak salma ni. Dia suruh orang lain mai, dia sendiri tak mai jenguk kita pun. Thanks for visiting. Manalah kena pakai dictionary pulak!

Anonymous said...

Ramadan Kareem Kak Teh, yr entries on train rides pun elok dibukukan, on top of yr sailor book. I have always thought that train rides are romantic, i remember standing on the platform of Stesyen BM while waiting for my uncle from Spore. I looked at the rails and wondered what it would look like at he end of it. i discovered spore when i was 11.


Kak Teh said...

salam Ramadan to you too tenah. I dont know how to put this. I was just discussing with a friend about developing the Tales from the Tracks...and then i read your comment. Yes, that is certainly in the pipeline - but according to this friend - I have to be more disciplined.

wonda said...

Kak Teh,
Even at my age, I wouldn't dare go backpacking! The only time I travel alone was to Perth before I got married, and that too was with a tour group and a Malaysian tourist guide.

Kak Teh said...

wonda, its not too late to do so. I think i will challenge myself to go backpacking in India. I said to my AG, come let's go backpacking in India. he said: Nak jalan ke tube station pun tak mau, nak pergi backpacking!

Ezza Aziz said...

baru habis satu bab entry akak pasal menchester tu,banyak lagi nak baca nih,seronok baca pengalaman akak jumpa orang VVIP ni..saya pun teringin nak jumpa dan salam dengan Tun Mahathir ni,dari dulu sampai la sekarang tak dapat2. Sayang sangat dengan dia dengan wife dia. Ni nak sambung baca yang lain lak. Take care .

Kak Teh said...

salam ezzah, kak teh dapat berjalan dan berjumpa orang pun disebabkan kerja...Alhamdulillah. Kadang2 seronok,kadang2 gitu-gitu saja. Selamat membaca.

NorAiniJ said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Wonderful cyber team-up between Nona and her Mama. Nona did the physical travelling and you telepathically enjoyed what Nona went thru, and then you reported to us all.

Keep going Nona/Kak Teh, let us trail behind you too :D

I am humming "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" now :D

Kak Teh said...

NJ, You can also join in the chorus and the dance. I think I will put a stop to her travelling after her geneva trip (for Raya) cos she needs to concentrate on uni. If not she'll be hearing a different tune from me.hehe!

Ailin in Aalborg said...

I was so so so awed by one of the ladies in the second picture. She is wearing a pink scarf. Her features are so sharp. So beautiful. She should have been a model. I still can't get her face out of my mind.

Kak Teh said...

that was what my other daughter said too. I like the colours = so so vibrant and I like the cheerfulness, the warmth that they radiate in the picture.

IBU said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Great pictures! Speak volume of the thrill & adventures. If only I had the same courage when at that age...

Reading your train ride, I got mentally transported too! Was eagerly waiting for a line or two on someone selling 'frog-chocolate' down the aisle when you snapped out of it. Aisehhh.....

I could almost feel a best seller being displayed next to Rowling's in the not so distant future!

p/s Got your email! THANKSSSS!!!

Kak Teh said...

Ibu, at her age, my mum still teman me to go to town!
and yes, I wanted to expand my dream but dah macam rambling pulak. hehe, nanti dream turns to nightmare!
Oh good, so you received my email. Look forward to seeing you.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

Your daughter may come back and geleng kepala. Yes pun geleng and so is no. So you must not assume a geleng is a no.

I am always tickled reading your blog and your visitors repartee.

Kak Teh said...

Hi&Lo, I am anticipating that geleng kepala and more, as long as she doesnt spit sirih, I dont mind! :)
Already, when I phoned her, she calls me Mamaji. I said, nahi, nahi, nahi!

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

If you throw a party, I am sure you will bring the whole house down. You are one person i look forward to meeting but going to KL i also malas.

You are so affectionate and funny.

Kak Teh said...

and HI&Lo you are too kind.