Monday, January 19, 2009

Up a tree hiding from elephants Part I

Having seen Pongal for a couple of years now and knowing that little happens in the villages apart from cow painting and bull racing, I felt that it was not very useful to be hanging around RUHSA, so I thought it would be fun to go on a trip with Maddy.

Maddy is the daughter of a friend of mine who has been teaching spoken English in classes run by Celine. Last year, Celine asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to spend 6m in India teaching as a volunteer. Maddy was the first and only person suggested, but she and a friend turned up trumps and have been here since September, although her friend, Sarah, has since gone home. Celine specified that she wanted someone English to help perfect their accent which is the hardest thing for them to master out here apparently. Entertainingly, although Maddy has quite a posh voice, Sarah is full frontal Barrovian, so somewhere in deepest Bangalore, there is a little group of Indians walking around speaking English with a thick northern accent, saying things like, “Where’s the rickshaw at?” no doubt thinking they speak like the queen because they were taught by a genuine Englishwoman.

Sadly, Celine was not free this weekend as she had booked herself in for her annual and much deserved retreat. Consequently, it was just Maddy and myself who set off for a Nadventure. After some indecision, we plumped for a safari trip, staying in a tree house. Arun arranged it all so, not really knowing what we were in for, we set off on a night bus to somewhere near Ooty, to which I had never been before. Arun had given us comprehensive, if a little complicated instructions, like get off half way up the mountain at some unpronounceable place at 4 in the morning and there will be a jeep waiting for you to take you to the resort. Feeling the weight of responsibility for a young girl 20 years my junior (aaaaaaggghhh – how weird is that? I guess if I had my own children, not weird at all, but as I don’t and barely feel older than 18 myself sometimes, I found it most peculiar), I made every precaution of making sure the conductor knew what we wanted to do. I spoke to him, I phoned the manager of the resort and he spoke to him – in three languages – and smiled encouragingly every time he wafted past me to check tickets. He was a handsome man with the usual look of Tom Selleck but the additional feature of sparkly violent pink nail varnish on his left hand (maybe to give his bum something exciting to look at). Finally, confident I had done everything to ensure all went to plan and there was no crisis with which to traumatise Maddy and introduce her too early to the Arabella way of travel, I dozed on the bumpy, slidy seats.

Pink-taloned Tom told me that the bus would arrive Somewhere Unpronounceable at 5 in the morning. Waking as someone got off at 4.15, I took advantage of the brief moment of bus calm and went to the front to remind him to tell us when to get off. He was sleeping, his cheek resting on his magenta nailed hand. He flapped me away irritatedly with his undecorated hand. The bus moved on. Suddenly he woke up and went to talk to the driver. The bus stopped. All the lights went on. He gestured towards me. I went up to the front to talk to him. The conversation did not flow easily, but the gist of it was that we had passed our unpronounceable destination a while back. Leaning casually against the drivers counter, he airly said that it was not a problem we could catch a bus back in the other direction. Just a small, small trip. At 4 in the morning. With no idea how to pronounce the bloody place name and an expectant 18 year old, assuming I was in charge.

Acquiring some of his airiness, I breezily updated Maddy, acting as if this was all part of the plan. Luckily, I had the phone number of the resort manager so Ravi and Garuda, his trusty jeep (about which more in the next chapter), wove their way further up into the jungle and found us huddled together in the cold mountain air, drinking chai with a couple of bemused local men who couldn’t believe their early morning luck at having two gorgeous beauties chance upon their normally dull, pre-dawn routine. Ok so, one beauty and a fearsome-looking, if ineffective, chaperone.


Anonymous said...

Have just read all your blogs and have enjoyed your travel logue immensely; the pleasure of an entertaining novel alongside just hearing what you're up to. Yeah I get the wierdness of the 20 years senior to Maddy thing. Until you said that I was just following it as 2 young things (like me?!) out on a travel venture. As Ali and Phil would say... Trippy!
x heather j

Sarah said...

Arabella I resent being labelled 'full frontal Barrovian'!!!! However your blogs of yours and Maddy's adventures have amused me greatly so I shall let you off! Glad you're having a great time and look forward to seeing you and Maddy when you get back.
If you are already back please excuse my ignorance!
I also realise that my impeccable use of grammar and probably spelling in this comment has done nothing to defend myself from the accusation of having Barrovian English!
Now where's my dictionary at ...