Grr. Sometimes your Lonely Planet can literally save your life, other times it can make your life a misery. Today it was a case of the latter. I got up, it was a nice quiet Sunday – well, quiet for Bombay – and I thought I’d have a nice little meander around Colaba, down to The Gateway of India and then up to Churchgate station – the place I needed to buy my train ticket for tonight’s train.
It would be midday before I got to Churchgate, but there was no hurry – according to the Lonely Planet, the train I wanted left at 11.40pm.
According to Indian Railways, however, the train I wanted left at 11.40AM.
I looked at my watch. Half an hour ago? You HAVE to be kidding.
Luckily there was another train heading down to Kerala state (the very south west of the nation) at 3.50pm, so I bought my ticket for that instead. Indian trains are like easyjet – they are so remarkably cheap, you really have nothing to complain about. Take this for instance – my journey down to Kerala would take 37 hours and cover over 1000 miles. It cost less than a tenner.
Less than a tenner!
Whoosh! After being stuck in the most expensive city in the world for a month, India is a real breath of fresh air. I may be forced to smack the first backpacker I see haggling over a 10rupee taxi fare.
So it was off to the grand Victoria Terminus train station, a testament to the utter brilliance of architects and engineers from back in the day. To say that India hasn’t managed to build a single building of note since independence would be a tangible fact, but it has nothing to do with the departure of the British and everything to do with timing – let’s face it, since 1947 no country ON EARTH has built a single thing that I would dive in front of a wrecking ball to protect.
When you look at this:
And then you look at your bog-standard bargain basement could-be-anywhere international airport:
No excuses can possibly suffice. It would be like trying to explain why this tasteless Vegas tack:
(which wouldn’t look out of place outside a municipal shopping mall in Scunthorpe)
Is in the courtyard of the greatest art gallery in the world. Go on – explain it to me, I dares yer. And you’re not going to win by saying it stimulates debate. The holocaust stimulates debate, it does not make it an intrinsically ‘good’ thing. When I gaze on a building I don’t want to start a debating society, I want to see beauty, love, emotion and happiness rendered in locally-sourced wood, brick and stone.
Anyway, most people aren’t really up for a debate on the street when they’re already late for work.
Don’t forget, India is the home of the Taj – the building that ruined me. Up to the day I visited the Taj I was prepared to give the soulless concrete holes the benefit of the doubt (I guess we need to keep counting them pennies… so we can spend them on the important stuff – you know, oil and war…), but since looking on that monument of human imagination, dexterity and endeavour… what can I say? Everything the human race has built in the last 60 years has been awful, just simply, completely, utterly and irredeemably awful.
Bombay has some absolutely cracking colonial architecture, though – the art-deco stuff is particularly worth checking out. Sadly, much of it is in desperate need of restoration. Where’s Griff Rhys Jones when you need him??
I clambered on board the S3 sleeper class carriage of the 6381 service to Kanyakumari, the Land’s End of India. I thought it was to arrive tomorrow morning… I didn’t check the small print. It was due to arrive the day after tomorrow morning.