Humbled Dog

So, the roadshow has moved on from Chennai to Pune, with an early alarm for 5am set on Sunday morning (11:30PM in the UK, so i caught the tail end of some weird twitter chats), cabs and flights booked and all that needed doing was:

  • Get up
  • Get Ready
  • Finish Packing
  • Leave (after taking one last picture of the dawn over the sea)

Well, that was the plan anyway, the local microbes had another idea and weren’t too interested in what I thought. 

It’s Tuesday afternoon as I write this and they’re still having fun with my system, twisting invisible knives inside my intestines and making sure that I don’t stray too far from the comforts of the bathroom. 

The trip to Chennai airport seemed much longer than the journey in and was only brightened by the fact that it was daylight and I could see all the things that I’d missed in other journeys, but I was genuinely glad when I got there. 

Despite it being a domestic terminal and my ticket clearly being for an internal flight, the uniformed jobsworth at the door to the terminal took great delight in checking my passport, before pronouncing my airworthiness with a flourish that I completely ignored, now totally in thrall to the microbes and their daggers. 

Check-in was smooth, as was security and I managed to get seated in the lounge in plenty of time to eat and drink … er nothing. 

Still, the flight was on time and my seat was in the first row, so all eventualities were covered. 

The flight itself was smooth and on time. 

Getting off the plane and being asked for my boarding pass was a novel experience, as was walking past half a dozen planes on the tarmac to get to the entry gate. 



Still, it didn’t take very long, my bag was the third on the belt  and the hotel driver was waiting for me when I exited the airport and drove me smoothly and efficiently through the chaotic traffic to the hotel, where the security guards seemed both more alert and friendlier than my previous stay. 

Check-in was ready for me and had a document ready to sign and I was looking forward to crashing and sleeping through some of the pain. 

Strangely, I had to wait 15 minutes for the room, but was eventually shown to a good quality business-class room with all the amenities, I unpacked as quickly as I could and decided to go for a quick orientation walk. 

Pune at first glance was very different to Chennai, the roads are wider and cleaner, the area that I am staying in houses two hospitals, a police station and an Ashram, it’s all very pleasant, they even let trees grow in the roads and pavements, strange, quirky and somehow OK on such wide roads. 



Huge birds of prey circled overhead as I walked and I was in quiet awe of their size and gracefulness, often stopping to look up and just watch as two or three of them floated past, looking for prey. 

After thirty minutes or so, I went back to the room and started to doze, only to be woken by the phone. 

*muffled and grumpy* “Hlo”

“Are you packed and ready sir?”

“Huh, I’ve just unpacked”

“Yes sir but you are in the wrong room” 

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing sir, we just put you in a holding room until yours is ready” 

*Mutter, Grumble, Sigh* “OK, I’ll get packed”

Fifteen minutes later, a porter arrived to take my freshly packed belongings to my new. 

Suite. 

It’s huge, far too big and around 75% of the price for a smaller room in Chennai. Entrance hall, Lounge (with dining table, sofa , desk and a huge TV), dressing area, bathroom with a huge bath and steam-room shower – and a huge bedroom. 



They’d left chocolates and fruit and wine as gifts, sadly all I could face was water. 

I felt miserable and slightly lonely having left all my friends and colleagues behind in Chennai and with a week of being alone and possibly unwell in front of me. 

I unpacked again and then decided to get my head down and doze for a few hours, waking up around 830PM local time, still feeling delicate but knowing I needed to eat something.. 

The hotel (the Taj Blue Diamond – I genuinely recommend it) has three restaurants and a bar, I headed for the Chinese restaurant as the safest option and set about navigating the menu, reluctantly eschewing alchohol and asking instead for mint tea. 

The head waiter saw that I was occasionally wincing and asked if I was OK, we then discussed the best options on the menu for me and I ordered a chicken soup with lemon and coriander with sweet and sour pork as the main dish. 

The mint tea was made with fresh leaves, with a tiny bowl of honey on the side and the food – though deliberately spiceless was delicious, all three or four mouthfuls of it..  The head waiter, Ganesh ( I have already made it a point to write and thank the hotel group for his help) said that the best thing for the morning would be some yoghurt and banana and duly went to get my bill. 

He then returned with a perfectly packed bag of bananas and wished me a good night’s sleep. 

I felt genuinely humbled by his solicitude and the extra effort that he and his whole team had gone to – all for one sickly westerner and went to bed feeling somehow less lonely. 

                                                                             

Sea Dog

I did absolutely nothing yesterday, or the nearest thing to it anyway.

I woke up early thanks to the crows that now seem to be exclusively settled by my cottage, helpfully telling each other that the sun has risen or that a squirrel has woken up  – or something. It’s hard to tell with crows, they may just be trolling me for not letting them steal my sunglasses.

Deciding that I wouldn’t get back to sleep, I wandered blearily to the gym where I did a workout that I learned from ‘Felix’ – a commonwealth champion bodybuilder at Le Sport in St Lucia. He’s a fantastic trainer and hates being called Julian (his real name) – if you ever get the chance.

It’s a great workout and just uses a few light dumbbells – and it hurts.

Once I’d finished this act of self-abuse, I wandered languidly through the floral arches that link the pathways in the hotel and drifted into breakfast for my usual feast of pineapple juice and bran flakes.

I amused myself with catching up with Twitter while I ate, it was around 2.30 AM UK time, so there wasn’t a lot to read and I then ambled down to the sunbeds like a heavier-set, more thuggish Noel Coward, exuding calm English aplomb as I settled in to an hour of quality time with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, pure blue skies and a blazing sun.

Having worked on my glowing tan for an hour, I floated languidly to the beach and into the cool embrace of the ocean, accepting the rolling breakers and drifting with the tide.

At no point did a big wave pick me up, hurl me seventy yards down the beach, pull my shorts to my knees and dump me underwater.

That didn’t happen, because nobody saw it.

Probably.

Having now worked out that I was essentially a small floating toy as far as the currents and waves were concerned, I forgot about any dignity and actively sought the bigger breakers and let myself be smashed into the sand again and again, laughing aloud at times.

After frolicking in the ocean for an hour, I settled back into my sunbed and sought the solace of shade and relaxing music for another two hours before I drifted to my pre-booked, two hour massage session.

Ninety minutes of which I slept through.

I finished the day with a spicy local curry and vast quantities of the local vodka, eaten in full view of the sea that had made me feel like a little kid again.

Then went to bed, with the gentle serenade of the crows, doing their level best to keep me awake and occupied.

A pretty great day, all things considered.

Although, I now have a nice sunburn, thanks to the sea, the breeze and my losing track of time.

It was worth it.

IMG_2226 besant-nagar-beach

Dog Idol Part 2

And we’re back, with still no beer in sight. 

The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) went into action once again and called a waiter over, this is a true and accurate recording of events as I wrote it in my phone as we were still there. 

“Excuse me”

“Yes sir”

“Three beers please”

“I am from Nepal”

“That’s very interesting, thank you, can we have three beers?”
 
“Sir?”
 
Beer” 

“I ding unnerstan”

And he walked away.  

The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) undeterred by this slight setback, employed technology in a stunning display of ingenuity and took an iPhone with the following text to the manager, who was now looking slightly harassed. 

3 beers 

Lime and soda with no added  salt or sugar, just lime and soda water. 

“Yes sir”

The starters arrived, all bar our Soda drinking colleague’s and we started to dish food out and eat. The lack of beer though was becoming a source of considerable hilarity now and one of the German guys walked tothe  manager and showed him a picture of a bottle of beer. 

“Please be patient sir. 5 minutes.”

Five minutes later, the main course plates start turning up, even though we’re still eating starters (along with the missing starter) and we then were placed in the interesting position of sitting with our starter plates on our laps while the main course is served. 

During this interesting and frankly unsual development, a waiter walked past with a shopping bag and afew minutes later, some warm and flat beer was served. 

The food was OK, cheap at any rate and there was lots of it, the beer was terrible and the new soda water never arrived. I paid the bill and we came back to the hotel and the beach-side bar. 

Bliss

Anyway, you’re probably wondering where the moustache thing went to, well, here’s the thing. 

The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) was visited in dreams by one of the many local gods, (this one makes sure that the crows wake you up before 6am every day of the week) and was shown a vision. 

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW. 

The hair, the moustache, the vague feeling that there’s a joke somewhere that hasn’t been explained to you. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the cultural and spiritual guides for modern India. 





Dog Idol Part 1

It’s a fact that a large percentage of Indian men over the age of 25 or so have moustaches. More accurately, they have a moustache and neatly parted, short hair. 

Behold an exemplar of this cultural subset.



If you yourself have ever observed this phenomenon and wondered at the origins and genesis of a look that spans generations; wonder no more. 

The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) has carried out extensive work on your behalf and can now give a definitive answer to a question that has eluded both scientists and philosophers for years. 

We need to wind the clock back one day to yesterday, Saturday 28th February 2015. 

Once again, I found myself having to work on a Saturday but decided that getting a car to the office was a bad idea and that I would hire a room in the hotel. 

So.. after breakfast, I went to reception and asked to hire a room for the day, for three people. For some reason, I was shown the Boardroom, which seats 12 in splendour, but it’s the closest room to my room, so I gladly accepted. 

However, I was informed that I had to go to my room and dial 0 (Reception), where I would be transferred to the relevant desk. 

An hour and a half later, two wasted calls and no contact from the ‘sales team’, I decided that an hour on teh beach was more important and went to the desk opposite reception. Which turned out to be the relevant desk, the young bloke on there was embarassed that I hadn’t had a call back and gave me the room. 

The room was fine, but we wondered if it came with faster wifi and so a technician duly came along, listened to our questions and then sent for help. The senior technician told us that if we wanted faster wifi, we all had to sign  up for the premium wifi service. We thanked him for his help and just got on with it. 

Work was done, we went to the pool at dusk and I was invited to dinner by my German colleagues who wanted to escape the hotel and go to a restaurant nearer central Chennai. 

Being the sober and sensible person that I am, I probed for details on this restaurant, where exactly was it? What was the name? Was it listed in any guides? And finally, most importantly for my delicate palate, highly tuned taste buds and sense of general propriety, did it serve beer?

The Germans thought about it, decided that it may not and I graciously declined their offer, favouring the siren call of alchohol in huge quantities and adequate food over gastronomic perfection. Rather nicely of them, they decided that we could go elsewhere, so The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) went into high gear and engaged the concierge desk; who under heavy questioning produced a list of five restaurants. 

I ordered us a car and waited for the evening’s delights to begin. 

Things got off to a cracking start, the favoured restaurant as provided by the concierge was almost walkable, just five minutes by car and a right turn onto the main road rather than our normal left turn for work. 

Our driver said that he would wait for us,and as giddy as schoolgirls, we trooped into the chosen venue of gastronomic  delight.  

The restaurant looked great, a huge open space and some partial views of the surrounding landscape, we were seated quickly and comprehensive menus arrived. 

Cutting swiftly to the chase, I asked for four large beers. 

“We don’t have alcohol here sir, sorry”

“That’s ok, have a great evening, goodbye”

And, leaving a slightly stunned waiter behind, we went back to the car and explained to the driver our strict criteria. He knew just the place, it was very new, well decorated, aircon and 10 minutes down the road. And he assured us that it served beer. 

We arrived at this palace of earthly delight, purveyors of delicately spiced, aromatic food , the recipes for which were handed down from the gods to chefs who have undergone ordeal by fire and chili juice and duly walked to the very attractive door. 

A neatly mustachio’d man opened the door for us and invited us in. It was still early and there were no other diners, so there werer no clues as to what might be bought. 

The Thunderdog Research Institute (TM) once again asked the question of the day.

“Before we come in, do you have beer?”

“Yes sir”

Grinning like idiots, we entered the restaurant, menus were produced as if by magic and we got into the business of serious ordering. 

One of our colleagues had decided that they would rather drink something refreshing and after a long conversation in which a number of questions were asked, the drinks order was this. 

3 beers 

Lime and soda with no added  salt or sugar, just lime and soda water. 
Starters were ordered and after 10 minutes or so a lime and soda arrived and was promptly spat back as it was full of salt.  
Oh well, their own fault for defying the god of beer who occupies a space in the pantheon next to Odin, Thor and that goddess who hides your phone. 
We were slightly concerned as no cooking seemed to be taking place until then, but after another 10 minutes things started to happen. 
No beer though.