Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
That would have to be back in 1997 and I went to Bhopal & Indore. Well the plan was that 4 of us were supposed travel to Indore for a few days of fun and drinking (back then aged 21 I still hid the fact that I drank from my folks; it’s an Indian thing) and to attend the bachelor’s party of another friend’s big brother. So we were lined up for a 2 week stay in Indore and never having been to the state of Madhya Pradesh we are excited and being away from family and drinking every night would be a lot of fun. So, this would have been around May or June of that year, me and the other three guys booked our tickets well in advance and packed our bags and boarded the train. The train journey itself was a lot of fun – 2 & a half day journey where we played a lot of cards while awake and cracked a lot of jokes. In between I would read a book while the others would wander about the compartments and try and find other people to talk to.
The first big event happened on the way – we had a long delay ahead of us. The route was heading to Bhopal and then to Indore but just at the outskirts of Bhopal we had a goods train derailed that effectively blocked our train from heading forward. Stuck with not knowing what to do we decided to find a cheap hotel for the 48 hours or so that the railway authorities expected us to be held up in Bhopal. So we found the one that we could afford and got sleeping bags – no cots or beds in the place – and sheets ready for the two nights we expected to have to spend in the hotel. Actually, hindsight being 20/20, we were in the old part of Bhopal and if we had known that just a few streets away we could have stayed in the newer section of the city and enjoyed a nicer stay but we can’t change that. Anyway, we bathed, changed our clothes and went to a tea shop for snacks and tea. That done we decided to walk about and take in the sights until dinner time. And that’s when it happened – someone threw stones at one of us. On inspection we found out that 3 or 4 kids (around 10-16 years old) were the culprits, throwing stones at my friend while their mother sat there on their terrace laughing. The reason – my friend was the only one wearing a ‘lungi’ (a coloured dothi) and that singled him out to be a ‘South Indian’ and hence he was subjected to a little bit of racism! Fine upbringing bitch. Angry at them, my friend went and banged on the door of the house and as the kids and their mother rushed back indoors, the father came out and he sorta apologized to us. Not wanting any trouble in a strange city, the rest of us dragged our friend away.
The next day we hooked up with some acquaintances from the train and we decides to have dinner together that evening. In the afternoon I went to a store near our hotel and used an STD booth in a shop to call my folks and let them know that I was temporarily stranded and would be back on the way to Indore soon. As I went to pay the store keeper, he asked me in Hindi to which area had I dialed as he didn’t recognize the STD code. I replied “Cochin” and he looked surprised and said he didn’t know where that was.OK! so I said “Kerala” and this ignoramus smiled and said “Oh Madrasi!”. “Madrasi” means a person from Madras, the old name of the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state, that borders Kerala. This is what ignorant Indians in some parts of India call everyone from the 4 Southern states. It reeks of being idiotic, ignorant of one’s own country, illiteracy and let’s face it kind of racist. North & central India vs South! Anyway, I said some words of abuse and went my own way. That night after dinner however we had a bigger issue. After dinner, we bought some colas and were drinking it in our room while cracking jokes. The same guy who had the stone thrown at him started laughing and didn’t stop for a while. He then started coughing and couldn’t stop, pointing towards his chest & heart area. We rushed him to the hospital unsure of what was wrong with him.
The doctors would inform him that he had a problem with his heart, a hole in one of the valves or something (I am typing this from memory and could have some details wrong but I remember it as being that) and that he would need to be admitted for a couple of days as they monitored him. The dude hadn’t told us about his condition even though he knew it before hand and so did his family. We had to push back our trip for a further two days as he recovered in the hospital. We took another train to Indore and enjoyed our trip and came back without any further incidents.