Don’t Mess Around With Beez: The India Adventure Tour Diaryas

Three little Indians.jpg (10788 bytes)Always the wanderer, always the sufferer of a new mid-life-crisis, Smugglers bassist Beez has decided to uproot his life in Vancouver for the wilds of India for a five month period, perfectly timed with the on-going manufacturing of the new Smugglers album. While Beez and his wife CC attempt to navigate this bizarre and assumingly stinky corner of the earth (maybe Beez will finally fit in?), Beez has graciously agreed to supply all of us with tour diaryas of his life-journey… his "India phase" … his Hindi hijinks… so to speak…

The first few days of the Beez life-journey began in Europe, where he and CC spend time with friends and diplomats in Paris, as well as journeying to Berlin to see fellow Smuggler David Carswell perform with Vancouver artist Rodney Graham at a Canadian Embassy-sponsored Rodney Graham art-opening. And then, forward! Upwards! Onwards! East shall they voyage! To the dark continent… or one of them, anyway….

 

Tue Oct 7, 2003: India

Finally, the day has come to arrive in Delhi. After all our preparations, we hope we are ready. We leave Berlin at the ungodly hour of 6:30am, which means we are up at 4:30am. We arrive safely in Frankfurt for our 8 hour layover. OUCH. As we have only stayed in two hotels in two weeks while in Europe, we decide to stay at the "airport" hotel. I remember that in Cleveland during one of my chatline business man jaunts, I stayed at a hotel that was 3 minutes away from the airport, additionally, in the Tokyo airport, there are "day beds" available by the hour for "travellers" who need a quick nap. I tell CC these basic facts, and when we arrive at 8AM, Corrina comments, "I hope I’m back asleep by 9am"…uhh… isn’t that a little optimistic, considering that we don’ t even know if there is a hotel nearby? In fact, she was right on the money; when we discovered there was a hotel right across the street from the arrivals, that we could walk to, we knew we were laughing.

When we saw that there were 20 businessmen in front of us at the registration desk, our glee started to diminish. Amazingly, they had one room left and we were able to catch up on our lost sleep, which was certainly needed.

When we checked into Air India, CC was paid the highest compliment; her baggage was mistaken for carry-on luggage. She even contemplated carrying it on, but of course, I got too stressed thinking about storing the small backpack under our seats for the 8 hour flight. We were quite surprised by the mix of people going to India, we had expected, 80% Indian and 20% young backpackers, but there were actually quite a few older Europeans going. I was trying to imagine why they were going. They looked like the types that have been going to India since the sixties and spend 6 months of the year there.

Arriving in India:

We were nervous- very, very nervous. Despite our preparations, we did not know what to expect, and given that we are natural dupes to most scams, we have been double paranoid. As we get off the plane at 3:30am Delhi time, we cautiously approach the Delhi immigration desk. There are 9 different lines mostly the same length, each lane has 2 border guards EXCEPT one line. Guess which one we choose. Behind us, in line, is a 25 year-old American with short hair and a rat tail, dressed in classic orange monk gear. He smiles each time I look at him and he is mumbling to himself, I assume it is some kinda of chant, because despite the late hour and horribly long line up, the guy seriously looks like he is in a blissful state. 4 am comes around, we are still only half way through the line, but hey at least we are not at the end of the line. These immigration guys must really go for it. I’m starting to get a little nervous… "no I do not know Grant Lawrence". I’m particularly up tight about the herbal pills we are travelling with… would the tourist scams start right at the airport!?! At 4:15 am, a guy comes and moves all of the people, including the orange monk, over to another line. NOW we are the last ones in line. We watch the orange monk go through immigration, still smiling, as we mumbling under our breath, "see you in your next life, cockroach". By 4:30am, the line up beside us completely disappears. We run over to the crusty old Indian bureaucrat, who looks at us, rubs his eyes, and says, "where did you come from?" We know he isn’t talking about our nationality, we can tell he was quite excited that he had "finished" processing all of his line. He tells us to go back to our original line, which we do. A few minutes later, he calls us back over, and processes us for immigration. No questions asked, he just stamps the form and sends us on our way. Why it took everyone else so long we will never know.

We had been told it is important to get our money exchanged at the airport and to get small bills.We exchange $300 Euros and receive back… a BRICK of cash. The most common note in India is the 100 rupees (worth about $3 CDN) Meanwhile, as per usual, I was really starting to sweat, as it was now 4:50am (90 minutes after our arrival) and I started to completely freak out that our hotel would give up on us coming through (we literally must have been the LAST people off that plane). When we exit the Delhi airport, we see a man with a sign that says "Kevin Beekley". Shit, that’s close enough for me. He drives us into our hotel. (editor’s note: Beez’s real name is Kevin Beesley).

The drive from the Delhi airport to our hotel is outrageous, on the wrong side of the road, swerving all over the place. Our cab driver uses his horn as if it is some magical sound that moves cars, trucks, dogs, bikes, mortorcycles with 3 people (no helmets) all out of the way. Not to mention that his horn appears to also trump all traffic light indicators. He is tearing through the city at break-neck speed.

Despite our preparations, we did not think that all of Delhi would look like a shanty town in Texas. Where are the Bollywood middle class babes fighting off their wealthy husbands?

We arrive at our hotel safely, with no real problems, except that two little fellows decide that they need to help us with our bags to our rooms in our "2 star" hotel. We are too tired and confused to complain. When they drop us off (1 minute later), they look at us with the "I would like my tip now" look. I hand one of them 20 rupees and he kind of looks at me disappointed. He points at the other guy. I give him the 20 rupees, they both look at me confused. Shit. I guess the .60 cent tip is no good. So I hand them both 40 rupees and they leave. After they left, I realize I just paid them 1/3 of the amount we paid the guy who picked us up at the airport, paid for gas for his car, drove us for 25 minutes and paid some kind of airport tax. I’m starting to see how a guy can get to be real cheap here in ol’ India.

The next morning, (okay it was 2PM), we finally get up to take on India. We are really, REALLY nervous now. We choose a restaurant "just around the corner" according to the Lonely Planet and head out to find it. As we are leaving, our "host" asks us how our stay has been. We tell him about our room: "The air conditioner sounds like a 747 taking off, someone has decided that they are going to take down a cement wall with a hammer for, oh about 6 hours, there are no windows in the room, but we can still miraculously hear the outside street, but the reverberation makes the sound seem like someone is torturing an elephant in the next room" (CIA operative perhaps?). He responds, "No problem! No problem! I get you new room". He takes us to the third floor and shows us a room that has a window (light and airy!) and has an air conditioner; the only downside is that it has two single beds (but hey, who needs beds for sex anyway?) We take it.

As we hit the street, we are shocked and nervous. We have a map of the area, but there are no street signs, reminiscent of Tokyo (ok that was the ONLY thing similar in comparison to Tokyo). Every time we would pull out our map to check our directions, a flock of "concerned citizens" would ask us the following questions: "where are you going? Are you German, Austrian, English? Can please I help you? Has anyone told you, you look like a famous Bollywood star?" We defiantly ignored all comments, although the odd time I would smile, which always got us followed for 10 minutes.

As we were crossing the street, a similarly confused tourist appeared. As he (Dan, 26, Toronto, degree in civil engineering) was even more clueless than us, we invited him to come to the restaurant we were trying to find. Dan, it turned out, had come to India to do "missionary work" in the south. We quizzed him cautiously about why Indians, who have enough problems with the Hindu-Muslim conflict, would need yet another religion, but it turns out that people were signing up for his "classes" and there are 20,000,000 Christians in India. Ok, well, we can dig that.

Over the next 3 days, we hung out with Dan, went on a horrendous 9 hour sight seeing bus with an "English" guide. At the second stop, he indicates that he can’t do the tour in English and Hindi as there is not enough time, but would explain everything to us at each stop. It actually turned out that his "I will explain at each stop" were the only words in English that he knew.

Getting lost is generally one of my biggest fears in a new city. Not in Delhi. They have a service called "auto-rickshaw" (like a 3 wheeled motorcycle with a covered bench). Every time we got into one of these auto-rickshaws it was like a ride at Disneyland, if Disney had the foresight to include:

1) blowing diesel fumes into your face

2) split second judgements for changing direction without EVER hitting anyone

3) morphing, organic lane structures which means a street can go from 4 lanes each way to 7 lanes one way, and only one way the other way.

4) arguing about how many rupees the ride should cost

CC has had all the attention. A couple of young boys have grabbed her breasts. The second time it happened, CC turned around to whack one of the kids; they ran rather quickly. Some old man slapped her ass as he passed her in the street. 8 teenage boys came up to her in a park and asked her what sounded like "Can I make love to you?" When I stepped up and asked them to repeat it, they said, "Can I take your photograph?" So, these young guys stood with us and took our picture. When I tried to do the same, they ran off and almost missed their bus home. CC has not only been getting attention from the randy young Indian men. When CC was walking by one of India’s most holy animals, she sauntered a little to close to the wrong end. Corrina says "I've had holy shit sprayed all over me from the ass of an exploding cow".

I had my first freak-out on Friday. (editor’s note: actually we count about four by this point, but whatever). We had lunch at the Malhotra Restaurant. We had a funny Indian waiter, who at the end of the dinner, grabbed my hand, took the bottle cap for the water, and pretended to screw the cap onto each of my fingers. Now, the hand he grabs just happens to have my wallet in it. So, I’m very confused. We laugh and walk away (something Beez does consistently everytime he’s hustled).

As we return to our hotel, a 45-minute journey of pollution chugging and catcalls, I realize I don’t have my watch anymore. The watch was given to me by my old boss, Patrick "no eye contact" Villanueva and it has become extraordinarily important for our trip because it has an alarm and a nightlight. I am so bummed; I try to figure out where I lost the damn thing. I get depressed and have a nap. We are getting on a train the next day and will definitely need some type of time-keeping system. I really am not looking forward to trying to figure out where to get a watch, how the watch works and how much it will cost. Surprisingly, that could take a full day! When I awake, I decide I’m going to go back to the restaurant and see if they have my watch. Amazingly, they do. I can’t believe it. It is a great to know that not every single individual in Delhi is trying to rip us off. Trust is built through experience and I guess trusting a new country takes time.

A theme or a pattern is starting to build to our days. We chose one thing to do, usually go to one place and see if we can get there. As mundane as that may sound, it is always an adventure. India, so far, is like a giant treasure hunt. I am dying to get 4 groups of tourists together to race our auto rickshaws to a specific, location on the other side of town. Of course, gambling would be involved. But I haven’t got the energy up to pull off such a stunt yet.

We went to dinner on Thursday night at Karims, a famous Delhi restaurant near Jama Masjid, with Dan (the missionary) who introduced us to Luke (masters in astrophysics, Toronto, mid-twenties). Luke has been working as a volunteer in an orphanage for 6 months. Are we the only assholes coming to India for the food, cheap accommodation, tourist sites and uh… good times? Anyway, he tells us about the miniature paintings at the national gallery, so we decide this will be our treasure hunt for Friday October 10th. We spent 4 hours looking at the miniature paintings from the 14th-18th century. Most of the paintings depicted scenes from the Ramayana, which is like a Hindi bible. As we were the only ones who spent more than an hour in the room with the miniature paintings, the security guard, who looked like a young Saddam Hussein, came up to me and said, "You are my friend?" I responded "uh… sure". He was excited to hear I was from Canada and stated that he was going Canada in February. He told me he worked for the police for 15 years.

Then he did something very strange. He started to hold my hand. We walked through the gallery, holding hands, and he would describe to me what he saw in each painting. Basically, he just wanted to practice his English, but I was quite startled by the handholding. I had seen a number of men holding hands in the streets of Delhi, but no one else was holding a policeman’s hand….hmmm, maybe I do look like a famous Bollywood star.

Our plan is to head towards Chennai via Varinasi, then try to find a permanent base from November to February. We are concerned that if it takes all day to find toothpaste, will it take 4 months to find a 4 month accommodation?

 

For chapter two of the adventures of Beez and CC in India, just click here!

For chapter three, click here, and chapter four, here.