…and back again. It’s been quite a few days here.
Reading over my my last post, I realised that I got carried away with political ramblings and forgot to narrate the story of our trip back to Mumbai. It was quite a trek, to say the least. The train from Varanasi to Mumbai was supposed to take about 24-26 hours, but when it took us 6 hours to get from Varanasi to Allahabad (all of 120km away), we sensed that we might be in for a marathon. The full scale of what awaited didn’t really hit us, though, until we waited for an hour at Allahabad (for nothing in particular, it seemed), and then started going backwards toward Varanasi.
Thankfully, darkness soon rescued us from looking out the window and seeing how slowly we were going. The next morning, though, we woke to the cheery news that we were running at least 6 hours late, and that since we were so late, we’d been bumped down to the bottom of the train scheduling totem pole, meaning that we had to sit and wait at every other station so that we didn’t disrupt everyone else’s schedules. Yay. All in all, it took us just over 33 hours to get to Mumbai – and even then we didn’t get to the station we’d paid for, as the train got about halfway into the city and gave up. Not even Connex was quite that bad.
Still, the trip was worth it – it’s nice to be back here, and we’ve been hanging out with a good bunch of people. Last night we had dinner at Leopold’s with Nasir, Gregory Roberts (of Shantaram fame), Greg’s literary agent Joe (a lovely chap), and a European princess of some description (didn’t say much, eventually went shopping). Greg’s clearly incredibly busy, so I was impressed (and rather flattered, to be honest) that he took the time to be so accomodating and spend time with us. As anyone who’s read Shantaram would no doubt expect, he’s a truly fascinating fellow – wise, genuine, generous and also really good fun to talk to, as was his agent (the princess was regally silent most of the time).
It was interesting watching how people reacted to him, too – he’s a recognisable figure with his long hair and imposing physique, and in any case half the people in Leopold’s were probably there because they read about it in Shantaram, so it didn’t take long for the autograph requests etc to start. I’ve never spent time with yer genuine celebrity, and yeah, it’s interesting how people react: lots of whispers and furtive pointing (“That’s him! That’s the author!”), a shy approach, giggles, then a hasty retreat. Of course, I’d probably do exactly the same if I met Iggy Pop or Richey Edwards, but still… Greg handled it all with characteristic grace and generosity, happily signing a pile of books and chatting to people for a lot longer than a lot of ‘stars’ would do, but it must be difficult to deal with. I don’t envy him in that respect, and I left glad that it’s not me who has to contend with that sort of attention every day.
Anyway, we spent today conquering Mumbai’s public transport system in order to take a trip to the Nehru centre, which is home to the fantastic Nehru planetarium – we spent the afternoon watching a universe-trotting show spanning everything from the birth of the universe to the formation of the solar system and its eventual fate. I felt like I was about 10 years old again, gawping happily at sweeping computer-generated panoramas of stars, planets, galaxies, the works.
And now, after all that, we’re composing a letter to Centrelink arguing about some money they want to extort from Leila. From Europrincesses and the international literati to New Start… well, life’s never dull. Til next time….