I usually love the entire experience of train travel – especially that you can jump on board at the last minute, unlike a plane.
But in my hurry to catch the train to Bangalore, I was tense and anxious in a way that I haven’t felt since my first days here – it was my first train ride in India, I was running late, and, considering I found an empty spot next to the bathroom, it smelled like a port-a-potty at a summer music festival.
Soon enough, however, we were pulling away from the Mysore station, and all I could see were the rice fields, coconut trees, and swaying patches of sugarcane blurring together, and a small flock of turquoise parrots taking flight from the lush monsoon greenery, up and over my train.
People asked me, why Bangalore? Why not? The city is known as the Silicon Valley of India, and has never been a dream destination of mine, but it is only 3 hours away – and I am happy to go anywhere that requires only a beautiful train ride and a 60 rupee (90 cent) ticket.
When I got to my hostel in Bangalore, a group of Indian travelers invited me to join them on their night out. Sure, I said, but I don’t have any clothes but these loose pants – and do I have to cover my shoulders there? Everyone laughed – as young, cosmopolitan Indians, they thought it was funny I was so concerned with being covered up that night. In the end, I was definitely the only girl wearing loose pants and flip flops at the buzzy bar.
The next day, I got roped into another nighttime adventure and agreed to let a girl at my hostel do my makeup before heading out – if only to make her feel embarrassed for bringing an underdressed foreigner to her favorite spots.
Heading back to the train station on Sunday, I noticed a mother and daughter walking into the metro station before me. In casual conversation and matching purple and gold sarees, they hesitated before stepping onto the escalator – the mother had grabbed the daughter’s arm, saying something, maybe: can we take the stairs instead?
She was scared – but they laughed together and stepped aside to let me pass by onto the escalator. We exchanged smiles from above and below, as the mother and daughter took the stairs together hand in hand.
Is this supposed to be a charming metaphor for the rapid urbanization and growing generation gap between young Indians and their parents? Maybe – or maybe it’s just a sweet and interesting moment, too.
Although I didn’t do any sightseeing over the weekend, Bangalore was an interesting experience as my second city visited in India, with busy city streets and overpasses reminding me of Bangkok and Taipei.
But the real reason for my weekend trip was that I am not very good at staying still.
When I first got to Mysore, the inertia of constant travel made slowing down feel more like a sudden halt. Instead of exploring my new neighborhood, I looked up weekend trips and excursions. Instead of being in the present, I was trying to leave a place I just got to. After spending the first weekend more or less in the city, I thought I needed a breath of fresh air, a break from being in one place.
At the end of the day, arriving back in Mysore from Bangalore was the real breath of fresh air – a wave of relief hit me, yes, but the air is actually fresher here, too.
Once outside the mad rush of humanity streaming from the train, I felt comforted by the slightly more familiar streets, a glowing sunset , and the idea of a home base waiting for me.
… which is why I’ve decided to cancel my trip to the Nepal next month. In order to focus on yoga and staying in one place from now on, I am moving to Mysore permanently.
But this weekend did make me realize how lovely this home I have for the month is. I just needed a little movement to realize what a privilege it is to slow down and be still – for the time being.