Tonight is Saturday. . being a well trained Westerner I decided perhaps tonight was the night to enjoy some wine. Those of you who know me well .. also know I appreciate a good red. That’s not so easy to get here in India and requires some intrepid adventuring to arrive at the wine shop.
Quite why it is named the ‘wine shop’ I am unsure.. but that comes a little later in this tale.
It is past sunset .. and the last light is fading as I leave my room in the ‘Scholar House” in the BVB Engineering Campus.. a sprawling campus.. of many buildings and hundreds of students.. the Deshpande Foundation where our office is located forms part of this campus.
As I traverse the way to the main gate I am surprised tonight as there are heaps of labourers scattered all over the place in the fading light cleaning up the gardens, cutting, scraping, digging and even sitting on the roadside painstakingly clearing the weeds from the paved road.
Perhaps a special occasion is on the way.. there are lots of them.. so it will be no surprise. But this seems to be a concerted effort to get the place tidied up in one fell swoop.
I reach the main gate – and here the cacophany really begins.. cars, buses, motorbikes, pushbikes pedestrians .. and down the road a herd of cows. I cross… there is a speed hump just up the main road.. for those in the know it means the vehicles have to slow down so there is time to cross even if it appears they are bearing down on you at a great rate. That’s half way across.. and next is to make it to the other side.. I manage.. I am relatively safe for the moment.. ah here are the cows.. a bit of wide berth is required.. you never quite know when they will toss their head.. if you are in the way – its not advised.
Its been raining today so the road has lots of puddles and its muddy. Another set of obstacles to discern and avoid and of course the cow dung cleverly disguised as small piles of mud.
Now I have reached the back road. .. and here are all the many evening food stalls.. selling anything from chicken biryani to bhel puri to dosas and goodness knows what else. They are doing a roaring trade as the evening traffic passes.
I have a destination in mind.. there is a small shop on the way that sells things I like.. such as curd (yogurt) in a plastic bag. .. not my favourite way of buying it but its easily available like that.. and a particularly good toothpaste made by a great Ayurvedic company called Patanjali. Even the toothpaste has the name of a saintly enlightened Being on the box. How can you go wrong?
I buy some incense (agarbatti) that turns out to be not to my taste.. – some cracker biscuits – they are found to be quite good and the curd which sits creating a wet spot in my shopping bag. They know me now in that shop… I like to go places I am known.. it helps the stress of being stared at all the way everywhere.
And on up the road – soon to reach the ‘wine shop’. Now here is a challenge. Wine shops are most certainy not frequented by ladies in India. So it is really running the gauntlet to enter. .. I head to the most unoccupied spot on the counter.. and the man tells me: “Yes red wine – other side.” Luckily I am a foreigner and despite the crowd of now staring men, I get served straight away.
After all its not every day an older foreign lady enters the sacrosanct wine shop on her own at night!! The man produces first a bottle of white wine.. “No I want red” I say.. then comes a bottle of port.. “mmm not right sorry.. it looks like that but that is not wine.”
“Oh” he says and out come two small bottles of very dodgy looking pink stuff… “Oh dear .. that’s it?”
“Yes” he says. OK I give up .. “I shall have a small bottle of vodka please.”
and I pay and scurry out.
Made it.. and along the way there is a juice shop. I am heading for a fresh orange.. “Pack please to take away”.. when a motor bike pulls up beside me with two quite okay looking men on it.. “Madam do you need help?” the front guy says.. “No thank you I am OK” I say.. “Oh Madam you are safe.. Hubli is a safe place but if you ever need anything you can call me”.. “Oh thank you” I reply and I begin to walk away.. “Oh madam don’t you want to take my phone number?”…. “No thank you- I am perfectly fine.. good night.”
and on to the orange juice shop.
The adventures of an evening in Hubli are a little different from a stroll to the corner store in Perth. I hope this small tale inspires you to venture into other lands.. the rewards are often unusual and can shift your point of view in just a moment.