The International Writers Magazine
: Travel Fiction Part 1

Travelling Mohan
Anushka Rao

Pecos the Pub is a temple. A rock temple. Situated in an alley off the glitzy shopping street 'Brigade Road', it mocks all that the road stands for. With new shops coming up every two months, Peco's in its defiantly dirty, old and dilapidated state stands sardonically, proudly.

Making a statement. When the pub surreptitiously had new seats put in after the old ones had become a health hazard, extreme lengths were taken to get brown, dirty and old looking 'new' chairs.

The Gods of Pecos look down at you from everywhere, you can never escape them. And the songs of worship, songs by the Gods themselves, are venerated by holding up mugs of beer, heads moving to beat, or at least a continuous foot tapping, to confirm one's devotion to rock and jazz and blues and retro. The beer is diluted, the popcorn stale, and the bathrooms reek, these are the sacrifices a Peco-ian willingly pays. When in college, if you don't love Peco's you just aren't with it. Only three years since do I have the courage to say "lets go somewhere else." But it rarely works.
One afternoon, I met Mohan at Pecos. In a frenzy that came as a contrast to long periods of nothingness and happy-hours beer, a group of us had come up with a plan to go somewhere. Anywhere. And finally it was decided; Gokarna. It was right after that that I met Mohan at Pecos. It was, in retrospect a symbolic meeting, our relationship was just one journey after another. And no, not metaphorically. As someone said later, he was my 'Travelling Mohan'. I knew and loved only that Mohan.

We convinced him, and it didn't take much, to come with us, and that made us a nice little group of five. The next day Neeti, the only other girl of our group, and I waited under the flashing lights of the newly refurbished Bangalore Bus Station. With our swank bags and tent and big shoes, we were the most curious figures in that teeming crowd of people going everywhere. It was like being on stage, the lights and the brazen stares. When I wasn't worrying about the next sleaze ball trying to get a free bump and mild feel up off me, I found myself hoping Mohan wouldn't ditch us. They were late the boys, but they all came. I couldn't stop smiling.

The bus was half empty. Mallige flowers and white naamas featured on all the other passengers. We were misfits on a pilgrimage bus, with no hopes or misfortunes or emotions of gratitude to warrant a visit to god. However, as with so many other holy sites of India, Gokarna attracts both devotees and hippies. Mercifully we wouldn't be the only ones lounging around.

Our bus driver had one Kannada film song playing firmly on repeat. None of the windows would shut completely and there was a constant draft of freezing wind. The bus itself was heaving and tossing over the collapsing roads. As if by magic no one else felt any of it, and I spent that night watching Neeti's head gently sway as she dreamt of, I can confidently guess, rocks.

Neeti and Sanjay are students of geology. But while Sanjay, (boy number 2 in our group) studies and has an inexplicable albeit healthy interest in, it must be said, the rather dreary topic of rocks, Neeti has found in rocks the answer to life and the universe. For her it was a pilgrimage. "Haaay…. maaaaaan….." (for Neeti doesn't speak, she tortures her words via the Chinese elongation technique) as she pointed to an obscure rock that was "awe - some". Neeti's manner of speaking exposes a lot about the girl. Her accent for instance and use of certain words has a hint of her three years in Australia, but only a hint. The fact that she is essentially at her core a true sleepy Bangalorean cannot be escaped. Her downright slothful expulsion of words captures the original spirit of the city. Where everyone would start the day at ten, break for tea at ten thirty, eleven and eleven thirty, stop for lunch and a siesta which would last till four, and return home by six. Neeti pays a fitting tribute to her city of birth.

Her true home is the Tavern, another pub and another institution, where the DJ gifts her free CD's and the doorman a knowing grin. She can sit there for hours drinking cold beer after beer talking about nothing in particular. But one cannot confuse this form of decadence with laziness or a lack of interest in the world. Neeti is passionate about rocks. And in Gokarna, a tiny group of modestly sized islands, each separated by magnificent rocky cliffs, I wasn't the only one who went orgasmic.

To be continued in October

© Anushka Rao : English Teacher in Bangalore, India. September 2005

also by Anushka

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