Sai Baba’s Butlins

Today was a great way to start a journey. Instead of waking up shakey in a head-f**k of a city, I found myself in an imperial Raj-era villa on the top of a gorgeous mile high hill. Me & Charlie had been staying there a couple of nights as a wee repsite form the hectic travelling. Its called Nandi Hills, the foremost of a wee range that tower over teh Deccan plateux. At the top of our hill is a 90 acre, filled with glorious fauna & vegetation. There is a cool water tank & even the hunting lodge of Tipoo Sultan, teh Tyger of Mysore. During the Karnatakan wars, when a Duke of Wellington slew this thorn in the imperial side at Sriringapatanam, Lord Cornwallis had took the fort & before long a beautiful villa had been built at its top for the residing British officials in the area. Today its a salubrious ‘hotel,’ complete with room service. There was even a meeting held there yesterday by the horticultural minister of Karnataka, a fat looking fellow draped all in white walking through the woods with a clucking gaggle of middle aged moustached men.

Ive been loving the colonial flavour, & the walks among the trees. There are stunning views, armies of dragonflies, cheeky monkeys which the locals scare off with catapults – one stole an apple & crackers form our rooms – plus this cool gang of stray dogs. Its basically a canine lion-pride, with one butch male & three females, plus attendant pups. There’s three restaurants to cater for the occasional loved up couples that wander around the scenery hand-in-hand, plus a quaint hindu temple full of the weirdest knee-high wood carvings ive ever seen, all sorts of grotesque creatures as if plucked from the mind of Baudelaire. Its been good for charlie too. These two das are the first in a very long time he’s had no drugs/alcohol – & he even read one of my books – apparently ketamiine makes the words all blurry. He’s also finally realised that being on k makes him forget stuff, repeat himself & talk a load a shit – ya joking I replied!

Our route to the hills began last sunday, & I thought I’d try & get spiritual on Charlie’s ass. We got up early, at 5.30 AM, to try & squeeze a visit in to teh worlds most visited temple at Tirumala. Unfortunately, during the night both me & charlie got our first bout of delhi belly, & ten minutes into a bumpy ride decided it would be best if we get off & find some bushes, pronto. We did, & walked back into town, picking up some ‘stabalising’ medicine en route. At 9.30 am we caught the bus west. This was a nine hour journey across the otherworldy landscape of the Deccan plateaux. It is basically a vast plain, peppered with bouldery hills, whose rocks seem to defy gravity as they balance at strange angles. The journey was broken up by the occasional crazy town & the growing feeling I was yet again in ‘endless India.’ I mean, we travelled about 350 k today, & hardly made a dent on the subcontinental map.

Then we hit Puttupathy, passing the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital as we went in – a gorgeous pink taj mahal of a thing (see photo attached) There, we soon found ourselves in Sai Baba’s ashram the Prasantha Nilayam, or hill of peace. He’s a bit decrepit now, but his chief ‘leuitenant,’ sri sathya, looks like a seventies disco gangster, with wavy afro & orange robes. On teh way in there was a security check, & they took Charlies fgs off him which really upset him, it was hilarious. On the brighter side, we got a bed in a dormitary full of internationl devotees for only 20 rupees – about 25p. The food was just as cheap, & we finally had a few western birds to check out. There was obviously no chance of getting laid, like, especially with a still brooding charlie in tow. Outside the ashram we found your typical traveler world – loads of shops selling jewellry, clothes & sitars, mingling with internet shops, hotels & restuarants & wee posses of beggars. Its a weird contrast – on one side of the street there’s this big meditation centre, & on the ther a great cathedral to capitalism. If you ask me,Sai baba’s raking it in like a modern day Idi Amin. We even passed his private air strip on the way in. Plus, as we ate our food in one of the several halls, this sign looked over us with just his hypnotic eyes staring down, reading


Trippy shit – the whole ashram reminds me of a holiday camp – there’s loads of accommodation – the westerners get bunk beds while the Indians sleep on mats on the hard floor. The nights sleep reminded me to get some earplugs – Charlie’s bad enough, but nothing to the Russians. I kept moving about the dorm from bed-to-bed avoiding a snorer, but as soon as i settled, the guy nect to me would start – proper did mi head in. In the end I got an hour’s kip, & with Charlies arms bitten to a volcano range by the local mozzys, we left the ashram, passing a mini-darsan on the way. This took place in a great ballroom style area, with chandaliers draping down & a couple of hundred white-clothed devotees sat on a polished silver floor, singing along to this guy at the front chating through a PA. From Puttupathy we headed towards Nandi Hills, where after a chaotic hour at teh bus station being the focus of everyone’s attention, we caught a bus to the foot of the hill. There we boarded a rickshaw with seven oher peopel & pulled into teh fortified walls of our destination – where I slept for a good 14 hours.

After our two-night stay we’ve meandered to the great green garden city of Bangalore. id never entered from teh north before, usually coming from teh east along teh industrial MG road. This way was very pleasant, a six lane throughfare that feels like driving into west london along the A40. Plus we passed a golf course slap bang in the city centre, protecting pedestrains by giant nets that ring its monsoon-lush greenery. Also en route we passed loads of billboards & brand new apartmenst, signs of Bangalores status as the most western city of India, growing fat on the IT & telecom industries. Somewhere within it i am writing this on my own in a fan-swept internet joint – Charlies stropped off in a huff – he wants to use his facebook but is completely computer illiterate. We’ve dropped our bags off at the train station lockers for a few hours, before this evenings bus to Gokarna & Paradise Beach. I think Charlie desrevs it after being plunged head first into the ocean of humanity that is India (poor lad)


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