Sunday, March 23, 2008

Half a weekend

The sun is rather obtrusive. Definitely not the slow lapping flow of dawn across the Discworld, no gentle peeking over the edge of the world. The haze on the horizon stages a brief and ineffectual struggle and suddenly the sun has arrived, leaping and clawing its way up the sky. The first shimmering track across the sea becomes a pool, then a blaze of bronze that inverts shadows on the wall of my room. It’s morning in Vizag.

The view from my room is … well, not awesome, but spacious. The kind of vista that makes you straighten up and breathe deep. A submarine surface-crawls across my sight, moving south towards the breakwater and the Navy base. I count seven eleven ships at anchor between the shore and the edge of the sky. A Coast Guard cutter follows the submarine towards the Dolphin’s Nose, where the lighthouse beam has faded in the sun. Two little sailboats scud along behind it. One looks like a log under a sheet. Seven little dark blips upon it; the last one must be the outboard motor. Farther north, a line of white pyramids stretches out to sea. Buoys. Last night they were lit up like party decorations. Right below my window is a morning throng. One pair of earnest joggers ignores the promenade and runs right along the road. So much energy at a quarter past six? Not just tiring but wearisome. I turn away for my morning work-out - two cups of coffee and the papers.

Vizag is sea-washed, hill-cupped, new, eager and hot. The roads are wide and smooth, the town is clean. Most Indian towns are disfigured by skeins of wires – cable connections, phone lines, power lines - that cobweb across the line of sight. Not so Vizag. So very civilised. The road from the airport is tree-lined, double-laned. As we enter the town the intersections are wide but chaotic. Something seems odd. Then I realise that the skyline around most of the crossings still stops at the second storey. Vizag is a town on the cusp of the boom, a city waiting to happen. Except by the shore road, where already block after block of near-identical condos hold their washing out to dry in the sea breeze. Land values have skyrocketed recently. The Telengana movement wants Hyderabad as its capital, leaving Vishakhapattinam (a would-be capital city is beyond diminutives!) to be the capital of Andhra.

I spent the previous day in the basement of the hotel, struggling through a learned workshop on Total Quality Management. My "take-away" is that even the most learned experts can be poor communicators, especially when carried away by their own enthusiasm for the subject. The basement cannot be accessed from within the hotel – we have to go out and come in again from the seaward entrance. The Taj Residency also has a very considerate plan. The breakfast room is so located that getting to it is bound to work up an appetite. It does have a view of palm trees and the sea, but the dosai are indifferent. Sad. I sacrificed my diet for THIS?

No, I didn’t. I sacrificed it to check out a place called Pastry, Coffee & Conversation. Recommended by an old friend and confirmed by a blogger. The way they hyped it, I thought it was a large bistro. Turned out to be a tiny shop tucked away below a rising road. Serves the most ‘mazingly good chocolates and decent pastries. The hot chocolate could be improved, though. For anybody visiting Vizag, it’s 50 ms. up the hill, on the right as you pass Karachiwalla’s store. It's run by Rajan (a suave version of Mahesh Bhatt) who is Calcuttan by birth. N wonder the place is good!

No Rishikonda beach by moonlight for me. I staggered back to the room, showered and passed out at half eight. And slept till the sun came up like thunder ‘crost the bay. Too hot to go anywhere. In any case, the view from the Kailash hill the previous evening was quite comprehensive. The amusement park up there is too awfully tacky for words, but the view and the breeze make up for it. All the way to the lighthouse beam on the headland, lines of surf along the beaches, wooded hillsides. The lights coming up in the city, and out at sea on the ships at anchor. (Wonder what the turnaround time is at Vizag port?)

The problem with small airports in India is that they don’t invest in air-conditioning. Mem: do NOT visit Vizag in summer, I’d probably collapse before I got out of the terminal (my friend has seen the board at Vizag station record 50 Celsius. Birds drop out of the sky in that kind of heat. Stupid twits to try and fly.)

My first trip on Deccan. Or Simplifly or whatever it's called these days. The first row is the only way to avoid claustrophobia, but I’m too late for that. No tele-check-in. Damn. But there are only a couple of dozen people on board when the doors close, the entire rear half of the plane is empty. I wander off and get myself a row of seats with the arm-rests up so I can lie down.

Bizarre moment before take-off. The second stewardess comes amidships and starts demonstrating the safety drill. You know, that entire “pull down the mask and place it over your face” schpiel. For an audience of one. Viz., me. It must have showed on my face, for when she caught my eye her face crumpled into a grin. A joke is always improved by sharing.


Phantasmagoria said...

You are getting there. We liked the beginning and the end.

Sue said...

It's Rishikonda, man.

It's very pretty, too.

I yearn for Vizag. Tragically. You've no idea how bad.

Hetal said...

I love Pastry, Coffee and Coversation. A real gem :). You should also check out Sweet India. And if you have some time on hand visit Arakku Valley and Bora caves. And if you can spare one whole day - stay the night at Tyda - a place called Jungle Bells.

D said...

Since that's all the stewardesses do on Deccan, a one-man audience would suffice as well!

iz said...

You actually make the place sound pretty!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Ph, I agree.

Sue, OK, RRIIIshi. I can understand the yearning if you grew up there.

Hetal, nice suggestions, but Jungle Bells? Too damn twee.

D, they also sell tolerable coffee and awful crisps.

Iz, parts of it ARE pretty, where did I say it's not?


Blasphermour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blasphermour said...

Jungle Bell? huh where can I get it??
I'll think it must a strange sound..


eve's lungs said...

Glory be has the man not come back ?

mystic rose said...

Wow, nostalgia. Being a Vizagite and misisng it terribly, I quite enjoyed that!

zigzackly said...

Ah. Me old home town. Would have told you to visit Griffin House and Griffin Street, but one's been torn down and the other renamed. And dang, it seems to have grown prettier than I remember it. Many of my parents' generation who now live in other parts of the world still affectionately refer to it as Stinkypatinam.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

M Rose, perhaps a nostalgia post?

Griff, tell us the story!