Saturday, March 19: In the morning, we eat breakfast, check out of our room and relax by the pool for a while, observing the celebrations for the holiday that begins today, Holi. Holi is one of North India’s most euphoric festivals. Hindus celebrate the beginning of spring by throwing colored water and gulal (powder) at anyone within range. On the night before Holi, bonfires symbolize the demise of the evil demoness Holika, but we don’t see any of these bonfires. We just watch the locals walking around covered in the bright powders.
We leave for the airport to catch our 1:30 flight to Mumbai. Our flight on Kingfisher airlines is uneventful and we arrive in Mumbai around 3:00.
We have to wait around in the airport in Mumbai for four hours until our 7:00 flight to Aurangabad. At the airport we read and eat some dinner and try to kill the time as best as possible. Sometimes when traveling, the waiting time can stretch before you like an endless tunnel.
During this day, I finish the last book I have brought on this trip, Brick Lane. I’m glad it’s finally over. I never like to feel this way about a book, preferring instead to be saddened that the journey with the characters in this time and place has come to an end. I love the feeling of nostalgia that washes over me when I finish a book, when I can dwell for a time in that other imaginary world. In this case, I’m celebrating the fact that the main character, a Bangladeshi woman, has FINALLY made the decision to become independent, to make her own decisions apart from her overbearing husband, and to not immediately fall into the arms of another man. It’s a decision that is long overdue, in my mind. I was irritated with her throughout for being so complacent and submissive. At long last, she decides to stay in London raising her daughters while her husband pursues yet another of his many foolish fantasies. He has met with failure time and time again as an immigrant in London, finding his overblown ambitions quashed. When he decides to uproot his family from their lives in London and return to Bangladesh, where he can become a king in his own homeland, his wife makes the strong decision to stay behind. Her marriage, arranged from the start, has been portrayed in such a negative light through the entire book that I was impatient and, frankly, irritated with her for abiding it as long as she did.
At 7:00, we board our plane to Aurangabad and arrive there at 8:10. We are picked up at the airport by another in a long line of drivers, who are all starting to blend together at this point. This one has his young daughter with him, who, because of our luggage occupying his passenger seat, must sit on his lap for the entire long drive to our hotel.
When we arrive at our hotel, the A.S. Club Hotel, or the Aurangabad Sport Club Hotel, it is on a dirt and gravel road in the middle of nowhere. There is the main part of the hotel and then an adjacent building which looks like a multi-colored prison. We’re escorted to our room, which is tiny, dirty and has a double bed. We say this is totally unacceptable. We argue for a different room. Finally, we’re taken to the main part of the hotel, where we’re shown into another larger room but still with a double bed. The hotel itself is grungy and in dire need of major renovation. I don’t know frankly if it has EVER seen better days. Our room is horrible.
We are hesitant to settle in, believing instead that we can call Umer and make different arrangements. We are due to stay here two nights, after all, and it is totally unacceptable. We head down to the front desk where we ask the hotel manager to call Umer. Once again, we’ve encountered a problem, and he is conveniently unavailable. We email him, but of course it will be too late for tonight to remedy the problem. We have found a top end hotel in our trusty Lonely Planet, the Taj Residency, which we are thinking seriously of paying for ourselves, just to escape this horrible place. When we ask the A.S. Club manager to call that hotel, he tells us they are totally booked because of the Holi holiday. We finally must surrender to the fact that we are stuck here, so we settle in for the night, pulling out our sheet-bags for another night.
Jayne, who is good at calling things as they are, appropriately dubs the A.S. Club Hotel as the Absolute Shit Club Hotel. A more apropos name, for sure!