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Wednesday, 3 Jan 2007: Blighted in Bangalore January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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My second as well as last day in Bangalore, and probably the most memorable day of my trip, albeit in a bad way. Began the day by hitting MG Road and Brigade Road. Shopped at the Bookworm, a small shop tucked away in MG Road, next to Gangarams, one of the largest bookshops in Asia, with 4 floors. I recommend Bookworm if you are looking for used books at good prices. Picked up an unused copy of ‘The Google Story’ at 40 Rs less than at Gangarams. Spent time with friends. Indulged in chocolate iceberg at Café Coffee Day. Couldn’t resist having lunch at Brindavan for a second consecutive day. Service can be a little slow if you sit at the tables away from the bill counter.

Continued shopping. Even picked up a flute from a roadside vendor for 30 Rs. Got to the railway station to board the 637 Ernakulam (Cochin) Express which was departing at 5.15pm. Found out our AC coach, settled into our berths and kept our luggage securely. And then got conned.
This really suave and urbane guy sat opposite to us and we were soon chatting away to glory. He was soon telling his life story. North Indian guy from merchant navy. Going to Cochin to get married. Had so much luggage and spent all the money he had to to book them in the luggage van of the train. Got his credit card ‘captured’ at the ATM in the railway station. Had no money left to buy a ticket. So requested us to loan him some money so that he could buy his ticket. Told us that he would repay us when his people came to pick him at the railway station in Cochin. Now, had he asked us just like that, we wouldn’t have given him the money. But this guy weaved an incredible tale that involved merchant navy, oil tankers, Khorfakkan, a new job at Shell, a love marriage, relatives coming to receive at the railway station and so on and so forth… dignified haplessness, if you might call that. Seemed to be a quite polished chap. As the train was just about to leave, me and my friend felt that even if it was a genuine need, he couldn’t buy a ticket and come back and board the train in time. But things were just happening too fast that we couldn’t refuse him. I didn’t have much change on me, so I ended up giving him 600 Rs. He promptly disappeared ‘to buy his ticket’. It was such an experience, that I still don’t know to date, if that was a genuine need or not. All I know is that’s the last I have seen of my 600 bucks. That’s the price I had to pay to forgetting the golden rule while travelling. Never volunteer to help, especially with money, no matter what the issue or who the individual. When you are on a journey, your first priority should always be you and only you. Be firm but polite, and always say NO. Though it was such a depressing experience, it was such a great eye-opener, meeting the ‘smart conman’ as I call him now. Always keep an eye out for such people, they are everywhere… not just on trains. Felt particularly bad as that was the first experience in my almost month long travels across India, where I had come across scores and scores of beggars, touts, hagglers and shady figures and always managed to steer clear from them. We soon left Bangalore, and met this couple from Saudi Arabia. My friend had to tell this ‘con story’ to them and soon they were telling us tales about how they had been ripped off by strangers, especially in railway stations. Felt much better. 🙂 You can bet that the Bangalore con experience has made me a much better person, when it comes to saying NO. There are some things you only learn the hard way!

To view more snaps from Bangalore, click on http://new.photos.yahoo.com/schmoozeby/
Type ‘Bangalore’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.

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