Found religion. Also home decor.

Here is one of those phrases you really don’t want to hear when you’ve finally and with immense effort located the correct station, platform, train, car and seat, and your trip from Mumbai to Aurangabad is just about to begin. Or so you think…

Sorry, looks like your ticket is unconfirmed madam. Now, if you just go and see the station master…

The brilliance of India lies partly in making the eminently simple ( book online, print ticket, get on train) magnificently convoluted (who would’ve guessed that the railways would find it necessary to post your name up on the platform wall complete with a completely different car and seat number to the one on your print out?). Makes sense…if one just left the details up to some faceless computer, half the railway staff would be out of a job…

But hey, thanks to a kind stranger who correctly identified our expressions of panic and despair, seven hours later, we got to the fabled stamping ground of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb..

And found religion, in the form of a homestay maestro called Edward and his devoutly Christian adopted family. Who invited us to a garden party on our last night in town, complete with cheerfully sozzled uncle, dance-crazed 11 year old (that’s her in the pink tee shirt) and earnest slum missionaries hinting with the utmost delicacy at the possibility of future contributions to the cause.

My atheism hanging by a thread, we headed on to Bangalore, city of sin… and I was nearly converted at one blow. I’m in the hotel room recovering from last night’s godly festivities when I hear chanting and banging from outside. I hurry out to see, and it turns out to be a joyous root of turbans and garlands, drums and sabres, saris and song, as Bangalore’s Sikhs celebrate their tenth Guru’s birthday.

Maybe it was because I’d only had three hours sleep that day, but I was entranced to the point of tears (I had to quickly put my sunglasses on). They all seemed so genuinely delighted…and they were sword-dancing, and sweet-throwing, and singing, and whizzy-whirling… and the men were so dashingly handsome with their beards and turbans and silks and daggers. Seriously, I think I’d like to be a Sikh. If they let me wear a cutlass.

Changing the subject, my own bearded companion has decided he wants our home to look more like this…

The Ajanta cave temples near Aurangabad are thought to date from the second century BC, while those at Ellora are a mere thousand years old or so. Stunning. However, inspired by the 200 percent fee hike for foreigners at practically all Indian monuments, I’ll be proposing to the Australian government when we get back that all our sights should charge Indians ten times as much as anyone else. It’s only fair.

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