I chose this area partly because I stayed here in 2008, partly because it's close to the old railway station from where I'll catch the 6:00 AM train tomorrow to Bhopal. But I wasn't prepared for how run-down and filthy Main Bazar Road has become in the intervening years. And Hotel Vivek, which was never what you'd call pucca sahib exactly, has become downright seedy.
Same staff welcome me. Same old man guards the front door. Same fat co-owner leers at me with his bulbous eyes, insisting he himself bring Mem bottle of water upstairs to room. Small comfort knowing he's after a tip and not my body. Same rooftop cafe: gone to greasy dustballs and dead flowers but at least the food's still reasonable.
A quick once-over with Baby Wipes in lieu of a bucket shower in the none-too-pristine bathroom, despite its new sink and toilet, and into bed. Then it starts: horns honk; tongues wag - in every conceivable language you can imagine; dogs bark; traffic snarls; trucks rumble. A parade, probably a funeral, accompanies me into fitful sleep. Mixes with jet-lag, images of delly belly, shadows, wakefullness, a dreamscape. Seventy-two trombones play off-key, big drums enthusiastically beaten, march through the bedroom from the narrow street a hundred feet below. Recede. Return. Recede again. Until fitful sleep claims the exhausted traveler at last.