Monthly Archives: January 2011

Grail Quest

It’s Republic Day in India (the 26th January – the same day as Australia Day & Burns’ day by the way) & I’ve just had a lovely meal at the sai krishna hotel, Jeypore’s finest restaurant. It was paid for by Biswa (world in oriya) & his mate Saroj (lotus) – with Biswa being the 26 year old guy who runs my fave internet shop & I guess I kinda paid for it myself with me being a regualr customer. We’d got on famously & he’d been playing me loads of indian dance music, some of which Im adding to my disco set. In return I gave him a load of western tunes, the like of which Jeypore has probably never seen. He says he’s gonna dish em out to all his mates – so DJ Damo’s gonna be a big name in the Eastern Ghats I hope. We had a lovely chat, with him filling me in on Orissa – its poverty, education problems, temples & dynasties – & me promising the lads somewhere to stay if they visit Edinburgh. Whats also cool is they are eagerly running thro a print out correction copy of my indiad as we speak – he’s just asked what thro means – its actually my version of through, which has alerted me to cleaning up my personal indiosycnhracies when it comes to grammar. Incidentally, Saraj says the freedom that republic day represents is merely a facade.

Now, just before I set off out for India I was writing this book about the lost battlefields of Britain, & was just nearing its completion when Charlie parachuted into my room & started hogging the computer for ketamine/jerry lee lewis sessions. So the book was left unfinished, but one of the last chapters I wrote concerned my discovery of the true grave of King Arthur. Its a water tight theory & was convincing enough for teh Scotsman newsaper to say they’d run the story. However, I think they chickened out – but the story’s going nowhere. Yet life has a funny way of working these things out, & I’m just about to embark on a similar mission. It all began back at the library at Vizag a couple of weeks ago – it was the first day I was there, with the young Sameer as my guide. Once he’d shown me the palce & the wonderful puppet life stories of Ramakrishna Swami Vivenanada that filled teh walls, I though t he’d move on. But instead, he got out a book & began to read beside my. Its subject was how buddhism influenced Jesus Christ, a fascinating wee subject.

A few days after that, in a quiet study moment, I took the book out myself & fell into its depths. It turns out that this russian geezer at the end of the 19th century had discovered a a tibetan text in an obscure kashmeeri monastaery, which detailed the story of christs visit to india. Theres an 18 year life-gap in the bible & it makes sense that he was studying esoteric religions in order to proclaim himself the messiah & free jerusalem from the romans. All the immaculate birth, miracles & ressurection are post-addenda to the myth to make christ seem more appealing to the laymen. Underneath it all, he was probably just a spiritual teacher. Anyway, at first I thought I’d whirl on up to Kashmeer & see for myself – but then I realized the best i’d get was a glimpse of some scroll in a language I dont understand. So I actually read the text & discovered that jesus was supposed to have spent time at the juggernaut temple in orissa – exactly where i’ll be in a couple of weeks or so. These are the relvant bits form this chronicle;

Chapter Five

In the course of his fourteenth year, the young Isha, blessed of God, came on this side of Sind and established himself among the Aryas in the land beloved of God.

Fame spread the reputation of this marvelous child throughout the length of northern Sind, and when he crossed the country of the five rivers and the Rajputana, the devotees of the god Jaine prayed him to dwell among them.

But he left the erring worshippers of Jaine and went to Juggernaut in the country of Orissa, where repose the mortal remains of Vyasa-Krishna and where the white priests of Brahma made him a joyous welcome.

They taught him to read and understand the Vedas, to cure by aid of prayer, to teach, to explain the holy scriptures to the people, and to drive out evil spirits from the bodies of men, restoring unto them their sanity.

Ive figured that somewhere in teh depths of a temple’s vaults theer may be something to corroberate the story, perhaps in a chronicle of the kings of kalinga in the state capital, Bubaneswar. Either way, my instinct says im gonna find something & with discovering King Arthur’s grave & searching for a Christ-related object, I feel like im going off on my own little Grail Quest.

After a couple of sessions on google / wikipedia, Ivecome up with a few other leads. Even if nothing comes of my quest, I should at least encounter some literature which I never knew existed;

The Mahavasma – teh epic of the sri lankan kings (in pali, the same language the lost story was originally in) – the same that mentions ashoka & other indian stories. There has been a new version uneartyehd recently in Cambodia, with many new details – unfortuanteluy its only in pali at the moment

The dipavamsa – connected to teh mahavasma & translated by Hermann Oldenberg

the White Yajur Veda – a veda which I need to raed to see if it connects with th sermon on the mount (which I also need to read)

The mashidisha – contains 84 holy men, one of which could be Jesus (the fisherman perhaps)

The Nathanamavali / teh mosque of fataphur sikri / the quaran / sufi traditions / Bhavishya Maha Purana / Rajatarangini – all have refences to jesus in india

Thats enough to be going along with for now. My first mission is to find out who was the king of kalinga during jesus’ time – jainism had supplanted buddhism by now so maybe they are connected. Plus the other cities he was supposed to have visited. Then just go with the flow

At the moment I am spending my 6th day in Jeypore. I reach’d here last Friday on a train from Vizag, steadily climbing up the west side of the wooded Aruka valley, with views growing spectacular by degrees. Every time we hit a tunnel a huge cacophony of screams & yelps uttered forth from teh mouths of the Indians – in the end I realised they were playing with the tunnels echo-systems. After a few hours we hit Asias former highest railway station at 997 meters above sea level. It was usurped of the honour in 2004 by, I’m guessing, the express railway that links China & Tibet. From there began the steady drop into Orissa & Jeypore through a landscape that increasingly looked like the highlands of Scotland.

After the comfortable hotel at Vizag I’ve opted for a bachelors lodge, with my decent but basic room costing a quid a night. Its a bit noisy at times, but I like the fact there’s no TV – a lot more conducive to working. The town itself is not that big, & its size & the way it peters out into the countryside reminds me of Wigton in Cumbria. However, what a countryside. On one side its a level plain stretching as far as the eye can see toward teh state of Chittarsgarh. On the other is this wonderful horse shoe of wooded hills. At the heart of them is this great hydro-electric dam. I took a walk over to it one day & came across this giant mace-wielding statue of the monkey god hanuman, like a little slice of disneyworld had been planted in India. Back in Jeypore, one can find a shambling old palace in the centre of the town. You cant get in, but can look down on it from neighbouring roves like a sepoy sniper during the 1857 seige of Lucknow. Theres also some proper filthy bits. Theres this school, like, who’s playground is essentially rubbish damp. Then theres this old ghat, completely choked by weeds & rubbish. Still, I thought, I’ll take a wee walk round. En route I encountered 6 man having dumps, & had to avoid a thousand human faeces – not that nice an experience actually.

This was counter’d later that day by experiencing the JAI CHITTAMALA Music Band Party. It was this ramshackle sound system on four wee carts being dragged through the streets of Jeypore. ON the heavily decorated carts were speakers & generators, plus a techno style djembi player & an eight-pad electro drum kit player. Providing the music was this cross-legged moustached guy & a Yamaha keyboard playing all sorts of celestial swirling sounds. By him, walking alongside, were a coupel of singers, huddled liek MCs at a rave. One was about eighteen, & his groove surfing melodies were better than both Ian Brown’s & my own voice put together! Amazing stuff. On both sides of the carts were an assortment of snare players & trumpeters, while directly in fron & behind were the dancers. In front were a bunch of wee boys pulling off some amazing moves including cartwheels, while at the back were all the older men doing a lot of stuff with their hands. To the side of these were all teh women, slowly walking & made up to teh gorgeous Indian max – very hot – inclusing the curious nose-bling that Orissa seems to be the home of. Then behind them were the reason for all this fun & frolics, a very handsome man, again decorated wonderfully, sat in an ambassador car either on his way to & coming form the wedding.

My nicest day involved a two & a half hour bus ride in search of Deomali – the highest mountain of the eastern Ghats. En route I passed thro Koriput, which was full of soldiers with guns gaurding against attacks from the maosit Naxalites. By the time I got to Pattangi, a small dusty town, I still had another 30 k to go to get to Deomali. Howevere, there was a pretty massive hill right in front of me, so I just climbed that instead. At the top I found myself like the sungod Surya, with the peaks of green hills circling on every side like orbiting planets. It was so reminscent of nortehrn Britain it was uncanny, & I could make out the outlines of both pendle Hill & Arthur’s seat.

Im gonna set off into the Orissan hinterland in a day or two. Its a proper step into teh unknown really. Of the 5 million tourists who visit India, less than one percent hit this state. Of them, the vast majority visit just Puri & Konark. The district Im heading for is Mayurbhanj – which has lovely nature reserves full of tigers, but also 3 rapes & 2 kidnappings a day, plus a wild killer elephant that hasn’t been caught yet. So I’ve been getting my bearings really, Orissa is another India completely & I’ve been learning a few words of Oriya to assist me – including ‘bolo swada’ which means good taste. I figure if I do get kidnapped by the naxalites, by complementing their food I should get on their good side – thats if I get fed, however…

Jeypore

26 / 1 / 11

PS – Ive just found out that the ex is coming to India for a coupel of months with the express intention of not seeing me. She could have gone anywhere in the world, but had to come here. I think she was missing the oppurtunity of doing my head in.

Happy Sankranti

Last weekend I was a witness to the rather colourful Sankranti festivities of Andhra Pradesh. They were spread over four days & quite cool to wander about in. The first day was called Bhogi, which began at the unearthly hour of 4 AM. It is then that fires are lit across the state to banish evil spitrits in the same way we burn sage when exorcising a house. I duly set off out in the darkness at four, & went on a tour of the neighbourhoods fires. The first one was just a guy on his own burning two four-by-gours in a shack, his mate snoring besdei him. The second was a largish affair of long poles – but the clientelle wer clearly ruffians, one of whom was being beaten with a brush by an ancient woman half his size defending a bit of rope netting.

The third fire was a wee one, with a lone man boiling a large pot

of water. Nearby was a chi stall doing its first business of the day, & by him a guy standing in front of piles of blue crates full of plastic sacks of pasturised milk. The fourth fire looked like an oil drum, burning by a temple, but on nearing it I realisedf that it was a load of rubber tyres stacked in a tower, with wood insideit, belching off thick black smoke. The fifth fire was a family affair, at the crossroads of two narrow, meditteranean style streets, dominated by the fat controller guy who kept brionging wood out from nowehere to add to his massive pile. The festivities wer disturbed regularly by rickshaws & scooters tryuing to squeeze through the gaps in the road. Walking down the street I passed some startlingly psychadelic patterns chalked outside the houses. Then furtehr on the sixth fire burnt above me – on a bit of concreet sticking out from a half built house. There was no-one sat by it, but it added to the scene.

The seventh fire was on a mainish road, by a temple to Durga – the goddess perched on a tiger – & was woman heavy (& some of them were heavy). I thought this would be a good place to stop, with seven being such an auspicious number at all. The Hindus have seven holy cities, rivers etc. This fire wa spretty big & was buitl within a chalk circle, this one coloured in with flowers at the points of the traingles that formed the circle like nepalese peace flags. I shared the moment with a wetsern girl from luxemberg (her german boyfriedn was asleep) & we silently watched the great pieces of wood turn reptillain in the flames.

The next day was Sankranti itself, when the sky resembled a multi coured spectrum of wafting confetti, as the paper birds filled the azure spaces over the city like the luftwaffe over london during the blitz. In the middle of all the smiling kids, howbver, I got all poignant. There was also this sad wreck of a man sleeping – shaking – on the pavement. Perhaps he was dreaming of a time when he ran though the streest withhis own kite as an innocent fun loving boy, before life struck him low.

The last part of the Sankranti festivities occurred with a mad street party thrown to the local tutelary diety, Lord Balaje, a curious little black fellow who one sees everywhere. It was a bit like Notting Hill Carnival, & indeed there wer loads of speakers belting out tunes top volume to the heaving mass of Indians wandering through the streets. A street was lit up Blackpool illuminations style, with dolphins & green bars puking illuminous light onto the street. All the kids had these wee vuvela things which gave out a dreadful shrieking sound – a bit like mi ex-bird having a strop I mentally noted. There were loads of stalls; porcelain dolls of the gods, sugar cane. A heavily decorated ox ( called a gangireddulu) getting all four legs onto a little wooden stool while his keepers layed drums & trumpet, there were cardboard boxes of chiocken chiks spray painted in pastel coulurs, teher was a guy with a set of weighing scales charging a ruppee a pop, theer were corn on the cob sellers fanning the cobs over hot coals – very tasty actually –

I am now at the half-way point in my Indian tour – two & a half months in, two & a half months to go. This morning I found myself 15 k north of Vizag at a place called Thotlakonda, a hill which houses the ruins of a 2000 year old Buddhist complex. They were’nt particulary impressive, but the views were, of the gold-lined ocean below & the rolling upland greenery of the eastern Ghats behind. The road to sea level was lined with blossoming trees, a very lovely walk which recharged the poet in me. At the foot of the hill I caught a bus which swept me along the ocean drive back to Vizag – a place I hadnt left since I arrived 12 here days ago.

The reason I’ve lingered for so long began last Thursday where, on joining in acricket game with some young Indians, I was befriended by seventeen year old Sameer. He was a likable chap & very keen to hear of life I the west. He’s a muslim to boot & invited me to his house in the old port quarter of Vizag to meet his parents, who were lovely, & fed me like a trooper. Its mad, they literally live off sixty quid a month – & Sameer just receievd a student grant for the same amount to last the whole year. Him & his sister are quite academic – hoping for better lives I guess – & we even discussed Shakespeare. It amazes me really how the young indian ploughs through the complex densities of shakespeare like dull oxes through the tough soil of elizabethan english. However, seeing as they speak four languages fluently – urdu at home, telegu in the streest, english at school & hindi to other indians – I guessed they could handle it.

Sameer also pointed me toward the only library in town. For a few days Id asked all & sundry about the district library & finally came to the conclusion there wasn’t one. However, there is the Ramakrishna Movements Ashram’s library, which flew like an angel into my literary lap. It forms a key component of my daily routine which has been conducted thus:

5.30 AM Wake up

6 AM Walk to train station to get english newspaper, calling for poori breakfast on the way back

7 AM watch a movie playing guess the swear words – they silence the voice & put stars where the word should be on the subtitles – despite being english language films, I think they put english subtitles in to help the Indians learn English

10 AM internet café for an hour of work

Midday – lunch

1 PM – walk to an internet place near the sea for a couple more hours of work

4 PM – the library opens where I hit the books – but only one at a time. They are all held behind locked up glass cabinets, & you have to sign each book in & out every time you use it. The librarys on the beach road & my session is divided by trips to the kisosks on the beach for these beautiful samosas & ice crea, cornest

8 PM Walk back to my hotel, chomping on various street foods as I go

9 PM TV & cups of tea

So that’s it, pretty simple stuff but Ive got some proper work done, preparing loads of notes for my poetic cruise round Orissa which starts in earnest at 6.50 in the morning. Ive gotta conduct a six hour train journey through apparently beautiful scenery, including passing through the highest train station in Asia. Ive got my rough route worked out & one of the places I’ll be calling in on is a Maoist hot-bed. They are a seccessionist group who have been fighting for their rights & lands against, less the Indian government but more the corporate conglomerates.

“The bodies keep coming out of the forest. Slain policemen wrapped in the national flag; slain maoists, displayed like hunters trophies, their wrists & ankles lashed to bamboo poles”

Arundhati Roy

Should be fun…

Visakhapatnam

19/01/11

Blaggin’ Vizag

Welcome to Andhra Pradesh – India’s number one state for competitive rollerskating. Its second city, the port of Vizag, is a great place to wander about in. A far cry from the the intensity of the BIG FOUR – calcutta, delhi, chennai & mumbai, with wide streets & smatterings of traffic. However, theres 1.5 miillion people who live here, which would make it Britain’s second city in size – more than Glasgow or Birmingham. Its also off the baten track. Since i got here Ive seen five westerners; two irate germans who got into my train carriage as I arrived & pointed me in the direction of the hotels, plus two plum american women & a six year old boy coming out of a hotel. Other than that its just been me on my own – rather like one of those British officials of the Raj who would find himself ruling two hundred thousand indians. However, those days are gone & now there’s just the odd english poet wandering through the dust of empires lost.

Talking of plump women, I saw a funny incident in the street. Two women in their fifties were suddenly halted & slapped about by this woman in her twenties. A fight ensued over a golden sari, in which one of the plump women had a top ripped open to reveal a rather large granny breast. A large crowd began to gather around the melee, to the side of which a security guard was blowing his whislte to no effect at all. Then the old women were dragged through the street to a shopping mall, where I presumed the sari had been stolen from. They were led underneath it, some large gates being bolted as they passed under, Excited, I tried to climb a wall to see if they were getting a battering, a process which was halted by this security gaurd witha stick who threatened to batter me. Instead I slipped down a side street & up a tenement & jumping spiderman like across a couple of rooves managed to get a view of the women pathetically lying down in a carpark, awaiting their fate. Content that they were not being clubbed to death I went on my way.

One morning I went for a walk along the seafront. Its a charming yet ageing affair, like Brighton in the 90’s before it got trendy. Some of the beach is golden, while some of it is a bit skanky, & the whole lot cool’d by a stiff breeze, pleasantly relieving me of the 30 degree heat. The promenade is full of statues & murals, from Indian freedom fighters to dinosaurs & mermaids. There is even a massive old submarine right on teh sea front that you can wander about in for 25 rupees. Not far from there is a wonderful war memorial, far more inspiring than the dull affairs back home. It is testament to the 1971 war with pakistan, who’d sent a submarine to Vizag to sink Indias only aircraft carrier. However, it was sunk by a depth charge, a model of which creates the centrepiece of a fountain beside the chimney-like marble memorial. In the little garden you can also find a green & red Indian tank & a jet fighter, painted sky blue with a white underbelly, perfectly camaflauge for the air. There are also four quotes on the memorial which I wrote down. I found them quite inspiring, a far cry from the solemn dreary roll calls of the dead on our memorials, which seem somehow resigned to being places of sadness, unlike this memorial which makes one want to change nationality & join the Indian army.

The first duty of a soldier is to attend to the safety & interests of his country

A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours

All a soldier desires to drive him forward is recognition for his work

The nation that forgets its defenders will have no need of ancestors

Back at the craft world there were also loads of pretty sets of earrings for 10 rupees a pair. I did actually spend some money – there was the ‘Rajasthani Churan stall’ which had about thirty different sweets in all shapes, colours & sizes. Some were conventional enough, but some were basically curry sweets. I sampled a few & bought a 100g of two of my favorites. I then found myself at the rajastahani pickle stall – similar to the charan place, but with about twenty massive [plastic see thro buckets of assorted pickles. Id just sampled my third lot when I was told I had to buy something now. The problem was, after the first lot of pickle hits your tongue you cannot really use your taste buds any more, & so cannot make a decisive judgment. I also had no intention of buying any anyway, so swiftly exited left.

On the way out of the craft store I was suddenly struck by the beauty of these pictures. They had been engraved onto palm leaves & the detail was incredible. I got chatting to the guy & it turns out they stuff is from a village in Orissa. I’ll be heading there next (eventually) to write some sonnets, & its wicked to pick up a few pointers of where to go en route. I’ll definitey be checking out this village now, along with another place. I got chatting to a young Indian woman on the way in to Vizag on teh train, who told me the native version of the story of emperors conversion to Buddhism – something the books would never tell me. This is why I love literary archeology – you really do have to travel the world to fill in the inherent gaps contained in libraries & the internet. I got her number by the way, & she’s up for being my guide when I hit Orissa.

Its getting interesting being in such an indigenous city, & im guessing with my new tan I look a bit Indian, & Im getting spoken to in Telegu quiet a lot. The place has a lazy air at the momemt. I have also arrived in the middle of a festival called Sankaranti. A movement celebrated of the sun beginning its journey into the northern hemisphere (the uttarayan) & is celebrated across India under different guises – to the Tamils its is Pongal, to the people of Assam it is Bihu. Here in Andhra Pradesh there is a lot of kite-flying going on, plus illegal cock-fighting, where billions of rupees are blown on beer & gambling. The sport in question is cockfighting, with the feathery tysons having 4 inch blades tied to their legs. It is illegal, but it seems the states top politicians have ringside seats. As for the beer, Im guessing theres a problem in AP. Despite the spirits being four times more expensive than in Goa, every morning on my street this guy tunrs up with cardboard boxes full of bottles & sells the hard stuff at 50 rupees a glass – & he’s inundated.

13/01/11

Visakhapatnam

Happy Journey

So, I’m finally on mi todd, swallowed up by the subcontinent by the Bay of Bengal. Back in Hampi Charlie’s felt too settled to move on. He’s found a hut for 50 rupees ran by this cheey chillum-toking baba – in fact the place is called baba cafe – who sits on a matress in the caff all day smoking said chillums. Charlie’s also furiously writing two books – his life story & an account of his trip to India. I dont blame him, the place he’s staying it is gorgeous, right by a river & one of the bouldery hills. Thus happy enough that he’s in safe hands, I’m now embracing the rest of this country & find myself properly alone for the first time in a good, good while. Its like someone lifted me up out of Edinburgh & a coupel of cyclones later plonked me in Vizag – Visakapatnam’s nick-name.

Just over twenty four hours ago I was in Hampi, contendly waiting at Smiley’s place, before being inundated by 15 young uns from Halifax & Leeds. The Roses banter was friendly enough, but a yorkshire lad did start to raise the banter levels the longer he had to wait for his eggs – are you waiting for the chicken to lay them, followed by a rude comment as to my county persuasion. In fact, it was a decidedly busy session, for the poilce were yet again in town – this time witha couple of JCBS knocking down any restaurants & houses that had been built withouout permission. During this I was told that the boat to the other side of the river (& freedom) had been cancelled for the day – stranding me on Hampi island. However, it came & with a few warm hugs & ‘happy journeys’ from the locals I was on my way. I collected my ticket from this travel agents – which had happy jounrey written on it – & was wished a happy journey by the seller. The ticket was 300 rupeees, But I’d had to pay bakshish to get the last seat on teh train a week ago. I didnt mind, because it took me where I wanted to go – the other option being a two week wait & a crappier route.

I then caught a bus to Hospet – which halted once when this oldish woman was trying to blag a free ride, & a loud argument ensued. Keen to continue, I bought her ticket (13 rupees) & we were happily trundnling along when there was another screech to a halt. This time the bus had knocked a guy off his scooter. He was proper dazed & confused, with snot coming out of his nose, but a few bottles of water over his head & he was compus enough to begin an argument with the bus driver. Then we were all shunted off the bus onto another one & finanly we made Hospet, where a big board above the station wished me a ‘HAPPY JOURNEY’

It was while waiting for my train to Gunttukal (where Id change for Vizag) that a very funny four hours began. There was this cute Israeli girl – a 24 year old called Gal – who I approached, as one normally does when surrounded by Indians in a case of “i’ll watch your bag if you watch mine.’ I said Id also ‘protect’ her from any cheezy sleezy men. Anyhow, & quite hypocritically, something happened on that train, a wee spot of cupid I think, & found her gazing at me with this big brown dreamy eyes. The indians around us thought us man & wife & after a while it actually felt like we were. Once at Guntakkal, we were stood on the bridge over the platforms, the sun just setting, & making out like crazy. Sensual spontaniety at its most romantic, yet i felt a wee bit hyporitical as her protecetor had ended up hitting on her. We had two more hours together. My train was heading east & hers was heading west to Mumbai & her flight tpo Tel Aviv. Unfortunatly the railway retiring rooms were closed (we were both up for it) so we found a bench on a quiet platform & hung out. She was a great kisser by the way.

After one last kiss to the sound of engines & cacophonic tooting I left Gal & I got on a sleeper train to Vizag. For 17 hours. The experience is worth doing & is an absolute neccessity in India. Theres plenty of food being touted up & down the aisles, from Ice cream & samosas to full lmeals & packets of sweet cherries, with the beggars not far behind – the blind, the limless & the decrepit. There were also two ladyboys who did their weekly ‘shopping.’ They turn up with an agressive clap of the hands & basically demand money off the men – which they invariably get. Apparently they are only allowed to do it on fridays & saturdays – something for the weekend I dare say.

So Im now in Vizag the so called ‘city of destiny. ‘So far its nothing special – but ive only seen the train station & a couple of streets. However, I’ve got the feeling its gonna be a great place to hole up & explore for a few days! Heres the wikipedia link…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visakhapatnam

Visakapatnam
9/1/11

Working Man

You wait two years for a job to pop along – then three arrive more or less at once. First was becoming charlies guide, the second was a top goa dj & now ive just done a spot of waiting. Its been an interesting journey to the world of food delivery. After my fall, instead of moving to the village i mentioned, i just stayed put, letting my wounds – & chiefly my foot – heal. The concussion was weird for a few days, but has finally gone, despite being occasionally topped up by banging my head on the door frame of my cottage. Im too tall for India. So, ive just been hanging around my restaurant, lounging in hammocks or on the comfy matresses by the low tables, watching the ferry to & fro over the tunghabadra. The view is gorgeous, actually, with the ghats of hampi sprawling for a quarter mile across the silky waves. Thesres this posses of folk staying here who all seem to have had a knock to the head, as they are just as lazy as me – reading smoking & making jewellry. There’s 4 Austrian birds, a gaggle of young Israelis toing & froing on their bikes. This this young brahman caste lad (the elite) with karated-up forearms from bangalore. This wild 19 year old french bird who has boys following her like lost puppies, & so on.

To eat Ive sometimes ventured out of my idyll to a small, popular street restaurant round the corner. Its run by two brothers – faruk & Ismael hussein – the latter being called Smiley. IN fact, hes like the indian version of me, grinning constantly. He says were same-same but different. Anyhows, every time ive tried to pay they keep saying pay next life. After a few days i came to the conclusion they meant it. So tonight, when smiley was away at his local village getting ‘jiggy jiggy’ from his wife, with faruk suddenly inundated with israelis, I stepped into the brink & waited my ass off. Great fun. I noted down the orders I took – the total value was 735 rupees – this is what you get for just over a tenner

a special thali (loads of bits n pieces)
veg rice
3 daal frys
3 chappati
2 aloo gobi
6 rice
2 malai koftas
1 chi
3 mineral water bottles
3 cokes
2 plain nan
3 maslala dosa
2 sprite
2 chicken fried rice

I leave Hampi on saturday & enjoyed doing it so much Im gonna help the boys over the coming days. Theres a chace charlies gonna come with me. We made up at new year – even bumping into fim who we lived with at patnem. There was a new year party on at the tipi place & I had a great time jamming round a fire until a minute after midnight, when the local police turned up & bamboo massaged the owner. The next day we just got pissed up at my restaurant dancing to the happy mondays & stuff, to the disillusionment of the locals. So me & charlie back on the road – should be fun. The plan is to go to a city called visakapatnam – ithe so called goa of the east coast. Ive a few sonnets to write in the area, then 14 sonnets in Orissa (the orissiad) which im gonna hit indiana jones style – theres supposed to be mad tribes & that there. After a few weeks of touring this indian backwater, i’ll calcutta, where a few sonnets later i’ll have finished the indiad. I spent today typing up a load of the new stuff, which are below. Plus some photos of Hampi I blagged off an israeli. You know, these arthur daleys have definitely mellowed since my first visit 9 years ago.

THE BIRTH OF A CALF

Parking my scooter in Canacona
A great prostrate cow seem’d to be dying
Guts on the pavement where she was lying
But no… close by lay her hour-old daughter

I watch’d the wee one make her falt’ring first
Steps in the world, like some ambitious teen,
Thro her mother’s dung, slippery & green
Then in the hot noon felt an earthly thirst

Went looking for something, nuzzling half-blind
She suckles on her mother’s rough larynx
Who stands up, stands motionless as a sphynx
Then with a lick acknowledges her kind,

Who now creeps forward to the golden teet
& clamps down hard as angels swoop the street

This next ones a beautiful folk tale –
laksmi is the goddess of walth & jyestha teh goddess of poverty

Two goddesses bickered about beauty
prepared to start a secoind trojan war
srinavas wisdom thunders crore on crore
My Jyesthadevi, my Laksmidevi
there is a young carpenter of Bundi
who is so very honest to his core
how soon they bnoth were standing at his door
who is the most beautiful, she or me

our humble craftsman thought a mortal while
& says laksmi most lovely on arriving
Yet Jyestha more gorgeoues when she departs
thkis answer made each goddess equal asmile
& he, celestial wrath surviving
learns flattery woos e’en immortal hearts

Kumbh Mela

Two saddhus set off from rishmuka hioll
upon their twelve year march to haridwar
where fifty laks of fellow babas mill
about the nectar dropped by garuda
Sharing the joy of kinship by the ghats
intoxicated a the mobiule phones
of young basbas bubble with girlfriend chats
how ganesha giggles at our ring tones
& as all festivals have headline acts
teh babs do yagas by teh ganga
where sanctity of solemn poojah pacts
are sealing divinity with ganja
then leaving all their friends with words & waves
the herd home to the mountains & the caves

Akbars harem

Theres a full moon oer Fatapur Sikiri
With which five thousand women are in synch
But one man has their measure – tender, cheeky
He plys them all with opium & drink
& kama sutras with such appetite
women have begged to enter hbis harem
tho jealousy & intrigue seeds for fight
& furious frustration makes tehm scream
These dancing girls in their sexy dresses
these cute abyssinain concubines
these asian slave girls in musky tresses
these arab eunochs hennaful designs
drawn from all parts of a growing empire
to satisfy its emporers desire