In the late 1590’s a group of musicians & poets got together in Florence & essentially invented Opera. Well, in mi ‘ed n everfink Ive just invented Rockera. The idea is that a band will be on stage as normal, but in front of them a play/musical will be going on – there’ll be minimal props & stuff – mainly cos the drums’ll be hogging the space. Its Calcutta, y’see, & India of course. Full of culture. I’m going to see a dance recital tonight of KATHAK – this crazy theatre world of supernatural costumes, dancers, singers & actors – all on the same stage. The other day I went to see some Indian classical music, the highlight of which was opening my legs virgin like to the wonders of a sitar played majestically for the first time. It was a celestial experience & I definitely felt I was on Mephadrone for most of the gig. I’m looking forwards to getting back to Edinburgh & putting my new eastern-influenced art-form into practice – after all, Edina is La Firenze della Nord.
Calcutta’s a very fine city, full of cheap & tasty food, with lots of going on & things to see. There’s the genetic mutation of a White Tiger at Alipore Zoo, where most of the tea-stained cages are void of even a fake plastic flower. There’s the prolifty of modern art galleries (which Charlie usually storms about in a huff goin’ ‘that was shite’), there’s College Street, a world of books & bookshops & the famous Indian Coffee House where the waiters are dressed up like cockateets. There’s BBD Bagh – formerly Dalhousie Square – full of British pomp & architecture, including the fabulous GPO, the former nerve centre of an empire. There was Holi – the festival of colour – where I was getting paint-bombed (water bombs with paint) from high buildings & everyones covered in pink paint. The stuffs well hard to get out & I had a pink forehead for days.There’s teh very cool one-line metro system that links the city north & south for between 4 & 8 rupees a ride. There’s Salt Lake City Stadium, a great football arena that rivals the Nou Camp in size – but was filled with only a thousand die hard fans for a game the Indian’s barely notice. It’s the cricket, y’see, & they love it. Last night I watch’d the Indians beat the Aussies in the world cup quarter final on TV, setting up a semi final with their arch rivals Pakistan. Believe you me, its gonna be electric round these parts. I stay on the edge of a muslim area, so there might even be a riot if India lose.
After the match I could hear fireworks being set off around the city from the roof of the Modern Lodge, a really cool hang out for my stay in Calcutta. Its just off Sudder Street – the travellers ghetto – surrounded by eateries, chi shops & even a record store which has some disco vinyl I dont have! I was listening to some through a gramophone style thing in the street which got some amusing looks & me in a reyt funky mood. Its very Bohemian & foregners only, which is made up of mostly folk volunteering for the Mother Teresa Mission that does work across the city. Its where I met TP Kiernan, the photographer who has filled up this blog with his wonderful B&W photos. Interestingly enough he has offered Charlie a room in his farmhouse in the middle of Ireland – which should keep the heat of him a little while longer. Talking of Charlie, I guess hanging out with me for so long rattling on about sonnets has inspired him- & here’s his first sonnet – which is probably better than my whole feckin Indiad;
THE REACHING OF CALCUTTA
By Charlie Fairclough
We arrived on a train at Howrah Station
In the midst of onion inflation
Two fifty rupees taxi fair
Feck it man we’ll walk it there
So we hoisted our bags & off we went
Across the Howrah Bridge
Then trudging down the River Bank
I realised Calcutta stank
The beggars chased us everywhere
The lepers with a doleful stare
Held out their rotting digits
Just give me something
But I haven’t got a biscuit
Genius! As for my own poems about Calcutta, Ive done about 30 out of a projected 98, but have hit a brick wall of apathy & heat. Its almost touching 40 degrees celsius in the middle of the day & my heads melting into mush, with my clothes sticking sweaty to my skin. I need the cool of air of Lancashire & the East Lothian hills to finish this one I think. Ive got loads of notes, though, picked up from wanderings or the two graet libraries in town. Theres the national Library of India in the grounds of this mahrajas old palce, & the Ramakrishna mission, the HQ of this divine guy whose spirituality was borderline schizophrenia, but whose legacy was a world of learning & books – whose libraries I’ve been using all up the East Coast Its cool getting eastern insights into set western ideas – for example there’s this Nostradamus Quatrain (vi-27) – Within the islands of five rivers to one, by the crescent of the great Chyren Selin. No-one in the west knows where these five rivers are – but the word Punjab means five rivers – where teh Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Bens & Sutlej all flow into the Indus. – The crescent is on the Pakistani flag by the way. Here’s one of my Calcutta pieces anyway;
She’s up from the Sunderbans, her village was decaying
& found herself a destitute, an elf on Sudder Street
Dismiss’d by her government, her gods ignoring praying
Her final resolution – no begging, nothing to eat!
Her mother caught the Black TB whose nightly liqour treat
Ensured their police harassment, what wild lives we humans lead!
& as her mother pass’d away, with nothing on her feet,
She was now her own mother with three younger mouths to feed
With teenage prostitution desperation made complete
Condemn’d by mega-wealthy Westerners, “A lesser breed!”
Only the decent Amir Vela Mandir pay her heed.
Every Sunday every soul who patiently waits in line
Recieves their sweets & savouries & sabje in a bag –
Then shuffles back to paving flags to sip their gutter-wine.
O yeah – The Nepal trip lasted a few hours – it involved a drop down a very steep hill, following a mule trail over a river border into Nepal, climbing an equally steep hill, finidng a wee village for a lunch of cheap Nepalese brandy & momos (attracting manic interest form the locals) & then the return up & down said steep hills – absoloutley knackering, but wonderful scenery & definitely, with all the connotations, the best walk I’ve ever been on – it was more the last of the summers wine than the raiders of the lost ark, but still all highly illegal & jolly good fun!