The earliest years of my life coincided with the end of the half-penny coin as legal tender. I remember as a wee thing buying sweets for half a p at the newsagents. Once the ha’penny bit had gone, for a while we we offered two sweets for a penny, until all of a sudden all sweets were now 1p. This was my first taste of inflation, by the way, & I didn’t enjoy it at all. Anyhow, half a pence is the lowest Ive ever spent on anything in my life – until, that is, I got an Indian sim card, where after every call you get a text telling you how much the last call cost & how much credit you have left. Seriously, one call cost me 0.132 of a rupee, & with a rupee worth more or less a penny, that’s a transaction that cost me 0.1 pence! The last time I was in India, I was getting 63 rupees per pound – but now its hitting a ten year high & giving me a hell of a lot more spending money – happy days!
Thus, in my first full day in India, once Victor Pope had arrived from Edinburgh, we could afford to take a driver for the day & buzz about the sights of Delhi. Along for the ride came Manuel, a 28-year Swiss guy old I’d met at the airport & is pretty much headed to all the places me & Victor are – our new best friend. Our car, by the way, & driver, & petrol, cost us only £11 for 8 hours – mad, eh? In this time we checked out some of wicked Delhi’s forts, buzzed about British-built New Delhi for a bit, then hit the Indian Habitat Centre for a great photo exhibition & a sitar recital. The Sitar guy was wicked, connecting with his tabla player like two loved-up gay guys on the job. In the audience was this very auspicious grey haired pandit (maestro) who was almost conducting proceedings – moving his own hands as the main guy strutted his stuff on the fretboard. Its a credit to the sitar system that ancient pieces have been passed down from master to student quite note for note over many centuries.
Today was public holiday – Mahatma Ghandi day – so everything was closed & a little less wacky races, so I decided to begin my pursuit of the Indian Jesus in earnest. Me & Victor entered the extremely modern, ten year old Delhi metro system (for 16p), & buzzed along to the Hauz Khas area & the Tushita Mahayan meditation centre. On the way I got chatting to a young Hindoo, who told me he had read the New Testament & felt that the teachings of Christianity & Hindooism were very similar – which of course they are, springing, as they do, from the same source. Once in Hauz Khas, a cool half-Indian, half-British monk called Kabir met us in the street, clad in orange robes & as mellow as a Buddhist mantra. His grandmother on his mother’s side was a Bullen, by the way, which I thought an auspicious sign. He gladly led us to the centre & its library, where I was left to perform my litologocal dig. I will come to the Buddhist Avatar of Jesus all in good time, but until then suffice to say I found evidence in the library which confirms my suspicions.
While I was doing this, I sent Victor to a nearby Deer Park Id visited before. He returned at 5PM, just in time for a talk by this Australian Buddhist on Mindfulness being the Key to Happiness. I found it quite rewarding myself, but Ste thought it unfair he couldn’t let go of his anger by shouting at his computer (its a scary sight trust me) & got nothing at all from the talk. After this we went back to the IHC for a performance of Kathak. I’d really fallen in love with it the last time I was in India – Its a traditional folk dance of south India that is simply a thrill & delight to watch. A combination of ballet spins, manic tap dancing & poetic hand-arm movements, backed up by tablas & sitars, its a relentless hurricane of bodily movement that makes my own hyperactivity seem veritably slothlike – even Victor thought it was, & I quote, ‘Alright!‘. The costumes are gorgeous & uniform, as is the syncrhonicity of highly complicated dance routines.
So that’s Delhi in a nutshell – the city’s improving; less poverty, more affluence & a riot of sensory stimulation. Tomorrow morning we hit the road & the Raj, or rather the Radge, awaits.