In the tenth century, a Persian scholar named Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq (The Truthful) wrote the following passage concerning Yuz Asaf – i.e. Jesus;
When Yuz Asaf heard the angel’s message he prostrated himself before God and said:
I submit myself to Thy command, O God Almighty! Enlighten me of Thy Will. I praise Thee and I am grateful to Thee for having guided me… The angel, therefore, guided him to leave the country…and then leaving Sholabeth he proceeded on his journey….Then Yuz Asaf, after roaming about in many cities, reached that country which is called Kashmir.
Sholabeth is an ancient name Sri Lanka, & if Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq was right, then Jesus must have at some point been in South India. Knowing this, as I reclined in my poetic duvet back in Orrcha, I felt it was a time to head south. Before, however, I made sure I took a few photos of that wonderful place, a little sub-piece I have called A Walk around Orrcha... enjoy!
The funniest episode at Orrcha was seeing this guy who was pretending to be deaf & dumb suddenly start talking to his partner-in-crime. On telling Victor this, I found out he’d fallen for it hook line & sinker & given the guy 100 rupees. This really wound me up & I confronted the scammers & got vVic his money back – unfortunately Vic wasn’t impressed it was only a quid & I should have let it lie – but an Englishman is bound by duty to play by the rules, & wearing a sign around your neck saying ‘I’m deaf & dumb, please give money,’ is just simply not cricket!
Our journey to South India was an epic one – 28 hours on a train – two days one night – a journey pleasantly eased by a half-bottle of whiskey & some low-grade valium. Getting on a sleeper train is a bit of a lottery, you don’t know who you’re gonna get, a bit like famous Yorkshire food dispenser Jack Fultons, where ya pay ya money & take ya chances! On this occasion we were sharing with a young mother & her two kids, the youngest of which was hilarious – better than the telly. On the night, however, I got annoyed by this young lad who only had a general ticket – ie no bed – he was part of a group of guys who were sharing one bunk, two of which curled up together & left no space for him. Then, when the mother & her eldest son was asleep, he starts asking her younger son, who was still awake, to go & sleep with his mum so he could share the eldest son’s bunk – it was actually ridiculous to a westerner, & I protested on the boys behalf!
Then, half an hour later the youngest went to sleep with his mum, which was the cue for the bunkless lad to get in with the eldest son – a complete stranger might I add! A this point I gave up, thinking India had different rules, & started drifting to sleep, only to be rudely awoken soon after by a man who actually had the bunk which the eldest son & the ‘magpie’ were sleeping in. Cue a little bit of justice, when the ‘magpie’ was forced to sleep on the floor ‘right by me,’ with the eldest son squeezing in with his mother & brother.
Last night we arrived in Chennai, & it was a joy to be back. We’d arrived on the aptly titled Thirukural Express, and is the only train I know of in the world that is named after a poem I have translated. This morning I rose early & rickshawed to the highly lavish Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the current World Chess Championship Match is being played out between the champion, Vishy Anand -a Chennai Boy – & the 22-year-old Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlson. Unfortunately, the match is sell-out for the next few days, so I wont be seeing it. However, DD Sports, an Indian TV channel, will be showing it live, so I can catch it from the comfort of any hotel room.
This meant there was no real reason to stick around Chennai, so I accelerated my programme of study, spending the late morning & afternoon at Madras University & its Marina Campus Library right by the stretching golden sands of Chennai Beach, framed as they are by the choppy waters of the Bay of Bengal. During my studies back in Edinburgh, I came across mentions of books I could only find in Tamil Nadu, & I finally got to lay my hands on them, having ‘em photocopied for a rupee a page. Its apt that I continue my Jesus hunt in Chennai, for according to popular tradition, one of the city’s suburbs – Mylapore – saw the martydom of St Thomas – showing how Christianty was in Tamil Nadu from more or less the word go.
Of the Seven Avatars of Jesus Christ I have discovered, two are to be found in Tamil Nadu, & the next few weeks will be spent tracking them down – with the hedonistic pleasure-ride that is Goa to follow! With Victor buying a semi-acoustic guitar while I was studying, & my laptop full of banging tunes, we’re gonna pincer the party with a Tinky-Disco/Victor Pope slam-dunk combo…
Extra Bit - While at the Ancient Indian History & Archeology Department of the Madras University, by some crazy chance I met a professor who, to cut a long story short, is going to team up with me to produce a new rendition of Tirukural. He is gonna transliterate the Tamil into Roman script, & also translate my introduction into Tamil – an interesting project & one he says was sent to him by god – he even said I was an Indian in one of my previous lives, which kinda makes sense, & made me pray along to the Vedas with him, which I did awkwardly but silently…