L’ecole de l’echeque

I am currently convalescing from a fall. Yesterday I set off to ‘boulder’ the environs of a lake. En route I passed through this wee villgae & began to take notes on a forthcoming poem; Of teh chi shops at teh crossroad with old men chatting & smoking beedies – of the water buffaloes plodding through town, of the school kids with their oversized backpacks & their baskets witha bottle of water & lunch wrapped up in newspaper, of teh two identical ‘uiversal shops’ in the village, with the same frontal displays full of soft drainks & Lays crisps – magic masala & tangy tomatoes – of the stray dogs wandering around, the barbers & the mad politcal flags from some forrthcoming panchiyat elections. Ther last thing I noticved was a wee clinic as I left thevillage for the gorgeous resevoir dammed above it. I began to bounce along the boulders round its rim, when after only a couple of hundred metres I came acros what seemd to be a ‘stream of rust. Unfortunately, under the rust was water, &with a yelp I slipped & was carried down its liek a water style. 10 meters down I was coming to the ledge, tried desperately to graba branch, then went over. Luckily the fall was wee enough, but the momentum id gained span me sideways & my fall was broken by a boulder, on which I then cracked my head with a spot of whiplash. Ouch! I immediatley got double vision, which still hasnt compeletly subsided – & about twenty cuts, mostlky along my left leg. Ive also got back pain & cant lift my left arm up above my head- but still, im not dead, so happy days. From teh scene of the fall, after ripping up my shirt to stem the blood flow, the chief of which was on the bottom of my right foot, quiet a gash, I hobbled back to the village. Luckily, the first house I came to was teh clinic, &I got my wounds dressed & bansaged by some very friendly Indians, before hitching a lift back home.

I am staying in the village of Virpapurgaddi, across the tunghabadra river from the more bustling, indian-heavy Hampi. You get there by piling into this wee boat with up to 20 others, , along with mopeds & massive bags of food for the restaurants – its a miracle the thing doesnt sink. The village spreads out alongside the river, & is mainly made up of restaurants. Behind it begins the wonderful bouldery landscape that is a sheer joy to wander in – very alien. A few years ago it was empty, but now a steady troop of middle class climbers are arriving with their massive backpacks full of gear. I did a spot of climbing the other day. There is this white temple perched high atop a boulder-hill about as high as Arthur’s seat. Instead of climbing the tortuous steps, I traced a route up the boulders & went scampering up them liek an agile monkey. The boulders themselves are a tottering bunch, forming mad wee caves beneath your feet on which a slip could prove messy. However, I handled them well with monkey-like agility & found myself at the temple. This turned out t be Hanuman’s birth-place, Anjamadri. At the top I saw a few of Hanumans descendants, the males of which, both old & young, were stood uprights on the backs of the females knees & nailing them in front of all & sundry – a very curious sexual position indeed.

Indeed this area is the home of the monkey gods. Not far away there is a temple, Rishamukh hill. This is the home of Sagriva – teh chief of the monkeys. I was faced there by a new episode of father ted. There is a baba just like father ted, whose been there 50 years & moans at everyone who turrs up – even worse than Charlie. Another baba – my mate – is a thirty year old gorgeously bearded dark-skinned fellow, with only one leg. We’ve got on famously & Ive been going to see him each day for lessons in the Ramayana. I studied it the last time I was here, but he’s helping me to fill in the gaps. I sat down with him on a rock in teh shade as he gets out this weighty bi-lingual tome (hindi & english) & reads through passages for me. Its cool as he skips the more difficult words with a wee mumble, & then elaborates on the ‘main points’ of the lesson. It tunrs out the temple is built on the very spot where Rama met Sagriva, & there friendship was sealed with a handshake. Sagriva then agreed to send millions of monkeys out in search of the lost Seeta.

Over xmas I was hanging about -seperately -with a couple of cute french girls in their late twenties. One is a jewelry maker / seller who lives in Ardesh – a hippy envirnoment near Nice. The other is a Parisian, & is on a festive break before going back to work in Calcutta as a french teacher. Her name is Sagoo & I think we’ll meet again – she says she’ll help to find me digs in Calcutta when I get there in a few weeks. Indeed, it was a very joyeux noel. It was from Amelie that after teaching her – no worries – iin english, she taught me the phrase ‘l’ecole de l’echeque – which means learning from your mistakes. IE, if youre bouldering & theres something that obviously looks slippy – dont f**ckin step on it!

The hippy rainbow tipii spots bin a cool hang out & ive been jamming away with the guys, slowly getting midle eights for a few songs ive been writing in my head over here. Its nice to get a guitar in my hands & ive been penning the songs for the big saraswathi comeback in the spring. I think its a cool concept, leaving the last incarnation of the band to go off to india & be dictated to by the goddess herself. They’re sounding pretty good so far & three more months should get them kicking. I also stumbled on a wedding. I was attracted to it by this amazing sound of drums & horns. It tunred out to be two drummers, a trumpet & a clarinet indulging in call & answer eastern psychadelia. Around them a great trope of Indians were indulging & chit-chat, with the wee ones making mischief at their feet. I was invited to join them in some food & observed a lovely ceremony. The bride & groom were knelt down on something of an ironing board, covered in turmeric & water giving them a yellow hue. Then out came the shampoo sachets & tey were both drenched in water until they were clean – some cleansing poojah before the victuals I think.

As for Charlie, 9 weeks of his incessant moaning finally did my head in & I scampered across the river to the other side for some peace & quiet. I mean, a guy can only take so much, right. He’s like one of teh old gits from that BB comedy show, moaning loudly about all sorts of stuff & not embracing teh fact we’re in this fabulous country, prefering to insult them.Aftera few days away from him & then seeing him again I finally realised this myself. Anyhow, he’s now also come across the river, & gone on to a quiet spot a few kilometres away. In a coupel f days – once im better- Im gonna join his vicinity. Theres a nice room above this village shop, with the roof forming a cool terrace. I reckons a spot of shanti shanti village life is just what the doctor ordred for a week or so, & my next despatch from teh front line will be all about how the panichat works in real life


30 / 12 /10

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