|Subject: Just another day in Hindustan
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2000 04:31:39 -0800 (PST)
Oh, my faithful audience. Thank you for putting up with my spammage. I look through all these names from so many different places in my life. Misty I've know from before I have conscious memories. And Vered; you saw me in the glimmer of my first weeks in India. Tommy, WiL, y'all know me too well... but would you still know me now... in the wake of India?
Those of y'all ("you all"-southern american dialect, for the foriegners)who have been to India are the only ones who can possibly understand what this country does to you're brain, but for those who have not been exposed to the India virus, I'll try to describe it as best I can.
To start with, my shit is the strangest conjunction of constipation diareah I've ever experienced. But the fourth time it comes around, you're pretty much used to it, and you go on with your day. Cows are household pets, you feed them your Banana peels and that's about as far as that goes. Goats and Dogs and Monkeys of several varieties. Parrots, and bats the size of ravens, chirp in the trees. But after five months, none of this really impresses you anymore.
I'm now in Maharashtra, in Auragubad after 16 hours on a train and maybe 3 hours of bus riding. Picture perfect smooth sailing. Left at 3 pm, changed trains at 3am. didn't sleep a wink in the wake of the Chennai fiasco (more on that later). I'm finally travelling light enough that I don't have to plan for shit. I went to the museum in Sanchi (a stupa from 200 BC, and a thousand-odd years of remains)carrying my 10 kilo pack (20lb) and didn't feel burdened. About the time I left the museum I desided, gee I'm ready to go. oddly everything fell in line with a precision that made me paranoid. The bus practically met me half way to the bus stand. I arrived at the train station 15 minutes before the train itself arrived and was wisked away, 3rd class (which implies a level of anarchy that one simply does not find anywhere in the world, not even the Manhattan subway at rush hour can compare)all the way to Manmad. The connecting train to Aurangubad came 30 minutes later, both trains running eeriely on time (an apostasy for Indian trains), and by 5:30 am I arrived in Aurangubad. Started walking in to town and a local bus stopped right in front of me as I left a Hanuman temple after making my devotions. Took me straight to the bus stand, where the bus was waiting, ready to leave for Ellora, my destination. At this point I haven't slept a wink since 9am the previous morning, a morning following shivaratri which I celebrated with a small band of locals with a very loud P.A. speaker and not a single melodic nuance between them. I figured it was better to be in the eye of that storm. This is in Sanchi, now, a tiny villiage where you can't even get a proper indian meal. Anyway, perhaps the crooning had something to do with the "special ingredient" in the tea. Everyone knows which herb is sacred to shiva, well, I had my first three glasses with suspicision, but on my fourth glass I actually had a quarter inch (5mm) of the green pasty yet chalky substance at the bottom of my glass. This is "prassad", now, a sacred offering to lord Shiva on the eve of his marriage. Anyway... after not having slept much that night, and none at all last night, after roaming with no plan only to be swept with the greatest efficiency to the closed, and locked gates of the temples at Ellora. Seems they're closed on Mondays. This is India.
Anyway, I still haven't slept. I have had no luck with the hotels. The two in the vicinity of the temple were charging an outragous amount for a room. 250rs! (6 USD) I'm used to paying 50rs for a room, so I just jumped on the next bus back to Aurangubad. As we came around a corner I couldn't help noticing this fucking huge fort, Before I knew what was happening (this is sleep deprivation for you) I was jumping back off the bus and climbing the 600 feet to the summit of the mountain. Sheer cliffs on all sides make this a seriously impregnible inner sactum reached through a staircase carved inside the mountian. I was having flashbacks from Lord of the Rings, which wasn't helped by the unbelievable number of bats (the normal, small variety) conjuring up images of goblins in the murky depths of caverns that just seemed to swallow the beam of my flashlight whole. Anyway, had fun playing in the ruins before the oppressive heat of this lattitude set in with avengence at midday. The villiage beside the fort had a single lodge, but the owner was nowhere to be found. So hopped a bus back to Aurangubad. Five hotels, one couldn't take foriegners (???), two I couldn't find the managers, and one was spraying for bugs and stank of poison. Still haven't slept a wink and am writing to you, about this day, which is so humdrum typical of India.
But gee, I guess it's been three weeks since I wrote, and I did promise to tell about the Chennai fiasco. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Chennai: I ended up in Calcutta. Which isn't so unusual, it seems. I only asked four people, and only two in direct reference to the particular train. no language barrier here. The Hindi word for train is train. The Hindi name of Madras is Chennai. So you'd think "This train, Chennai" would do the trick; but no, this is India. Anyway. I'd been trying since I left Kathmandu to get to Chennai, It's been three months now. First Bodhgaya waylayed me for two months, then Orissa for half a month. seems I just couldn't quite pick up the pace. Orissa houses about 500 temples which were all built around 600-1200AD and all look exactly the same. Bigger and smaller models of the same damn thing. Pretty odd. Anyway, the latest of the temples is the konark sun temple, only the mandapa remaining, but back in the day the Sikhara towered a staggering 227 feet tall, dwarfing all the others in the region. The base of this temple depicts with no modesty whatsoever, each of the 64 positions one can have sex in, and the 13 carresses to boot. The pictographic form of the Kama Sutra. Pretty kinky. Anyway, its the only one in the country that does, and it fell down; guess that should tell you something, huh. Anyway, since I was rerouted north unexpectedly, I proceeded to the other temples famed for erotic sculpture at Khajuraho, but although the temples were far more beautiful, they were comparitively small. The largest being 120 feet or so. Also, even though they are literally marketted for the eroticism of the temples (note the presence of an unusually large number of Italians) they only contain maybe fifteen or twenty sculptures in six or seven of the Kama Sutra positions. Note also that a hundred years after the completion of these temples, the area was abandoned for lack of sufficient water to support the royal court. So maybe its just bad luck to put statues of people humping on one's temples to God. Anyway, I got to see Sonia Ghandi, and consequintly the tightest security I've ever seen on a temple complex. Seems the day before she arrived they were practising. I was looking for a quiet place tucked away in the back to smoke my chillum, shrouded by shrubbery, when, what's this? There litterally was an M.P. posted behind every bush. We're talking full perimeter security. Officers every 50 feet inside and outside the temple fence. There were police guarding the toilets. There were police in the temples with automatic rifles. Now I fancy myself as a sly guy, but breaking through this security was a task beyond me. There were at least 500 police in town for Sonia Gandi (president of congress, or for you who are not familiar with the parliamentary system, leader of the opposition party). That put a strange spin on my experience to be sure.
That about covers it. I hope I've conveyed the sense that the monkeys and parrots and frustrations and setbacks and upstarts, and diarreah, and cows, and chickens, and obscenity and obscurity, all fail to impress one after five months in this country. It's all part of "Going native" in the Conradian sense. Let's just hope it doesn't come to a Coppala-ian level. Now if only the kid running this computer lab can get the network on line, he's been getting a busy signal for almost thirty minutes. India is all about contingency plans... well with much love, this has been a fun recap of the last few weeks, but I must go. Still have no place to stay tonight, and am in that sort of rambucious, sleepstarved mood that leads to spontanious train hopping...nonono I really want to see that temple! I really need to get some sleep. getting giddy. Gotta go.
ale model of itself. So while its over 150 feet