This morning, & scratching my itches like fuck, I set off for Hampi, arriving on a bus just as morning was breaking, as all around me appear’d the ruinous environs of an ancyent city called Vijiyanagar. Several hundred years ago it was the fabulous capital of a great empire, with six-mile wedding processions on cloths of gold, & kings with 12,000 wives. The ruins are reminiscent of Rome, but instead of mad Italian traffic rushing about inbetween, there are banana plantations. It was razed to the ground half a millennium back & has remain’d uninhabited until recently, when the hippies arrived. After passing abandon’d temples full of monkeys, I was ferried by basket-boat to a little settlement across the river from the old city. Crossing the river is quite an experience as you pile 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.
However, once across it so serene, a tantalising place which bathes the soul. It is call’d Virpapurgaddi, across the Tunghabadra river from the more bustling, Indian-heavy Hampi. The village spreads out alongside the river, & is made up mainly of restaurants. Beyond begins the wonderful bouldery landscape that is a sheer joy to wander in – very alien – with the ruins blending into the landscape, while a wonderful river flowing through the area. I had a wander first thing this morning & came across the Saraswathi temple, totally inspiring.
There’s a few of the residents here at a hippiefied ‘rainbow camp’ – full of chess, guitars & even Nedved from Gokarna with his gonzo instruments. Then, as pastel lustr’d sunsets muster’d oer Vijiyanagar, silhouetting a bongo player stood on a boulder playing to the heavens, I shared the stunning scene with Doratha, a beautiful little Romanian creature. We were led on these warm giant boulders, still retaining the sun’s heat, & there she taught me a soothing meditative technique.! I think she was too hippy for a Burnley boy on heat, tho, & our time together ended without my wooing her. A great shame for she was hot as fuck ! It seems my mojo is finally spent, which is a great relief, all in all.
The mosquitoes came out last night to bite, but a bike-ride early today to Hospet saw me equipp’d with a mozzy net, and a couple of things I didn’t really need – when you enter an Indian shop they treat you like an old friend & offer you everything in the shop. Anyhows, by the end of the day my new ‘armour’ kept out most of the bugs & I zapp’d the couple that got inside – a peaceful night’s sleep.
I’d cycled to Hospet on the place where I’m staying’s push bike, & I’d done it without wearing a hat. So when I got back the guys didn’t recognise me so sun-soaked had my skin brown’d. Proper camouflage for the rest of my trip in India thro’ those packs of infernal touts.
The rest of the day saw more touring of the area; overbearing statues of lionesque frog gods, funny-faced monkeys, fluorescent birds & the world-fabled Monkey Temple, a white edifice perched high atop a boulder hill about as high as Edinburgh’s Arthur’s seat. This Instead of climbing the tortuous steps, I traced a route up the boulders & went scampering up them like 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 to be Hanuman’s birth-place, Anjamadri.
At the top I saw a great many of Hanuman’s descendants, the males of which, both old & young, were stood uprights on the backs of the female’s knees & nailing them in front of all & sundry – a very curious sexual position indeed. I also shared one of those karmic moments with a wee laddie with big fangs. As I skinned up, I’d left my bag on some rocks, complete with money & passport & all mi weed. Then I turned around & came eyeball-to-eyeball with a monkey who had his hand outstretched an inch from mi bag. We stared each other down like something out of High Noon, before he scampered off emptyhanded. A lucky break, I found out, for deep in the boulders lies the graveyard of lost baggage, stolen by these theivin’ monkeys.
I am currently convalescing from a fall.
This morning I went for a scramble over the huge boulder piles, like little hills but full of batfill’d caves. Believe me, they stretch for miles – like the ruined columns of some ancient giant temple – I’m right next to the fuckin desert here. Anyway, I stumbl’d across a small village & smoked my last charas joint, on which the tripp’d out guru-owner of a restaurant offer’d me some nice Nepalese black, just in time for an after-breakfast spliff.
In the afternoon I set off to ‘boulder’ the environs of a lake. En route I passed through this wee village & began to take notes on a possible ‘scene’ poem; of the chai shops at the crossroad with old men chatting & smoking beedies – a small amount of tobacco wrapped in a tobacco leaf & cheap as fuck -; of the water buffaloes plodding through town; of the school-kids with their oversiz’d backpacks & their baskets with a bottle of water & lunch wrapped up in newspaper; of the two identical ‘universal shops’ in the village, with the same frontal displays full of soft drinks & Lays crisps – magic masala & tangy tomatoes –; of the stray dogs wandering around; the barbers & the mad political flags from some forthcoming panchiyat elections. The last thing I noticed was a wee clinic, as I left the village for the gorgeous reservoir dammed above it. I began to bounce along the boulders round its rim, when after only a couple of hundred metres I came across what seem’d to be a ‘stream of rust. Unfortunately, under the rust was water, & with a yelp I slipped & was carried down it, water-slide style. 10 meters down I was coming to the ledge, tried desperately to grab a branch, then went over. Luckily the fall was wee enough, but the momentum I’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 immediately got double vision, which still hasn’t completely subsided – & about twenty cuts, mostly along my left leg. I’ve also got back pain & cannot lift my left arm up above my head. Still, I’m not dead, so happy days. From the 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 hobbl’d back to the village. Luckily, the first house I came to was the clinic I’d seen before, & I got my wounds dressed & bandaged by some very friendly Indians, before hitching a lift back home.
That night I proudly showed my wounds to a couple of French lassies back at base. A jewellery maker/seller called Sagoo, who lives in Ardesh – a hippy envirnoment near Nice. The other is a Parisian, & is on a wee break before going back to work in Calcutta as a French teacher. Her name is Amelie, & I think we’ll meet again – she says she’ll help to find me digs in Calcutta if I get there on this trip. Calcutta sounds cool, the capital of the British Raj, no less, so I should go. It was also from Amelie that after teaching her ‘no worries’ in English, she taught me the phrase ‘l’ecole de l’echeque’ – which means learning from your mistakes… i.e., if you’re bouldering & there is something that obviously looks slippy – don’t fuckin’ step on it!
Today I slow’d down a hell of a lot, letting my wounds – & chiefly my foot – heal, & trying to shake off the concussion. Out of sheer boredom, however, I manag’d to hobble to this sacred temple where I came across a baba just like Father Ted, who has been there 50 years & moans at everyone who turns up. There is another baba at the temple, however, a thirty-year-old gorgeously-bearded dark-skinned fellow, with only one leg. We got on famously & he gave me a wonderful overview lecture on the Ramayana, which along with the Mahabharata is one of India’s two epic poems. It’s all about Rama’s bird, Sita, being nicked by demon call’d Ravana & being taken to Sri Lanka. Then with the help of Hanuman, Rama goes & rescues her.
As I sat down with him on a rock in the shade, he got out this weighty bi-lingual tome (Hindi & English) & read through passages for me. It was so cool as he skipp’d the more difficult words with a wee mumble, & then elaborated on the ‘main points’ of the lesson. It turns out the temple is built on the very spot where Rama met Sagriva, the chief of the monkeys, & where their friendship was sealed with a handshake. Sagriva then agreed to send millions of monkeys out in search of the lost Seeta.
On the way back home I was attracted to a wedding by this amazing sound of drums & horns. It turned out to be two drummers, a trumpet & a clarinet indulging in call-&-answer eastern psychadelia. Around them a great troupe of Indians were indulging & chit-chatting, 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, which gave them a yellow hue. Then out came the shampoo sachets & they were both drenched in water until they were clean – some cleansing poojah before the evening’s sexy victuals I think.
Today I got a job. I can’t believe it, that’s two in a week with my DJ shift – I’m supposed to be on fucking holiday! I spent the day hanging around my place, lounging in hammocks or on the comfy matresses by the low tables, watching the ferry to & fro over the Tunghabadra. The view is gorgeous, with the ghats of Hampi sprawling for a quarter mile across the silky waves. There’s this posse of folk staying here who all seem to have had a knock to the head, as they are just as lazy as me – reading smoking & making jewellery. There’s four Austrian birds & a gaggle of young Israelis buzzin’ about on bikes. There’s also this young brahman caste lad (the elite) from Bangalore with karated-up forearms. There’s this wild nineteen-year-old French bird who has boys following her like lost puppies, & so on.
My concussion seems to have almost gone now, despite it being occasionally topped up by banging my head on the door frame of my cottage. I’m simply too tall for India. Since my fall, every time I ate anything I went out of my idyll to a small, popular street restaurant round the corner. It’s run by two brothers – Faruk & Ismael Hussein – the latter being called Smiley. In fact, he’s like the Indian version of me, grinning constantly. He keeps saying we are same-same-but-different. Anyhow, every time I’ve tried to pay they keep saying pay next life. Tonight I came to the conclusion they might mean it, so with, when Smiley being away at his local village getting ‘jiggy jiggy’ from his wife, Faruk was suddenly inundated with annoyingly aggressive Israelis, so I stepped into the brink & waited my ass off. Great fun. I noted down the orders I took – this is what you get for just under a British tenner;
A special thali (loads of bits n pieces)
3 daal frys
2 aloo gobi
1 mattar paneer
2 malai koftas
3 mineral water bottles
2 plain nan
3 maslala dosa
2 chicken fried rice
The experience in the kitchen, observing Faruk in action, led to me penning the following two sonnet;
First make paneer from boiling pans of milk,
A little lemon juice to seperate,
Then freeze the cheezy tofu to smooth silk
& place it by the veggies on a plate.
Heat up the oil, two cloves of garlic fry,
Toss in red onion & a pepper green,
Stir in ’til scent of cooking warm & dry,
Now add paneer with soft & salty sheen.
Mix in the sauce, Tesco’s or one’s own brand,
Of soy-sauce-brush’d tomatoes flush with spice –
All the colours of the hot desert sand.
Cook up & then your curry will appear,
To serve upon a bed of saffron rice,
Wash’d down with white wine or a nice, cold beer.
After another day’s convalescing, come the evening I was waiting the tables at Smiley’s place again, who was back with a very smiley face after getting laid with the missus. We were soon inundated by fifteen young-uns from Halifax & Leeds. The Roses banter was friendly enough, but a Yorkshire lad did start to raise the decibelic temper levels the longer he had to wait for his eggs – ‘are you waiting for the chicken to lay them’ – followed by a rude comment as to my county persuasion. Still, I got the following sonnet after watching Faruk whip up an egg curry;
To make Curry hot & tasty
First fry your veggies odours free
Then mix some meat in if you like
From fleshy ham to fresh caught pike
Milk & tomatoes make the sauce
Good curry powder puffs the force
Add other seasonings to taste
Then stew awhile, no need for haste
Now find an egg or two to boil
Heat water up by kettle coil
Then let it bubble in a pan
& add the egg & boil to plan –
A good ten minutes, – then, of course,
Ye’ll crack it… shell it… serve with sauce.
About 3 hours into the shift, the police arrived in the village – this time with a couple of JCBS knocking down any restaurants & houses that had been built without permission. One of them was Smiley’s place, unfortunately, so with my job prospects in the area rapidly dwindling, I’ll take it as a sign from Saraswathi, leave my little village idyll on the morrow. I think I’m gonna head south – there’s a place called Kanyakumari which is India’s most southern point, then if I head to the Himalayas at some point I can say I did India Top & Tail.
All pack’d up & ready to go this morning I was told that the boat to the other side of the river (& freedom) had been cancell’d for the day – stranding me on the wrong side of the river for my journey south. However, it came after three hours, & with a few warm hugs & ‘happy journeys’ from the locals I left the Jupiterlike landscape of Hampi & delved further into the sub-continental hinterland.
I began with a bus to Hospet, halting once when this oldish woman was trying to blag a free ride, & a loud & entertainment argument ensued. Keen to continue, I bought her a ticket (13 rupees) & we were happily trundling along when there was another screech to a halt. This time the bus had knocked a guy off his scooter. He was proper dazed & confused, with snot coming out of his nose, but a few bottles of water over his head & he was compos enough to begin an argument with the bus driver. Then we were all shunted off the bus onto another one, & finally we made Hospet, where a big board above the station wished me another;
Leaving Gokarna involved catching a sleeper bus to Bangalore – an overnight journey of 12 hours that tossed me into the air every time we hit a bump – even the bottle of whiskey & two Valium’s couldn’t keep me asleep…