Adventures on an Indian Visa (week 15): The Return of Charlie

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Day 99

Déjà vu has certainly struck in Puri, for this morning Charlie parachuted in with a big bottle of ketamine & a phone playing Jerry Lee Lewis – on loop ! It was actually nice to see him, tho’, & for the first time in my life I actually really enjoyed the drug – I think its the purity-trip I’ve been on recently has prepared me for its effects. We spent the day on it – I think it was a farewell fling for him & his beloved, like when you nail your ex that last one time.

So, stumbling about in a pretty little bimble-bubble, we went to see the UNESCO heritag’d Konark Sun temple, a few K up the road, a truly stunning edifice that towers over man & tree – sailors of old called it the ‘Black Pagoda’ as they passed it on the oceanic journeyings, while the Jagannatha Temple was the ‘White Pagoda’. Dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya, it looks like a massive chariot with immense wheels and horses, all carved from stone, down to the Vedic iconographised Surya being represented as rising in the east and traveling rapidly across the sky in a chariot drawn by seven horses.

These days, the temple’s all a bit ruinous, these days, & nobody seems to know why, but it’s still an awesome presence, especially when you’re circling the edges of a k-hole!


Day 100

Today we moved to the state capital of Bubanaswar, where we visited the magnificent state museum, which had a wonderful selection of statues & paintings of gods & goddesses form the infinite Hindu pantheon. I wanted to find out more about the man-god I’d seen at the temple of Asagur Fort, so went to the boss of the museum & asked if he could help. He was ever keen to oblige & before long he had teams of helpers scouring the records for us while we sipp’d tea & chatted in his office. They found only one thing, copied from the palm leaf chronicles stored in the Jaggernath Temple which pointed out that the god was an Afghan king.

Feeling academic & knowledge-absorbant, I left Charlie to the last of his ketamine, & found a spacious library. I soon unearthed a copy of Notovich’s book, quietlyon a shelf next to another title called ‘Jesus in India,’ by a Muslim writer called, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Taking my seat amidst a silent sea of white shirts, I plunged into both texts, emerging sometime later with the determin’d & solid conviction that Jesus must have spent time in India. The two books in conjunction provided too many coincidences to think otherwise, and being a student of historical mysteries, I have decided to take up the challenge of solving that rather peculiar question – did Jesus live in India?

Notovich tells us that while travelling in Ladakh in the late nineteenth century, he came across a text in the Buddhist monastery at hemis, which purported to be the Gospel of Christ. His translation tells us that in the missing years – that is between his being at the Temple as a 12-year old, & mysteriously reappearing at the age of 30 – Jesus travelled & studied all across northern India. The problem with Notovich is that the original scrolls from which he took his translation are now ‘gone’ either hidden by the Monks of Hemis, or they just never even existed at all. However, it was the second book, a translation of the original Urdu, ‘Jesus in India (1899),’ which provided several pieces of supporting evidence that Jesus did indeed spend time in India. In particular, it’s author – Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – tells us of the Rozabal Shrine on Srinagar, Kashmir, in which Jesus is said to have been buried. The proximity of Srinagar to Hemis & Notavich’s Gospel of Jesus strengthens & supports each others’ viability.

The prime sources for the Biblical Jesus are found in the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament, all of which agree that despite his dead body being taken to a tomb on a Friday, by the Monday he had risen from the dead. Throughout the Gospels & other books of the New Testament, the risen Jesus was witnessed by many of his followers, sharing food with them & even showing them his wounds to prove his identity;

When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had said this, he showed unto them his hands and his side. (John 20-20)

After this siting of a living Jesus, the New testament brings us to the event known as the Ascension, when Jesus takes his place in Heaven by his father. Surprisingly, this seminal moment is only briefly recorded in just two of the Gospels;

He was received up into Heaven, & sat down at the right hand of the Lord,’ (Mark 16-19)

He was parted from them & carried up to Heaven (Luke 24-51)

…and that’s it! Just twenty-six words to describe one of the most important happenings in world history. But it is on these meagre scraps of information that the religion of Christianity, as we know it, is built. The other two gospels make no mention of the Ascension whatsoever, ending their accounts of Jesus’ ministry in Palestine in a rather more mundane fashion. One would imagine that if the physical body of Jesus was raised to Heaven, both Matthew & John would have mentioned it. It should also be observed that the earliest complete texts of the Gospel of Mark – the Sinaiticus & Vaticanus Codexes (3rd-4th century) – do not contain the last eleven verses in which the Ascension is contained & ends with the discovery of an empty tomb.

In light of all this, I grew confident that the Ascension had never occurred at all, & that following his revival after the crucifixion, Jesus must have gone somewhere. I think I need to go visit Rozabal in Srinigar & Hemis Monastery in Ladakh.


Day 101

Today we went to see Dhauli, a very special place in Buddhist historiography, being the site of this massive battle in the ‘Kalinga War’ where emperor Asoka, after seeing how many people he’d just slaughter’d, suddenly turn’d to the less violent paths of Buddhism. Its only 8k south of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, & we found a peace pagoda there the ‘Dhauli Santi Stupa, & also some of the famous edicts of Ashoka. These were inscrib’d into rocks & monoliths all across his empire, in some kind of attempt to formalize & canonize his rule & also the propagation of the ‘dhamma’. Of the 14 Edicts, this is the one which describes the moment he becomes a Buddhist;

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas…Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-gods considers to be the best conquest…I have had this Dhamma edict written so that my sons and great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, that they be done with forbearance and light punishment, or better still, that they consider making conquest by Dhamma only, for that bears fruit in this world and the next. May all their intense devotion be given to this which has a result in this world and the next.

I also like Edict 7:

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas…Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-gods considers to be the best conquest…I have had this Dhamma edict written so that my sons and great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, that they be done with forbearance and light punishment, or better still, that they consider making conquest by Dhamma only, for that bears fruit in this world and the next. May all their intense devotion be given to this which has a result in this world and the next.

The whole experience had me penning the following sonnet;

THE TURNING OF ASHOKA

The year is 261 BC/ Following the bloody battle of Kalinga at Dhauli,
King Asokha is riding beside the River Nadi

Ashoka
O blessed day! What glory gain’d, the battle still pounds my senses
& in mine ears still echoes the cries of battle & death-yells loud
Those leonine roars, those clam’rous shouts, the din of drums & cymbals
& what sights – great elephants renting each other with bloody tusks
& great chariots exploding in shorn limbs & wooden splinters
But what is this? a worn woman weeps by the river running crimson
My goodly lady why shed thy tears on this auspicious of days
When I am flush with the victory & feeling very generous
Whatever on this Earth ye need my attendants shall see to

Woman
I hear you, Chakravartin, in thine armour as white as clouds
& yet, ye are a hypocrite for thy palms bestain’d with blood
& yes… there is one thing I crave upon this Earth above all others
To feel my husband’s loving warmth, but his body as cold as snows,
Some broken corpse – if ye lack power to make men, sire, why kill them?


Day 102

Tonight, for the first time in almost two months, I felt the cooling effects of sweet rain liquifying on my naked skin. I mean, I’ve counted the clouds on one hand since the typhoons that hit Tamil Nadu. Last night more than made up for it, however, a deluge of Biblical proportions that struck Balasore, turning the roads to rivers, & had me rushing down from my lodge balcony to save a few pairs of shoes from being washed own a drain that this shopkeeper had forgotten about as he struggled with the tarpaulin over his shop.

Me & Charlie bussed the 120 miles here from Bubanaswar, heading for a place a few more kilometres away; the supposedly delightful fisher village of Chandipur. It is to be found not far down stream from the mouth of the River Hooghli, the western-most arm of the Ganges, & apparently the beach is 5k wide at high tide! Our first objective will be to find a hotel that has Sony-Pix, a movie channel that is showing the FA Cup – its Burnley v West Ham, so that’s quite important. From there we’ll hit Calcutta, 200 miles away, the second city of the British Empire & the truest jewel in the crown. If an Edinburgh inspir’d by Adam Smith was the mind of the empire, & London its powerful heart, then surely Calcutta was its soul; the spirit-in-stone of men who replicated their native laws & architecture in exotic lands half a world away. The plan is to explore every nook & cranny, & bring it all alive with sketches & verses.

As for Balasore, one of its major claims to fame was being the HQ during WW1 of a possible Indian uprising, with the Germans dropping arms off at the coast nearby. After being outed by Slovak spies, the plot’s leader, Bhaga Jatin, & four other revolutionaries, was met at Balasore railway station by British police & army, beginning a running battles which ended up at an improvised trench in the undergrowth on a hillock at Chashakhand in Balasore. A gunfight ensued, the Battle of Balasore, where for 75 minutes Jatin & his men held off the Government forces, inflicting 75 casualties with their mauser pistols. On the other side, one revolutionary was slain on the a spot, 2 were captured when their ammo ran out, while Jatin & a guy called Jatish were wounded. Jatin would die the next day in Balasore hospital, an eternal martyr to the drive for Indian independence, which would not come until the next World war had been fought & finish’d. Meanwhile, Jatin’s motto, “Amra morbo, jagat jagbe” – “We shall die to awaken the nation” – would become a famous rallying cry for the cause.


Day 103

Chandipiur is a charming spot with a vast tidal beach. After taking off one’s flip flips one can walk for ages, the water just tickling the tops of the toes. Around you lies nothing but sand & an increasingly narrowing land-width as one gets further out to sea. A few birds flutter about, checking out the cockles & jellyfish, plus teams of fishermen go out to the static nets that are about two miles out to sea. Chandipur itself is just a few hotels & a couple of places to eat. It is made interesting, however, by the nearby fishing village, with its proper harbour, lovely wooden boats & the smell of fresh fish. The whole experience inspir’d the following sonnet;

CONVERSATIONAL ORIYA

Night fell on the many, many tranquilities of Chandipur
As I embark’d a stroll, astride its epic, crab-fluttering beaches
I heard a distant disco boom as if I near’d new Glastonbury
So thro’ the trees I darted into the dark village of Mizapur
Quite power-cut mysterious, & came upon a cavalcade
Of young endancing Indians, surrounded by prancing fireflies
A perfect place to practice phrases I had pick’d up on the road;
Tomorrow nar kono – they ask’d my name – mor Damo – I replied
Sundoro millano – I said – Apono komiti achanti
Mor bholochi – he answer’d & then offer’d me some turkurry
“Bhollo swado,” my compliments (for the sauce was very tasty)
I ask’d them – ke ta tonka – but they did not want one rupee
Ho donyobad – I thank’d him & then off like a prajapati
I moved on, musing to myself – mu Orissa Kuhalapay

Then Burnley got beat 5-1, hence the sketchy spirit of this entry – my normal passions for life & its living have been damm’d by some seriously depressing football deflation!


DAY 104

Today I left Orissa with Charlie after thoroughly enjoying the state. Its well cool. Anyway, after a few house of steadily densifying conurbation, we hit the explosion of life & colour that is Calcutta, or Kolkata as its name has been reverted to since Independence. After taking a room in which me & Charlie are sharing a bed, I left Charlie to the telly & went for a stroll, revelling in the truth of William Hunter’s, ‘imagine everything that is glorious in nature, combined with all that is beautiful in architecture & you can faintly picture to yourself what Calcutta is.’

On my walk I met these two twenty-something intellectual German birds, with whom I wander’d the streets & went on to drink cheap beer at their ‘Modern Lodge’ – a great Bohemian hang-out. I’d also met a guy call’d Andy & his girlfriend, Tereza, who arrived simultaneously with us at the Mother Teresa house. It was closed, but we wander’d about together & hit it off. Keeping in touch we agreed to meet at Mirik, up in the Himalayas, a place I ‘d read about & thought sounded mellow & picturesque. He’s heading in that direction too, so lets see what happens.

When I return’d, I found Charlie had penn’d his first sonnet, which could well be better than any I’ve composed about India so far, its genius;

THE REACHING OF CALCUTTA
By Charlie Fairclough

We arrived on a train at Howrah Station
In the midst of onion inflation
Two fifty rupees taxi fair
Feck it man we’ll walk it there
So we hoisted our bags & off we went
Across the Howrah Bridge
Then trudging down the River Bank
I realised Calcutta stank

The beggars chased us everywhere
The lepers with a doleful stare
Held out their rotting digits
Just give me something

They implore
But I haven’t got a biscuit

In the evening, with Charlie, we watch’d the 33rd nation sub-junior (U-16) interstate football championships on a primitive football stadium on the grassy Maidan, this vast green lung of a space which alleviates the pollution of Calcutta. So, I watch’d Mizoram beat the reigning champions, Jharkand 2-1, & as I watched it the coaches of a local boys club tried to get us to buy them some footballs. I might arrange a charity match when I get home.

Standing on the Maidan, one can see which game has preference in India, for towering above the footy ground are the marvellous Eden Gardens, the greatest cricket stadium in the world. Ironically, it has recently lost the right to stage the World Cup that this cricket crazy nation has just began to host – thro’ politics, bakshish & a certain lateness in preparing the ground. It’s like having an English World Cup without using Wembley.


DAY 105

Moved into the Modern Lodge today, into the very rooms vacated by my friendly fraulines as they headed to Varanasi. It is situated just off Sudder Street – the travellers’ ghetto – surrounded by eateries, chi shops & even a record store which has some disco vinyl! I was listening to some through a gramophone style thing in the street which got some amusing looks as I was bubbling up inyo a reyt funky mood.

The Lodge is very Bohemian & for foreigners only, which is made up mostly of folk volunteering for the Mother Teresa Mission that does work across the city. I met an interesting chap here, a certain Thomas Patrick Kiernan, the photographer who creates these wonderful B&W photos. Interestingly enough he has offered Charlie a room in his farmhouse in the middle of Ireland – which should keep the heat off him a little while longer.

He sells prints & postcards of his photos at the nearby Earthcare Books, one of those small but throbbing bookshops I adore. His prints are 10,000 rupees, which is well steep for India – a 100 quid -, but then again a hundred quid of course is not so steep for some of the travellers from the West. Thomas also justifies the price because he uses old fashioned film and even in India it’s expensive to buy and develop. The paper is also of a very high quality, adding to the expense. He then show’d us his camera; a small vintage Olympus with a 50 mm fixed lens.

Tonight I watch’d the Indians beat the Aussies in the world cup & after the match I could hear fireworks being set off around the city from the roof of the Modern Lodge, a really cool hang-out for my stay in Calcutta. I wonder what it’d be like if they win the thing!

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