Adventures on an Indian Visa (week 20): Delhi
They say that a mosquito never strays more than 90 meters from where it was born, but in the early hours of this morning, myself, the mosquito nest & my fellow sardine-tin travellers had all travelled 200K & reach’d the seething, beeping cauldron that is the Delhi ring road. The bus dropp’d me off to see a dog shivering prostrate with distemper – never a pleasant sight. One crazy, cow-dodging taxi ride later I had arrived at the Paharganj area of Delhi, the main budget backpacker district of the capital. There’s definitely a different edge to Delhi, & the friendly smiles of the Indians were turning, in my mind, to devious grins of thieves & vagabonds.
I soon found that the same reason why I don’t like living in London also applies to Delhi. Too many people, too much traffic, too much noise, etc. But at least London’s clean – the streets here are like pungent sewers, flies everywhere, stinkin’ stagnant water & huge piles of rubbish in the middle of the cow-crowded paths. However, the place retains a certain charm & I have enjoy’d the narrow alleys between some cool looking buildings around the hotel where I’m staying. Its call’d the Diamond & my innate bagging ability got me a 400 rupee deluxe room (with marble bath) for 200 rupees, just by being cheekily ‘northern’ with the Manager.
Almost immediately on my arrival I came down with a sore throat, which I put down to the terrible, Dantean pollution. It took until 11 AM this morning for the sun to break thro’ the clouds of smog that hang over the city. Meanwhile, Victor Pope arrives in a few days or so, so I’m gonna do a bit of sightseeing before he gets here. There are a couple of things I want to see especially, being all the British shit at New Delhi & the ruins of Tuqluquabad, but feeling under the weather a touch, & a bit overawed by the intensity of the capital, I just chill’d out & watch’d films & football for the rest of the day.
Felt reyt ill today, proper flu vibes. I’ve been constantly sucking strepsil & spent most of my time in my hotel room; resting, sleeping & skimming thro’ the 60-odd channels. Most of them are in crazy Hindi, but the movie channels are cool, the footys on most of the time & I’m now hooked on Benny Hill – the guy was a fuckin genius. I’ve enjoy’d myself doing nothing tho’ – after 4 months of hardcore trav’lin I appreciate the chillout – I can’t even remember the last time I’ve relaxed like this. I did force myself out for one wee excursion, a trip to the Red Fort, about 400 years old, very wide, grand & imposing & beautifully preserv’d.
Still pretty ill. For today’s forc’d excursion I hired a rickshaw to take me 20 K south of the city where stands the ruins of Tuqluqabad. They were great! The empower Tuqluq decided to build a new capital (named after himself) which lasted until he died, when everyone pack’d up & moved back to Delhi, leaving the city to the decaying ravages of time. All that dwell there these days are bats & snakes. The view of Delhi from the battlements was pretty stunning, but my guide – who I never ask’d for – was gutted when I told him I’d spent all my cash on the rickshaw & entry fee.
I also went out in the evening for a shave – if you don’t feel good on the inside, it’s good to look good on the outside!
So, in England I can usually shake off a bit of flu in a couple of days with a packet of lockets & foot rub, but if anything last night I felt worse, breaking out into hot sweats at regular intervals – so tomorrow morning I’hit the doctors. He wasn’t around for a couple of hours but I did speak to him on the phone. I told him my symptoms & he ask’d if I was takin malaria tablets – I told him I hadn’t had any for a month & he told his assistant to take some of my blood.
Oner nasty needle later I was told to go back in the evening for my results, & dragg’d myself back to the safety of my bed & its wonderful fan. In my fever, & to pass the time, I penn’d the following sonnet;
Everyone has his own idea of India
Nation of nations, hot & happy land!
With spicy dishes morsell’d by the hand,
Being a valorous & graceful race,
Thy universal mullet firm in place,
Despite taking three men to stamp a form
& creative corruption Laksmi’s norm,
A fanatacism for the rupee
Cements this secular society
Of power-cuts & cripples & bazaars
Beneath a pristine panoply of stars,
Of swastikas & cricket in the streets,
Bounteous crops & oversugar’d sweets,
Ashrams soothing riot-torn religion
Where always blaze the rays of Asia’s sun.
Whoa! It was salmonella! Going back at 7.30 PM, I got my results, & the fuckin’ doctor stung me for a great whack of rupees for mi antibiotics. However, health comes before wealth & I’m gonna be a lot happier feeling my strength return, especially with Victor Pope arriving tomorrow!
Racking my mind back, that shack in Almora was a bit unhygienic to say the least, & the street food I bought there could well be the source of my recent ails.
Felt much better today, & alongside the dysentery, another dodgy disease my body has beaten off with the help of a little tablet from an Indian doctor. So, Victor Pope arriv’d about 9AM this morning, with a Swiss guy call’d Manuel he’d met on the flight. Full of beans & booze – more legless than jet-lagg’d -they were both up for a sight-see; so after checking them into my hotel we hit sights of Delhi. Our car, driver, & petrol, cost us only £11 for 8 hours – mad, eh?
In this time we checked out some of wicked Delhi’s forts, buzzed about British-built New Delhi for a bit, then hit the Indian Habitat Centre for a great photo exhibition & a sitar recital. The Sitar guy was wicked, connecting with his tabla player like two loved-up gay guys on the job. In the audience was this very auspicious grey haired pandit (maestro) who was almost conducting proceedings – moving his own hands as the main guy strutted his stuff on the fretboard. It’s a credit to the sitar system that ancient pieces have been passed down from master to student quite note for note over many centuries.
Victor Pope’s Diary
Two things have changed since I last came to India. 1) The beggars ask for ten rupees instead of one and 2) The toilets have flushes on them. This is definitely a sign that India is a rapidly developing nation and, whether it was this or the prospect of meeting my arch nemesis / best mate, Damo, on the other end, there wasn’t the creeping sense of dread and thoughts of “What the hell am I doing here” like there were the last time I was here. So… so far so good. The roads are as mental as ever and the taxi drive to the hotel was at times terrifying, but Damo’s constant tirade of nonsense set my mind at ease.
The Hotel itself is cosy if not quite five star. But it had a TV and they were playing the Hobbit on the movie channel the following night, so it seems in some ways they’re actually a little more developed than us over here. You won’t get that on film four for another three years at least!
Our first full day was spent bezzing around the streets of Delhi in a taxi we’d hired for 1000 rupees (around a tenner) for the day. I felt reasonably safe enclosed in its four metal, walls and we only witnessed one serious accident. We were joined by Manuel, an amiable Swiss dude I’d met on the plane. First stop was the spectacular red fort with it’s intricate, geometrical Islamic carvings and museum of independence, then to the India gate and centre of parliament where psychotic spoilt diplomat sons tried their damnedest to knock us off the road in their white Hondas. And finally to the ruined but noble old fort where the local hipsters chilled as much as was possible in the oppressive heat.
After a tour of a rug shop I believe our driver was “contractually obliged” to show us round, but where we we treated more like common thieves than valued costumers, we returned to our hotel to get changed before heading out to a sitar recital. At first I wasn’t so sure. The solo piece felt more like a prolonged tuning session than any kind of noticeable song. But once the drums kicked in the communication on an almost psychic level between the sitarist and the drummer was a thing of great beauty. After this elevating experience we retired to the Hotel for Lamb curry and Hobbits. A fine end to a fine day.
Today I decided to begin my pursuit of the Indian Jesus in earnest. Me & Victor entered the extremely modern Delhi metro system (for 16p), & buzzed along to the Hauz Khas area & the Tushita Mahayan meditation centre. On the way I got chatting to a young Hindoo, who told me he had read the New Testament & felt that the teachings of Christianity & Hindooism were very similar.
Once in Hauz Khas, a cool half-Indian, half-British monk called Kabir met us in the street, clad in orange robes & as mellow as a Buddhist mantra. His grandmother on his mother’s side was a Bullen, by the way, which I thought an auspicious sign. He gladly led us to the centre & its library, where I was left to perform my research, finding certain evidence in the library which confirms my suspicions.
While I was doing this, VP had been wandering the city. He returned at 5PM, just in time for a talk by this Australian Buddhist on Mindfulness being the Key to Happiness. I found it quite rewarding myself, but Victor thought it unfair that he wouldn’t be able to let go of his anger by shouting at his computer (a scary sight trust me) & got nothing at all from the talk.
After this we went back to the Indian Habitat Centre for a performance of Kathak. I’d really fallen in love with it in Calcutta, it’s simply a thrill & delight to watch. A combination of ballet spins, manic tap dancing & poetic hand-arm movements, backed up by tablas & sitars, its a relentless hurricane of bodily movement that makes my own hyperactivity seem veritably slothlike – even Victor thought it was, & I quote, ‘alright!‘. The costumes are gorgeous & uniform, as is the synchronicity of highly complicated dance routines.
So that was Delhi. My salmonella’s now disappear’d, & I’ve now got a an old buddy by my side. As oppos’d to being with Charlie, who did my fuckin’ nut in, VP’s a delight to travel with, whose droll sense of humour & boylike appreciation for new sights & smells shows he is a true traveller.
Tomorrow morning we hit the road & the rest of the Raj, or rather the Radge, awaits.
Victor Pope & I left the craziness of Delhi on this morning, upon what our travel agent called the ‘Best train India.’ It wasn’t amazing, but we did get western seats, complimentary newspapers, tea & a breakfast snack. We spent a pleasant enough two hours heading north through the uninspiring Gangeatic plane, before disembarking at the town of Kurukshetra. Our reason was the Bhagavad Gita – the Song of God – a text interpolated into the great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. The singer of the Bhagavad Gita is the Hindoo blue-skinned diety known as Krishna, as he stands in a chariot with Arjuna before the massive battle of Kurukshetra.
There are a number of reasons why we should connect Krishna with Jesus;
1 – Christos is the Greek translation of Krishna
2 – The tenth century text the Bhagavata Purana tells is that Krishna was born by divine “mental transmission” from the mind of Vasudeva into the womb of Devaki, a direct tally with the virgin birth of Jesus.
3 – Y Masih writes, ‘The phenomenon of ‘Krsnajanmastame’ in which the child Krishna is represented as a suckling at the mother’s breast. Nanda, the foster-father of Krishna had gone to Mathura to pay his taxes (just as Joseph had gone to Bethlehem for census). Krishna was born in a cow-shed (Gokula exactly as Jesus was born in a manger); massacre of infants of Mathura by Kamsa (just as was the massacre of infants by Herod)
4 – The Bhagavad Gita has many parrallels with the sayings of Jesus, as in;
Krishna: I am Beginning, Middle, End, Eternal Time, the Birth and the Death of all. I am the symbol A among the characters. I have created all things out of one portion of myself
Jesus: I am the Alpha & the Omega, the Beginning & the End, the First & the Last.
Krishna: By love & loyalty he comes to know me as I really am, Iove you well. Bear me in mind, love me & worship me so you will come to me, I promise you truly for you are dear to me
Jesus: Anyone who loves me will be loved by my father & I shall love him & show myself to him
These points of contact are both too numerous & too palpable to ignore & we must consider the Gita as abstract evidence for Jesus having been in India. Robert Frederick Hall spoke of the Gita’s, ‘exact synchronism with the mystery-religion taught by Jesus Christ,’ & that, ‘no longer will this ancient epic be treated as some obscure or ‘heathen’ philosophy, peculiar to an Eastern Race, a relic of past human superstition, but as setting forth the fundamental Doctrine of all Masters, & especially of Jesus Christ & the Apostles.’ Elsewhere, Robert Frederick Hall writes, ‘no longer will this ancient epic be treated as some obscure or ‘heathen’ philosophy, peculiar to an Eastern Race, a relic of past human superstition, but as setting forth the fundamental Doctrine of all Masters.’
Thus, Kurukshetra was a great place to start my quest for the Indian Jesus. After arriving at the town, we called into a jewellers, where I enquired about the battlefield. He was friendly guy, eager to help, whose mother named him Parikshit, after the grandson of Arjuna. After telling me that I was actually standing on the battlefield, which spread & sprawled about us for 48 square miles, he sorted us out a rickshaw for a couple of hours in order to see the sights. Most of these were temples marking events which occurred during the battle, but there was a cool archaeological museum at the historical town of Thanesar (formerly Sthaneswar), on the edges of Kurukshetra.
In 634 AD, the Chinese explorer, Xuanzang described several Buddhist monasteries & a few hundred brahman temples at Thanesar, showing how religious the site was, whose earliest strata which has been dated to the Kushan era, which began in the first century AD. A line of thought one could take, then, would be that not long after the singing of the Bhagavad Gita, let us say about the time of Jesus, the first temples began to spring up at Kurukshetra.
The discovery of the first century strata at Thanesar was a wonderful nugget, unearthed in a museum in the field, far from the collections of western libraries & the prying eyes of the google mega-brain. I am now convinc’d the truth of Jesus’ stay in India lay out there somewhere, & was probably connected in some fashion to Krishna. The names are the same, the teachings are the same, & now the dates, of at least the Kurukshetran version of Krishna, are the same.
We spent that night in an ok-ish hotel, which lacked running water & had a problem with the electricity, but had a great dining area & even better food. We’re off!