Adventures on an Indian Visa (week 26) Hometime !

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Day 176

Woah! I’m going home – can’t believe it. Touch wood & I’ve surviv’d this fucking malarkey. My shoulder’s sore still, but my mind is OK enough to get back on busses, & stuff. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right.

Today I reach’d Omkerashwar, via train to Omkereshwar Road station. A few minutes later I was the last man on a packed bus, clinging to safety at the doorway as we rumbled the last 15k to my destination.

In the past few days I’ve decided to make the switch from erudite Jesus scholar to dashing sonneteer. This particular India trip has seen a lovely flourish of new sonnets, there’s something quite photographic about the form that suits the travelling poet. As I’ve gone along recently, I observed possible potential, sonnet subject,s & being too endrenched in Jesus took notes accordingly to await a more salubrious day in the future to compose. That day, then, was today.

After taking pleasant rooms in the tourist-only Ganesh guest house, I collected the notes for 6 sonnets, along with an empty notebook, & hit the town for some old fashion’d Apollonian composition. As opposed to the Dionysian – which is pure inspiration – the Apollonian method sees a professional focus on creating poetry, but poetry that feels like it was inspired – a plastic muse if you will. When composing their long epics, poets such as Homer & Dante could not count on being inspired in every moment, & had to develop the ability to create poetry from sheer willpower & technique.

Taking food in the main square of Omkeraswar, I observed two goats engaged in a head-butting duel. This prov’d the catalyst for the day’s work, the spark that lit the poesis that had built up in my banks of creativity. The holy town of Omkerashwar is spread over two sides of a river, connected by two lofty impressive & modern footbridges, lined with beggars & men charging 10 rupees to take a photo of you & print it out. Over the bridges, one comes to a tranquil island, formed from the meeting of the mighty Narmada & Kaveri rivers. Wandering the island, I tossed off 4 sonnets in total, after which my poesis for the day have dried out. 60 lines wasn’t a bad effort; but in the full throes of Axis & Allies I could do 200+ lines a day without feeling tired.

You could really see & feel the poverty of Omkereshwar, & just as I was leaving the island, I was accosted by a couple of kids asking for some rupees, which I obligingly gave seeing as Omkereshwar is an extremely cheap place to be. However, just as pigeons flock & flutter to a spot where a generous human scattered bread crumbs, I was suddenly accosted by 30+ kids asking for rupees. I solved the problem by marching them all to the nearest sweetshop, lining them up in a row, & distributing three different kinds of sweets to their little outstreched hands. The whole thing cost me 90p, & I think the best money I’ve ever spent – I mean 30 happy children for the price of a double snickers!

So, I returned to my guest house, perched high on the cliffs with a glorious view of the area, typed up my sonnets & wrote this blog. I find that when returning to the poetic arts, one must not only learn to fall in love with poetry fall once more, but to fall in love with one’s own poetry. For me, the past few hours have been a lovely validation of my vocation & here’s a couple of the day’s efforts.


One morning in the bustling JP Choke,
That serves Omkerashwar’s most sacred space
Of rivers, lingams, islanders & Ram,
I heard a solid thud & turn’d to see,
Between the unused spearheads of their horns
Two proud, white street goats crack each other’s skulls,
Then rear again as if them did salute
Each other’s prowess in the sports of war.

A gather’d crowd stood wincing at each blow,
Until the loser stagger’d from the bout,
To ten yards later find some unshell’d peas,
These I stroll’d past, quite bridgewards, to the isle
Where Kaveri & old Namarda meet,
& Jyortirlinga lifts the married mind.


To Amritsar have new god’s come, think Nanak quite unkempt
Under-the-thumb, bullet & drum & floggings with contempt.

Stan Rowlatt is no Indophile, sending the suspicious
To prisons vile, & without trial, blaming them seditious

Hindu & Muslim merge as one, & protest here in peace
By setting sun shall British gun the dogs of death release

Without a warning General Dyer flings a thousand bullets
O ruthless fire that host entire decimates in minutes

A dozen-dozen fill the well, a thousand others strewn
On such foul hell sheer grief befell beneath a witches’ moon

The soldiers dropp’d their lances down & did whate’er they could
Their lesson sounds all through the town, ‘Your protest drowns in blood!’

Tagore recoils in clear disgust with influential friends
British blood-lust has breach’d his trust, him back his knighthood sends!

Day 177

This morning, I was up before dawn again, waking to a damp but refresh’d Omkeraswar. Last night a wild storm had raged all round, roaring winds & rushing rains & constant flashes of electric light, that after the power-cut lit up – if only for a second or so – Omkeraswar as if ’twere day. I had decided to compose the two sonnets left from yesterday – including a transcreation of a Vedic hymn.

Crossing the bridge to the island once more, I headed for its eastern tip & found myself at a fabulous, millennium-old Chola temple, just as the red orb rose out of the very confluence of the Narmada & Kaveri; a lovely poignant moment that justified getting up so early again. Anyhow, here’s those two new sonnets;


Already old when to the throne he came
An emperor, but only one by name,
Whose palace pack’d with princes penniless
& empty treasury, relieving stress,
He pass’d his days perfecting Urdu rhymes,
Alas, this not the zeitgeist of his times,
For Indians have seen with open eyes
The British are but bandits in disguise!
“Uprise & fight!” “Be free!” amidst the dead
An ancient man becomes the figurehead,
That for a while the changing world defied,
‘Til Delhi fell, with nowhere left to hide,
He found his sad life exiled in Rangoon,
Approaching death, whistling an ustap’s tune.


Sweet Soma-juice I sup Vishnu to praise,
O! steed-borne lord who stands on lofty hills,
Let us witness his three Earth-measur’d steps,
Three widely-striding paces thro’ the spheres,
& laud him like some wild, steep-scouring beast,
For midst those steps all creatures must abide,
Yes! Vigour give to Vishnu, many-hymn’d,
Who set himself apart & carv’d three worlds,
Three sweet & imperishable places,
& holds aloft, alone, all elements,
His mansion to attain midst happy gods,
Let us up to his highest footstep strive,
Where down on humblest oxen in the home,
His bull-light showers joyous benefits!

Day 178

I have taken a new lover – that is to say I’ve been cuddling into my first proper duvet in almost 6 months – an absolute heaven of a thing, white & fluffy & comfy as hell. I found it in Nashik, for back on my Jesus mission I discover’d that the South Indian sage, Agastya, was supposed to have had an ashram here, & was also the place where he met Rama, as told in Valmiki’s Ramayana.

There are a couple of supposed sites for the ashram, & on reaching Nashik this morning I tried to catch a bus to Igatpuri, 24 k to the SE of Nashik. However, the bus didn’t come, so I postpon’d the trip & check’d out the local sights instead. Walking through Nashik was quite a European experience; ca;m, clean streets & everybody dressed well in the western fashion – perhaps all down to Nasik’s proximity to Mumbai.

Ten minutes from my hotel was the Panchavati, a sprawling temple complex by the Godavari River. About a five-minute walk away, up a hill, I came to the temple said to be the place where Seeta – Rama’s wife – lived, before being kidnapped by the ten-headed demon god Ravana & whisked off to Sri Lanka in a flying car. Unfortunately, the cave was as fake as the flying car story, a modern cavity cut into stone complete with a papier mache roof painted to look like rock.

However, on my way out I picked up a booklet on Nashik & discovered that 8k away were the Pandavlini caves, a series of Buddhist temples & sleeping areas cut out of the rock & dated to the time of Christ. I’ll check them out tomorrow!

Day 179

This morning, I took a rickshaw to the Pandavlini caves, trundling along the National Highway that leads to Mumbai, 180k away. As we broke out of the city I saw two hills rising from the plain like gigantic gate-pillars, whose size & shape were rather reminiscent of the Laws of East Lothian, in particularly the one at North Berwick. Between them, the dual-carriageway roar’d like a lasar beam, & I got out eager to ascend the serenity of the larger, left-hand hill, called Tirasmi. The peak not massive, so I was up in a few minutes, paying my ‘foreign tourist’ 100 rupees while local Indians in their Sunday best paid 5 rupees each. Still, it was money well spent, for I spent a delightful perched high above Nashik & its sprawling & rising conurbation of new, modern white apartment blocks.

Firstly, I navigated the crude but effective path which circled the upper heights of the hill. It was great actually, far from all the cheap booze & baccy of Goa, I started to feel poetic again – those sonnets just keep on coming. As I made my way round the hill, I noticed how monochrome was the landscape below me, a sunburnt beige scrubland pepper’d by the occasion liquidy green-ness of a field, & those tabletop hills Id noticed on my journey to Nashik two days previously. Above me, the peak of Tirasmi Hill.

Eventually, I made it back to the Pandavlini cave complex, a series of 24 spaces carved smoothly out of the rock. They ranged from simple bedchambers, through water-tanks, to epic church-halls with 18 bedrooms, a shared living area & a temple. The place was definitely Buddhist – which fits in with Agastya – & excuisite carvings of Buddhas & Boddhisattvas were everywhere. Into the rocky floor were carved board-game patterns , conjuring up images of young monks passing the time between prayers.

On a sign at the entrance, a former Superintendent Archeologist wrote quite eloquently;

‘The beauty of these caves lies in their dignified facade, effectively composed & carved. The fleshy bodies, heavily emphasised sashe turbans & other details of the costume are strictly within the Indian tradition. The excavations of Pandu-Lini not only displays their artistic grade but at the same time they give glimpses of art, culture, religion & social setting of the ancient period.’

I really do get off on this stuff, y’know, the re-awakening of historical memories long thought-lost. Concerning the Caves & Jesus, the sun temple there connects to Iarchus, while the 18 bedrooms motif was found in two of the halls in total, & is a perfect match for the 18 disciples of Agastya who are suppos’d to have travelled south from the Gangeatic plain, & felt sure he had been here at some point.

On descending from the hill I began to walk back toward Nasik, my mind working information both new & old, & wondering how it all fits into the Jesus Jigsaw. En route I did indeed calculate some new lines of thought & open up new avenues of insight ready to explore, including something I’ve remember’d, which could be massive. It begins with the following passage from s Persian text known as the Siraj-ul-Maluk (1306);

Where is Isa, the Ruhullah, and, the Kalimatullah, who was the leader of the righteous, and the chief of travelers?

Here we have Isa, the Islamic name for Jesus, described as the ‘Ruhullah’. The word Kalimatullah philochisps into Cholamandalam, the ‘realm of the Cholas,’ named after an Indian dynasty who ruled over the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu. A Buddhist scripture known as the Vinaya Pitaka provides a near identical version of the epithet ‘Ruhullah.’ A section of the Vinaya called the Mahawaga records a future successor to the Buddha who would go by the name of ‘Rahula.’ The mother of this man was given the name ‘Magdaliyana,’ in which we may observe more than a hint of Mary Magdelane of the Gospels.
We must now acknowledge the possible influence of Jesus on the great body of didactic ‘Kural’ composed by the Tamil saint, Thiruvalluvar. From Ruhullah we philochisp easily to Ruvalluvar. When we add a ‘Thi’ element to this name – i.e. the Tamil version of the Sanskrit Sri, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘saintly’ – we come to the name of an ancient & mysterious Tamil saint known as Thiruvalluvar

So Jesus, Thiruvalluvar, India… man, what a possibility !!

Day 180

Woah! Made it! This morning I completed my circuit of India, all four corners. North, South, East & West have been explored in six month of craziness. I think I summ’d it up perfectly with the following sonnet

I rule one final walk about Mumbai,
From tranquil Dawn to Middle Morning’s heat,
Where as I breach the bustle of the street,
Twyx measured steps my senses amplify,
For flashing colours decorate the eye,
& finger’d foods both savoury & sweet,
Dance off the tongue, as Vedic songs compete
To treat our ears, each side of vendor’s cry.

I step tween mendicants, oxen,
Fresh stools, strays, tips & crows,
Strange monkeymen, hags, swine & then
A sense of kinship grows;
It’s one fuck’d up sub-continent,
But wondrous, I suppose!

So, I caught an early train from Omkeraswar Road, & as we pulled through that epic metropolis’ suburbs, I decided to sit on a step with the door open, the train rumbling beneath me, watching the waking city pass me by, milking every moment, knowing full well life may never bring me back to India again.

The terminus station was actually on the edge of the city, & I decided to enjoy the mellower Bombay suburbs & do a spot of shopping. The international airport wasn’t far away so it made sense to stick around. It was quite nice actually, a far cry from the chaotic city centre, & before long I had a few gifts to take home to my family (I’d missed Christmas) – cooking spices for my sister, a load of sticky bindis for my niece & a few DVDs for my dad, each one having about 9 films on a single DVD. I also bought what I thought were some shoes for when I got back home. However, I’d been in sandals for 4 months & it has slowly dawned on me that this pair of soft shoes I’ve just bought are in fact slippers!

I hit the airport at the same time as this 21-year-old Norwegian lass. We soon hit it off & realised it would be more fun to go back into the city & have a meal & some beers. So, we pooled our funds & went on a wee rock’n’roll mission back into the city, having some fine food & turning up back at the airport reeking of booze. It affected her a lot more than me & it took a lot of persuading with the coppers to let her back into the airport. Her story was interesting – she was 3 weeks into her 6 month Asian tour when she realised she was pregnant, so was flying back to Oslo for an abortion, before flying back to Singapore in a couple of weeks to carry on her travels!

Leaving her dozing off the booze, I then went to spend my final rupees on a coca cola at this café in the airport car park, so my guard was down, my wallet was on the table & then it was gone. I realised this back in the airport, & I was like, oh fer fuck’s sake, I’ve been her six months & the only person who nick’d anything off me was fuckin’ Charlie! So, I went back to the café & said look guys, there’s no money in my wallet, but I need my bank cards for when I’m back in Britain. Lo & behold a sheepish old guy turns up a few minutes later & hands me back my wallet – result.

Day 181

Getting through Mumbai customs in the early hours was a bit of a drag – loads of checks & searches in response to a terrorist alert! However, I eventually got on the plane & a Valium & a half later I found myself back in Amsterdam. Now, I’m always up for a bit of ‘intelligent shopping’ – especially in the days of the credit crunch. However, it had been almost 4 months since I’d done any, but even in the sparsely customer’d shops of Amsterdam airport, I was soon munching into salami & a massive Toblerone, washed down with many soft drinks & reading English newspapers all for the price of zero euros – I guess shoplifting is just like riding a bike (with deep pockets).


I know it’s more five-star now than it was then,
but it’s still a difficult tour
Ritchie Benaud

Many days have pass’d since that piazza
Where first I flirted with the myrtle muse,
Now knoweth I a new peninsula
Whose galaxy of monuments enthuse
The spiritus, where all Earthly aspects
Have form’d a microcosm of the sphere,
A foundation for when I travel next,
Days of endeavour drawing ever near.

I spend a moment musing on the wing,
As oer the Sea of Araby we sail’d;
Around the Raj was flung a faerie ring
& all its channel’d poesis regaled,
I have succeeded in my soldiering
Where Ghengiz Khan & Alexander fail’d

It was then a quick buzz over the English Channel, which seem’d to form a golden frame to the beautiful shade of English green. I felt quite patriotic coming home, & as we circled the metropolis I noticed how neat London was, with its straight roads, gentle curves & verdant parks -all a far cry from the ramshackle chaos of India, which seem’d just a dream by the time I set foot back on my native soil, with not a cycle rickshaw in sight…

An hour & bit later it was all a case of Beep-Beep-Fuckin-Beep! Yep, that’s me, back in London & back in Britain with the other 97 percent of the world’s baked-bean buyers. India might have been dangerous, but in my home country there’s an accident every three minutes – I’m taking more care now I’m home than I ever did in India. Going to India means I have cast myself loose, completely, without a home, but breathing the sweet air of freedom.

After such a spirit-cleansing sojourn to the east it was quite a shock to be thrown into the lion’s den of Brixton underground station. The rush of life overwhelmed my senses & within 30 seconds I was offer’d weed. Met my hippy hosts in the capital, Jimmy & Annie. I had met Jimmy on the steps of the Andaman office in Chennai. His girlfriend was a bonnie bohemian lassie, & before I knew it I was whisked off to her gig. It wasn’t far away, at the Bedford pub in Balham; what a place, four floors of Georgian class, the toppermost being the intimate venue where Annie, sat at a keyboard, & back’d by her boys on brass, chilled me out completely. Other acts included a Danish bird on banjo & a Madagascan doing things on guitar that blew me away. Most bizarre, however, was what was going on underneath us. The guitarist from the Scorpions was playing Vivaldi, back’d by a string orchestra full of fit birds, one of whom, when positioned best, was wearing some very skimpy velvet knickers. Its good to be home!

Day 182

What have I gained in England? I knew I had learn’d to wear a collar & tie, to polish my shoes, to brush my hair & to say ‘thank you’ & ‘I am sorry’ many times a day. I had learned to be fashionable & to drink as they drank; in other words I had learned how to worship my body. I saw far more evils in England than I ever did in India
Bakht Singh

My first full day in Britain for 6 months, & the end of my 26 week long journal, which I am going to call ‘ADVENTURES ON AN INDIAN VISA.’ I found myself in London, where luckily it wasn’t raining & my slippers did in fact keep my feet warm. I also went to a clinic to get my shoulder check’d out – apparently its heal’d now, despite being out of joint a bit, anything the NHS could do would only be cosmetic, so I’m just gonna leave it as a war wound, the experience of which led to the following sonnet;


At last my gaze is cast oer English skies,
The thrills of one’s homecoming multiply,
Bursting through cloud we claim a poet’s prize;
Big Ben…Tower Bridge… & the London Eye.
I’m back at last, back from my epic tour,
Ten rupees all that furnishes my purse;
Scraggly & tann’d I call upon the door
Of compassion & an NHS nurse.
“It weren’t easy… I gush´d out dysentry,
Wee mozzy bites became massive bags of puss,
Salmonella, concussion, entwisted knee,
Neuropraxia… love, just look at us!”

“It’s lucky you survived”… I smil’d a smile,
“Dying,” said I, “It’s never been my style.”

The imperial capital can be a little too much at time, but there are pockets of loveliness, like deer-haunted Richmond Park. So, in need of a little nature I headed for the wide open wilderness of Hampsted Heath. In its heart is the Vale of Health, an idyllic cluster of houses in the middle of the expanse of green, like a rush of magic mushrooms in a farmer’s field. From there I dallied through the Heath, by pleasant ponds & the excellent capital vista from Parliament Hill. From it you can see the telegraph tower at Euston, thro’ Saint Paul’s & the Liverpool Street Gherkin to the metropolis skyscrapers of London Docklands. At the other end of the Heath I entered Highgate, drawn by literary memorials to the house where Coleridge spent his last years, & the little church across the road where he is buried.

By now it hardly felt I was in London at all, but this sensation was soon eroded as I made my way through the sweating concrete cyst back to Brixton. My mood was alleviated by a trip to the national gallery to see my favourite paintings – four epic battle scenes from the French revolutionary wars that hang at the entrance hall. A quick zoom on the underground, from Waterloo, & I was back in Brixton where I’m staying in this old Pub, the King of Sardinia. It’s wicked, instruments in the basement next to the old taps, acoustic guitars & sofas in the old pub bit & two floors of rooms, with a roof top terrace. I recently cooked my hosts an Indian style curry to say ta (three tins of chopped tomatoes!) & after some hearty drinking & literary chat with Jimmy, feel chilled out to fuck!

What an absolute buzz all that was, eh?


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