India

Adventures on an Indian Visa (Week 3): Arambol

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Day 15

Back on the road, my first port of call was Chapora – a narrow cowboy-style frontier town with folk riding in on mopeds. It’s mellow by the day, but at night it comes into its own, with the bars knotty with half-cut travellers drinking beer & smoking chillumgees. The clientele all seem to be something out of Camden – lots of neo-punks & tattoos. There are some major long-termers here, whom on asking where they’re from, despite their thick Austrian accent, reply ‘I am from nowhere’ – bloody hippies. The nicest part was the harbour, calm with chilling fishermen & a few stray dogs, but pungent with the smell of fish. There are about twenty multicolour’d fishing boats all flying the flag of India, & among them I shook the hand of Raj, his skin as rough as treebark, & I soon found the reason why, as I helped him haul in a boat using thinnish rope, ripped my hands to shreds in the process!

Spent the evening very stoned – when in Rome, & all that, & Chapora does actually have some very fucking strong weed. I’ was chilluming the stuff in Bee’s Bar, named after Brixton Bob who used to manage the Stray Cats. A cool guy.


Day 16

Drum Circle – Arambol

I’ve just reached Arambol & its plethora of market stalls. The quality of goods is great, & there are a few places which specialise in sending your buys home via air & sea. The theme is generally arty throes & bedsheets. At first, I was a bit miffed about the vibes, but I’ve just spent the evening by a gorgeous pinkness of sunlight setting into the sea, dancing with about a hundred folk to a load of bongo players on the beach, & even jammed along on this guy’s guitar – very good for the soul. I’ve got a well plush pad, perched between a tai-chi school & a yoga centre, for 6 quid a night. Our neighbour is the lovely Helen from Stevenage, a married woman out her on her own. There was definitely chemistry, however, & a theme  is developing to this trip, I think. QPR bird, BBC bird & now stoner bird, who passed me a charas joint at hers which induced my first sick-surf whitey in a long time, swiftly rushing from her pad to fall asleep in the road – the irony is I was only ten seconds from my own house.

Also here is my mate Kern from Aberdeen. I bump’d into him quite randomly at the sunset jam & we went from there to an open-mic night at a place call’d the Surf Club, hosted by Phil, the 60-year old owner, & a right old raver, who used to supply pills in 250,000 consignments to Bristol. There were some great acts on – it was like this quality international jamboree –; Russians, Africans, Americans & me singing ‘Ye Jacobites By Name’ on guitar with Kern accompanying on trumpet. We were so good the owner, Phil, offer’d us a gig, introducing us to this mad Russian bird called Katia who will play drums. Also on board was Dirk, a sound German who will lend me his bass guitar.


Day 17

Arambol is great – full of Russians & hippies, & seems to be a drug-filled, fun-heavy festival of a place. The night life is buzzing & there’s some beautiful coastal walks to tranquil beaches. I’ve also been taking out my landlord’s very handsome black dog. I can’t bear to see it on a chain all day, so I’ve been struttin’ the beach with him, disturbing all the strays who hang about for free food. Then, when we’re strutting the main shopping street, for once I don’t get disturbed at all by the cowering shopkeepers – trust me, this dog is that big. It also made me look cool when I approached the Coco Loco, a beach bar, & blagg’d a DJ gig later in the week when my mates from Scotland arrive – they said sure, why not, & so my career as a top Goan Dj continues.

Arambol should also be known as the place where I invented a new adverb – Stevenaged, – an experience not for the faint-hearted, believe you me. This entails meeting a mad group of birds from Stevenage who get you high, laugh a lot reyt loudly, drink you under the table, & then… you know the rest. Helen was not impress’d, however, when after all her inner turmoil about flirting with me & being married, I was ‘intercepted’ by her mate & taken back to a beach hut for carnal adventures. I then get a phone call from Helen who invited me to hers for a smoke, where I’m currently typing up this after she seduced the fuck out of me. I’d love to go on, but this black acrobat guy from Kenya’s just dropped off some crack & Helen has fixed up a bloody mary, ‘I Am The Ressurection’ has just come on the stereo, & so for the second time this year, after visiting my mate Charlie in Brixton & that mad night with Ketamine Karen – I’m thinking it’ll be too rude not to toot.


Day 18

Waking up in Helen’s bed I decided it was not the best time to become a crack head, & swiftly decamped on an 8k scooter-ride north to the island-like Kerim, at the northernmost tip of Goa; one side of which faces a river estuary, one side the Arabian Sea, & the other side crown’d by a long, wall-like hill which paragliders chuck themselves off thro’ the day. There’s only one road in – by the river – or it’s possible to walk here along the hazardous, overgrown coastal paths up to Arambol.

On route I got chatting to this Irish guy in a restaurant, who mentioned there was a place for rent near his mate’s house in Keri.  His name is Martin & only has one leg – bitten off by a shark he told me. A funny guy tho’, we’ve swapp’d numbers & will hook up soon.

My New Pad

So I got to my Keri & found Martin’s mate, who led me to this like a four roomed bungalow divided into two, with a toilet at the back of each half. There’s a kitchen, a lovely porch where you can set up a mattress, & stairs up to the roof for a sun-bathe – & my half of the house is costing only £2 a night. For another £2 a day I’ve got a sexy yellow pussy-wagon of a new scooter from a local lad.

Keri village itself is quite widely dispersed, with a few ex-pat English gangsters avoiding cops at home & the Russian imperial venture at Arambol. The places possesses a gorgeously vast & tranquil beach, & a ferry that takes you across the river to the next state of Maharashtra.

The Surf Club

Back in Arambol, the Surf Club gig was wicked – we got paid in money, beautiful tandoori & a free bar – which of course I availed myself of wholeheartedly. I also met Albina, a tall & very hot Russian lass from beside the Black Sea & after the gig I drove her back to Keri where she is currently snoozing off our lovemaking in what appears to be a curious dialect of Russian.


Day 19

This morning with a ‘goodbye sweetie’ Albina went off to work at an international nursery school & I thought I’d drive the 35 k south to Anjuna, pausing every now & then to watch a bit of the cricket. On the way back, I stopped off at the Mango Tree for a beer, & met two cute 20-odd year teachers from England, fresh off the plane from where they work in Dubai, & looking for a rave. After informing them that Arambol was wicked, they promptly said they’d come up that night. Which they did, & after scoring some quality MDMA in the back room of a dodgy shop, we proceeded to have one of those classic Goan experiences; dancing to trance, partying on the beach, etc. It was funny as, I mean they really were hot girls & I went round telling everyone they were my wives – a little bit of kudos for the new-boy in town. Come the early hours, the girls were ready to go home, so I sorted them out a taxi & watched them sail off into the distance, before hopping on my scooter & driving to a bar. There a 25 year-old Pakistani lass call’d Simi was DJing & we soon got chatting, I gave her a dab, she let me play some tunes. Her idea of disco & my idea of disco were very differeent things, however once off we went back to her pad we were definitely playing the same kind of music. My mojo is proper rampant at the moment, you wouldn’t believe!


Day 20

With Al

My guitarist pal from Edinburgh, Al Roberts, turn’d up today, with his guitar slung over his shoulders, along with George & Shady – two lads from Galloway. Their plan is to buy bikes & drive around India like madheads. Cue beers & drugs & jamming on Al’s rooftop with all & sundry including Kern & Martin, with the latter almost falling off the roof after trying to stand up drunk on his fake leg.

Then, in the afternoon a Scottish lassie I know turned up; my ubercool DJ pal ‘Needle Sista’ Teri, along with Cornish Stella & Glaswegian Lorraine, who were both in India for the first time. So, I tells them about Keri & we all agreed to go & get dinner down there & catch the last of their first day’s sunshine, where I penn’d the following sonnet.

I watch’d the reaching out of Dawn’s arms red,
Both wrapp’d about the beach on which I led,
Saw little twitters skip the zenith crest
Of waves flung shorewards, falling foam abreast;
Ahead, the full moon gave the waves good gold,
Behind, deep-banded amber branding bold,
When starry rays made way for planets three,
They, too, into the blue illume did flee.
As round the moon rose-fingers floating meet,
Morn’s cyan-curtain’d opening complete,
As fishermen & dogs began day’s dance
Still on the sands I lay, a man entranc’d,
For as full moon thro’ blinking cloud distills,
What flaming sun-chink winks out from the hills!

Albina

That evening Albina turns up wanting to see ‘her Damo,’ with her sister on the book of their scooter visiting from Russia. By now most of the group had gone back to Arambol – Ttere was just me, Martin & his mate. Albina’s sister took an immediate shine to Martin ‘I looovveee him’ – she drawl’d, & they ended up driving off to Arambol, while of course Albina stay’d at mine.


Day 21

It turns out Albina wants a baby with me. It’s definitely time to leave Arambol for that & two other reasons. The first is the banging night put on by me, Teri & Al at the Coco Loco – we called it Tinky Disco & was a blend of DJing & live guitar, all proper good fun & the punters were loving it including our massive posse. Mission accomplish’d. The other reason is a bit fucking dark. Earlier in the day, after leaving Albina’s sister’s place, Martin had an argument with some Indians in a bar who ended up battering him with his own fake leg. He must have been well piss’d off because not long after he’d gotten into another argument with this Swedish guy he was living with in Arambol, hit him over the head with the Swedish guy’s own drum & actually fucking killed him. The police caught up with him about 40 k away & that’s him fuck’d, for what’s gonna be a very long, long time. Totally mental! I didn’t find out about this until quite late on at the Casa Loco, but the vibe of Arambol has suddenly alter’d drastically. Goa has its highs, but also clearly has its lows. Too much drugs, too much sunshine, & when the fun flips to fuck’d up, all hell breaks loose!

Adventures on an Indian Visa: Week 2 (South Goa)

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Day 8

Today I bumped into my Scottish mate, Barry, who persuaded me that a couple of k away to the south was the gorgeously mellow Patnem beach. It makes Palolem look like Benidorm & I immediately felt more comfortable. The beach is lush, while the waters, tho’ a little cloudy, are silkily dive-in-able; warm & wet 24 hours a day. As for India’s sacred cows, on the beach there’s a herd of about 20, while on the back road near the beach there’s another herd, haunting the rubbish dump for snacks. Inbetween are all the shops and villas and huts, then the crescent of beach-kissing restaurants & bars.

I settled in straight away, buzzing about on my scooter, finding idyllic spots to study in, then spending the rest of the day relaxing, swimming & eating, messing about in the giant adult playground that is Goa. It reminds me of the Shelleys/Byron mentality as they lived in Italy, something which has always inspir’d my life. Being in Patnem, however, does have echoes of when the Shelleys hit Bagnia di Lucca & declared it quite sardonically to be full of the English. They, & of course the Scots, really have taken over Patnem.

After m’lady departed for other shores this morning, it seems she had left me with a revitalised mojo. First to pick up on it was a nurse from Hastings. I’d gone out for few beers, playing pool in beach bars & stuff, which led to a riotous rave at a headphone party where we I had my first proper dancing session in Goa ata   place call’d the Alpha Bar – an open-air affair with great aesthetics & a stage. After. Cue some wild driving, an all-night party & a morning frolic in the waves with the aforementioned nurse. Her boyfriend is a QPR fan & she said, ‘I won’t tell him you’re a Burnley fan, he hates Burnley!’ I was like, ‘you’ve got a boyfriend, why don’t you just not tell him about me at all!’


Day 9

Magic Cinema

At some point along the wild roads of last night’s drunken shennaningins I managed to total the front of my scooter, which Dinesh says will cost £35 to repair – ouch! However, it looks like I might be able to pay that back from real wages, because on returning to the Alpha Bar I have managed to secure a gig in a few days of my very own. After a few business–like chats with the boss, sat on chairs drinking chai & arguing over prices like any other Indian transaction, I pulled the thing off. God bless Saraswathi! There are two channels going at the same time so I will be playing alongside someone, but also to about 300 punters, half of which will be birds in varying degrees of hotness.

I’ve also moved to a beach hut at a place call’d the Magic Cinema, ran by this guy called Jimmy Van de Mere. I met him last night & he invited me along to see his place – I moved in straight away. Its stuffed full of hippies & healthy food, & shows a couple of wicked films each night in an open air cinema – tonight was one of my favourites, The Sting. I loved hanging out there during the day, shaded by the coconut boles & palm trees, playing chess with this mad German bird & one of Jimmy’s mates  call’d Steve, whose here with his girlfriend, an Australian call’d Kate. They are the most relaxed, hedonistic couple I have ever known.

After the Sting, me, Steve, Kate & Barry bought some ‘happy pills’ from the chemist, hoping they’d be amphetamine based. At first they seemed to work, but after a while we levelled out & Kate discovered that they were, in fact, Prozac. It was time to resort to plan B. This involved chipping in together to buy a bottle of liquid ketamine from a chemist in Chaudi, the local amenity-laden town. It was shipped in on the 9 PM bus by a nice young chemist & by 10 PM it had been cooked up. Kate professionally held a metal pan over 4 candles & after a few minutes the liquid suddenly turns into white powder, smooth as untrammell’d snow.

Ketamine’s a tricky drug, you have to find the right length of line or else you fall into the K hole. However, experience & common sense paid off & we managed to have a great time at the Neptune’s Point disco, a wave-lapped promontory full of Goan party heads. Me & Barry decided to have a couple of lines on the bar & b4 long we’d met these pill’d up Norwegian birds who gave us our ecstasy lead – Curlie’s Bar in Anjuna. “We’re gonna have to go Damo, it’s what I do,” said Barry.


Tantra

Day 10

We didn’t go to Anjuna today. I found Barry still sleeping off on an all-night drinking binge commonplace round these parts. Barry knows some Scots out here, who basically hang out all day at the same restaurant (the Tantra). A few of the ‘in crowd’ hang out there also, from Cornish DJ’s to the long-locked Londoner Leigh, who runs the open mic nights on Patnem & Palolem. Yesterday they’d all gone off to see if some baby turtles have hatched, a story which is currently gripping the local geaches. Apparently they are all still in their eggs yet.

Today I learnt the lesson that drink-driving is fine if ya going slow, but drinking, driving & smoking charas is a definite no-no. I almost ran into this group of Indians – not touching one, mind – when all of a sudden each one began clutching mythical broken shoulders & screaming in agony. I saw one of ‘em later on, who declares he’s been to hospital, it cost him 6000 rupees & he’s complained to the police – apparently he took my photo & registration number – & if I give him the 6000 rupees he’ll take back the complaint. ‘Mate, I’m from Burnley,’ I replied – he didn’t understand what I meant, but he got the intent – you can’t blag a blagger, end of. I mean, I’m a top Goa Dj now & I’ve only been in India a week.


Day 11

This morning began with me shaking Barry awake & stuffing him into the waiting taxi. It was time to score some pills. Anjuna is in north Goa, the original home of the Goan party scene in the 90s, but now a shadow of its former self, turning into something of a middle-aged Majorca. However, you can still get pills there, & we arrived at Curly’s Bar in our getaway taxi, where after initial contact, a couple of hours pass’d by slowly as we waited for a shady young lad called ‘Roy,’ who Barry swore had tried to sell him drugs just up the road a few years previously. We shared the haggling between us, & left north Goa 30 pills to the good & one each down our necks. The journey ‘home’ was magic – quite euphoric on what were flying fucking pills. Whether it was my 2-month abstinence or just their sheer strength didn’t matter so much, suffice it to say that after the scenic two-hour drive, past the deep fjord-like, jungle-backed rivers of Old Goa, I was well off my head & so was half of Patnem Beach an hour or two after our return. Another Silent Disco ensued, this time inland & surrounded by palm trees, where a wee line of ketamine initially sent me to heaven, but then spun me out for a good two hours.

“You know the thing about ketamine,” said Barry, “is that people always go on about it.” He was right, my mind was verbalising its fight back to relative sanity (I was on pills remember) – & the whole psychic mess was cured only by another cheeky half. It was then time for a damn good rave, ending up at the all night Palolem strip, whose mile-long chain of restaurants & beach bars become at night a multi-coloured ribbon of neon light – & then to Cleopatra’s Bar for pool. At daft-o-clock me & Steve drove back to Patnem, leaving his missus in the capable hands of Barry. A few hours later Steve got a rickshaw back to rescue Kate from Barry, who by now had donned some English woman’s feminine attire in full tranny flow, fuell’d by some anti-narcolepsy tablets, which contained the grail-like amphetamine kick much needed in times like these.


Day 12

It seems the Siberian snap that has recently hit Europe has penetrated the subcontinent – here’s a report from the Times of India.

Panaji – the mercury dropped to its lowest this season as meteorologists recorded a minimum temperature of 19.6 Celsius yesterday morning.

Patnem

I must admit, I had to turn my fan down a couple of notches in the night to keep out this unwanted coolness.

Today I met an old mate. I was sitting in this chai & samosa hut, recovering, when I heard ‘I think I know you.’ I turned round & there was Danish Rita – she used to see my mate in Bognor Regis – clutching a new-born baby. It turns out she’s married now, has two kids, & has the ability to heal people through her hands with ‘the light.’ Her husband is cool, despite not having a drink in ten years, & it was lovely getting to know them. It turns out they adore a place call’d Thiruvannamali, in a southern Indian state call’d Tamil Nadu & I should definitely check it out if I’m in the area.

At the Magic Garden, the newly-arrived Phillipa had a bottle of liquid acid, which gave my day a myriad-hued glow.  Jimmy had also taken some acid & took us out to Galgebag beach, where the sea turtles had still not hatched, their eggs protected by human fencing. There’s a cluster of restaurants at Galgebag, one of which comes recommended by Gordon Ramsey, while the one next door is recommended by Jamie Oliver. Whether this is true or not, the oysters were great & the beach sands are lush… Happy Days indeed!

That night saw a party on in a place called the Secret Garden. That was pleasant enough, ‘til the police halted it mid-flow; so a big bunch of hippies, led in some vague fashion by Jimmy, hiked over to Neptune’s Point for more silent disco fun, & a little flyering for my own gig tomorrow!


Day 13

The New Office

There’s something about being a DJ which is an aphrodisiac for the ladies. lt was my debut at Alpha Bar’s Silent Noise night – the flyer says Palolem’s premier outdoor nightclub. It was wicked actually, a really pretty space illuminated by purple laser beams. Earlier in the day I’d been handing out said flyers along the beach – a great way to get chatting to folk actually. Come 8.30 I was the opening act, & for two hours played mi tunes out loud thro’ the speakers before the 10.30 watershed when Goa turns its music off. Then the headphones come into play & as the venue filled up, people began dancing. I couldn’t tell if they were dancing to mine tunes or the guy’s next to me. He was a nob actually, proper DJ ego. It was great to see folk dancing, tho’. & having a good time, singing along to the classics I squeezed in among the disco. Because it’s all silent, it’s a bit like Weatherspoons with everyone having epileptic fits – the only music one can hear is the cricket opera from the surrounding jungles.

Me Jimmy & Steve

After my set I was ‘pulled’ by this hot English lady who I first noticed was dancing to Cats In the Cradle by Jonny Cash, one of my favourite tunes, showing she was a cultured woman. I was soon proven right because she actually works on the Culture Show for the BBC, & after a skinny-dip at dawn I woke up beside her delectably naked form, upon silken white sheets, at her mate’s gorgeous Portuguese villa. ‘So do you have a boyfriend at home?” I asked – & it turns out she’s actually married. Apparently, she’s never done such a thing before, or ever will again – but she’d told her husband he couldn’t expect her to sleep with one guy for the rest of her life & it turns out I was the lucky fella! It was a lot of pressure to be a charming young plaything actually. I read her a little Keats & sang a song or two like a proper cavalier servente, but if this is what happens when you’re a DJ, I’m thinking about packing in the poems!


Day 14

There was an episode of Eastenders a few years back – I remember it distinctly – when Alfie Moon turn’d up at the square at the beginning, & by the end of it was firmly entrench’d behind the bar of the Queen Vic. A similar thing has just happened to me. By a blend of timing, tenacity & sheer front, I am now a Goa DJ shaggin’ a hot BBC producer. She tracked me down herself & we hung out again all day, including a moonlit drive to Galgebag where the baby turtles were finally hatching – a divine sight indeed & my lady friend was so full of the romance of the moment, she took me right there on the beach.

So, it’s time to move on – it’s gonna be hard to top that moment again in south Goa – while a few of my pals are arriving quite soon at a place call’d Arambol in north Goa. Tomorrow morning I’m gonna burst my Patnem pleasure-bubble & sneak out of my lady’s bed – I’m in her villa at the moment writing this – & head north.

Adventures on an Indian Visa: Week 1

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Day 1

I am nearing the end of my last full day in Britain for a while. I’ve just had the delight of a little farewell fling with a bonnie philosophy graduate. I told her she was something of a champagne bottle that smashes against a ship’s hull as it sets off on its maiden sailing – with better curves.  She’s gorgeous, with really curly red hair & delectable lips. I’d met her at a hairdresser friend of mine’s house, where she was trying to get a 60’s style bouffant, but I said it looked more like a volcano – this brutal honesty endeared her to me & we took it from there.

After a night of wine & her fine efforts at cooking a steak, my journey to India began early this morning, departing her lovely warm bed, & continuing onwards up the long slope of Edinburgh’s Leith Walk, my pavement slapping flip-flops conjuring in my direction a number of funny looks.

It was then the long boring, drawling, droning haul on the megabus to Victoria coach station in London, from where I’ve just caught the tube to Heathrow, bought myself a beer & am writing this with a couple of hours to wait til my flight to India, & to say I am excited-slash-shitting myself is a massive understatement. 


Day 2

Rudyard Kipling once mused, ‘East is east & west is west & never the twain shall meet,’ & boy was he right. The flight to the sub-continent began in a dull pre-dawn, slowly permeating the skies above the galaxy of stars that is the city of London. The capital was surrounded by the bright, wavy circuit of the M25 & thro’ the murk it seemed like the delicate golden stitching on some Chinese emperor’s sable suit. Then everything disappeared as we burst through the thick cloud into the strange & eerie nothingness of the upper stratosphere.

We got a break in the clouds as we flew over Turkey & the southern shores of the Black Sea. Beyond a coastal strip of towns, the rest of the landscape bubbl’d with beautiful khaki-coloured hills, some of which were skipp’d with snow. In the distance I could make out the Caucasus, while underneath came the Tigris, & I mused upon the start of mankind, where Mesopotamia irrigated these very plains between the Tigris & the Euphrates, from which culture rose the first cities 8000 years ago.

It was now time to change planes & we dropp’d into Abu Dhabi, a part of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, seven princely states who joined together about 40 years ago to exploit the petrol-guzzling nations of the world. The airport was a bit mad, full of guys in white shirts, sporting red & white chequer’d tea towels on their heads, fastened in place by two black rubber rings. There were models of formula one cars everywhere, & an amazing departure lounge that looked like the inside of a curling ball, whose hexagon-pattern’d central pillar fanned out like a vase. to merge curvingly with the roof. Then we were off again, for the three & a half hour hop over the Sea of Araby to the subcontinent, towards the end of which I penn’d the following sonnet.

37,000 ft

Across Europa we have both progress’d,
By foot, by boat, by tram, by bus, by train,
But this hour, from a cool & pleasant plane,
Sees me sailing air on a grander quest,
The scenes by cyan skies & soft cloud blest,
How seldom seen & varied the terrain
Of ashen peak, urban sprawl, verdant plain,
Gleaming sea, wastes of sand & wylde forest.
As soon as we abandon Europa,
I could already taste the eastern scent,
The sun was setting west of Syria,
The starry heavens singing its lament,
As somewhere yon the grey Arabia
My pilot was beginning his descent.

So I arrived in Mumbai, the former Bombay, another wonderful galaxy of stars in what was to me an obscure corner of the universe. My first impressions were the stench… it stinks! The sweat of a billion people mingling with pollution & sulphur emissions – like one of my own more lethal moments of flatulence, but permanent! After showing my passport & my shiny new six month Indian tourist visa, it was deep in the wee hours & being slightly fucking scared mate I shared a taxi with an innocent & very clean Australian, & off we hurtl’d through the epic sprawl of Mumbai. The city is huge, about 30 million souls rushing around its virtually identical roads, & I felt we were like a couple of white blood-cells surging around the arteries of some phantastical chimera of the days before legends. The taxi driver took us to a reasonable hotel – I think he got commission for it too – & I’m sharing a room with the Australian at this very moment.

So I’m now in India; the diamond of the Victorian crown, a mad labyrinth of a billion souls, a vast myriad of language, race & faith, an empyrean melting pot of empires to explore. Bring it on, I am definitely ready to do this!


Day 3

My first full day in the very European Mumbai – complete with red double decker buses straight from the Strand – was a sensory montage of sights & smells. As I cut a swathe thro’ the city, all a-sweat with lips parch’d dry, I was assail’d at all sides by various beggars, touts & conmen – but you can’t blag a blagger & I even managed to haggle down the cost of my first score – a strange blend of Indian weed, which proper works!

My first target was the Britannia-topped, Empire-kitsch wonder that is the Victoria Train Station. I bought a ticket for Goa departing the next morning, wanting to get out of the crazy days as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, I will have to head across town to my train via the Mumbai rail network, the busiest in the world. In fact half of all India’s trains come in & out of Mumbai, with people clinging to every spare bit of atom, hanging off the roof & sides –  I guess it’s gonna be fun.

Leaving the VTS I was soon bless’d by a priest of the elephant-god, Ganesha, & painted with a bindi – the spot in the centre of the forehead which represents the third eye. Ganesha is one of the major deities in the epic Hindu pantheon. ‘In religion,’ said Mark Twain, ‘all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire,’ & there are over three million of them here, emanating divinity thro all sorts of obscure things, but the most fascinating one appears to be Kali, a goddess who wears a necklace of shrunken male heads & a dress of sever’d arms. Her whole vibe reminds me a bit my ex, Sally, when she was rife with PMT. Very fucking scary! My protector goddess, however, seems to be Saraswathi. I was immediately drawn to her, sitting cross-legged playing the sitar, with my favorite bird, the swan, in the background. Turns out she’s the goddess of the arts & wisdom, which is kinda me really, & she’s quite hot too, the whole experience of which led to me penning the following sonnet;

GODDESS MINE

I fixt mine inner eye upon a star,
In darshan stood disturbing deity,
Lull’d by the tantric strains of her sitar,
This purest drop of goddess flew to me
Upon a swan of hue ambrosial,
Her fertile smile still’d time, her luted look
Consorts my heart – sublimely cordial,
She read from the Pustaka’s sacred book;
“Wand’rer, welcome thou art to India,
This sari I have sewn know as thy guide,
Where e’er she willows there stay close behind!”
She closed the page, sail’d high skies to Brahma,
Performing blissful duties of the bride,
Rare have I seen such beauties in my mind.

I then tried my first proper Indian food & tuck’d into a thali; several mini pots of curry + rice bready things, all for 40 rupees (60p). The money is mad; I got 5000 rupees all in fifty notes & feel pretty loaded. I then went down to the beach and somehow ended up renting an elderly ‘friend’ for a hundred rupees (about a pound) who told me where all the Bollywood stars lived (basically pointing at random houses and saying the name of a random Bollywood star). He then took me for a ridiculously cheap & exquisitely hot curry in a kind of shack cafe on the edge of a shanty town call’d Dharavi, made famous by the recent film Slumdog Millionaire. His chat was disturbing, all about his childhood in 1947 when at the dawn of Indian independence, he watched Hindus massacre Muslims in the city streets.

Bollywood

On my way back to the hotel, I visited the Asiatic Society’s Library. A splendid old, white building which still uses cards to catalogue its books. It is also full of life-size, marble Graeco-Roman statues of not very famous Britons, who had all been involved in the Empire. It reminded me that India is a land of opportunity, the essence & energy of which exploded upon me that very evening. I was just about to chill out for the night, y’know, catching up on some sleep, shake off the last of my jet lag, when I was approach’d in the street by this fifty-year-old English reprobate, all long hair, criminal-slouch & drug-abuse-strained drawl, who goes ‘do you wanna be an extra in a Bollywood movie.’ Of course I said yes – I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t – & soon found myself on a bus with about twenty other young travellers spinning through Mumbai. At first, I thought it was like Nightmare on Elm Street 2, or Jeepers Creepers 2, & we’d all get slaughtered – but before long we were at this old English school, eating some wicked food & dressing up in Edwardian costumes. The women looked especially wicked, but apparently the silk arm-gloves itched & they were murder to get into. Anyway, the shoot took about six hours & we got paid 500 rupees to do it! All we had to do was sit in a big hall & be an audience. The film will be at next year’s Cannes festival & goes by the name of HARISHCHANDRACHI FACTORY. It tells the story of the first ever Indian filmmaker – Dadsaheb Phalke – who took his film to England where I would be in the audience!


Day 4

After about three hours’ kip I was back on the road, jumping the morning commuter trains out of VT station. My journey was relatively peaceful, but the grand tide of humanity passing by me in the other direction was mental – Indian office workers taking up every inch of room on the trains, inside & OUT!

On the outskirts of Mumbai I had to change for the Goa train, & met a Canadian who was going south too. We spent a couple of hours in the vicinity, chilling in a temple while swapping books & literary anecdotes. He’s called Danny, a nice guy, who looks a bit like Jim Morrison & was brought up in India at an expat school. Apparently, the weed he smoked there had been laced with opium, which helps to explain the otherworldliness in his ambience.

The Goa train came in & Danny took 2nd class sleeper while I took a first class carriage for about a tenner. The journey was pretty nice actually, about 12 hours of air-conditioned easiness, punctuated by hand-delivered hot meals, watching the monsoon-fresh greenery of middle-India pass me by. I was sat with these Catholic Indians; a violin player named Errol, his lovely wife & their eighteen-year old daughter who kept giving me the eye. They were fans of Alexander McCall Smith & were amazed when I told them that I used to live on Scotland Street… but were disappointed to discover there was no number 44.

At one point Danny found me & ask’d if he could hang with me for a couple of days. I was like sure mate, & we soon found ourselves at about midnight in sea-girt Benaulim, about two thirds of the way down Goa, at about midnight. Unfortunately, all the hotels were shut, so we ended up squatting a half-built villa for the night. A nearby guard dog had seen us & proceeded to bark its head off for about an hour & half – the last thing you need when you hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep for four nights.


Day 5

On waking up, the dog turned out to be a tiny thing (with big lungs), & Benaulim was a bit boring. We then shared a taxi to a place call’d Baga, where speedboats whizz people in parachutes high over the Arabian Sea & we found a wicked cottage right on the beach. The weather’s great – night & day – about 32 degrees in the mid-day sun, & thanks to a hairdryer/sirocco-like breeze blowing in from Arabia, about 25 at night!

I am staying next door to a cool Indian family, sharing their garden & toilet – which is in the middle of the street! The other streets roundabout are narrow, sandy & really serene. An old woman visits my patio with a fruit basket on her head, while a cheeky little scamster (who beat me at pool) will get me my food from the restaurant – for a small fee of course!  Beyond my little domestic heaven Goa is better than its rep, believe me. Even tho’ I cannot drive I have hired the funkiest looking moped for 100 rupees a day & have been cruising round the sandy roads, listening to my tunes, dodging the cows & burning the straights. My petrol ran out on one occasion, so I blagg’d some from a roadside shack & headed for my pad in Baga. On the way back I pass’d my first elephant – all truss’d up in psychedelic garb, stomping his way thro’ the street. As for partying, there was a crazy taxi ride to a sunset techno bqsh in Vagator – reminiscent of the Hackney squat raves, but on a balmy evening & cool’d by a soft sea breeze. This was follow’d by a game of snooker with a mad Scotsman & a chill out with some Camden girls on a rooftop terrace drinking beer, listening to the tunes I just happened to have in my pocket – my first DJ slot in Goa! In a world full of comedy characters & cheap bear I felt that I had well & truly arrived at the party.

So, Goa is like Glasto, only more strung out – Glasto on bikes!


Day 6

I woke up buzzing & went for a walk along the coast when I penn’d the following sonnet;

THE EAR CLEANER

Stepping out one golden Goan morning,
Drowsy with the sunken sun’s adorning,
Content was I to be in nature’s hand,
Soul-freshen’d as bare feet sunk into sand,
From out of nowhere stept a wizen’d man,
“Sahib! cleaning your hearing well I can!”
Shows Western praises in his little book,
Black blocks of wax from both my ears he took.
I shook the hand that scrubb’d my hearing clear
Said fond farewells & watch’d him disappear
Round red & rugged hill flank’d by the view
Of Konkan coast careering into blue,
When first found I the profits of his fee
I’d never known how sweetly sounds the sea!

It was then time to head south, following the advice of the Camden girls who I’d been partying with yesterday. Apparently it’s even better down there. So, leaving Danny to the cottage – he was happy to stay – I caught a train to Canacona station & walked towards a place called Palolem. As I strode its long curvature of bar-lined luscious beaches, a huge smile broke out on mi face – this was proper paradise!

Taking a beach hut & a moped from a lovely guy call’d Dinesh, I’ve really enjoyed the area, buzzing about from bar-to-bar on my shiny green moped. The scenery is semi tropical, & South Goa is backed by these lush hills call’d the Ghats & its all very amazing to be here. Things got even better when that night Saraswathi parachuted me in a wee muse to help me in my work. She is a cute 30-year old journalist from Limerick in Ireland, & a woman of infinite patience. I got free beers for playing some tunes in a bar, & let’s say I was pretty steaming. That didn’t put her off though, & she kindly escorted me back to her 2000 rupee a night posh hut. Come morning I blinked myself awake to be met by, ‘Do you remember what happened last night?’

‘No,’ I replied sheepishly.

“Well, Damo, I woke up to you pissing in my suitcase, after which you knocked the window pane out of my door.”

There was a certain karmic irony to this, as back in the spring I’d gotten all high & mighty on mi drummer, after he’d smashed a similar pane of glass in Cagliari, after an argument with his girlfriend over whether he could take the local stray street-cats home. In this instance I was just clearly pissed, for which I apologised profusely, did some cute kissing & shit & seem’d to get away with it.


Day 7

After apologising to my new lady friend, the rest of the day was quite Eat Pray Love which seem’d to make up for my nonsense the previous night. First port of call was Kola beach, a lovely spot at the end of a terrible road, with wild waves & a freshwater lagoon to paddle in. After this we continued north to Cabo de Rama, an old Portuguese fort with splendid views of a miraculous bay, at the other side of which we observed a restaurant clinging to the cliffs. Driving out there, we passed a mad Russian flying a three-wheeler wheelchair-paraglider, & then just as the red sun was dipping below the clouds, we walk’d along a practically deserted beach to reach the restaurant. So romantic! Cue fresh fish & wonderfully warm sensations of having a lovely time at a place called, appropriately, ‘Mi Amore.’

We drove back a good hour thro the night, accompanied by the constant chorus of chirping insects, cutting thro swathes thro moody junglerie. Then, back at Palolem, we drank wine on the beach, ending a perfect day in the horizontal fashion in a tired, but the happiest of glows. It was to be our last night together, alas, for she was heading to Thailand the next day. Our liaison was brief but beautiful, & yeah, I’m fucking loving India, me!