Okay more digestive issues… but in a greater variety of places

Posted on December 23, 2005


Rishikesh. heaven.

Cumulative delay time to date: 6 hours 15 mins

Okay so since we last spoke, our unit departed Rishikesh and went back through Delhi to Mathura and Vrindavan. For the many who don’t know what’s special about these places, i will try to explain. In Indian scripture, history (written and oral) as well as myth, this is where Lord Krishna was born, raised, and became king. Krishna is the supreme divinity for Hare Krishna’s, and many or perhaps most Hindus, depending which way you slice the theology. Krishna’s was village has only been known physically since medieval times. Many ancient temples are there, but in the last decades of moghul power, many newer temples were built there to commemorate its glorious past, and continuing holy present.

In reality, its a difficult place to be. Its even poorer than a lot of towns, and we got shaken down quite regularly by service staff, drivers, priests, Hare Krishna’s and well just about everyone. I was taught its not nice to criticise the holy places or its residents, but i just want to say, it was hard being there. A lot of desperate people, some very bad roads.

And no booze.

Which is good, cos its bad karma in that part of the world. Mind you, didn’t stop lots of folks offering me gunja and other herbally things as well.

We saw Shyama Kund and Radha Kund, and Govardhana Hill. We also visited the ISKCON or Hare Krishna temple a couple of times as well. Quite impressive, a beautiful “interpretation of classical Northern Hindu temple architecture”. Not too old fashioned, not too modern.

But i want to say this: There Was a Man With a Gun IN the Temple Room. And more outside, and in fact there’s men with serious guns everywhere. India is a military state for crying out loud! This has all just dawned on me in the last few days.

Stayed just the one night in the holy land, and then back to Delhi (again) with a late night and morning in backpacker central, before heading by air to Chennai.

This was something else. Men with Guns (MWG) let me out of the airport (against Prevention of Terrorism Act) to smoke (against Public Cleanliness laws of Delhi). Nice. (Just by the bye, at a briefing on India’s new Right to Information Act that we attended (for Hannah’s essay), a speaker mentioned that India has 155,000 laws – woah). Obviously i’m not a probable risk based on the latest terrorism profiles. Very handy, thanks to a delayed flight, frustration made me wanna smoke.

On the flight though, i saw lightning, rain and storms from above. It was dark, so all the more impressive. Couldn’t see landscape on a day flight as I’d hoped (but the whole of northern Tamil Nadu was under heavy rain clouds anyway). I remember the moon floating high over the clouds and reflecting brightly off flooded fields and the ocean, between big pulses of lightning.

The lights of Delhi and Chennai were also remarkable. We spotted our suburb by recognising the shapes of highways and dark bits. Well Hannah did. Delhi had dozens, hundreds perhaps, of large blobby clusters of lights (colonies) with dark in between. It is called a city of satellites after all. Chennai had much smaller clusters of lights than Delhi, surrounded by spidery lines, with smaller dark places between. They made me think of jewellery, chokers of lights, bracelets of houses, necklaces of roads. Very pretty when viewed in the abstract.

Chennai itself was a little ugly. We paid too much for a place to say (damn you Air Deccan) and headed for the rural coast as soon as possible the next day. Which brings us to Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram. A fishing/backpacker village. Loads of carving workshops, silks, clothing and silver jewellery. Ayurveda treatments everywhere. But not as new age as Rishikesh. No more materialist than there. Which is nice, it feels like being on holiday really. But with India stuff thrown in. The beach is no good, pretty but too many rips, and fishing boats everywhere on the sand. I’ve never seen that before. But as my dad would also know, there’s a zillion temples and monuments and carvings to go look at, by bike i reckon. Probably tomorrow. I think i’ve seen slides of this place from dad’s previous trips.

I have some form of dodgy intestine/bowel (if you don’t mind me saying) so not too much excercise. Probably Karma for one of many irreverent things i did in Vrindavan. Our hotel dude has promised me some awful tasting Ayurvedic shit, so yeah, bring it on. Then i can get back in the saddle, get active. I’m missing activity.

But yeah this place is nice, not too hippy, not too straight. Cheap and cheerful, sunny and pretty. Relatively hassle free. Can’t wait to feel better and go hit the sights.

Finally, Hannah and I are keeping a tally of misadventures and victories. This will be regularly updated.

So, at the close of the day’s trading the scores were:
India: 512 Us: 13

One of the many contributors to this unbalanced score was indian mobile carriers, who are ASSHOLES. it actually chews up credit recieving a call from overseas. bloody phone company middle men gouging all my product. i payfor it, but then they charge me around half in “administrative fees” and “usage validity extensions”, and those times when i recieve a call from anyone i actually want to talk to. and they bombard me with sms spam and auto calls. so i buy credit, then they charge me a million different ingenious ways to use what i’ve paid for.

aaargh. that was cathartic. excellent. well hannah has gone to the beauty salon for feminine matters, and i’m considering lunch. The other photos i tried to upload haven’t worked. damit. See you later.

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