Archive for December, 2010
The men here celebrate each other. They often want to include me. They often want to put silly hats on me. They always take time to admire my hair. Sometimes I feel I should take up chewing beetle nut. I’ve long since taken up the requisite thirst for an afternoon chai. At some point I’ll have to learn the language. Funny to just always be running the surfaces. Captain Burton knew how to go deeper, and it always began with acquisition of the language. Then all the customs and doors were opened up to him.
Was it the samosa rumbling in her belly or the muttering call of the open gutter for her perfectly antiqued Micky mask. The lure of either horror, once it starts in on you, is too strong even for the mightiest little Shiva to protest. Inevitably, like preordination in this giant country of constant religion and metaphysics, one antique quickly meets another.
We’ve hit that point in the trip, and maybe it’s a function of this lovely, tranquil town of Bundi, that we’re doing many hours of cafe sitting each day, making new friends and telling endless stories over crepes, lassi’s and chais. The girls like it. Respite from the teaming streets below, more Nutella. Kipling wrote in this town, but I’m guessing he did a lot of this same kind of fucking off as well.
We wanted the perfect Eastern place to bring our Western notion of Xmas. Turns out there’s political unrest up the tracks. As Gandhiji taught them, go sit on the rails. So we bailed off the train and fell right into this ancient fortress of lazy, splendid delights. We even had our Xmas Eve dinner with the Maharaja of Bijaipur himself. Simple perfect serendipities of travel.
As the English here say, “Happy Christmas!”
Time is slower here, that’s to be expected. But the things and beings that people up time here can sometimes be monstrous and loud and there are spices and scents that can gum the works of nose, throat, mind and belly. The country can press upon you, like water, as you swim deeper into it. This is a country of leagues. You come here for submersion, it beckons you diver ever deeper. It’s a big drug and as you build up a tolerance you are want to curry ever deeper favor with the wilding and swarthy loud streets to bring you that bang of wow that is almost constant in this ancient landscape. Permeation is the key: the amazing shit is out there, you need only tap in by the proper vein. Go deeper, further, more thirsty for this wet scenery, flow, like blood into a climber’s brain and give him visions of God beyond that mountain that’s no longer his, ecstasies before he succumbs and expires. And thus you become drug and drugged of this country. Thus you are holy man and seeker. Your mind is the puja and your body the tikka powder of innumerable mornings passing Brahmin ablutions along the ghats. You pulse along with the washer woman’s paddle beating steadily the life from a heap of clothes; you are the strange, honking bark of the morning bather who, being the only man who knows how to swim, is conferred with special authorities as be floats in his face-to-sun-feet-and-palms-together asana positions in dhoti or old Calvins and the string of higher caste round his trunk, his snowing hair sweeps round and he makes that impossible honking bark that we had thought for two days was some strange fresh water monster of our fair Lake Pichola. So that’s how you keep your health here, bathing on the ghats, beside the washer women in the bright wet sari’s, soaping and teeth brushing in the swirling green algae, magic algae no doubt, and then a purgative swim. Are you ready for this kind of health? We’re not. We’re opting for really swank little garret rooms with fine views of the water, long meals on rooftops with more views of the Lake, and of course the walking which is constantly harried by all the rush of honking tuk-tuks, whole family bearing motorbikes, government Ambassadors (the cabs now are all little foreign makes and the beautiful Ambassador is relegated only to official use, which means they’re well kept and all the more handsome), women with pots on head, men with push carts, bicycles with a half dozen warhead-like red cooking gas canisters hanging off the panniers, palace guards, girls in saris, temple washers, beggars, civil servants, readers of newspapers, tellers of the future, cows, camels, donkeys, dogs, scurvy puppies, monkeys and babies of monkeys clinging on, urchins, mashers of lime wash, trinket barkers, dingy travel agents, hapless tourists, starry eyed devotes, dervishes, gulab whiskers, chai wallas, amputees tailors, watch tinkerers, silversmiths, heena (sic) painters, beckoning touts of every shopkeeper description, a man with half his face melting down to his collar, endless Ganeshas, school kids, thieves, arsonists, mercenaries, my ladies, and me. And for health we just get out and dig it all. And then when the crud of nose and throat and the twist of belly become all a bit too glucose for the soldiering, we repair to our day’s chosen haveli and take the opiums of books, movies, pictures and notes. The air here is full of magic, and just as full of poison. It’s all in how and when you breath it, which nostril it goes in, and which orifice it comes out. We’re mastering the yogic arts of India! travel ever more with each passing day.
There’s fewer of them this time. They’ve generally been moved elsewhere, which is dubious in India because it’s such an ephemeral place of spirits to begin with; out of site and you’re wholesale out the whole transcendental mind. But it seems they’ve culled the city cows in an effort to aid traffic congestion. They’re virtually nonexistent in Delhi and here they’re few and far between. And we’ve yet to see an elephant at all. We went and watched Octopussy over dinner tonight. Great slummy roof top restaurant with great food and a great view of the Lake Palace as you lock into that great movie and you get that great feeling of place and time coming together before you. And if you’re familiar with the flick, you’ll know I’m using the word Great to paint a certain tapestry, a broadly stroked one, one that can enjoy Roger Moore regardless….. Roger Moore, a film Great of the 20th Century. You get the idea. And It really was a great time eating and watching the flick and turning out CHICKS on for the first time to Bond and being able to see the Palace glowing out there on the waters beyond the TV they’d humped up onto a table at roof’s edge (and, for the initiated, the garden island Jag Mandir which is where they shot most of the exteriors of Octopussy’s lair) and living this week around the corner from where they filmed it all and recognizing the streets and colors and tuck-tucks and doorways and temples readily. The only things missing today are the elephants, sword swallowers and nail bedders. Everything else, except for the greatly increased traffic and overall filth, is exactly the same as in the flick. Watch it and supplement with my pix and you’ll be having the full Udaipur experience.
11 years ago we made vows to create life together. This winter we’ve brought our girls back to this lake of the Foating Palace to remind them of their origin, to assure them they are a promise well kept.
Though I’m shooting up the pictures and words at a rate that only the immersion in India! can produce, don’t be alarmed if we can’t get it broadcast out everyday. Wifi is pretty prevalent in this land of yor thanks to the future being now, but less so here in our ancient nuptial city of Udaipur, so it takes a bit of hunting, and it takes sitting down to do it, which is not always germane to the being out seeing and doing all the time that we’re pretty good at. Also, “It’s India,” simply put, and that’s constant excuse enough to keep things from running smoothly. I finally found a joint yesterday that had the coveted wifi and as I plugged in the passcode, mid-conversation about metaphysics and digital cameras with the proprietor, we were miffed to find that although I had full bars, there was no internet to ultimately connect to. Then the light beamed in his eyes, and that’s always a lovely light to see. “It’s the Muharram. For the Muslims. They make big, O! very big, towers and they’re carrying them on their shoulders, yes five stories some of them, very big. They come through the streets, they have the wires to cut, no? For fitting they are cutting the wires. Big festival, it will end right here tonight. You will see. Very big. That is why there are so many policemen with their lathis just sitting around on the steps today. Those are Hindi lathis. And when those crazy hundreds of dancing and chanting and drum beating Muslims bring their towers all lighted up down to the ghats here tonight to throw them in the towers in the river they might get just a bit out of hand, and wouldn’t the police like that? Oh yes. Dancing and singing and then, lathis.” We had dinner on a rooftop looking down on the cul-de-sac of festivities and it was indeed chaotic and exciting, but the police got no chance to exercise their religion.
Not too many times in life – unfortunately – do you get to sit a decade hence perched in the comfortable and ancient suite of your honeymoon, gazing out a bay window sculpted with arabesques, meditating on the black water and faintly paling sky before dawn to see held there floating between the airy incorporeal and the water’s ruff hide-textured reflection in ink the floating Lake Palace where you took your nuptial vows in Sanskrit and Hindi a decade and some ago on the many arched corner and severally marbled piece reserved for such celebration, where a fire burned for you then and still, by its dancing reflection, you can see burns now, and there is a strong, strong memory of marigold garlands raining their petals and saffron’d rice heaped up to gods and sweets in little silver bowls and milk waters tapped on our skulls and we in our silk wedding suits that had been tailored for us by the corner man, tiny and old – and still there! – on his blackened and hand shiny’d machine and a turban for the groom and a head crest for my sweet young wife who, because she refused the tradition of wearing a sari that would have wrapped conceallingly all around her, instead wore her head piece with the strap right cross her brow like some fabulous hippie gear and she made me think of her as a wickedly sexy Manson-girl, and now as the first blush begins to tint the scene and the mezzanine’s call has faded away leaving the silence of dawn filled only with bird calls and a few barking dogs and that delicate morning bliss of no Horns Please, yet, and then that blush doesn’t fulfill and no worries because it’s that peculiar and delicately sculpting gray of dawn that makes the palace looks so like a wedding cake because all white things in this light are marbleized and the land in the distance now visible far off is filled with forts and palaces all cupola’d and minaret’d as in a Mughal fairy tale and time is immemorial in this country of constant antiquity while my tiny daughter slumbers on impossibly peacefully beside me in this window seat and the bigger one sleeps there under down with her mother, our simple and forgiven prophylactics of adoring children who at bed time get a little clingy and buoy us back to this marriage land a decade-plus-one later because my dad got sick last year and so we stayed home to help care for him and this year we can better afford it and the girls will better remember it and Mette is one year better at keeping the streets out of her mouth and they really are fantastic traveling companions for whom we do all of this anyway because those vows we took on that balcony over there had everything to do with consecrating the effort of love and life making that we had set out before us, the intertwining of fate and design as surely as the future weave of DNA that our children would be and now so beautifully are, so beautifully are!, and so damn gaming to take on and face up smiling and boldly to this mad, teaming, ever swirling country that is India with the aplomb of little Captain Burtons to Harare and why shouldn’t they because ultimately they are the fruit of that magic night’s ceremony over on that floating palace there where my perfect wife and I walked seven times around the fire and forever set our stars in line and alight.