india blah 1

just back from a walk up the cliffs, sometimes there is a softness to grey, coaxing colour from the landscape, the lull of early spring birdsong… today tho, but a grim grey bludgeon, scalpel rain and a wind that would gouge yer eyes out! welcome home
the gorse tho was defiant in all its custard finery
here then are a glut of the rest of my holiday snaps… such a blessing to have been away for a month… sunshine! adventure! overnight trains and buses! fabulous grub! beach sunsets!… loved pretty much every jot of it!
for the curious (and to jog my memory!) places visited:
Mahabalipuram – 1500 year old sculptures, pool, republic day
Tiruvannamalai – Shiva fire mountain, huge ancient temple, Sri Ramana ashram
Auroville/Pondicherry – going inside the matrimandir!! scooting about the old colonial town and along the beach promenade
Patnem, Goa – hanging with May and the gang, beach sunsets, yoga
Alleppey – Luca, Snehar, Johnson, tourist boat drig/fting thru the backwaters
Ammas Ashram – Super full power hug, Hannah and Al
Varkala – beach galore, Alix and Tim
Munnar – Malabar Giant Black Squirrel, tea plantations
Madurai – Sri Meenakash, gorgeous carvings, mad rituals, Mahashivarahti
Mysore – grand palace, deveraj market

the 3 most sacred places i visited, in no particular order, inside the matrimandir, ammas ashram, sri meenakash… all were happily no photo zones
albums of course gain no traction on here… no matter, i am, as ever, happily solipsistic x

madurai… southern tamil nadu… it’s one of the smaller gopurams (gateways) to the sri meenakash temple… ancient place, riddled with the most astonishing sacred carvings… all day long there are pujas and rituals, it’s a living temple so no snaps inside
i first came here when i was 23, was overwhelmed by its energy then… not much has changed x

india selfie

Aw last of my selfies with locals posts, as waiting in Bengaluru airport for flight home, after a sensational (sense sating?) cram chock full month of bedlam and adventure! Wonderful!
A group of affable and affluent students from Bengaluru, outside the Grand Palace in Mysore. ‘what is there to see if I go to Bengaluru?’, collectively they shrug ‘eh nothing?’… I’d met them inside, they were fab, the most snap and photo opportunity obsessed group imaginable… I was hunting for the Holy Grail .. me taking a selfie of an Indian secretly taking a selfie of me!
Bog standard snap, but also, possibly, indicative of change… Most of them are women… equality in India is a complex beast… yet in 6 trips here across 30 years, I can count on the fingers of one hand, the number of casual conversations I’ve had with local women (not business based natters, or people born in the diaspora obvs)… It’s just not done. Not important in itself, natch, but somewhat indicative of the broader, weird disparities in opportunities here. Family. Religion. The astonishing, enduring power of customs and the straight jacket of social mores… Oops don’t want to over indulge in secular, soap box sermonising! A huge diverse land. What do I know.
The boy approached me first, yet the girl was but a nano second whisker behind… They both spoke excellent English (many many Indians do… And a greater number don’t!), these two were knowledgeable about my country, curious to know more, and proudly told me lots I didn’t know about theirs. Travel innit. Smile, chat about stuff, laugh! Warmth. Buoyed up by our beautiful shared humanity X

cheese

Say ‘cheese’, say ‘squee-ee-ze’… India partakes in its daily attempt to set a new world record for number of sentient beings in a confined space (ala 1970s Blue Peter phone boxes and minis!)… this time as we wend our way around hair pin bends, tumbling down through the Tamil Nadu foothills of the Western Ghats (think Alp sized mountains, without the cable cars, neglected due to continental proximity to the humongous himalayas)… on every bend, there is a collective flabbergasted ‘oof’ of crushed torsos, overlaid with the higher trill of women’s voices… I one of the the lucky ones… with a seat, through dint of having been stuck on the bus, forever, since it and seemingly times beginning… India has a knack of making you feel like a speck amongst a billion, whisper it, soto voce, Kerala and most of the western states, do not have the sense of the high tempo madness… the numinous of the Nadu…. for all the senses the dial turned to 11… ego bamboozled midst a soup of sensation… pounding bollywood tunes, pong of armpits, a bird of paradise blur of colourful saris
a day of contrasts: dawn amongst the tea plantations of munnar, awash with myriad green… watching the malabar giant black squirrels somersault amongst the top of the highest trees… fighting off the equally black crows… truly giants, the size of a monkey, kali black with the fiercest of red trimmings!… a loooong bus journey, 6 hours when it should have been 3… to end guzlling masala dosa, lawks the flavours, just outside the majestic gopurams (gateways) of the Sri Meenakesh temple in Madurai…. proper cream crackered. g’night, snooze good x

Sith Robin

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‘The Shape and the Shaping of Wisdom’… Indian Geezer, in a full moon party T-Shirt, comes up to me in a restaurant, whilst I’m guzzling a somewhat delish vegan buffet with Alix and Tim, he says ‘sorry to interrupt, but are you by any chance 1028 milligrammes?’… I just about have enough savvy to appreciate it’s a lsd reference, so presume he’s either trying to sell me some, or wants to buy? anyway conversation trundles along, apparently I am a dead ringer doppelganger for a legendary trance dj… who’d a thunk it… blooming old school hippies!… confusion resolved, turns out in his younger days, our new found friend was a tamil rapper, from madurai… he proceeds to give us a stomping, passionate, nailed on lyrical rap! bravo! on querying the lyrics it’s a conscious spiel, as to how we have to honour the sunshine and the farmers for our food… groovy… nowadays he works with a more jazzy collective and plays us a song off his phone, cinematic buzz… Next talk turns to his youthful adoration of eminem, shows us how he has the same tattoo on his left hand… says that gandhi would have approved of eminen! kinda ‘authentically, living out, and telling, the story of his life’… in the background, his gentle shy wife is holding the baby…. bubba gets in on the act, gurgling and smiling chubby cheeked adorable… quite a presence, for such a small lumpen thing… baby is called ‘Sith Robin’, which means, the shape and the shaping of wisdom… dad then takes a selfie, so, in time honoured fashion, I get him to reciprocate and snap one for me… ‘chinni’, sugar, is the tamil version of ‘say cheese’… before he leaves, as a finale, the fellow sings us the sweetest, most soulful of tamil ballards… a beautiful timbre to his voice, a powerful resonant song
anyway, just thought to share, on the hoof, this travelling vignette, from 30 or so mins ago xx

1028 mg?

one selfie please

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‘one selfie please?’ invariably accompanied by a broad grin… I beam back in my most robust Brian blessed tones ‘YES Of COURSE’, then more softly add the coda ‘can I take one too’… arms are extended and we jostle within range of the fish eyed lens, this most modern of fandangos, and I do my upmost to look less wrinkly than reality. Indians love selfies, I love selfies, truly it is a match made in heaven. here’s but a few from my collection (was gonna include one of lakshmi¬†the pondy ganesha temple ollifant, but didn’t come out in the collage)
For obvious cultural reasons, its almost invariably a youngish man, or a group of lads out together, usually middle class affluent, with enough English to ask for name and good country, often conversation spirals off into cricket ‘Ben Stokes’… tho in chennai there was a pastor, slicked down, tamed bouffant, white shirt, white trousers and, impressively, white shoes!
Smart phone magic has come to India, the hugest change since 10 years ago… of course it has its uses… making travelling so much easier… I love most the way every tourist place you go there’s a gaggle of youth posed in silhouette against some scenic backdrop, concocting a social media portolio.
… and as I’m clearly in a wafflesome mood…
my fave so far was sitting in the bus footwell, legs dangled over the edge, out of chinglepat… whereas the beachfront in pondy is how modern India wants to see itself, a throng of prosperous middle class families out guzzling both ice creams and samosas, life as a promenade… the truth is the chennai wealth has only spilled over so far… off the obvious track chinglepat is the norm, dusty, glut crowded with people, India, eternal, the same as ever… Chai, Rickshaws, Family, Temples
anyway my travel companion and I bought each other sweet milky coffees… I thought his name was Dougal… but now suspect he was travelling to din-dugal… he spoke almost no english… yet brandishing phone showed me some pictures from his life… his beautiful waif thin wife in a colourful sari… and… mostly… pictures of machines… big industrial machines… he was a mechanic and proud of it… if there ever was a Tamil Nadu equivalent of Bruce Springsteen, his songs would be for and about Dougal!

Mahaballipuram

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Mahaballipuram and Tiruvannamalai
Such the lazy life of the lotus eater… already 2 weeks have ambled by since these…
Mahabs was exquisitely carved 1500 year old sculptures, you can stroll across the rock strewn hill and often have a cave temple to yourself, places for pondering, equally as it was Republic day and a Sunday, a cheerful and curious mob of locals would descend. Pool for when too hot
Tiru sacred Shiva fire mountain (Arunachala)… An enormous ancient temple, city within the city (India, bedlam in microcosm without the cars!), 4000 years people have worshipped here… contrasted with the serenity of the Sri Ramana Maharishi ashram, and a barefoot nature walk partway up the mountain to his meditation cave
Shanti Shanti Shanti

gandhi

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Nahmaste… And all that jazz! I’m in India for a month, tis the usual bewildering bedlam bonkers… 10 days in Tamil Nadu so far, huge amounts of fun and some profound-ity. Gurus and Scooters! Splurge more words and holiday snaps when serenity arrives.. In transit today (ie bit bored)… 34 years since I was first here (yikes!)… we’ve both changed and not… Modern, Ancient, Sacred.. Go Gandhi Ganesha! x