Monday, February 26, 2007

darjeeling dekko (slight return)

massif. is a truly wonderful word. to the uninitiated it could mean anything. my first impressions were of a slightly mean dog. and then when enlightenment comes, you cannot agree more. there is no other word than can aptly describe folded up earth towering above the haze, the clouds and pretty much everything else with an air of mischeivous defiance. massif. and ever so briefly when the sun breaks through the living fog that envelops darjeeling, a veil lifts to offer a lifetime's view of kanchenjunga. Or kangchen dzö-nga, khangchendzonga, kanchenjanga, kachendzonga, or kangchanfanga depending on your religious, political or sectarian affiliations. massif.

darjeeling - the land of the thunderbolt. while most people are quick to dismiss this very quaint town as touristy, a dump and such, a second more studied take is essential. for beyond the shanty slums and the touristy avenues are breathtaking views of the mighty himalaya. inhabited by mountain folk who really are the nicest folk. the restaurants serve up an imaginative ouevre. from momos to hot dogs. and a million stories breath around every corner in collective unison with an overaged narrow gauge train, the 100,000 odd people who call darjeeling their home and the horses who offer rides to overfed bong tourists.

to be at peace, is easily achieved in darjeeling. the excuses and opportunities are many. you can choose to sun, the favourite local pastime - moving with the somewhat elusive sun as it traces a path across verandas, narrow cobbled lanes, myriad staircases and markets bustling with colourful woolens before disappearing behind the himalayan wall. or alternatively you can soak in an entire edition of the very badly written local newspapers at keventers over endless cups of hot coffee (not tea?!?) in accompaniment to the nearby clock tower's half hourly reminder chimes.

to be at peace, our top recommendation, second only to a night of debauchery at the local drinking hole, joey's pub, is an evening walk to fuji guruji's peace pagoda. over layers of typically buddhist silence, a half initiated monk belts out on a drum, fuji guruji's idea of transcedental meditation. followers are expected to follow, keeping beat on little drums that are handed out to all visitors to the pagoda. this strange almost taiko scene is set against walls plastered with standard buddhist motifs - dragons, demons, gods and in keeping with fuji guruji's nippon origins, messages condemning the nuclear bomb. and you have to leave your footwear, your sense of time and every last concern with the world at the door.

if you add it all up, it's the people that make darjeeling charming. father kinley, rector of a century year old school, where the browne brothers schooled (above), takes the boys out on a country wide trip every year. stops at nightclubs are part of the annual routine. and father kinley negotiates entry for the many boys (lots of stags essentially) with a well honed name dropping act. he tells the bouncers from bangalore to bombay, "i'm father kinley. a jesuit priest. and these here are my boys who'd like to take a look inside your fine club."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

one past nelson

revisited an old favourite glass box. with a starfish replacing the lion fish this time around, as star attraction. and then there was an impressive following act. lounge piranha and expensive beer. an evening like many other. memorable. the people we know. is the most reassuring reality...

i sometimes wonder what happened to the coffee houses of yore. the centers for the arts. the breeding grounds of all things cultured. not some government sponsored art school, where the kids are fed on ravi varma. or worse still a moneyed school of design. from where a million theory spouting annoying twats spill into the world armed with tarkovsky, monet and rareified notions of themselves. if only papa had a thinner wallet, this world would have been a better place without you.

i have a notion and won't be sad if you dismissed it as poppycock. the taverns of the minds are the places we drink at. slap each others backs at. destroy the furniture at. and crawl out of completely incapacitated for logical thought. over good music and beer, the arts of tomorrow are being shaped.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the year of the pig (closer studies)

in other more sedate surroundings buddhists brought in the year of the pig, with oil lamps, thupka and wei-wei.

meanwhile waters floated his own 30 foot version of a member of the genus sus.

with 'impeach bush' seared across its pink piggy ass

and it floated away into the giant mumbai haze to traumatize jet-liner pilots and air hostesses ;)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

invader zim

sun will shine.
birds will sing.
pigs will fly.

Monday, February 19, 2007

one edge

mr. frodo (above) and stretch (below)
two smelly bundles of love

meanwhile we'll return to the travelogue shortly. small departures please. disillusionment et al.

Monday, February 05, 2007

fog horn

the ahom revue (it's a wrap)

i spent a few odd nights in a few odd places dreaming about how my first meeting with the one horned rhino would go. in assam the possibilities are endless. that sense of anticipation grabs you early. they're selling rhino tea, rhino plywood, rhino oil and i suspect rhino biscuits too. i had a more steven spielbergesque vision of my first rhino rendezvous wherein my car, bus, whatever would swerve severely to just brush past one onehorned beast and screech to a halt before a deafening silence would ensue. and only the water in the bottle would ripple with fear. ohmygod.

one terribly early morning, with the worst seat on an elephant, right there at the edge where backbone bends down, on a bobbing ride through kaziranga and your own back in peril, it still had its own sense of drama. and the fog added just a wee magic.

in the giant white haze and across the river, little coloured flecks marked out deer, buffalo, rhino, and the 'great and rare purplebreastedkeelbacked' fern. kill me one ornithologist please. for effect a sprightly cat prowled in the foreground. hunting for balls of wool. majesty.

all those somebody barua films they played on dd, sunday afternoons came flitting by. just before the amrutanjan balm ads that is. a small stream. a pretty bridge. mist - fog - haze whatever kissing the stream. and a fisherman searching his nets. hope. beauty. and an endless impasse. purrfect.

from the still of the mist, little blue and big white birds looped in and out. winter's first morning in kaziranga. elephant babies hurried about as elephant mothers, elephant fathers and elder elephant brothers took their turn ferrying people through elephant grass. all this for one sighting of the one-horned one. heh.

rhinoceros - the odd toed ungulate. if ever encountered by one of these, preferably from elephant back, you might imagine the rhinoceros dumb. this is no folly of yours. rhinos do look duh. their bad vision means they cant really see you too well. so you're ten feet away to the rhino's right. but rhino seems to be looking somewhere else. of course it follows that below the horn (why do pointy things fascinate us so much) is housed a keen sense of smell. or somewhere therabouts. so it is advised that when in the company of a rhino, do not try anything stupid. while the rhino might not really be looking, he sure is smelling you loud and clear. save the bravado for later. when you can return home and suggest the rhino looks dumb.

a fela kuti song in my head. and digesting a somewhat too hearty breakfast. the sun beginning to crack through mist - fog - haze whatever. and looking down at the park's bone collection, i couldn't resist that final touch of corny metaphor. the transience of everything. tonight i turn on assam. tomorrow i pirouette up darjeeling.