Monday, April 23, 2007

chorten chronicles

reliquaries are bound to be interesting places, one can tell. from outside a chorten is a deceptively simple rectangular building with standard royal bhutanese govt. issue doors, domes, spires and buddha's eyes that look out in all directions. but you know from your cheap travel guide that a chorten is build to commemorate kings, saints and monks.

consequently your brilliant deductive mind will inform you that this rather unassuming building is also probably a container for holy relics or the physical remains of a saint - bones, shreds of clothing, etc. and there you have it - mystery. behind the whitewashed walls is the dragon kingdom at its mythical exotic best!

brilliant deductive minds are in supply apparently. and so some brilliant deductive minds got together and robbed a few chortens when we were there. even with buddha watching out in all directions, quick hands, remain quick hands.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


thaiyyam - chapter uno

 kerala has always been a land of strange incongruencies. two-in-one music systems from dubai compete for shelf space in every house with pictures of grandmothers long gone. literacy rates run neck and neck with suicide statistics. fish is staple and so are doctors and lawyers. and in cannanore (up north), every year gods walk among men.

how thaiyyam evolved is a story i don't want to ever find out. i have fascinating theories in my head that i will never put to rest with the truth, something i fear is far more plain. so what thaiyyam really means is also best left at what i think it means - the dance of the gods. oh. oh. i'm a sucker for my own versions of stories.

but this is not a story that can be told. this one deserves to be seen, heard, smelt. common men don war like face paint and strange almost-costumes fashioned from coconut and whatever else your average ingenious malu could find. they then go into theatrical trances and see through rituals bordering on bizarre with meticulous detail. and eventually they make the jump from man to god. a mutation announced through the neighbourhood to the accompaniment of old fashioned gun powder going off. your every last sense is under assault. and before you know it - there you are. staring wide eyed at a god. in the flesh.

chickens are beheaded. people faint inexplicably. gooligan (seen here) pirouettes endlessly. followed in enchanting circles by his reed skirt and long flowing black hair. and then passes out. before he's rushed to an ICU. this is not a story that can be told.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

the last shangrila

out east, the most curious changes happen over the shortest distances. plains make way for hills, big brooding rivers twist into a million drains and rhinoes move over for bongs. but in jaigaon (or joigaon), your average border town - dusty and dirty, an almost magical drama unfolds. across one drain about 6 feet wide, plains, dust, trucks, shanty slums and india squeeze together and switch to mountains, 4-wheel drives, gushy streams and bhutan. across that drain, in phuentsholing behind the traditional roofs of the immigration offices, hotels, apartments and 'privacy discotheque', the himalayas climb steeply. away from the plains and the dour lives and into bhutan - the land of the thunder dragon.

the full story. coming soon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

behold a baul

every single time
i see or hear a baul
i want nothing more
than to hare it.
for a life less fettered.