Thursday, November 30, 2006

No Rest for the Wild.

I was awakened this morning by much screaming, it reminded me of Northcott only I'm now in India, the kerfluffle was shouted in Japanese, absurd, like beserker Samurai warriors going at each other with incomprehensible curses, 2 Jap hippies were fighting over a pretty Jap girl in front of my door and my landlord rushed about screeching, "get out, get out!" while the girl smiled demurely, enjoying the ruckus. I just got a text telling me Northcott Housing Estate has been given an award by the World Health Org as a "safe community", I'm relieved but stunned it had to happen while I'm away, maybe I bring the maelstrom with me?

I was taken way into the Himalayas to visit a Baba in his cave by the Ganges River, he turned out to be a Swiss guy, Peter Baba, who firmly believes he's a sadhu, lives naked with ashes streaked across his forehead and arms tho still insists on having his Nescafe and Bournvita daily. In the midst of an idyllic paradise, for the 2 hours we spent with him, he moaned on and on about his need for a visa and 50 rupees a day living expenses. He has gone to the Consulates in Delhi with only a sheer cheese-cloth wrapped about his skinny, naked frame, ashes and dreadlocks flying, and of course they give him short shrift. He now swears he'll attack any cop with his trishul, (trident), if they come to drag him out of his cave. He bemoans the rule of high capitalism, apparently throws temper tantums whenever in the marketplace over the ubiquitous use of plastic etc, the old times of hippies wandering penniless are over but he clings to his dreams, divinely mad, one of the zillion crazy characters that litter this wondrous land.

I wanted to go to the Tibetan market in Dehradune, capitol city of the state of Uttaranchal, a madhouse of whirling traffic, and I took my life in my hand to do so, zooming in headlong rush on a motor-bike amidst unbelievable chaos, nearly killed twice, first when my driver stopped suddenly to chat to a fat gronk on another motorbike causing a car behind us to brake hard or ram us flat, the second time when a cow ran across the highway tethered to a rope tied to a sleeping drunk (!), the rope like a taut barrier which was snapped by a truck just before we hit it! As we sped along we passed a biker-baba, a sadhu in full regalia, red turban entwined with a pile of dreadlocks, face painted, ropes of beads around wrist and neck, very laid-back on his Enfield, cruising slowly as if thru honey, while everyone else rush-rush-rushed, I pointed him out as a role-model for my driver, that sadhu had IT. I got to the market a whiter shade of pale, bought some lovely clothes and ate genuine moo-moos from a Tibetan kitchen, and wonderd if it was worth the terror.

Next up was a night at a regional cinema, the usual vast concrete barn with an audience whose restlessness made the city-dwellers seem sedate. I was surrounded by drunks who yahooed, jeered and jumped about, forvever knocking my sore knee when they continuously rushed to and fro, we all played musical chairs thuout the movie, changing seats constantly, no matter where I sat I got some screaming yobbo on top of me or a fat Sikh in front whose turban blocked my view. The movie was the latest Bollywood shlockbuster, "Dhoom 2", James Bond meets Ocean's 11 meets Batman if you can believe it, very entertaining, especially the song and dance sequences, an absolute knock-out, Hrithik Roshan and Ashwarya Rai sure can dance, imagine if Arnie Shwartznegger or Bruce Willis did an ecstatic, wild hip-hop routine in the midst of an action stunt, I dont think so, only in India, as Arian quoted Alexander the Great on the Indians, "they're inordinately fond of singing and dancing.". I was much bemused when all my friends lit up joints, the smoke swirling up into the projection light, making the colourful event even more hypnogogic.

The best things seem to happen when I least expect it, we went for a ride to a village called Chilla next to a national park and out of curiosity we enquired about the jungle safaris. What do you know but an elephant was ready for the rare tourist that might stray by, something I'd been chasing for years but nobody could ever get it together. My mate and I got up on Rajah, a 16 year old male who had been rescued some years before when his mother had attacked a train that chuffs through the park and been killed. I remembered the newspaper story, the elephant herd had stayed on the spot for weeks attacking any further trains in furious revenge, and here I was riding on the back of one of them. We went into deep jungle, a guy by our side with a huge shotgun, chasing the wildlife about, there was no impenetrable bush where they could hide as Rajah just crashed through it, and I saw all kinds of deer and stags, hyenas, wild-pigs and birds, no big cats which I'm glad of as humans disturb them enough.

Rajah had a will of his own and went to all the spots where his favourite food was, like bamboo shoots and exotic grasses, and I got the most pleasure just being with him and watching him have his way. At one point he got stroppy and I thought he was going to run amok with us clinging to his back willy-nilly, but after he ate his fill of bamboo shoots he then calmed down and plodded on. As a boy I was obsessed with "Jungle Jim" movies, swearing I too would follow in his footsteps, and I must say, much of my life I have indeed done just that, and Rajah made another of my dreams come true, like for a few moments I was Kipling's "Elephant Boy" = WOW!