Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dreaming India.

I was compelled to return to the Garwhal Himalayas for one last cruise amidst the snowcaps, the mountains in my mind's eye mystical and eternal, like giant frozen guardian angels watching out for my kismet, always there to give consolation, no matter what tribulations rankle my soul. So huge, so hard-rock real and yet I cruise thru them swiftly, unable to possess them, hang on to them, meld with them, I have to keep going as I'd freeze my arse off outside the car in a few hours if I tried to stay within their magnificence for long, every landscape dissolving like a snow-blizzard mirage of sanctuary, a fleeting dream. Only my heart remembers and holds the delight close, I try to carry the Himalayas with me, and all the great moments of life, in one hot white ball of light.

Aaahhh, the hotsprings at Gangonani, laid-back in the huge tank late at night under a luminous Milky Way, the mountains thrusting me closer so that the stars reinforce the light in my eyes. The "bad baba" had disappeared, another gentler soul had taken his place, my sojourn was blessed in any case for I had the greatest time this my 10thyear in India. I can also say that I finally met a sweet, high Baba, the real thing, it was on the trail into Neel Kanth Temple, he was a huge muscular fellow, dressed sadhu-simple, he'd given up his lucrative business of oil tankers, leaving it to his family to run, disinterested in money and all it could buy, he has dedicated the rest of his life to meditating and serving the community of the sacred temple, doing the hard labour of shifting rocks and building walls, recieving only dahl and chapatis as his reward, he was very 'cool', didn't jump at the sight of me, the white firang with money, he was only interested in his sadhana, the old style type of sadhu, it's refreshing to know they're still about.

Hurtling about the windy roads we picked up two Argentinian girls to give them a lift back down to Shangri-la, and they filled me in on life in South America. They didn't like our techno music so I put on Jimmie Hendrix and what an epiphany it was to hear "The Wind Cries Mary" in his soul-wrenching voice echoing about the diamond white snow-caps of the Himalayan mountains, us cruising as if we were riding on that very wind. Mmmmm, bliss!

Only 7 days and I fly back to Sydney, that Euclidian futuristic ratrace in place of medieval cyberpunk, and my whole Indian sojourn will seem a dream, tho lucid and with flight control, as I mostly did what I set out to do and on top of it got the dream-weird, spontaneous adventure/mystery to funk it out with an extra-exciting edge. And using my will, brains and guts I can fly back here, or any other hotspot site on this planet, if I really want to. I needn't get ruffled by the transience, it's all a dream hoping not to be a nightmare, Sydney included. It's back to horror-movie scenario number 777, night-shift nurse in a spooked out hospital, for as long as I can bear it in 2007.

Oh yeah, and the struggling lunatic-fringe artist, what a delusion! I got an e-mail whilst flying thru the fantastical mindscape of India circa 21st century telling me a few of the milquetoast bureaucrats running Sydney City Council had decided my painting "New Years Eve 1980 Kings Cross", which won the 'People's Choice Award' at the "Images of the Cross Art Competition", was too risque and controversial to be hung on a public wall in the lobby of the Kings Cross Library. I was my usual shocked and infuriated demonic self, luckily too far away here in India to throw useless temper-tantrums in front of dumb office-workers, for I can be such a noisome brat. It stuns me in this day and age, after several millenium of Art History and battles for the democratic freedom of expression, and countless brouhahas over nudes and sex concepts, in free-wheeling Sydney I get a painting banned, from a space called the "One-stop Shop" where over the years the most hopeless arsewipes have proudly hung. Nogod, I can't be that bad!

Maybe you're thinking this guy has got a victim's complex, he's always getting kicked in the teeth, at every instance, bitching about everyone and never happy with anything, always looking for the Gothic undertow. What can I say, it's easy to ruffle the feathers of the chooks a few rungs up on the roosting ladder? Or, obviously, it's a very hard slog to make something of oneself in a cut-throat capitalist world? (I know, I know, the Communists were 7 times worse.) There's no sex in my artwork, just a satire on contemporary sexual practices. My painting is expressionist/surreal, a larger than life nude stripper on a table in front of the Pink Pussycat Strip Club, a crowd of men clammering at her feet and in the background 3 hookers leaning against the wall of a Sex Shop, with the extra absurdism of advertising thrown in, the "Heaven on a Stick" ice-cream campaign of the '80s. Yeah, yeah, and me stoned in the foreground, sprawled against a garbage-bin, all a vision of pagan ecstasy too delightful for the robopathic bureaucrat's taste.

I really dont think there is anything overtly offensive about the painting, it's felt from my side to be from the heart, a trully personal work, a kind of self-portrait dreamscape of an exciting time in Sydney's history that I was a part of. I've seen virtual pornography hung in the Art Gallery of NSW and, while controversial, the artist was "famous" and not to be crossed in the eyes of the world and thus got curator/state sanctioned. For the wannabe artist it's almost impossible to be independant in this world, one paints for money, career, fame, politics, to paint from the heart is as illusory as attainingNirvana, and I'm a day-dreaming wanker.

Now I've got to go back and fight it out in the Sydney penal town/gladiator pit, and probably carry the painting home in humiliation, I'm tired of the battle against no-talent, know-nothing, no courage drones, I'll go to my ignominious garret without a peep, many a careerist would've made a cause celebre out of the banning of an artwork, I just don't care about climbing the shit-heap that much, depends if I feel like having some psycho-drama fun, situationist pranks for soul-numbed drones can get me howling with laughter.

I guess I should be happy that my hard-won work is so efffective it gets the robopaths waving their prohibitive wands; in this suck-arse system it's great to be an iconoclast, a subversive, an outsider, it beats all those arsewipe splotches they pass off as "abstract expressionism", but probably I'm just kidding myself, I really do have delusions of grandeur by thinking I'm an edgy artist, but hey, what's life without dreaming big?

I come to India for adventure and escape, relaxation and knowledge, love of the people and pagan culture, healthy lifestyle and ecstatic experience, maybe reincarnation is true and I was an Indian in my last life for I seem to fit in, recognise and be recognised, at the very least I'm a part of the background scene here, the firang freak who has spent big hunks of his life wandering the Indian backroads, I sure love India and Indians, and it's such a welcome break from struggling with the Aussie heirachy, nursing the dying in the nursing homes and facing the bitchy trendoids who oversee Aussie lifestyle.

And what images stand out from my latest sojourn? In a traffic jam in hellish Dehradune, a face screamed from the crowd, a squat-ugly peasant dressed up as Hanuman the Monkey-god, but with no style, just lots of bright-orange make-up and frayed rags for a costume, and he had such a look of lost desperation in his eyes, he was an absolute nobody begging his living dressed as a monkey, maybe it was his caste, maybe he'd had an epiphany and thought he was the monkey-god, to me he looked dead beat and this was his only option, his struggle for survival daunting and haunting me who am a spoiled westerner with plenty of potential still at the late age of 57, having already had a fabulous life: I'm taught by those estranged eyes, those millions of hopeless, hopeful eyes, to rejoice in my lot as I fly by like Lord Rama in his celestial silver chariot.

And in a typical goblin-grunge mountain town I saw the most gorgeous puppy dog almost fall under a truck's wheels, and I snuck up on her and snatched her up, she totally relaxed as she hung in my arms and didn't struggle a bit, as if thinking at last she'd found a loving home. Tho quite dirty she was fat and fluffy, of reddish/golden hue with yellow eyes that clearly expressed her feelings, very pretty and, my driver, when he returned, also fell in love with her and we instantly dog-napped her into the car. She'd been scavenging trash-slops all day and got car-sick on the way down the mountains and vomited filth all over, twice, but we patiently washed her and the horrid messy car as she looked up at me as if to say, "I'm sorry!" After a visit to the vet she is happily ensconced in Balu's family home, the most beautiful dog in the village and everybody fussing over her.

Many other wonderful things happened, more than what goes down in Sydney, tho I love that city also, but I won't bore you with further personal reminiscences. One last dream, the magical night I showed movies in a Nepali tent restaurant in Shangri-la, with a boyish, blond Doris Day turning feminine in the whip crack-away of "Calamity Jane" which blew the minds of the Indian audience, they never quite realised we westerners love musicals also. Remember, my life is a madcap musical with "secret loves" taking me away "to the black hills of the beautiful Indian country I adore."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bamboozled in Bombay.

I'm on my last day in Bombay, city of 7 islands, I love the place so much I'm loathe to leave, a city of broken dreams, movie fantasies and fairy-tale palaces by the Arabian Sea. It affects me like a tsunami, picks me up, throws me about, dumps me dazed and bruised amid the debris, I don't know what hit me but I think it was fun. And I avoided the homosexual serial killer, the Beer-Can Killer, I'm too paranoid to liaise with strangers and I don't drink alcohol. My 7 requirements for happiness were met and, tho existential depression still lurks in my soul, I must be happy as I'm singing all the time as I walk down the street; if life didn't turn out to be the jolly musical I dreamed it would be as a kid, then I'm dam-well going to turn it into one myself. I dance under the Gothic-Saracen architecture of CST Railway Station,  ad-libbing my latest adventures to an old Broadway melody,  singing out loud, unashamedly, only the beggars sleeping on the streets to hear me: life IS a musical, a Bollywood musical!

I got to see a marvelous movie, "Blood Diamond", for a few moments I think Leonardo Dicapprio is the best actor on the planet at the moment, for a cinephile it was like getting a nutritious meal after eating candy-floss for weeks. We saw it at a classic Bombay cinema, The Metro, (now refurbished into a palatial cineplex), on it's first night opening with an upper-middle class crowd that threatened to riot such was the anticipation of viewing great film in this city of celluloid-junkies, they jostled at the doors and knocked over the card-board posters for upcoming attractions. We ate hot do-nuts and drank milk-shakes at intermission, my favorite junk food, and the drop-dead gorgeous friend that accompanied me rewarded me later in the night with a kiss, so my dreams came true.

I couldn't resist going to the Voodoo Club in Colaba on Saturday night, "gay night", though the hole in the wall was half-full of the usual crowd of hookers and their dumpy mugs, the rest were swishy gays and skinny boys hoping to crack a mug, and a couple of firanghi fags who danced with every boy in the room and didn't settle on anyone. I was with my hot friend who stuck close so no twerps could crack onto me and I had a cool time bopping to the hip-hop music and eye-balling the mob of Indian queens. When we sat in a secluded lounge for a break even an experienced old fuck like me was nonplussed when two grossly fat Sikhs, turbans and all, sat opposite us and immediately started pashing each other off, like Hollywood romantics, and grabbing handfuls of each others pendulous tits.

Then a whore marched in and berated one of the Sikhs for betraying her pussy and he was bundled off in a huff, their arms around each other, while the other Sikh sighed and flopped his carcass next to us as if we might satisfy he's unfulfilled lusts. We rushed back to the dance-floor and got shoved about by the brainless mugs pushing their way to the whores, I nearly started a fist-fight with one oaf who nearly crushed me under his vast concrete belly. The night wasn't at all deviant for me, I got escorted to my desolate, serial killer haunted street and left with a chaste peck on the cheek to walk the last 700 yards alone, all very interesting and quite creepy. Every shadowy doorway promised a murderous wraith waiting for a naive fool like me. The "Beer-can Killer" bashed men sleeping on the street, raped them, then left a beer can by their dead body.

 I was intrigued earlier by the gaggle of cops out the front of the Voodoo Club who looked outraged, like they were dying to raid the joint and close it down, the state of Maharashtra being extremely uptight, using sexual behavior as an easy scape-goat for all the ills of society, like rampant corruption and pollution. (The Police are now blaming the "serial killing" of men on "a gang of gays", like we're to blame for everything, but a "gay activist" theorizes it's some psychopathic rich guy who can get around in a car, lure paupers with money and afford to drink beer in a can.) In the morning, when my hotel manager asked me how I was enjoying Bombay, I replied that it was wonderful, except I was terrified of the serial killer. He blandly informed me that another body had been found on the footbridge this morning, not more than 300 yards from my hotel's front door.

Last night gave me the cultural hit I long for when I'm on the road, it was the opening of the Mumbai Festival, and Australia is the guest country and I felt like a special envoy, prince of Aussie Freaksville, wedged into the sea of upturned heads. First we got an Indian dance troupe, then a performance group called "Strange Fruit" from Auz did their stint, swanning about atop flexible, bending poles, seeming to float and fly high up like fairies, as if Snuggle-pot and Cuddle-pie were emerging like ballet dancers from their psychedelic gum-nuts. The show was all lit up by colored spots with surreal sound/music wafting from a bank of speakers, with the magnificent backdrop of the Gateway of India looming over all, it was spectacular and mesmerizing, the crowd were enthralled and I felt proud to be from not just a lucky country but a clever one as well. After it we went to a pub and had chicken and beer while we watched a Bollywood film award ceremony on TV, Richard Gere smiling while Shahid Kapoor hip-hopped, swivel-hipped, pranced up and down the walls with a top chorus of dancers gyrating behind him to satisfy my every electric twitch, dance as a social glue to keep the populace ebullient and moving, the Dance that lets me know I'm exuberantly alive.

And what were the sour notes in this symphony of bliss? The traffic in Bombay is unbearable, there are no footpaths and one is continuously run down by speeding cars, bikes and buses with nobody giving a flying fart for the sanctity of life, might is right. Compassion fatigue has set in, the hordes of beggars grab at you as if to tear lumps from your flesh, the hawkers selling plastic, industrial trash, the shoe-shine boys who won't take no for an answer, the drug pedlars who harass at every five paces, the hustlers who promise a lifetime of fidelity and orgasm, and absolutely everyone trying to separate the fool from his money = how do you know when an Indian's lying? His lips move. A sad piece of tourist folk-lore. Most transactions are rip-offs, all one is left with is empty promises floating into the pollution haze, the goods fall to bits in the hands, the service offered is not provided, the food is stodgy or stale, half the time. It shits me, I'm no tight-wad but I hate being conned. I just don't believe anything anyone tells me anymore, and I swat unwelcome approaches away with a rolled-up newspaper.

There are rats the size of cats running everywhere and yesterday, in front of the Regal Cinema I inadvertently stepped on one, squashing it, I was in a daze and suddenly felt something squishy wriggling under my foot = yuk! Then when I got to Mary Weather Drive, there was a huge crowd rubber-necking some disaster in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel. One of the elaborate horse and carriage tourist rides had been hit by the ubiquitous speeding car, the throne-like carriage upended and the horse flat out dead with a flood of blood streaming across the road, it was horrible, devastating for my animal spirit-guide sensitivities, the horse being one of my major guardians, I could only say a prayer of exorcism and peace as I rushed away.

Tonight is my last night in this fabled city of Sufi nights by the Arabian Sea, there is another performance by "Strange Fruit" in front of the Gateway to India, an edifice haunted by the untold souls of those who've drowned in the rambunctious waters nearby, the towers of which are lit up at night and cause me to think the ghosts reside within, flying out in the dead hours to drag others into the deep with them. I'm told to watch out for ghouls, they can be recognized by the fact that their feet point backwards, they are extremely ingratiating but can be chased away by flashing one's naked crotch at them (!?) I'm also wary of djinns and don't rub any weird-looking bottles, one can pick up a djinn by merely meeting the wrong person's gaze, it doesn't pay to be too kind to anyone, they follow you around forever. Let's hope I don't meet a djinn tonight, I've already had my 7 wishes, and I was tricked every time.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Goan Gothic.

The Goan party scene is not what it used to be, edgy, dangerous, freaky: the techno parties in the jungle had to be stopped because of the muggings, rapes and murders, the parties are now confined to walled compounds with security guards patrolling and nice families frolicing. Still, there was a moment in the middle of New Years celebrations where I moved and melted to the base-beat and felt like I was being fucked by the Universe, a vast narcissistic fuck, curved space/time bouncing up and down on me, but it was fleeting and didn't have the multiple funky bodiless orgasms of earlier times, the functional anarchy of an ecstatic dance-crowd, syncopated gyrating madness that is the closest I've ever come to a Bollywood dance orgy. Instead, down in front of the speakers, I got buffeted about by a drunken techno mosh-pit, trampled in a riotous tribal stomp made bland by alcohol with plenty of elbows in the ear.

Thankfully there was no horrendous murder of tourists this year tho there is one story unfolding in the press that is quite mysterious, and feeding my paranoia about Indian lynch mobs targeting Europeans. A British guy was found lynched by villagers in dusty Nowheresville, accused of following a peasant woman as she tried to go for her morning ablutions. It's come out that he rang his family in England on his first day in Goa telling them he'd met 2 strangers on Bagga Beach and they'd attached themselves to him and he now feared for his life. 3 days later he caught a train to Bombay but got off at Nowheresville when the train stopped inadvertently for a few minutes. It seems he'd been beaten to death then left hanging for 3 days before found and his family feel it's not the villagers who lynched him but the 2 strangers he was afraid of, yet they have not been traced.

His fellow passengers on the train said he didn't seem scared, no one looked to be stalking him and he smoked some smelly substance in their midst that they had to complain about to get him to stop. But those in Goa who dealt with him said he acted very nervous, always looking over his shoulder. It's weird, did the strangers in Goa get to him or did he get lynched by peasants? (Death-threats from 2 sides within a week in India is very weird!) Every day the press has a different angle. It amazes me that someone could get in trouble in their first week in India, his behavior showed him to be very troubled and he probably did oggle a woman in his pot-haze, not knowing how taboo this is, still it didn't deserve death. I've been here for years and got myself in lots of predicaments and it's not too hard to shake off unwanted attentions, you're either extremely apologetic as you back-away or you just scream, "fuck off!" then run to the police, unless you're lost in Nowheresville, then anything can happen if you outrage the local customs.

The one violent death in Goa itself that I was told of happened right on Vagatore Beach where I hang out. A Nepali boy was found dead in the bushes on the clifftop, but there seems to be no investigation as nothing more has been reported since, he was a nobody, an itinerant worker, they die by the thousands in India, and are brushed off like flies. I heard the gossip that he was in a romantic liason with a Swiss woman who had spent a fortune running a restaurant on the beach and maybe the goons who benefited from her patronage were jealous the boy would start to divert all that cash his way. Now he's just another ghost haunting the Goan foreshores and nobody cares except the Swiss woman, who realizes it's not a simple affair for a foreigner to run a business in India.

The newspapers here rarely tell the raw facts about foreigner casualties as maybe they're scared of turning off the tourist trade on which the whole state seems dependent. I can't get over the story of 2 years ago when a British girl was murdered by some goondas who'd picked her up at a Hilltop party. The media said she'd been slipped a drug and died from an overdose in the room to which she'd been taken. I've since been told a further extrapolation upon the sordid affair, the gorillas from the far hinterland, attracted by tales of hot sex with the firangis, had actually taken her to the rocks on Vagatore beach and raped her. She'd come to her senses in the middle of the attack and being a hefty girl had fought them hard till they had to beat her to death to stop the screaming.

It makes me sick thinking about it, apparently her kidnapping had happened right in front of me, she was heaved off her chai-stall mat by the huge brutes where I also sat at the party, and only an Israeli guy, "nogod love him", tried to stop them, asking the girl if she was OK to which she blurbled drug-fucked nonsense which he thought was an affirmative, and they were able to carry her off without anyone else questioning them.

In my oblivious trance and innocent naivite I never see the bad shit that goes on around me but my Indian friends see all and report it to my amazement later. Thugs are always stupid and cause trouble everywhere they go thus they were easily traced and caught but I'm told they were such huge, ugly bastards even the cops were scared of them, nobody as big and brave to take them on, so for a short time they wreaked havoc wherever they went. India's a vast place with the ability to produce monsters of horrific proportions, and I pray to the pantheon of 'no-gods' that I never meet one. For instance, take the story raging in the Indian press at the moment.

A serial killer has been caught in an outer suburb of New Delhi, the servant of an industrialist, who has murdered maybe 30 children and women, (it's still moot as to how much the master participated, it seems the servant did the butchering in his own bathroom with the master rarely home). The bodies were cut up and dumped in a drain at the back of the house, tho their torsos were missing and the butchery done with precision, thus there is the sci-fi scenario they may also have been harvested of organs for the illicit transplant trade in a dodgy hospital right next door, (this urban myth has been debunked, the servant says he cannibalised the corpses and flushed body bits down the toilet over the weeks.)

38 children have gone missing from a nearby village with the police doing nothing about it for the last few years as they were peasants and nobody gives a shit about the poor. Under narco-analysis the servant has confessed to intense sexual frustration, his reason for the murders, and only raping the bodies after death, a necrophiliac as well as a cannibal. All India is beating it's collective breast over the horror, seemingly "normal" citizens indulging in crimes so awful a Gothic novel wouldn't do it justice. Of course, every modern metropolis has this ghastly phenomena, in Auz I'm possessed with the nightmare that there's still serial killers at large on the lonely highways bumping off hitch-hikers as so many have disappeared over the years, and not just by Ivan Millat, the "Backpacker Killer."

I myself had the most relaxing time of late, in Goa laying on the beach every day after much swimming, eating scrumptious cheap seafood and dancing at the few parties, to bed early most nights, with no Indian friends to give me grief like they usually do, the cultural differences being so great. And now I'm in Bombay again, ready for more adventures in the urban jungle, tho there's a 1a.m. curfew and the cops chase us wherever we try to sit and relax. My favorite place for roaming at night is the illicit chai stalls at Churchgate Station but at 1a.m. the cops show up and blow whistles and everybody runs, particularly the chai-stall owners who rush about pushing their trolleys in such a panic it makes me imagine there's been an atomic-bomb warning.

My last Gothic tale is of yet another serial killer, this time on the loose in the Churchgate vicinity where we roam, tagged as the "Beer-Can Killer", he kills sleeping street waifs and cabbies in their cars by bashing their heads in with a rock or stabbing them repeatedly, and he always leaves behind a beer can as his m.o. (He has just claimed his 7th victim, a strong man of 35 found stabbed to death on a walk-over bridge not 200 yards from my hotel. The Times of India reports all the victims had had "unnatural sex" before death = tho TOI prides itself on it's progressiveness, when it comes to sexual matters, it's as medieval as Al Qaeda. But it does look like it's a homosexual killer, which is a subject the Press gets mighty excited about.) This is why the police are assiduous in chasing us all off the streets by 1a.m., they want a clear view of the movements of night-people and maybe they'll spot the madman creeping about. Returning to my hotel at 2a.m. thru the deserted haunted alley-ways I'm super-spooked.

Maybe I'm a morbid fuckwit or a jaded dilettante but it all adds frisson to my safaris into the jungles of India: it might be a leopard that gets me, (only today a wild leopard wandered into outer Bombay city and lodged himself on some buckets of cool water in a backyard bathroom), or a lynch-mob or a deranged killer, but I'm such a freak, usually the goondas run from me, (actually I'm near always chaperoned by friends and no one gets near me.) Chaos rains down about me, as if I'm a "Jonah", and I rarely notice a thing, like a child lost in the forest, I float about blissfully unawares, try to be kind to all the animals and mostly get sweetness beamed back at me, for the truth is the majority of Indians are gorgeous souls just trying to stay alive and succeed, tho if you cross them badly they'll blacken your face and march you about naked before they lynch you.