The city of Delhi is about 7 thousand years old and is known colloquially as "the city of djiins", those fiery elementals that can insert themselves into your soul and lead you to damnation and ecstasy. As my feet hit the ground of this psycho-city I found myself yet again lost in the labyrnth of the Dark Unconscious, the frenetic swirl of Main Bazar, Paha Grunge, teeming humanity trying to sell, buy, ogle, steal, hustle, beg, befriend, betray, so many smiling djiins at every step whispering one's sweet desires, hand over heart the pagan warrior monk has to make it thru unscathed, smart, resolute and compassionate.
At the freak's pool-hall restaurant, surrounded by a tribe of Israeli hipsters who only have eyes for themselves, an old Japanese freak dressed in tatty Indian peasant garb went ape-shit yelling in incomprehensible English that he'd been cheated by the fat German Bakery cake-wallah who had given him change for Rs.100 yet he swore he'd given him a Rs.500 note. The caterwauling went on and on, nobody could understand what the Jap hippie was saying, except that it had to do with money, money, money. "You've been smoking too much!" snarled the baggy-eyed cake-wallah. Over the decades they've seen much foolishness in this cavern-like cafe, naked madmen drugged and run amok, sex-scapades out of control, the Indians have a deadpan blase response, "Stupid Fucking Hippies!"
All firangis beware, there was a riot in the city center the day before by the Shiv Sena, right-wing Hindu fundamentalists who decry all things progressive as besmirching the Hindu way of doing things, Hindvata. They clambered into Jantar Mantar gardens and in their irrational fury damaged the medieval Astronomical monument. Then espying some white foreign women walking nearby, charged over and tore their clothes off, demonic lust hiding behind their avowed puritanism.
Watching my arse I wandered lost thru the back-alleyways and ancient gardens, my best mate had stood me up, he was to travel with me as my minder but Indians can be fickle and flaky, he says he's too sad to travel as one of his friends had just been murdered horribly, his body thrown on the street. I knew this guy, a mad Muslim named Jhaved, he was a proper bastard, stole from everyone, he must've pushed his luck, still it gave me the willies and I wondered if there wasn't more anti-Muslim aggro about since the Mumbai massacre.
So I'm alone as ever, the dharma bum on the open road, missing companionship, except I've got Kerouac with me to whisper about life, adventure and longing to my heart late at night, at least I'm now free and open to experiences, old and new. Sitting in a park a beautiful young gay man approached me, he only liked white guys and wanted to be with me but there was nowhere we could go to liase, no bathhouses or sex-shops here, and no visitors allowed in hotel rooms for fear of robbery and murder. Gay Lib had finally come to India recently, but only in the limited environs of Delhi City/State, and the right-wing were appealing it. He told me that there were many hundreds of thousands of gays in the city but they were still third-class citizens, lost and abused on street-corner pissoirs. Antipathy ruled, family and the rearing of children the sacrosanct lifestyle, the business of India is business, Family business, ignoring the egregious population explosion, it provided a great pool of cheap slave labour and herd-mentality consumers.
The only way to be an open homosexual here was to have one's balls cut off and go about dressed in bad Indian drag, clapping the hands, thwump thwump, to tell everyone you've had them cut off, begging for small change as Hijra do. I commiserated with the gorgeous guy, we parted, frustrated, as if we'd missed the love-train, love and caressing of humans worse than war and murder it seems, anyway, I'm too old for it, harried groping in dark alcoves a bore for me.
I went to Keventer's milk bar for my drug of choice, flavoured milk. Old man Keventer was sitting at the till as always, lugubrious eyes viewing the world stoically. He's made a fortune with his watered-down milk, not that it did him any good, seven years ago some goondas kidnapped his old wife and held her for ransom, the family found her body stuffed in a tin-chest weeks later, after the money was paid. (Yes, I know, murder, murder, murder. In a country of around 1200 million souls, it's not all spiritual Om Shanti Om.)
As I drank my vanilla milk a craggy old granny emerged from the dust, all wrinkles in a frayed sari, and asked me to buy her some milk. What can one do when confronted by Mother India in need, you have to meet her demands? "What flavour?" I graciously asked. "Chocolate," she sighed, as of her fondest wish had just been granted. So I got back in the queue and tediously waited forever for her precious chocolate milk to be handed thru the magic curtain, then I proudly presented it to her watched by the crowd of middle-class Indians, me the generous Maharaja.
She took one look at it and croaked in Hindi, "No! It's not what I want." I thrust it at her and yelled, "It's this or nothing!" "No!" she shrieked, "I dont want it! I want something better!" "Lelo, take it!" I put it in her grasping claws and marched off, she stormed over to old man Keventer and yelled how she didn't want the milk, she wanted the money instead. The old milk-wallah had seen it all in his day and told her to drink the milk and be satisfied. She set up a howling din, cursing him outrageously, the crowd looked at me and we all laughed, I left them to their haggling, so much for playing Mother Theresa to a Mother Theresa lookalike.
When I have days to fill in Delhi I always go to the many Mughal monuments, like Jamma Majiid near Red Fort, where the British in 1857 slaughtered many thousands of Indians in retaliation for the Uprising of the natives. I take my Muslim mate to Humayam's magnificent Tomb and tell him of his own people'shistory, which nobody has taught him, of how the last Mughal emporer fled here with his court and was cornered by the British and then sent to Burma in exile. But my mate didn't show up and alone I went to my favourite place, Lodhi Gardens, free entry and no one hassles you there, it's full of ruined Mughal mausoleums and palaces to wander about in.
And while sitting there drawing a fabulous domed structure I dreamt of ancient times, the Great Khan's court in all it's sumptuous pageantry, playing, lolling, flirting in the heavely gardens. I hallucinated djiins on magic carpets flying in from celestial regions to grant my any wish, and beautiful houris, male and female, dressed in diaphonous gowns, making love in the bushes. But I also felt the lash of the whip and the burn of chains around my ankles, the darkness of dungeons and the toil of building the edifices by hand, we cant all be princesses in this topsy-turvy world.
I struggled back to Main Bazar, and ran the gauntlet of the handsome Kashmiri men who all tried to lure me into their shops to buy whatever but at 60 and world-weary I'm virtually impervious to the global hustle and sick of shedding money like sweat. I lived in Kashmir many years ago and love the Kashmiri people very much, knowing them well, it was like paradise back then and now when I look into their appealing faces I see the deep sadness of twenty years of stupid religious terror. I met a blue-eyed Kashmiri guy who I knew and trusted and he made me chai and got me high.
Thru all the shit and mud and flesh and madness I struggled with my many bags, it's derigour these days for cyberpunk wanderers to carry laptops with their backpacks, MP3 plugged in, I made it to the interstate bus terminal and got my front-seat for the harrowing journey to the Himalayas, all traffic coming at me like a 3D horror movie. Now I'm in the jungle, talking with the wildlife, appeasing the jungle-djiins, hoping to meet Bhjageera the black panther and take my soul for a questing ride thru the Underworld. Life is a blast if you've got the guts for it!