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.