Thursday, June 09, 2011
23) The Hungry Gods of Goa.
These stories, that have been available on Blogspot for 10 years for free, will now only be available on Amazon at the address above. They are contained in “Vagabon Freak”, the 1st volume of a trilogy titled “The 7 Lives of the Punk Poofy Cats”. I have been the archetypal starving artist in his garret, painting, drawing and writing, writing, writing as if I were some waif crying out in the wilderness. Now I need you, dear reader, to hear my cries and go to Amazon and buy a copy of my book and keep me alive. There you will find my complete tale, from beginning to end, in one place, for you to hold in your hot little hands. When you read it straight through, I assure you, it will blow your mind.
Below are introductory paragraphs and some pictures that I still retain to illustrate this story, hopefully to give you a come-on to get my book. Thanks for giving me a go, TZ.
Bombay, Bombay! What a forbidding, magical labyrinth of a city to get lost in! Seven Islands made as one, built around the temple of Mumbai Devi, a captivating goddess playing by the Arabian Sea, bubbling over with creativity and hope. In the early ‘Seventies it was struggling out of its British colonial straight jacket, an English modernity still strived for, the streets clean, the traffic mostly pedestrian and under control, red double-decker buses competing with a few white Ambassador cars, Enfield motorbikes and a swarm of peddle-pushers.
But at night the footpaths were crowded with the sleeping poor, attracted to the city by the promise of making it to wealth, with Mumbai Devi’s help. Every square foot of pavement-space was reserved for a specific family and, being very poor himself, Arthur often had to sleep on the streets with them, wandering for hours searching for an available spot, outside a shop in the old Fort Area with the shopkeepers, on the steps of the Regal Cinema in Colaba with the crippled beggars, in the cricket maidan with the hustlers or on Chaupati Beach with the coconut peddlers.
A few times he was refused entry into the seedy Colaba Hotels, the cheap firanghi tourist-trap, because of his neo-sadhu appearance, his dusty, hippie glad-rags ultimately grungy despite the glitter of beads and jewels he’d picked up along the way. Those flea-pit hotels thought they were too good for him and, rejected, he had nowhere but the streets to sleep. In the night a rat as big as a cat leaped upon his chest and snarled into his face, his screaming causing his fellow pavement dwellers to laugh, the great firanghi reduced to being eaten by a rat.
In the morning he awoke to find his shoes and the shawl that covered him missing, but his passport was still tucked down his undies, for no Indian hand could venture there unnoticed. Yet in the main, the people of the streets were kind and made space for him and he survived his many castaway sojourns in Bombay unscathed, singing high from the burgeoning city’s hustle and bustle.
In those long-gone days there was a steam ship that sailed from Bombay to Goa and what joy it was for Arthur to rush upon the boat with a horde of hippies and stake his place upon the open deck where for three days they’d loll about playing guitars, smoking chillums and eyeballing the jungle coastline the ship slowly cruised past. Huddled together in the chilled sea-breeze they’d argue philosophy, politics and the minutiae of the counter-culture, Arthur slowly losing his shyness.
“There aren’t many real saints left in India anymore, money is fast taking over as the one god here. Have you noticed the difference between the rich and the poor, it’s shocking!” opined a hairy German.
“Everybody’s got to earn money in this world, even the big babas. Some of them use it to build hospitals and schools”, quipped an Italian freak, dressed like a ragged Ali Baba.
“But surely that’s the job of the government?” mumbled a stoned Brit.
“According to urban myth there’s supposed to be only seven true Masters guiding the planet’s progress at any one time so that doesn’t leave many for India to harbor,” chipped in Arthur.
A long-haired American took over and drawled, “You can blame the Congress Party for the mess, they’ve ruled since Independence, and corruption is rife, at every level of government. You can’t make a move here without paying a bribe.”
“But I thought they were making a stab at socialism, five-year plans, feeding the poor, limiting the size of landholdings?” mumbled the Brit.
The American droned on, “The Nehru family dynasty and the high caste elite run it all, and in twenty-five years they haven’t achieved much for the millions of peasants. Nixon met Indira Ghandi before he got kicked out and they couldn’t stand each other; I reckon the American establishment has worked to suppress India’s advancement, they don’t want another big economic competitor on the world stage.”
“Yeah,” said the British lad after passing the chillum, “and Russia’s meddling too, their ‘great game’ of winning influence, selling India factories and tanks, even nuclear technology, and encouraging her to invest in grandiose developments like giant dams that soak up a lot of government funding but does little to relieve the living conditions of the people.”
“Maybe they’ll get electricity at last. Anyway, it’s a good thing we’re running away to Goa, all this shit won’t find us down there.” This from Arthur had them smirking, “Sure, kid.”
He was reeling from this political blab-fest, the other bums seemed to know much more than he did, he hadn’t thought much about politics, it hardly interested him as he didn’t want to stir up his stoned meditation with harsh realities. But the world had a way of breaking into the most secret hide-outs, for globalization was on the march and he, unwittingly, was part of its advance-guard.