IX: Half Way

After a week of doing relatively little up at Mamallapuram beach, I kicked my lazy ass in gear, finished off the potent weed that’s been rendering me nigh comatose for a week & jumped on a bus south. Mamallapuram was right enough; it had a beach, a few restaurants & some wicked temples carved straight out of the rock. I couldn’t help think how voluptuous the female carvings looked – two thousand year old porn! There were also some proper annoying gypsy necklace-sellers, who followed you everywhere, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, & between the whole tribe of them nailed every part of the town. They were very small as well, as were the cows which were half the size of normal – it seemed I had stumbled Lilliput-style on some curious pygmy nation. As for the poem,  for the past week I have been steadily moving through it, passing the halfway point the other day sat underneath a statue of Thiruvallavar that is on the beach. The part of the beach where the statue stands is mainly for Indians. There were plenty of juice & ices guys – about 20 or so – plus fortune tellers, trinket stalls, guys with parrots in boxes & two fine looking horses – a far cry from the scraggly donkeys at Blackpool.

Body language in India is weird. A shake of the head means yes; when a rickshaw driver pulls up next to you & I say what I think is no, they take it as yes & follow me down the road until I’m forced to tell him to fuck off. In the West we turn the palm face down for a shoo-off gesture & face up for a come here. Well, our shoo-off is the Indian come here, so when I find myself with several waiters watching me eat, & tell them to shoo-of, they actually come closer. Trust me, it’s mad as fuck having your every spoonful scrutinized by up to 20 sets of eyes.

Today’s been funny. I started at 6 am, walked the kilometer to the bypass & jumped on a bus to Pondicherry. The weather’s quite erratic. I’d arrived in Mamallapuram just as the last cyclone was finishing, & was leaving just as the next one is brewing. 10 k short of Pondicherry is Auroville, an internationally renowned ashram – a bit like the one in Thiruvanamali – but bigger & with better coke. The sites about 10 k from the highway, which I traversed on foot & then the back of an Austrian’s motorbike. I got to the visitors centre – which was just opening up for the day – had a massive ‘I-don’t-want-to-be-here’ vibe & set off walking back to the highway. Then the heavens broke. After ten minutes of avoiding the torrential rain under a tree I finally found a decent bit of shelter – to ride out the storm & finish off mi weed. Back on the soaking road I was picked up yet again by a Westerner who drove me all the way to Pondicherry. Now Pondy is famous for two things. It has the highest suicide rate in India & is also a former French Colony & connection between the two cannot be ruled out.

So I left Pondicherry… at the mere smell of a cooked garlic clove my toes curl in anger & I begin to shout very loudly – in bad French – at the nearest French person, or even a Dutch or Spaniard if I’m drunk. Two hours later I bobbled into busy Chidambaram. Last week it was still underwater after the cyclone hit, but it has recently resurfaced & looks much the cleaner for it. On the outskirts of town is the Annamalai University – or the centre of Tamil studies. Todays a holiday, so I’m not sure yet, but a professor there assures me that I can stay on campus & finish off the mural using the University’s library & computers. In the interim I’ve had to head back into town, hole up in a pretty shitty room for the night & wait for the morning, when I’ll be going back to school!


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