IX: The Cheapest Beer In The Raj

Hi folks, it’s been a weird kinda few days, but I’d mainly put that down to the opium. I was forced into my first train jump from Madurai – the sleeper train was full & I didn’t want to hang around a city in my new state of mind. I got a couple of hundred k before being collar’d – & despite my offers of baksheesh (bribes) & beers the fella just wouldn’t let me stay – the best I got was a third class carriage. I took one look at the hot, thirsty mass of humanity & opted for a new mode of transport. As usual, luck was on my side, & outside the station was a luxury air-condition’d coach heading exactly where I wanted to go – I paid my hundred rupees & off we went into the balmy night.


The winds blew me up to Pondicherry (an ex French colony) where I stock’d up on the duty free booze… 28 rupees for a big bottle of beer (40p) & 20 fuckin rupees for my whiskey. Great! Fifteen kilometers from Pondicherry was the place I chose to chill for a couple of nights. Auroville is an experiment in communal living, a kinda European utopia. Thirty years ago a holy woman called the Mother bought a load of land, planted forests of trees & decreed the area to be devoted to spiritual, artistic & intellectual study. It is virtually a cashless place (I managed to blag free food by making up an account number) & very serene. The place also had bikes & scooters which were great & cheap – I was scrambling about all over the place – keeping the Ciscostyle company of an American lass called Rhonda, who let me ride her buzzin’ blue bike while clinging to me quite tightly. In return I kept rolling up spliffs in various scenic woodland spots. I would have pounced but her acne put me off.

I have now reach’d the vast Westernesque sprawl of Chennai (Madras). The Swedes have turn’d up again & we intend to get a boat for the paradisial Andaman Islands. A local strike, however, has brought the sailing from Friday til tomorrow morning at 11am. I only got here late last night & had to spend today sorting out my permit to visit this legendary archipelago (xxii). I hired a rickshaw for the day (Note – remember to buy fleet of rickshaws & build track at home so we can all play Rickshaw Races – with a couple of guys hanging out of the windows with baseball bats!) & we rocketed around on loads of crazy missions (including a trip to his weed-dealing cousins, the net result being I get my permit tomorrow morning at 9 Am & there’s no actual guarantee of gettin’ on the ship. Fortunately there’s about twenty others in the same boat (unintended pun) & we’re gonna go down en masse waving 500 rupee notes & smilin’ widely, & if they don’t let us on we’re gonna sink the bastard!


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