VI: A Narrow Escape

Comas Da! I set off from Mount Abu last week, my bus sweeping me down from the hill-station on a series of serpentine roads, only a three-foot wall protecting us from a 1000 meter fall. Safely upon the level plain, we entered a country not dissimilar to England; the rolling, grassy hills reminding me of the Peak District. Eventually we came to the mystical lakes & decadent palaces of Udaipur, which viewed from either a high vantage, or from the soft waterside, endow a moment of soul-bathing serene. I was here primarily to buy weed, the desert being dry in several senses, & began to find myself on the backs of bikes & rickshaws, being whisked to quiet streets & people’s houses. There, the obligatory bartering began, including many a sample which befuddled my sharp shopping instincts, as these ‘merchants’ very much intended. Buying weed in India is a case of damage limitation – you know you are being ripped off, but it’s a case of how much –  eventually I got a good deal & have been stoned ever since.

To be born with an Indian life is a both a beautiful & a desperate thing, yet they all seem content with their lot. A hotel worker is on 1500 rupees a month – that’s less than twenty quid – but he was happy enough. Another thing I have learnt is to get the right time in India you need to ask two different people – work out the average of the times given & voila! Drinking beer in the streets is frowned upon – but sometimes you just fuckin’ need one (bars are practically nonexistent) – but be warned. A ragged boy collecting empty bottles latched on to me & follow’d me for about half an hour, urging me to drink up – quite annoying!  I also thought I had seen it all, but then I saw a pig eating fresh cow shit & I knew I still have a lot to learn.

UDAIPUR.jpg

From Udaipur I caught a sleeper bus to Jaipur. Despite its size it is surprisingly refreshing & has given me the best day of my tour so far. I met Steve & Kate here, after I had snorted ketamine with her back in Calcutta in ’02, she bumped into Steve (one of the guys from the Andamans) & they are now much in love. Thanks to the wonders of e-mail we had arranged to all meet up here & managed to get some great seats for the England-Australia cricket match for cheap off a local. We had a front-row couch, free drinks & a veritable banquet at ‘half-time.’ The funniest thing was getting in however.

Jaipur.JPG

The rickshaw driver dropped us off right at the gate, where twenty or so cops peered at me. They would have seen me hide the weed, so I just risked it. On reaching the gate, they asked me to turn out my left pocket – so I did & handed them my bottle of whiskey, apologising profusely. Then I just started walking in, but as I did so they said can we see what’s in your other pocket. Shit I thought. Possession is six months & dealing is ten years – but luckily the chief inspector was a Rajasthani poet, & after listening to him sing thro’ a few of his native airs, & I recited him a couple of my own sonnets, he happily gave me back the weed & the whiskey (which I hid around the corner under a bush) & let me in. The actual match was alright, a pre-Ashes blast, but England underperformed & watching them lose slowly to the Aussies felt like having a terminal disease – the long certainty of knowing the end is near, but still brief moments of hope to keep you going; & of course me & Steve nipped outside a couple of times for a joint & a whiskey!

Alongside the cricket was the festival of Diwali, the Hindu Christmas. Jaipur became a psychedelic war-zone as a million fireworks went off round the city – one of which nearly landed on my head & another rocket fell over & whizzed by Kate’s head & went off under Steve’s chair. Very fuckin’ dangerous. The displays go on for hours & put our drizzly bonfire nights to shame.

After the show the streets are quiet this morning – too fuckin’ quiet. I find myself in a nice new hotel typing this. The manager of the old one became hostile last night & tried to overcharge me, so I left in a flurry of arguments & was manhandled as I did so. Luckily, I had the Chief Police Inspector’s address in my pocket, & on saying his name I was suddenly let go…

Jaipur
22-10-06

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