Thanks to the recent terrorist actions in Mumbai – where the Pakistani terrorists posed as international students – any foreign national wanting to enter even the campus of an Indian university has to have special permission, which takes about three weeks to process. I found this out after a couple of days of typical, long-drawn out Indian bureaucracy, which ended up with me waiting to meet the vice-chancellor of Annamalia university. I was surrounded by professors & uni types, but that didn’t seem put any cordiality on affairs as the queue – as all Indian queues do – ended up as a rugby scrum to get to the front. After about two hours of this I thought fuck it, throwing my innate sense of English fairplay out of the window & dived to the front like a buxom fly-half. Ten minutes later, sat in a plush seat in an even plusher room, the portraits of dark-skinned past chancellors staring down at me from the walls, I could feel their burning eyes penetrating into my skull & seeing that my ‘formal’ education boiled down to only 6 months of getting wasted at Barnsley college.
After putting my case forward, for all my bravado & the fact I’d had a shave & everything, I was, with all respect, told, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off. My demands to see the chancellor – his boss – were refused, on the grounds that the chancellor represents the whole state, lives in Chennai & only popped in once a year. ‘Get him on the phone,’ I asked – ‘There’s the door.’ he replied. As I walked back through the 900 acre site of the uni, past all the pink building faculties & the vast bladerunner style massive mansion where the vice-wanker-chancellor lives, it seemed like all the students were taking the piss out of my 19th century colonial outfit, my academic plans in tatters all around me.
Still, you don’t become a poet by not being resourceful (allergic to jobs y’see) & my non-admittance to the dusty corridors of education has proved a lucky break. I decided to seek out the local library, getting there on the back of a probably drunk Tamil man’s bike. In its depths I discovered a recent version of Thirukural – one that the ancyent, page-molding books of libraries at Tiruvanamali & the University (I checked yesterday) would never have. It’s a very comprehensive, 2 tomed 1500 page affair which I now have in my possession. I had to leave 500 rupees & my passport with the overhappy librarian, but it’s worth it to have a wicked reference book for this final effort to finish the poem. I’ve got 475 kural left to do, which I’ll probably finish in a week, plus another week for typing-up means I’ll be done for xmas. I’ll be on mi own this xmas, so it’s kind of a present to myself, the receiving of which will see me buy lots of booze & some liquid ketamine from the nearest chemist.
I’ve been on the lookout for somewhere new to stay. I mean, the place I’m staying in at the moment is a proper dump. The first room I was in – a single – looked & smelt like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. However, there was a magazine cut-out picture of the Niagara Falls sellataped to the walls – which I’d never actually seen, so it was kinda worth it. I upgraded to a larger room (30 more rupees) which afforded me a little more space, & an extra mattress – now doubling my entire mattress thickness to about 4 inch! To make things worse there is a constant smell of fried batter rising upwards. It smells just like a chippy, which got me dreaming of a decent chips n curry, but turned out in fact to be a wee crisp factory. I just had to try a fresh bag & they were delicious.
Chidambaram is also remarkable for the very impressive Nataraja temple. There is a beautiful green, fish-filled ghat there, where brahmin & babas wash themselves (& brush their teeth in the same water). I’ve already spent a couple of hours there in the morning sun doing my kural, but think I’ll be there a little more in the coming week. Etched into marble plates all round the ghat are examples of Tamil poetry – in that beautiful script of theirs. I’m already raiding it for poetic forms & it seems a perfect place to complete the task at hand.
I have also found a new hotel & shall move in tomorrow morning – just in time to catch the rest of the test match (India v England up the road at Chennai) plus the weekend’s footy. It’s quite comfy actually, & costing 175 rupees. That’s the mad thing about India – you pay a quid a night for a basic room, but chuck in another couple & you get a decent hotel room & another tenner gets you a palace.