Saturday, January 23, 2010


I had thought that the 60s died. They simply moved to Pushkar...



A small cheap restaurant. A tall man with fierce grey beard sits alone at the next table. He asks my nationality before introducing himself as a retired Lieutenant Colonel. He talks of honour – or the lack of honour in today's society. It is lack of honour that is destroying India. “Ninety percent of Indians are corrupt. More than ninety percent, ninety-eight percent” he assures me.
Of his two brothers, one is a full colonel and the other a General. “They are having big houses and cars with drivers,” he says. “Always they have been telling me only to be reasonable and I am saying that reasonable is not honour. I have acted honourably always,” he says. “This is why I am eating here and why I am living in a small room. It is the same everywhere,” he continues. “Look at you British. You were always known to be honourable and now see what is happening with you. This Blair with his lies. Your reputation is destroyed. It will be hundreds of years before people will be believing you.”
He has stomach pains (presumably an ulcer) and eats only dahl with curd. He leaves, very upright, very military in his bearing. An honourable man, he must have been the subordinate from Hell. I imagine his brothers pleading with him over the years to just once refrain from arguing, to drift just once within the official current, if not for his own good, for the good of the family.


JOHDPHUR: January 18
I imagine myself a foot soldier in an invading army. Mehrangarh Fortress is an island of rock soaring vertically out of the dust of our advance across the desert. Dust is in our throats and in our eyes and crusting our nostrils. Water is short. Food is almost non-existent. Already exhausted, we must storm fortification after fortification merely to reach the foot of the precipice above which soar the fortress walls. Please God, no, not this...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


JODPHUR: January 18
Matchstick tourists look down from the fortress balconies. They look out across the town and beyond the outer fortifications to a ravaged land of rock quarries. The sky on the horizon is sun-bleached.
Uphill views are always preferable. Near distance, middle distance and far distance add depth. Meanwhile three green parakeets have begun an argument in my tree – or perhaps discussion is more accurate; they don't sound cross. Doves have occupied every available hole on the rock face and in the fortress walls. They coo softly. Gliding off the fortress, their arched wings have the rigidity of plastic models.


JODPHUR: January 18
Swim along a coral reef and all you'll see are the big fish and the big coral. Stay still, the more you notice. It is an unpeeling process. Detail by smaller detail emerges, fish small and bright as small jewels. Traveling is the same. I have been seated here on the parapet beneath this tree for close on two hours. Enough sun filters through the leaves to keep me pleasantly warm. Mostly I have been looking upward. Rather than separate, the fortress appears to be a continuation of the precipice from which it grows, rock on rock, up and up, the highest levels honeycombed with decorative caves and balconies and topped with a filigreed crown of carved marble. The sky beyond the fortress is a clear royal blue of extraordinary depth. Tilting my head to the left I can view the sky and the fortress though an old stone arch and over a newish building of golden sandstone. The contrast between golden sandstone, grey rock and sky is of a beauty to be enjoyed and enjoyed and be blown away by. Who needs psychedelics? And why move until the sun sets? Such blissful peace is hard to come by when traveling in company...


JODPHUR: January 18
To my right a bunch of donkeys carrying empty sacks stand placidly beside a pile of builder's sand. All the donkeys but one are small and grey. The exception is white, larger and older than the others. He keeps to the shade of a tree while a labourer loads the other mokes with sand. Last to be loaded, he intends to be unloaded first and heads immediately down a steep dirt path with the others following. One very smart ass...


JODPHUR: January 18
I have written of the art deco glories of the Umaid Bhawan Palace. The Maharajas of Jodphur moved house in the the 1940s from the Palace within Mehrangrah Fort. Founded in 1459, Mahrangrah is the finest fort in India, the best preserved, cleanest and best organised for the visitor with excellent audio guides for rent at the ticket office. OK, so that's enough of the tour guide spiel. A rickshaw driver asks for 100 rupees to run me up the hill. We settle for forty. The narrow twisting lane through town is surfaced with craters divided by drains and speed bumps. Why speed bumps when a Ducati under maximum acceleration might make 15 KPH before the next bend or the next hole in the road? That is without cows, rickshaws, motorbikes, bikes, pushcarts, absentminded pedestrians and kids playing tag. Sunday and a never ending river of visitors flows up from the ticket office. My fellow Oldies stumble upward. Watch their eyes as they measure how much further they must climb, questioning whether they can make it, understanding now the ambulance on stand-by below the first gate. All have guide books in hand, camera at the ready. The current weakens on the outside of a sharp hairpin above the second gate. I break clear, turn down hill towards the Chokelao Palace and find a comfortable parapet shaded by a small tree.


JAIPUR: January 20
I arrived in India to find the screen on my camera broken The camera has been with the Panasonic rep in Delhi since December 10. Repair was originally promised for four days, then ten, then not until today, January 20. The lying son of a bitch is a lying son of a bitch. He hasn't got the replacement screen. He has no idea when he will receive the replacement screen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


JAIPUR: January 21
I am back in Jaipur for the Literary Festival. They do things differently here in India. I have ridden pillion on a motorcycle across Jaipur this afternoon to a Youth cricket academy. The bike's rider plays for Rajasthan in the Under 14s! His father, a new friend, told me not to be nervous, that his boy was a very safe biker. True - also one hell of a batsman and an excellent fast bowler.