Into The Fire

It’s a funny feeling, being on your own after having a constant travel compadre for the past seven months. Not quite knowing what to do with myself, I decided I could not say so long to Ceylon, without calling into the Colombo Ex-Serviceman’s Club for a few cheeky pints. I was invited to sit and have a drink with Silva and Friend (didn’t quite catch his name as he spoke with a mouthful of paan), it just so happened that these two men were working for the president of Sri Lanka as private security guards. They promised me that when I return they will take me to meet the president for myself, although I somehow doubt that will happen, it was a nice gesture. Social Clubs in the subcontinent are very similar to the ones at home, in a sense that they both host truley appalling turns, have a gentleman selling seafood/viagra and a small minority of the clientele are made up of extreme, right wing bigots. I said goodbye to Sri Lanka and enjoyed the last of my solid bowel movements for the foreseeable future. Time to hit India…

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Paan man and Silva – hard as

Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India and is the beating heart of Tamil Nadu. The reason I flew here was that flights were so cheap, but the reason that most people come here is to visit the Sri Meenakshi temple…

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The temple looming over the dusty city

The temple is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites in all of India, and this weekend the annual Alagar festival is taking place. As I walked down the street towards the temple, I received a swift reminder of how mental India can actually be. The streets were rammed full of worshipers and there was far too much chaos going on around me that I didn’t know where to look. The scenes made the Bigg market on a Saturday night look like a sophisticated gathering…

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The gateway towers, considered to be the best in Tamil architecture, are covered in hundreds of sculptures of gods, demons and heroes. Meenakshi is the fish eyed, triple breasted goddess who ‘lives’ here. This festival is a re-enactment of her wedding to Shiva in honour of her brother, Alagar. Legend has it that Alagar missed the original wedding after he had a big night out with the lads…

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Like father, like son

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Fake toilet paper for sale, have you ever seen a Mackem in Milan, no but you might find one in Madurai

Inside the temple, most areas are out of bounds to non Hindus and cameras weren’t allowed. You can take my word for it though, that there was an Elephant inside, blessing each of the pilgrims and accepting money with its trunk. I calculated that in five minutes of watching this specticle, the elephant earned 50 rupees. That’s averaging 600 rupees per hour and almost 14 thousand pounds a year, based on a 40 hour working week. There’s no way this elephant is packing its trunk and saying goodbye to the temple…

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Pilgrims shave their heads and cover them in sandalwood in hope that their prayers will be answered

Being back in India thus far, has almost felt like I have returned to my second home. It is a diverse burning fire of many different beliefs, ethnic groups, ideologies, traditional practices and languages that can sometimes be difficult for the Western intellects to process. This time around, I want to gather a better understanding of all these things, but mainly religion, so that next time I visit a temple the happenings going on around me can all make much more sense…

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Pilgrim carrying jack fruit as an offering

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First I needed to tackle a 36 hour train ride to Mumbai, this was the alternative to paying three times the price to fly directly there. I could have bought a ticket for a standard, hot and sweaty sleeper train for just over a fiver, which would have been hard work for that length of time. As tempting as it was, even I’m not that tight so I decided to push the boat out a little and go for a 3AC carriage.

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Riding a train for that long on your jack jones can be enough to make you question one’s sanity. On the other hand, travelling alone can also have its positives, such as teaching you how to deal with loneliness, so I was certainly up for the challange. The question is, what on earth do you do on your tod for so long? Answer – Sleep, look over Hindi language books, find some other poor soul to talk crap to, taste delicious food from strangers, stand at the open door and imagine what it would to be like to be able to fly, stare out of the window whilst listening to Glaswegian shoe gazing music, develop a strange relationship with the sound of Mungo Jerry – in that order…It’s going to be nice to be in Bombay, even if it takes two days…

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Categories: India | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Into The Fire

  1. Marlene walker

    Still keeping up with your blog bet there was,nt any bingo at that club no good for me then. Your doing amazingly well photo,s are great keep it up. Mam

    • No flyer or open the box here so you wouldn’t like it, woman weren’t even allowed in, just like the good ol’ days!

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