Aurangabad 14.02.11

Left Panjim this morning well it was actually last night but everything is just blending into what seems one long day and I’m already missing the sea, it really was enchanted in that town, and the beaches weren’t that bad really. I was all sorted walking down 18th June Road to the bus station, a red rag to a rickshaw really, they were hitting me for 50r and I’m going 30r. It went on all down the street. I really wanted one as well but I’m stubborn, I’d got to the end of the road when a guy says “ok 40r” So I said “yeah?” Turned round and he’s on a bike, I have this great big rucksack, my guitar, and the camera case around my neck but he shrugged his shoulders, “No problem.” He was a great driver too. I stood in the shade at the dusty gravel and rocks coach park by the old bridge across the estuary had a play on the guitar while I waited which I’d really missed, was nice. Then I’m told the bus to Aurangabad is in the other car park, no problem, except if I hadn’t asked I would never have known and that wouldn’t have been a pretty sight. The bus was actually was ok, it had a great big “Jesus” right across the back window and up above the driver seat was a picture of Mary and Jesus displaying their sacred hearts. It’s always nice to be reminded of their presence. We left at 9pm Sunday and we arrived in Aurangabad at Monday. I was surprised that I actually managed to sleep but must have done because it flew. I had been told this bus would be the sleeper and I was kind of dreading it. But it turned out to be a seats and was way more comfortable. I don’t recall much from the journey, just looking out the window at one point after waking as the bus was swinging dramatically from side to side, it was quite a scene, behind us a row of dark mountains and headlights dotted for miles slowly climbing, swinging backwards and forwards flashing across the darkness. My Nan came whilst I was sat at the beginning of the journey, she always sends a Robin, its about courage, it really cheered me. Also I dreamt that Tatter the dog who adopted me, my best friend at Ghost Ranch New Mexico came to see me in a dream. It was so great to see him. I loved him and I think he loved me too. Apart from that I was gone and woke to the yellow parched farmlands and plains of Marharastra state and field after field of sugar cane. We had a quick stop where I watched 7 Emus pecking a green plastic sheet in a big compound. I have no idea why they were there and it just seemed odd right then. I got a coffee and some “idle” which are little steamed ground rice cakes with two little dishes of sauces to dip them in, just right. I sat in a daze for the next few hours in and out of sleep trying to ignore the Bollywood drama that was apparently the entertainment. I recall thinking ‘we’re back in the other reality’ as we passed little groups of plastic wigwams on desolate pieces of dusty land where the farm workers lived I think that’s who they were. There were corrugated huts leaning against trees and tatty blankets cast over rope tied between as shelter, desperate to my eyes and then an incredible temple on the banks of a river. Then cotton fields and the deep brown soil of freshly ploughed fields followed by burnt charred follow fields. We’d pass open trucks full of guys in clean office clothes all stood up together rocking from side in there, it looked so strange. The bus tore along but began to slow as the traffic became more intense the nearer we got to the big town and just in time as the Bollywood drama, the screaming and shouting and shooting were starting to penetrate my ear plugs. The coach dropped us Manmandir bus terminal which is not the bus station but which turned out to be a blessing. The guy in the office there was really helpful, but the woman who I was initially trying to deal with was either a robot that needed recharging or she was his sister in law and he couldn’t sack her for being miserable which isn’t of course isn’t a crime of course, unless of course your in public relations dealing with people and enquiries from travelers in which case, in my book, it is a crime and either you’d better make really good coffee, buy really nice Christmas presents and make my brother really happy or your fired. Honestly it was a fine line, I would be having words with my bro, who would either be having words with her or working harder to make her happy which I suspect was quite a task. “But come on she’s affecting business sort it out.” I digress, but she had about as much charm as a plank of wood. The hotel rooms there were unfortunately full, so I walked off down the main road much to the astonishment of a rickshaw drivers who had already told me his name, his mothers name and his date of birth. I was still a bit groggy and ended up walking back up the road like a dumb ass and a red faced one at that. I asked the people at the Manmandir if they knew of anywhere close by. They spun me around and pointed me around the corner to a place called the Amardeep Hotel which turned out to be in the Rough guide, cool. It gives it a pretty good write up and says “recently revamped” so I’ve wondered how long it takes termites to move in to a recently revamped place, because my room had them all along one side of the room. They seem to be building a nest out of the wooden head board but as long as they left my guitar alone I let them be. I realized that asking for another room because the one I’m in has termites could get complicated, how do you do termite in a Hindi game of Charades? As I’d tried to order a coffee it went something like this. “Hello could I have a coffee.” The word coffee ‘I know’ is universal. Even if in your mother tongue you have a different word for it. You know what coffee is, I’m pretty sure and if you didn’t somebody in the kitchen would. So they all came out, they look at me and I say again “Coffee?” “Coffee!” They say in chorus “Yes coffee, could I have a large one.” I’m signaling with my hands in the shape of large glass talking slowly, which has worked a treat every time so far. “Big coffee, no sugar no milk, of course technically I should be speaking in Hindi as I am in India, but I can’t and we are in a hotel that obviously receives foreign visitors. So they say “Sugar?” “No, No sugar thanks” I’m chopping the hands you know, I’m pretty good at charades, well I thought so up to then. “And no Milk” “No Milk, ok ok” They all nod, I go off to my room and I’m checking the termites out and after about half an hour go back to see the guy at reception, and say “Could I have a coffee now please?” “Coffee?” He says surprised, and I’m getting annoyed “Yes, I would like a coffee now please” and I tap my finger on the counter and he seems to get it calls a guy out and instructs him to bring me a coffee and I add slowly, signs and all. “Large, no milk, no sugar” and it looks we are in business. About 10 minutes later there’s a knock at the door. I open it they guy has a tiny and I mean tiny white cup with some pale looking brown water in it. I look at him in disbelief, I mean how does a hand signal for BIG become a tiny one mouthful, and I’m not kidding so I go through it all again an I’m doing big hand movements the handle on the cup the shape of a glass, doing pouring action it’s pretty clear I would like a large cup or glass of coffee. I was still pretty composed at this point. So off they go because his mate has arrived and they’re both peering over the door into my room which I don’t like because I’m English right. So another 10 minutes, knock on the door. I open it and he’s there with what appeared to be a jug. “Great thanks” I say Then after another round of pointless conversations about the cost I put the jug down, notice it’s light so look in and guess what, they have brought me a large flask and poured the cup of coffee they’d brought up earlier into it and brought that back up. Now come on there are a few rungs missing from the top of the ladder here, or they just can’t be bothered, I decide it’s the later give him back the jug flask and tell him to go away. So maybe it’s for the good as I have to get up early tomorrow anyway. I think I’m getting a little ground down with the level of grime and I’m not keen on Aurangabad at all but it’s the nearest town to the Ellora and Ajanta caves and in fact there are so many remarkable places around the area its sort of a must. Earlier I’d been for a walk across the town to explore the bazaar area which was tightly packed and colorful and kind of exotic. I didn’t love or even like it as I have other places but it was interesting. The streets and the air of this town are so incredibly dirty there must be many many cases of lungs throat and breathing related illnesses here. My throat was dry and swollen with the overpowering taste of petrol fumes. Aurangabad was a grind and I’m sure still is. I have seen some sights already here as anybody with eyes would, people have said you get toughened to it, not hard but just used to it, but tonight in the bazaar I was truly astonished at the depths that human beings can exist at or within. There was a man walking barefoot, his filthy stinking trousers were ripped up the inside of his legs, his back side has covered in what could have only been baked in shit. His shirt was just a stinking filthy rag. At one time they had been white. He was shiny bald with a big ring of matted hair from ear to ear around the back of his head. In his right hand he was holding a length of rusty barbed wire, maybe 2 feet long. He just walked one slow heavy step after the other up the teeming street. I was staggered. The barbed wire, I don’t know why, as he wasn’t asking for anything. I hadn’t seen his face, but when I’d got used to the sight of him I went across to give him the change I had, which in retrospect was humiliatingly little. But then I saw his face, I don’t know what it was, he was brown skinned of course but his face was black, like something had been smeared onto it and then baked on by the sun. I held out the notes to him. He just looked at me. “Take it” I said urging him to take it, he just looked at me then the money. I urged him again. “Take it” I think he was registering somebody had spoken to him. I urged him with the money again. Then he reached up and took it and I walked away up the street ahead of him. I glanced back to see him counting the notes. I turned away ashamed, but then looked back one more time. He looked up and caught my eyes, the strange thing was the white of his eyes looked dazzling white like something clean and dare I say it, pure, amongst all the filth, it could have been because his face was so dark, but I saw him thank me with them, it was really astonishing. I nodded to him then turned and walked quickly away into the crowd, I felt really humbled. It was shocking and really provoking. Earlier as I had been making my way towards the Bazaar I came upon a white Hindu temple called the Khadakeshwar Temple. Not as splendid as the ones in the south but a similar design and painted white so it appeared to shine in the haze so I walked across its dusty car park took my boots off and went inside and down to a shrine downstairs. There was a ceremony going on I stood a moment on the threshold then stepped in. I nodded to the priest who nodded back and indicated for me to sit. I ended up staying for around 3/5 of an hour. People would ring the bell above the doorway step in, bow, then either prostrate themselves or sit cross legged and begin praying in the most heartfelt way. There was a great polished black marble Lingum in the centre of the room to and from which they gave and received blessings. It was surrounded by the lip that catches and funnels away the milk and offerings that had been placed upon it. Above it on a long hefty chain hung a big copper urn from which milk dripped continuously, men and women placed orange flowers and garlands, beautiful red roses and bell leaves upon its smooth domed top. Milk from above coated them others smeared yogurt on and others painted symbols. All of these were cleared at intervals by a woman and the priest who seemed to pick through the bell leaves and save them in a pile next to him. People brought coconuts and bananas all the time the priest kept up a constant rapid monologue of prayers hardly having time to breathe. I liked him he working hard, he had such a cheeky face too with a white goatee beard that peeped out an orange football style scarf that he had wrapped around his head and under his chin, and a red tank top over his orange and white robe. Incense burned and he ordered his helper now and again to rearrange the flowers draped over the images of the gods around the walls of the shrine, he was keeping it all going and flowing. It was bright and the ordinary people there obviously devout and deeply religious. I got up to go a few times but just about everybody in there signaled me to relax and sit back down, one old guy proudly handed me a mat to sit on. It was beautiful and felt like a real privilege to be there. A man who had been sat next to the priest came across at the end and explained as best he could that soon he would finish his apprenticeship and take his place as a priest. They were happy and open to just let me sit, show me their gods and how they connected. There was no self consciousness with me sat there, just focus and purpose. I had of course meditated a little on the sound of the priests’ voice. It was a warm feeling in there. I came out glowing warm and lifted. I’d found a place to eat near the train station later which was ok, I’m still nervous but my trust is getting better or maybe I’m tougher than I imagined and all my fresh fruit and brown rice back home had in fact toughened up me up, it hasn’t been such a shock to my system. Afterwards I decided on one of my short cuts based upon my inner compass through the dark back streets and the dim main streets. A haze cloud of petrol, dust and sand shrouded the entire place like a dust storm just hanging in the air, headlamps from the vehicles crunching along the pot holed streets were the only illumination their lights cast cardboard cut out shapes and long shadows. It looked strange and eerie and I have to say exciting but it wore thin. I’d showered before I left but by the time I got back to the hotel I was grubby and grimey, the water in the sink cloudy with dirt from my hands. Aurangabad was choking and I wondered how people managed to get by long term in such a place, but they obviously did. It had been a beautiful ceremony in the temple for sure but the temple was a white milky island set in an overpowering desert of grime

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s