S & M

This incident happened in my vagabonding days when I was in Auroville staying in a farm. We had to work in the farm for 2 hours every day in exchange of accommodation and breakfast. Sometimes other residents would join us for the mooring work.

During my stay, there were mostly guys on the farm and it was good. We could be ourselves, walk around almost naked in the bare minimum and dispense with politeness. So imagine the chaos when a hot blonde 'un turned up. She always used to wear a long red skirt with purple splotches, tucked high up, when she worked. It looked as if she was wearing a micro mini if anything at all. As far as I know none of the guys was complaining .

God must have spent a disproportionate amount of time on her legs .In case that didn't do the trick, she would often wear a black sleeveless top with a low neck. Ah with colleagues like that you don’t mind working the extra hour! She seemed mildly interested in me for some reason. This was the turning point in our relationship:-

Scene: The banana plantation where some major ‘weeding’ is going on... Blonde and me sitting side by side doing some serious weeding. Imagine the smell of earth, mud on your fingers, and sweat on the body...

Vagabond: "Did you see the play yesterday?"

Hot Blonde: "Naw, I missed it"

"I went with the guys. It was quite good"

She bends over, leans ever so closer, breasts too close and beautiful to miss. white limbs covered in red earth…

"There's a movie day after. If you like..."

I smiled, about to reply,

"awwwwwwooaaaa", She's on her feet screaming like an Amazon warrior

Skirt hikes up further, if that's possible, right hand brandishes a scissors.

"I know these bastards." 

Her left hand plucks something out of the hidden recesses of her right thigh.

"Err,ahem, think they are called ticks"


She looks at the poor little 'fucker', never thought a woman's face could express cruelty so blatantly.
Scissors get to work on the legs of the mite, done with coldness and immense precision. Satiated bliss on face, too real to miss. CHOP ! CHOP! CHOP!.



"About day after tomorrow?"

"Ugh, ive got something coming up, maybe some other time. Excuse me; think I need to go get some fresh air.."

Farm days - part deux

                                      My cousins who are studying in a nearby university invited me over for their Diwali celebrations. The program consisted of a mix of classic dances and Bollywood style singing and dancing. Students show their appreciation for the fine arts in strange ways in India; mostly it’s by howling and making a thorough racket. There's dancing and merrymaking in the aisles and you can always count on some guys getting drunk and having a fist fight to mark the grand finale of the program. As an artist if you can perform nonplussed in an Indian college environment, you can make it anywhere in the world. It's the same with driving in India! The ensuing dinner and open air discotheque reminded me of my college days, the bravado of the men, the coyness of the girls and the latent sexual tension in the air...

Aurovillians are a curious bunch, and you get the feeling of complete normalcy and 'shanti', but just below the surface there’s a thin sheen of insanity. Very subtle but it’s there, and something that I like as well. Normal can be the old librarian who's so grouchy and unpredictable that a lot of people avoid the library on his behalf. Somehow there's something pathetic about seeing a man shriveled up with age using the 'f'' word indiscriminately.

The roads in Auroville are mostly red earth and so when the monsoon gets going, cycling on it is like riding a wild horse. Galloping around the town at night in pitch darkness with just starlight and moonshine to guide you, its exciting stuff despite the sore bum at the end of the ride. Another small pleasure is to have the farm cat curl up in your lap when you are  flopped down in the hanging armchair. The cat's got good manners; it always puts a paw in your lap first asking for permission before jumping on board....

I also did a heat test on my capsule. Despite the name, the test is more severe on the occupant than the accommodation. The deal is you have to stay put in your residence for the whole day without any electrical devices to help you beat the heat. It got really sticky sweaty around noon for some hours but apart from that it wasn't too bad. So people can survive in the capsule, provided it's not summer. During my stay here, I have spent a disproportionate amount of time in the capsule. The sunsets are something to die for and different each day! Also spotted some wild rabbits and the lone deer.

The last two weeks it was raining non stop and the farm flooded. But it was great working and getting soaking wet. Felt like a child again. Being run exclusively by volunteers all sorts of people come and go. Most come to Auroville for less than a week hoping to mix some volunteer work with their stay to get an "Auroville experience'. Too little time in my opinion...

Avatar, an Indian saga

Just 3 cinema halls in the whole state of Kerala were going to be decked out with all the gizmos for a 3D screening of Avatar. So yesterday we made it to Sree Padmanabha theatre (try pronouncing that, my Western readers!) for a first day first show. Since the cinema hall stands just shy of one of the biggest bus stands in Trivandrum, absolute chaos during daytime is assured. The queues were serpentine and exclusively male. When I finally huffed and panted there after 'parking the car' exercise I was told that all the shows for the day were cancelled. The queues were for the advance booking for the next day. My mom and sis got the tickets in a few minutes via the non existent ladies queue. Off we went again today, through the usual traffic horns and the absolute high that's driving in India. Sree Padmananbha was packed to capacity.

 As soon as the screen lit up the howling, clapping, whistling and liberal doses of wisecrack comments started. This is how we show appreciation to the arts here in Kerala;) After approximately 1 minute into the movie, the picture froze and remained that way for half an hour. The crowd was patient, and soon we put our 3D glasses on again.

It felt strange to be moved by a film comprising mostly of weird animated characters and the odd human. The special effects and the background score are awesome and the storyline simple and coherent. The 4 years of hard work that has gone into the making of this movie is obvious. Human nature at its obscene worst and its compassionate best is on show here. The central theme is man's failing relationship with nature and the price to be paid for greed.

 James Cameron seems to revel in telling tales of the heart with visually stunning special effects. He originally attempted to get this film made in 1999, as his  follow-up to Titanic. However, at the time, the special effects he wanted for the movie ran the proposed budget up to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was subsequently shelved for almost ten years.

No plot to reveal here, it's a must see movie! Especially if you're lucky enough to be near an IMAX! Well worth the absent air conditioning and the parking ticket that greeted me outside.

Pan rating: 95/100 (3D version)
Ticket price: Rs.65/-

Farm days...part 1

I let out a mighty yawn and slowly stretch my body. The rising sun is visible through the bamboo bay window;resembling a shimmering gold chain in the eastern sky . Suddenly my toe is stinging and itching like crazy and I realize it's the colour of beetroot. I swear aloud thinking this must be the doing of the bloody black little scorpion again. I gingerly limp down the steps of my 'capsule', my current residence.

It's raised high on four stone pillars with sloping roofs made of brown coconut leaves sewn together and artistically supported by bamboo poles. There are three huge traingular bay windows sloping away into  the surrounding  forest. A completly 'biodegradable' residence ! The capsule's in an organic farm where I am expected to work 5 days a week from 6 to 9 in the morning. The buzz word here is solar and eveything runs on it. So forget about electric luxuries we take for granted like a fan or fridge. If you're nice, they will let you have a solar lamp and that's about it.  

Inside  view capsule

As i look up...

The farm's got a little bit of everything including tomato, basil, runner beans, sweet potato, cashew, bananas, etc. Work involves digging the soil and getting your hands messy with planting , watering, etc. There's also compost and liquid fertilizer, the smell of which nearly caused me to pass out once.  There's something sublimaly calming and grounding about getting your hands and feet dirty with soil. I try to work barefoot as much as possible and love it so far except for the odd scorpion encounter.

The geographical location of the farm is in Auroville, an experiment in community living with a spiritual base, located in Pondicherry , a former French colony in South East india. The population of 2000 is made up of equal number of Westerners and Indians inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo , the Mother and an environmentally minimum impact living. There is no personal ownership of land or houses. Everything belongs to the community as a whole.

After the farm work and a hot breakfast I set off on my cycle to explore the township. There's Matri Mandir, an imposing structure made solely for meditation, as also numerous walks in the  forest. 

Matri Mandir

Auroville over the past 40 years has taken on a green look from a denuded overgrazen land thanks solely to its early inhabitants who planted more than a million trees. Lunch's usually in a communal kitchen run supposedly on solar power feeding hundres of people everyday. Its pretty impressive ! There's plenty of new age things happening all around. So the usual bits of yoga, astrology, tantra, chanting, kundalini manipulation and what not... 

The peak season in Auroville stretches from December to March when the weather is most amiable. A time of never ending workshops culture programs and other activities. A couple of days into my stay I saw my first live kathakali performance. It was riveting stuff even if one doesn't understand everything that's going on. Just last week there was a 'rainbow dance' bringing together dance from all over the world and India performed exclusively by Aurovillians.

Post Script: Article put together by notes i made during my month long stay in a farm some months back.

a journey...

My love affair with the Indian railways continues... Travelled in 'Garib rath' for the first time. Garib rath roughly translates as poor man's train. 14 coaches of centrally air-conditioned luxury, paying 200/- more than the ordinary non AC 'sleeper'. The coach was spanking new, and of course there were very few poor people in spite of the name! There was a French couple in the same coupĂ©, and i challenge anyone to beat the seductiveness of the  French language when a woman is cooing it. It's all there, allure, flirtation, eroticism... no language turns me on so much !

It's been quite a while since i travelled AC and I felt pampered. No kadchkadch ttzee ttzee... thats the sound in the carriages , the 'sleeper class' but which i have got used to and almost works like a lullaby for me. No vendors screaming cchhhaaai cchhhaai, poori masala  iddllyy vaddaaiii at 3 in the morning. No beggars with imaginative injuries and handicaps, no singers rendering the fav bollywood tunes. In short , a bit dull and boring. When I arrived it didn't even feel like a proper Indian train journey. Hell, even the toilets were spotless! The last stop at the end of a 18 hour journey was at the suburbs of Trivandrum, with no bus service.

As i was de-training, the girl in front suddenly turned around and said "this is the last stop right?" , with the hint of a smile. White T shirt, black hair, squinting eyes sizing me up in blue denims.

Yeah, I smiled 'fully' back. I don't do smile rationing.She had a bit of a luggage problem.Maybe that would explain the sudden friendliness?
Where are you going to?
" " 
 I offered her help with the bags but she politely declined. Damn and she was a full blooded Malayali. Wow, a Mallu girl befriending the opposite sex without a MOTIVE?? What's happening to Kerala , people?

We shared an auto and chatted in English throughout.  I think my subconscious still refused to accept her as a Mallu.

You don't look like a Malayali
"My friends in Bangalore think I'm chinki"
Hmm do u have Chinese blood in your family?
Beautiful laugh...

I had forgotten the beauty of my home town, the green endless coconut trees, the green green hills, the clean air and the joy of innocent flirting . She loved Bangalore, her course, the weather... Time flew and before we knew it, I had to get down. I think she was surprised that I didn't ask for her number, maybe relieved, who knows?! I couldn't bring myself to spoil the beauty and fragility of that short yet timeless encounter. I'm in love.............................with life !!!

The changing faces of Bengaluru

Coaxed by my friend, I got behind the wheel after a long time. But no sooner had we left the driveway, he started telling, rather yelling at me how to drive. So I parked the car at the next opportunity and asked him to drive instead. I didn't feel bad,it was his car after all, and we were in Bengaluru not London. I remember being here in the 90's when it was still a small city. Now overpopulated and over polluted, the less said the better. As luck would have it,we travelled a couple of kilometres and thud! We were hit from the back and my friend's face turned the colour of Bhagwan SriKrishna's skin as he got out of the car. Since it was a taxi driver at the other end, my friend just cut loose with the choicest expletives demanding the RC book, licence, owner's address, blah blah.Just like an Indian cop ! The poor driver almost started to cry and even invited my friend to hit him but not to speak with the owner." I  will lose my job" , he said.

Later in the car,
Why did you make such a big fuss? Nothing happened to your car.
"You can't just leave these buggers like that. Bastards!"
I'm sure glad I wasn't driving otherwise you would have dragged me in the mud as well!
"Dude, this is a hard city. You can't afford to be soft on anybody"

After a 3 hour drive through the city, of which i steered half, we were both spent. 

The last time I was here, some months ago, I used to travel almost 3 hours everyday that too by bus and never felt a thing. The object of my travel then was a woman and hence maybe none of the pollution got to me! Like being in an immune adrenaline shield ! The grime , the overcrowded buses, the long periods of waiting at traffic lights never seemed to matter. Just the thought of her would send a wave of energy through me. 

Ah that's something good about Bengaluru even now, the lovely lasses ! Nevertheless I won't be complaining when I'm headed to God's own country populated with devil's own people in a couple of day's time...

Not so long ago...

I open my eyes and it's still dark and the mind's silent. I stumble out of bed groping for the light switch congratulating myself that my meditation is finally bearing fruits  when i realize that the silence is not of the mind but because the noisy fan is not working. So no electricity again ! It's 5 in the morning and not hot, so no complaints. I can't get lost in my room because its 6 feet by 8 feet. A strong urge to empty my bowels leads me outside to the common toilets where its pitch dark. I finally get an idea how it must feel for a blind man to shit in a new toilet, Indian squatting style. He can't poke his white stick around to probe the exact location can he ? I finally manage to do it successfully ( i think !) and make a quick exit.

Welcome to Ved Niketan ashram, a real ashram with no creature comforts. Its a backpacker's paradise and they seem to love the minimalistic design... there is a thug at the front desk who always grunts whenever I greet him. I still remember the first time I set foot in my room and sat down on my bed. Everything was suddenly fuzzy due to the enormous dust cloud that rose when I settled my backpack on the bed. Its not all bad though, the shower's excellent , a swanky new thing out of which three threads of water squeeze through almost as if it cant decide whether to piss or cry. The ashram's in a very quiet area though and they were the only people brave enough to take on a solo Indian male traveller in the whole of Rishikesh. 

This was after my stay in the great Sivananda ashram in Rishikesh, an institution in itself. To be in with any chance of staying there you have to write 2 months in advance, so straight after I landed in Rishikesh I just walked in there hoping to charm my way in. The swami in charge was not amused and told me so. But just as i did my pranams and lifted my butt off the seat, he relented and gave me the dorm. The dorm in Sivananda is ***** compared to the single room in Ved niketan . A view of the Ganga , with a sunrise thrown in everyday  + my dorm mates, who comprise of swamis in the ashram, travellers, of all ages, brahmacharis, etc. There was a guy who walked from Rameshwaram all the way here ( just 2000 km) with not a single paisa in his pocket. Everybody has their story and it will fill a book or two easily. Most of them seemed genuine , at least more than me , and that's the criteria I go by to judge genuineness! So all sorts of guys came and went during my 10 days there , and it was fascinating. Yet it was quiet most of the time, people just minded their own business. It was great not to feel the need to explain why I was STILL  travelling close to a year. It was the norm.

During the last two days though, a sanyasi took upon himself to give me small lectures on the mysteries of the universe. Maybe i reminded him of his son who was a similar age. This small mishap apart, it was a beautiful tranquil period.

 One day it was the birthday of one of the gurus and we all floated scores of diyas on the Ganga as part of the aarti ( evening worship). No photograph could capture the beauty of that scene. Finally i overcame my phobia of bacteria count  and dead bodies and swam in the Ganga. Everyday 2 oclock sharp , i used to go with a swami and man it was just ccchhhhhillllllll...... so cold  so refreshing, better than any coca cola in the world !

Any travel in India is bound to be engaging , you never know what to expect even if you're Indian. Just today, i saw a cow stealing and munching heartily some orange ice cream cones while the vendor was screaming blue murder and a Tibetan looking chap walking dreamily around in his underwear with welts all over his body as if he just landed from some S & M club. Then there's the dirt , the shit, the smells , the poverty which I can never get used to... Oh the bulls are something else here. They are big humped ones and I saw one charging a swami in the groin in a narrow lane.

So life's never dull, although... sometimes travelling alone gets to you. You might be lying in your room and suddenly it hits you, the loneliness you've always been carrying with you since birth, with no distractions in a 'foreign' land far from 'loved ones' makes you think about the absurdity of it all. Isn't it just better to sit at home and go for that 9 to 5 job? But then i look outside my window and see that the tussle between the bull and the swami is still going strong...

A vagabond

Six years in a life. Didn't register even as a blip. Thousands of miles, hundreds of places, a million faces, most dissolved in memory, others hardly leaving a trace. Sometimes they suddenly jump out of you with an incident you had long forgotten and it's always a pleasure to sit and enjoy that feeling even if the incident was 'bad'.

I hope to share some of my many travels with you, the roads i walked, the hardships i endured and the many sights i've seen. My intervening years are no more important than my identity for it is at the altar of experience that we must bow, not to name or fame. Like any other, I have friends, family, loves but they need not know me here, for then only can i be myself , speaking my innermost thoughts, share my  most intimate fantasy and confess my most despairing thoughts.

I specialize in travelling in the Indian subcontinent. Why ? Its cheap no doubt, but there's a spiritual high here that i've never come across anywhere in the world. And that's why i travel, more for my soul than for feasting my eyes or snapping photos. Ah, but i don't really travel, i vagabond!The critic Arthur Compton-Rickett defined it as men "with a vagrant strain in the blood, a natural inquisitiveness about the world beyond their doors." Travel as a means to explore not the outer world, but the inner...