INDIA TRAVEL DIARY 1991-1992
Over a period of sixteen months I jotted down some sixty thousand words, took over two thousand photographs and created over one hundred watercolour in my travel books. This is a brief account of this material.
Got ride to airport with friends Iram and Mathew accompanied by Johnny B, Go-Go and David. All escorted us off from my travel partner Sabrina Dawn’s house, the actual site of Norma Town which is actually her mom’s house. Early morning flight from Pearson International. Arrive Vancouver 11:05 in AM, temperature + 16C must stop over on way back most definite essential visit after all this. Soon temperature +23C as we arrive in Hong Kong, we left Toronto, Monday at 3:25 PM and arrived in Hong Kong 8:30 PM Tuesday.
Chung King stop over, soon we will be released from this aerial lab, to much airplane time. Bean’s (Sabrina) got her bell ringing down for the stewardess , so she gets fed or not fed or watered. Pavlov would have been proud of us. Two hours to HK. High loop de loop landing, as you swing into the HK harbor the plane banks something radical then flies straight into town between towers of apartment buildings. You watch people in their living rooms, laundry on balconies, home or not home, watching tv, cooking food, scratching there butts.
We stayed at the Chung King Mansion Tokyo Guest House, small room in a high rise, six by eight foot space with an infernal squeaky bed. The fifth floor guesthouse is a good intro to the east, especially for budget travelers. Here you can get anything, you can sell your passport and buy a new identity, at the main elevator to the fifth floor people from all over the world in all manner of dress come an go. At walking distance is the night market, everything you can think of is available to be bought, along with the best is the sea food market/ sidewalk café like set up, but with people everywhere buying stuff, moving stuff, you look threw the assortment of the days catch, incredible variety of muscles, oysters and other mysterious and sometime prehistoric sea creatures. You select it, they cook it up and serve it up at your table, while you watch the market vendors at work and so many people shopping, looking, it’s around 11 P.M. we eat glad to be out of North Americans sphere. I bought coffin shaped sunglasses.
Sign outside our room reads, “ Mind your head, Ring the bell to alight”, what does it mean?
We slip into our little room, it’s a lot like my little bus shelter in the sky like room at the Cameron circa 1987, six by seven foot room with a one foot space around the bed, no mirrors, no curtains. The toilet, where is the toilet anyway?
Then back to the Tokyo to rock the house on the fourteenth floor, and I really mean that man, anything that goes on in your room is most certainly impacting others in adjacent and even far away rooms. At 7 AM to Kow Loon on the Star Ferry, Bean and I went to Bowford Market to look at the Chicken slaughter, the Turtle slaughter, and the Frog slaughter, so much slaughter. Then down Des Voeux took a double Decker streetcar along the waterfront. We got off at Hennessy Road near Arsenal and checked a veggie market then we bought a small sony audio record unit to also play cassettes, and the 10 rolls of film, and one extremely goofy swatch.
NEXT STOP > Mumbai, India
Wednesday Jan 23, 1991
Go directly to India, will stop in Bangkok on the way back. We left Hong Kong in the late afternoon.
Airport Tax, separate seats, no see take off for Bombay, Well you see we got in at 9PM at Mumbai International, and sat waiting for the bus to Colaba, after an hour or so wait, alone the bus arrives, we are the only people on the bus as we speed into town.
Soon under way towards papa dam squalor, we sit at the back and get tossed as we look out the open bus windows at hundreds of little heaps of rags, make shift tents of cardboard and cloth, smoky fires and everywhere people moving, talking, smoking, one busy mass of people, it’s around 11:30 PM. There is the prevailing grey rotten and dusty human experience that is so real and so extreme, and it starts right there outside the window at the curve, and you can smell the despair. I’ve heard some people panic at this point and want to go home.
We arrive in Colaba, or Wellington Circle near Madam Kama Road at around 1AM, for the last few days I have been memorizing the layout the main circle where the bus drops you off. In my mind I have all the streets and nearby hotels memorized. Seems like few people, the bus stops “Please get off now, yes, (emphatic, I want to go home now) off Please”. We look into the dark dimly lit street, we are an easy target standing inside a well-lit city bus in the middle of the night, there’s not much nightlife after ten PM. Voices in the dark, the smell of beedees, as soon as we get off we are surrounded by people in rags, and all manner of human decay expressing offers of cheap hotels, “Hello friend, what do you need”, please come with me. A polite no, slowly has to escalate to an emphatic no. Man with head wrapped in dusty band-aids going threw garbage looking for a lunch baby sandwich. We walk two blocks, in this near pitch darkness and ring the bell at the Hotel Crystal. R400, great room, panel board walls, no windows, surrounded by hallways, how many peepholes here I wonder. Dawn and I did a tiger monkey dance to the sounds of Tibetan Cloud Horns and Bells, then the tape ran out and the desk boys put on some Massala movie tunes, snug from the bugs in our black silk sacks. We have these great black silk sacs come body bags that keep you cool, clean and separate from the bedding; we also wrap the pillows with lungis we bought in the market.
Morning, what time is it outside?. Birds, crows’ kah-ing, slight traffic sounds, what do you see in daylight that we missed in the dim light of last night. 9:30 AM we go to the YWCA. We come out on the street in the blinding sunlight, hey OK all right, so we walked by it but finally found it, had no cash so we had to do some bank work. Bank of India, No not here, we don’t take American money, Huh, go see manager Mr. Singh Hawadaur, he pushes papers on his desk, turns his back yaps at clerks then neatly on a piece of paper writes down a name and says go see this man at the Bank of India, it’s over that way, it’s about five minutes walk. We left, big shit forget it. Later at the Scotia bank offices we wait outside with police officers and drink chai. We finally get some cash. Back at the Y, Bean arches her back, I bite the nape of her neck, I wrap my paws around my sweet Bandar’s waist, she starts to sing in a high dog whistle, dogs outside join in.
Eating at the Leopold, it’s very easy if your trying to ease into the experience of India, nothing so extreme, Westies eat there. It’s expensive and boring except for the great mango shakes at 19 Rups. With the restaurant open to the street on one side with so many international groups coming and going, with more than serious and intense Africans keeping to themselves. Interesting to sit and watch while munching your om-lette and toast, with chai.
Thursday, Jan 24, 1991
Went to Church Gate, we watch a group of about thirty women, with baskets in hand descending into a trench to retrieve dirt being dung up by men with shovels then carrying the load back to the top of the 15 foot trench. I have already seen so many aspects of human suffering, and have caught myself openly weeping at times. So I think I have seen it all, hah. Spent the day wandering threw markets, talking to people, visited the train station to get an idea on booking tickets etc. The most important part we learned today was the everything seems to take one day to complete, by this I mean any given task.
Friday, Jan 25, 1991
Decided to get ticket for Goa, got up early and went out to buy goodies for Goa. Mosquito coils, candles, incense, stuff you know, well that was ok. Hot hot hot. and then we went to post office, the library to do research, bought a bootleg Kraftwerk tape and Rajastani shoes for Bean. Came home at 2:30 from the Leopold to hear that Americans had been requested to leave India. America was shutting down everything, remember this is day five of the Gulf War, we left Toronto in the early hours of the start of the Gulf War, at night you can see the night sky light up in the west. How is it possible? Now I remember the night before, when a truck load of Moslems rode by shouting long live Saddam Hussein, Also, late this evening saw an owl very close up that kept me mesmerized for a while. It was very large and sitting on rafters above doorway in Colaba. Owls always alert me that I should pay attention to my surroundings and tread carefully. So we decided to stay in Mumbai where things seemed cooler, and we moved into a new room at the YWCA, a very large room with two balconies.
We showered and rested, then went out to this rag and bone market, Bean and I were tense, possibly sensing the tension in the people around us. The US was refueling their bombers in India, and that was pissing off some people. Bean was being cocky and I was being an ass, but somehow we didn’t let it rise, we went to buy oranges and bananas in the shanty high rise slums, twenty five stories, five stories, no stories, too many stories. One thing for sure and certain, no drugs for me in India, no hallucinogens of any kind, we strickly have to keep ourselves as self contained and healthy for as long as we can. We stopped to talk with Sanji the fragrant oil baron of Colaba. Over thirty original scents, I bought some Kaass also known as vetivere, it has this dense pungent odor that is able to suppress a lot of the overly fragrant incenses, weird unknown odors and I don’t want to know smells around you. Went to the Leopold for some liquids, spoke to a Swiss couple on way home, they had the beedees burning and looked so seasoned.
Back at the Y, Bean and I had a heart to heart talk and got things straight.
Balcony windows and doors open, the late night air of Mumbai moving threw the room, the din of street activity with its complex and mysterious sounds. Outside was something so new, so different, so extremely lived in, my consciousness shifted, I had to leave my Napo hide and be able to walk into India with a new body spun on waves of passion, new heart, re discovered guardian angels. Tiger power surged from an orange moon which lit us on the bed, as I slipped off into a lucid yet oddly electrifying meditation, I was born back to touch and feel better bigger brighter. I saw it all clearly as I looked down on my blue body, my Egyptian body, I first sensed a buzz in my head which took over my entire body, as my body began to buzz and vibrate I started to cry, and I cried, moaned shuddered and Bean sat by me on the bed. Somewhere after three thirty after hours of buzzing, moaning and crying, I came back into my body. I saw Sabrina Dawn, as she really was, Egyptian friend from circa 1000 BC. We moved to the balcony and stood watching each other as we transformed into different animal and human bodies and with each shift our faces lit up as we recognized each other, over and over again, we embraced laid down and sank into a longs restful sleep