Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More India, 2001

In 2001 I took a trip through India with Kenny Reed, Kenny Hughes, Nikhil Thayer and Vern Laird.
Starting from the southeastern city of Chennai, we took a train to Bengaluru, a 16 hour bus ride to
the beach in Goa, another train to Mumbai, went and checked out the Taj Mahal in Agra and ended
up in the city of Varanasi on the Ganga river. What a ride. We saw tigers, elephants, opium laced
hash (see the story below), burning mountains, thousand year old temples and shrines, attacking
monkeys and the most vivid colors in the world.

The Taj Mahal.
One of the other buildings surrounding the Taj Mahal.

Other then three wheeled motorcycles, Rautos, this was the main form of transportation if you weren't rich.
A tree grows through the middle of someone's shop.

Kenny Reed.

The Gateway of India in Mumbai. Directly across the street is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel where terrorist attacked in 2008 killing over a hundred people.

Here's a story I wrote for Slap a few years ago recounting one of our adventures while in Goa:
After a sixteen hour bus ride from Bengaluru to the beach town of Goa I was ready for some relaxation time- little did I know.
Nikhil Thayer, Kenny Reed, Vern Laird, Kenny Hughes and myself were traveling around the country of India looking for anything to skate and our next hot and spicy street Samosa- pure gut bombs. Piling out of the bus, (after getting into an accident earlier and stopping every half hour for the driver to crack an egg and burn incense at sacred trees), was a welcolmed relief. We gathered our bags and took a rickshaw to a hostel on the beach, named The White Negro, and ran into the Indian Ocean for a quick refresher. Sitting in the sand afterwards I realised we were easy marks for the beach merchants: two white dudes, a black kid with dreads and Kenny Hughs- big black guy with a bright yellow DC shirt, some bling and large vocal chords. They hadn't seen anything like us before. After brushing off the pedelers of fake silk, Mountain Dew and cheap bead necklaces I decided to take up the guys offer for some gooey, dooky Indian hash. 2 US dollars and it was all mine. Now don't get me wrong, I don't condone drugs- but when in Rome... Later that day we all rented scooters and decided to cruise around and get lost for awhile. Jamming through the jungle we saw Hindu preists on elephants, monkeys running through the streets and water buffalo milling around everywhere. We dead ended at a river and took the $.50 ferry across. The coastline was epic and we decided to stop at a deserted beach to chill and watch the sunset. As we were going down a path to the water a couple of 10 year old kids popped out of nowhere and took us to this hut they had in the sand and sold us $.10 sodas. There wasn't another person on the beach as far as we could see- perfect time to roll up that hash. All of it. In one joint. No one else wanted any. I smoked the whole thing. To the head. Bad move. It was almost dark as we got up to leave and that's when my head started spinning. If you ever tried to ride a scooter in the sand (it's like riding a bmx bike in the sand) then you know it's no easy task. Now I'm sweating. I'm reving the motor and just digging in deeper, pushing the thing with my legs and starting to get some anxiety. To make it worse one of the kids jumped on the back of the scooter to show me how to get back to the road. He had both hands around my neck to hold on and I thought he was trying to kill me. I knew his boys were going to jump out and attack me and I'd be lost forever in the cuts of India. I literally threw the kid off me and started charging through the jungle where there was no path, but I could see lights from cars on the road so I knew to just keep in that direction. People were jumping out of trees and coming out of the ground like some zombie movie trying to grab me- or at least that's what I was seeing. Finally getting to the road I gunned it to the ferry. The rest of the guys caught up but had no idea what was going through my mind. On the ferry I stayed lurched over the side trying to puke. No puke. All of a sudden I noticed the water below but the boat wasn't in it. We were flying. The boat was out of the water and hovering across the channel. Hughes didn't beleive me as I pointed this out, but the boat was magical and we were flying! I got to get off this thing!! Once we got to the other side I used every bit of concentration I could muster to follow Nikhil's taillights so I wouldn't get lost. People were still jumping out of trees at me but I was zeroed in on Nikhil. "Yo, watch out!", I heard Nikhil scream, and within a split second I was headed full speed into the back of an elephant. I slammed on the breaks and weaved to the right. Great, now all I see is elephants and they're coming to get me. Imagine- death by elephant stompage! We finally made it back to our hostel where I threw the scooter down still running and hid under the covers in my bed for a few hours till I passed out. The next mourning I was awakened by a weird scratching noise above my head. There was no air conditioning in India so all the rooms had vents in the wall to let in air, like the heater vents in the ceiling of your house. As I opened my eyes, I followed the scratching noise to the vent above me to find monkey fingers poking in. Monkeys will try to get in and grab anything they can. After last night, nothing could faze me any more.
Varanasi, the ancient Holy city on the banks of the Ganga. This kid who paddled us around in a boat told me the river was the purest in the world and you could drink from it. It's said the water flows down from the hair of the goddess Vishnu. Here's a few things I saw floating in the water: a human hand, shit, dead cows and ox, fresh water Dolphins, crocodiles, people brushing their teeth, washing their dishes, taking bathes and shitting all within 10 feet of each other and a bonfire with mass bodies being cremated on the banks. You could see the outlines of bodies, with their arms and legs pointing straight up, being burned and turning to ash. It's a privilege to be cremated next to the Ganga, but only people with money could afford to buy logs to keep the fire going. I'd go back in a heart beat.


Rusty Knuckles said...

Those photos are just unreal. true grit & grace, hells yeah.

Jeremiah Wilson said...

Extraordinary color. I wish I could get these colors naturally and not with actions.