Thursday, August 03, 2006


India, mmmmmm...

...let me count the ways, thoroughly enchanting country, friendliest people I've ever met in I dont know, 25 or so countries I've performed in in lo these 16 years or so of active touring... in fact I'd say my favorite new country to visit/play in alongside Russia.

Caroline and I just got back after a marathon 25 hour schlep from Hyderabad to Mumbai to London to NYC, and we're still buzzing...our most memorable holiday after 22 years of connubial diss (I mean bliss!), South Goa near Palolem Beach a little bit of the Far Side of Paradise on the Arabian Sea, hanging there during the monsoon season didn't put a damper on our official holiday time after my Bacardi Hyderabad gig at all and actually cooled things down some/provided a respite from the unforgiving sun...and inspired some ecstatic new music I'm now in the process of teaching to Gods and Monsters...

Palolem Beach, Goa

Bargaining on the beach, Palolem

Bhaji on the Beach, Palolem


Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

between sunning and swimming we took several long meandering drives exploring the verdant lush countryside, and visited Old Goa where we paid homage to the Church of St. Francis Xavier, the Portugese Catholic missionary whose mummified remains are preserved in a glass casket and put on display once a year, our visit happened to coincide with this annual event which brought a million or so visitors there the week before according to the local papers--and at the urging of my good friend and SFX namesake the Catholic mystic playwright Francis Xavier McCarthy (check my blog account of our visit to London's Royal Festival Hall for the Cream reunion last spring) we visited the church and saw his glassy bier, upstairs were enormous creepy Dali-esque paintings depicting the life of the Saint which I was not allowed to photograph unfortunately, meanwhile Caroline having acquired a digital camera recently must have snapped a couple thousand photos on this trip some of which I hope to get round to putting up here sooner than later so watch this space...

Hotel pool in Goa

Caroline shows off her henna mendi, Goa hotel

Caroline on Canacona Beach, Goa

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

another highlight of this phase of my 3 week India escapade was attending several days of a lavish 7-day Indian Monsoon Wedding in progress when we got there, where the well to do parents of the bride flew in at least a hundred or so family members and friends from their residence in Dubai...the bride's charming great uncle Sunil met us one night in the business center of our hotel where were doing our internet checking ritual, started chatting us up as friendly people do--and delighted to discover that Caroline originally hailed from Swiss Cottage (he was originally from Maida Vale) invited us to several spectacularly over-the-top feasts and parties replete with fortune tellers, live music, DJs, friends of the newly weds disco-dancing/ acting out a pantomime depicting the history of the couple's engagement, their courtship ritual etc. like a Bollywood production number (great cable tv there, about 15 channels devoted to non-stop Bollywood musicals), it was fun and games galore (and Caroline got a temporary henna'ed hand tattoo)--and then eventually the wedding itself which was unlike anything I'd ever experienced in that department, a marching brass band in full Indian military drag turned up to make a big bad noise and to lead the guests in a mad processional march into the wedding proper, people sat and chatted loudly throughout the many hours long drawn out ceremonial tableau and dozed off and went out for Chai Tea Marsala and for a couple hours nap and returned to watch the bride and groom bedizened in beautiful ancient ceremonial regalia make their vows (seems everyone brought with them about 20 changes of sari and evening dress which they proceeded to display throughout the week)--we felt quite privileged to be a part of the event, never of us had ever seen or been privy to a wedding remotely like this anywhere (must have cost a cool mill at least) and the other guests were quite friendly and solicitous once they got used to our presence there (the skeletons at the feast) and really went out of their way to make us feel part of the extended wedding family by the end...

Hindu wedding, Goa

Wedding party

Wedding party dance

Wedding dance depicting couple's engagement

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

yes Goa was really cool but after 10 days of sybaritic decadence (only marred every time I read a newspaper or turned on CNN) it was time to head north--


City Palace, Udaipur

View from City Palace of Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur

Open air market, Udaipur

Holy hipster, Shortcut and unidentified, Udaipur

Shokat and Gary and Shokat's amazing moto-rickshaw

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

and I can honestly say that NOTHING really prepared us for the delights and charms of Rajahstan's Udaipur--the Jewel in the Crown, fairytale "City of the Lakes", lush rolling hills and dales, glistening palaces perched on mountainsides and freestanding in the middle of pearly lakes, ancient Hindu temples, peacocks monkeys elephants camels wild deer wild boar cows and water buffalos abounding/roaming freely everywhere --absolutely mystical/transcendent countryside (thank you Inderbir for the timely tip which I am happy to pass along to you dear reader "if you ever plan to motor East...")

Peacock unfurled, Maharanah's Summer Palace gardens

Peacock Hunt, Udaipur

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

we hookled up early on with Shokat ("Short Cut"), the owner/daredevil driver of a motorized rickshaw, which was really the way to go, he zipped us about in and out of the winding narrow city alleyways and backstreets that snake through Udaipur and which a normal taxi couldn't negotiate with the offhand finesse of a street magician, climbing far up into the hills to the astral heights of the Monsoon Palace one morning with its see for miles view of an edenic mountainous terrain and rubbed shoulders with approaching storm clouds, on the way down the mountain a family of about 15 long-tailed monkeys dropped out of a tree directly ahead of us and preened and groomed themselves on the guardrail overlooking the vertiginous drop into the forested nature preserve far below-- we stopped and gazed in wonderment as one mama monkey suckled her little humanoid baby while the rest of the family hopped down around them from the huge overhanging tree, seemingly oblivious to us, but we got just a shade too close--and then suddnely big daddy grimaced and bared his teeth fiercely and hissed at us loudly (not unlike the opening sequence of Kubrick's 2001) and we left very quickly indeed!

Attack monkey and child, and a solo monkey, Monsoon Palace Nature Preserve, Udaipur 7/25/06

Gary and Caroline, Monsoon Palace Nature Preserve, Udaipur

Do the camel walk, Udaipur

Sacred cow, Udaipur

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Shokat filled our days with a riot of new vistas sounds scents and colours, a kaleidoscopic jumble of pleasing sensory overload, coltranesque impressions that when I (eventually) get over my jetlag I'll be able to happily sort through better--

Hermaphroditic dancers at Festival of Balaji, Udaipur, 7/28/06

Gary and Caroline, gateway to street Festival of Balaji

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

but other standouts were a late humid evening visit to a Hindu street fair in honor of the god Balaji, fairy lights festooning the ancient street lamps, hanging over tents, a chaotic crowd milling about this marketplace by day, small tabernacles set up housing iconic representations of Balaji. a big family night out as a large crowd gathered to watch two hermaphodritic dancers in beautiful silk robes whirling gaily in front of a low stage filled with Indian street musicians crouching over their instruments, making a wonderful thumping drone, a hypnotic cermonial fog of nightmusic, tabla, shenai, electric zithers, harmoniums and ecstatic vocal melismas pouring forth from the small stage like nothing I'd ever heard before (really)--and I strolled up to watch them play upclose, first hand, and caught their eyes, and they smiled broadly and gave me the thumbs up sign of recognition for my avid obvious appreciation of the splendid music they were producing (and perhaps they recognized a fellow musician there)...ahhhhhhhh, it was all too much, really, as the george harrisong goes, on that level of ecstatic devotional joy

On the road to the Nagda Temple

7th century Nagda Temple outside Udaipur

Erotic stone frieze, Nagda Temple

Erotic stone carvings, Nagda Temple

Nagda Temple

Outside Nagda Temple

Goat run outside Nagda

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

the next day we visited the 6th century Nagda Temple some miles outside Udaipur in the hills, a protected world heritage site that just destroyed me, in the rainy mist of another time another place we climbed up the temple steps onto a plateau of stone housing a cluster of fantastical intricately carved stone temples depicting Shiva and Vishnu and Kali and scenes from the Kama Sutra, a temple that took 350 years to carve, a mind-boggling marvel...this was followed with a visit to the very active Eklingji Temple of Shiva in the village not far from Nagda, and as it was Saturday it was filled with late afternoon worshippers, and we got a very brilliant knowledgeable young guide with an MA from Udaipur University who showed us every nook and cranny of (again) another fantastically carved stone gated enclave, I noticed a peacock perched harmoniously atop the main spire of Shiva's temple when we got there (fabulous peacocks--40 or so of them, the old caretaker told us--roamed the thick forested grounds behind our hotel, which overlooked Lake Pichora-- lake of the famous Floating Palace Hotel, lake where Roger Moore wrestled a croc in Ocotpussy--grounds which abutted the Maharanah of Rajahstan's summer retreat, where they rent out temple-like villas each with its own marble swimming pool to private guests for 3 G's a night--Blair was a guest there last year--Caroline and I went out each morning after breakie to watch them unfurling their feathered plumage), a peacock who fluttered from on high overhead and presided regally over this temple of Shiva throughout our visit there, I got into a spirited discussion with our guide about Shakti (goddess of Power, and spiritual/sexual Female energy of the universe) and told him about the Shekinah, in my opinion Shakti's Jewish counterpart/variant on the same theme (check out my instrumental "Shekinah" from my album "Busy Being Born") (our guide said both Sting and Paul McCartney had visited the temple recently, Paul in the company of pre-divorce Heather Mills)...

Lake Pichola, Udaipur India 7/26/06 | Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

what can I say--this was the Best trip I've ever been on, and the best holiday...and I will gladly return...



ps read about Syd Barrett's passing the day after we arrived in Mumbai, so I've put up a little tribute on my homepage...really sad, Syd was a huge influence on me in my youth...and as I wrote in an earlier posting about Tom Stoppard's new play "Rock 'n Roll" which posits Syd as a wraithlike Pan-Piper at the Gates of Dawn prefiguring the evolutionary shift in consciousness that helped ushed in the Czech Republic's Velvet the play over my holiday in a paperback edition from Faber and Faber (TS Eliot and Pete Townshend's old joint)--and while a bit schematic it's a good 'un overall I'd say...

"Lime and limpid green the sound's around me icy waters underground..."


Blogger universalhindu said...

nice writing or great writing?
you should have visited southern parts also

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8/07/2006 12:24 PM  

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