Wednesday 26 August 2009

14th August 2009 - From Nepal to Mumbai

Waiting at the beginning of a long day of waiting. My fresh clothes are already damp and my shower fresh scent washed away by the excertions of airport check is and searches. Clouds have descended and the airport is closed, time to write I guess.

My work in pokhara is finished and I am making a 3 flight hopscotch journey to Mumbai where I start filming for a charity that works with trafficed sex workers in the city's red light district. That's tomorrow though I have to make a big effort to squeeze some enjoyment out of today it must be possible.
Yesterday I was filming a mobile health clinic that had set up under a solitary tree halfway up the the side of a deep valley. Women and children gathered to be examined and treated by a pair of doctors who administered drugs from a large medicine chest lying open on the grass. It was a calm and peaceful affair and there was almost a sense of communion between patient and care giver. Wide eyed babies well equipped to take in their surroundings. Glaciers squeezed themselves out of the mountains that gave the scene a theatrical backdrop they may have been more believable if they were paintings. There was the giant valley I was in with its ferocious river cutting through its wide green floor and beyond it mountains that really should have been clouds. It was hard knowing what was snow and what was cloud.
Clouds how do they manage to float? Two nights ago it rained for three or four hours but it was not rain like I had experienced before, this was like a waterfall so intense that if you swept your arm through it you were as wet as if you dipped it in a lake. Gallons of water, tonnes of wet, all coming from a cloud above - the thought of being crushed by a cloud.

Later ...

Just had a 5 hourstop over in Kathmandu so I hired a 20 dollar taxi hire to meet up with a friend Kassie who is an assistant professor of english here. The world is as small as ever, it turns out he knows thedriver since they were kids, the driver used to sell flags at the airport and kassie usedto buy them when he was flying out, kassie was so pleased to find out this guy had made it from street kid to taxi driver: progress he called it. We went to pashupati a very holy temple for shiva a bit like varanasi. extraodinary the mixing of death and life, people coming to cremate their relatives alongside stalls selling food, souvenirs and holy artefacts, monks, monkeys and tourists. Along the banks of the river stone plinths where the bodies are burnt and then swept into the dishwater coloured river where young kids swim and play. I sat for a while staring into the flames of a pyre slowly consuming a body pair its feet sticking out morphed from something certainly human to a joint of charred meat the leg attached to it moved up as the skin shrivelled . But what shocked me was seeing an iv drip bag and tube fall out and float off downstream. The smoke was impossible to avoid and of course it smelt like a barbeque the fats vapourised and seem to congeal and stuck in my throat. As I sit here I in the airport lounge I occasionally clear my throat and am uncomfortably aware of what the phlegm must contain. Is that cannibalism ?
I am now in Delhi airport waiting for the final jump to Mumbai we arrived at 5:30 and a temp of 38. I am going to sweat here.

I met an old hippy American at pashupati who was friendly enough and had been travelling in India for 2 years.Oddly Kassie was convinced he was FBI I was not convinced. I pushed him for health hints and he gave me a list of anti biotics and pills to kill all stomach bugs that he has been given. I have just been to a pharmacist at the airport. The young pharmacist took the list said it would be about 500 rupees (74 to the pound) the first box he pulled out was called I pill and I picked up the box thinking that maybe apple mac has gone into the medicine market. On closer examination it was a female contraceptive pill, FBI my arse.

Monday 24 August 2009

Blind Faith

In the begining there was darkness and the lord said let there be light.

This is our birth surely ? We come from the dark interior of our mothers into the light that is life. We know nothing, but from that rude separation from our creator onwards we start to build our own understanding of the world around us through our brilliant minds working with our glorious senses.

After about two weeks most babies make a connection between their sense of self and their hands that their hands are in fact part of them. From this moment on they begin to Interact with the world and develop a sense of self, become sentient.

But what if you are born without sight or hearing? What is the difference between the dark silence of the womb and and the dark silence of life? How does a young life alone in it's tomb develop this sense of self? How does it learn to hold, eat or even recognise it's mother? A brain with a sense of taste, touch and smell that has no references or perception of anything beyond its fingertips .Alone in a void: a mind that matures without knowing what it is or that a world exists. As if never born.

When I first met Meena a 9 year old deafblind girl I wondered why she kept throwing objects she was given violently away from her when she tired of them. She never puts them down or passed them back to the hands that had given them to her they just went flying. Achil who works with SENSE the deafblind charity I have been Working with explained it is because these objects come from the void outside of her she is merely putting them back to where they came from. She knows no other place for them to go as she has no concept of the world outside of her, she is her own world she does not understand beyond that.

Meena lives in a single story brick house in a rural town about 150km outside of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat western India. The house is quite beautiful with carved wooden door frames and windows opening on to a porch which over looks a yard where daily life goes on and the cattle are kept at night. The land is flat and dry with villages making their living from growing cotton and seasonal foodcrops. Her parents work constantly just to live, to care for their daughter on top of that is a heavy load.Often children in Meena's position are kept tied up in out buildings or to their beds whilst their parents work in the fields, There is nothing else to do with them. They are a danger to themselves and could die without even being aware or the concept of life and death

Meena is at her happiest when she is on her back with her feet behind her head she doesn't like walking but has learnt to, she doesn't like being made to eat but gets fractious when hungry. She makes noises but does not articulate words, and is beginning to be able to communicate through the touch sign language she is being taught by her educator Deepac. Like many creatures she like to be rubbed behind the ears and on top of the head. She is not easy to care for and does notreturn affection. Just filming her I can feel her frustration it's as if her mind is outgrowing her physical capabilities, she is deep down underwater shrouded in chains when some part of her wants to be be flying with the agility of a swift. I wonder of what she dreams ?


Five days with SENSE international india and my eyes and ears have been opened by deafblind people. My mind has once again been stretched by experience and my soul shown new depths. Through this organisation minds are connected to their bodies that are in turn given a place on this earth and parents are shown that their children that some view as a curse on their lives have a worth and can contribute.

I have seen deafblind people leading the blind to safety I've seen them dance and ride a bike, groups of them tell each other jokes and do mime impressions of women getting dressed. They've measured and sawn wood made chappatis and fried in boiling oil they know no fear and have no concept of hate.

Most amazing of all are those that work with these warriors against fate, the love and commitment they have is immeasurable, their humility is is infinite. These children are demanding disturbing and require patience beyond the acceptable.

I can't help thinking meena's relationship with the infinite and unknown outside her body is similar to mankinds desire to know or understand a god. Her giving back to where things come from is similar to the basic human need to acknowledge a creator. We don't know what is there but feel the need to give thanks and praises out to an unseen giver of life. To give back into the void what we have eem given . We throw our prayers sacrifices devotions and hopes out to the unknown from where we came.

I do know that if we are fortunate enough to have all our senses then we are honour bound to use them to communicate with those around us to further each other's understanding and help each other. If our endeavours

are to strive to make good then we are surely blossoming on this earth and can leave it in peace.

Be a bit kinder. Be a knight of amour.

Sent on the move

Friday 21 August 2009

7th August 2009 Got here

Wow wot a day up at 6for flight at 8 that didn't leave till 12:30. Arrived in Pokhara to a general strike had to walk from airport to hotel ate my first meal to find a large fly coated in sauce in it got lift to picket line on back of chefs motorbike walked to our vehicle started filming....

I love it this is living, ended up filming a group of kids that broadcast their own news program on radio

Advanced or what ?beats newsround

Totally sleepy, just eaten something  gonna stagger to my nice hotel

Sent on the move

7th August 2009 How do you quantify luck

Pokhara nepal
So aywayyou look at it I'm lucky
It is amazing here I awoke to bluesky, backache and stubble sorted out by a simple trip to the barbers cum massage man 1 hr later smooth and pain free lovely. Then off to look at some waterfalls and a cave all part of the river that flows out of the lake around which the town sort of occurs. Then me and dasi the secretary from the charity I am visiting climbed up to the Buddhist stuppa that sits on a high hill above the lake. It was hot really hot quite funny leaving this trail of wet footprints from my
de-shoed feet around the holy place. The view was outstanding out over impossibly steep wooded slopes down in all directions with people living in huts and shacks with smallholdings wherever possible.daft that everything they have hasbeen carried there With my old knees the walk down was harder.I was thrown a bit when I came around a particularily vertigous bend to see myself reflected in a wardrobe that had been left on the path whilst a couple of boys rested in the shade, it was all quite normal to them whilst I was laughing like I'd finally escaped my care worker. . Vivid tho so vivid it's as if someone has turned the colour up on the tv and because it is so humid the smells seem stronger the foilage and the earth the tree bark I'm sure I smelt a butterfly pass me.

Back down and a journey back on the motorbike there is a driving system similar to the way ants move around each other except ant collisions are rarely lethal in the short time I have spent watcing them.

The hotel I'm in is embarrassingly luxuriousnbut I've made an effort to make my room a mess in solidarity with those outside its walls

Pokhara is a gap year tourist destination and that is half the problem here people from the hills come down and try and make a living from the dozens of baggy trousered dreadlocked miseries that scuff their way round the lakeside tourist district. I had to have a word ! Cheerup you're on holiday I said. What is about our gloriously alternative youth from Europe that makes them so sullen in the most beautiful. Places on earth ? Alltrying to out native each other,someone tell me was I like that ? Maybe it's thethought of the impending student loan or havingto goback home.
So I am off to meet some people I met whilst waiting for myflight yesterday nurse and doctor.

1hr later ...

Brilliant top food in an unmarked and unremarkable bar and cheap as lentils.very interesting tho I avoided the vaggie soup A nurse works a 6 hr day for 145 us dollars a month a doctor works a 5hournday but didn't get howmuch for.

Anyway they have gone but I am staying to eat mor food it's so cheap paneertika andveg biryani £2.00 my friendssaid it wasexpensive but it's cheaper than anywhere else I have found on the scuffing tourist strip.

Now I just need to find myself a wi fi somewhere and send this

Tomorrow hopefully no rain and I'm visiting a free health care clinic (would it be rude to ask them to look at my athlete's foot ?) and a vocational centre where street kids can bank their money so it doesn't get knicked that's advanced for you

Plse xcuse the typo errors but I'm on my iPod and it is tiny

Sent on the move

Bombay City Roller

There follows a rather lengthy dispatch
I trust it finds you well x

So much has been written about Mumbai or Bombay as many local people still like to call it ( from Portuguese bom meaning good) and it is clear why.
Immediately after being delivered into the warm hands of the city from the birth canal of the airport you are reborn into a parallel world. An existence where there is heightened state of being and senses are stretched and challenged where any previous ontology becomes redundant and you have to realign your beliefs to what you see around you. 360 degrees of reason and understanding is simply not enough you must become a gyroscope within a whirlwind of orgone forces.
Millions souls are resigned to their fate be them prosperous or wretched but each one without malice or envy just living the life they have, accepting what is around them and avoiding what is an obstruction.
My own story and chronology are swept aside and I become part of a much bigger being just one cell that will live , die and be replaced in a giant incognizant organism. A hive of lives that exist on top of each other and despite each other

That was just the taxi ride.

The red light district has no red lights and is hard to distinguish as being different than any other district. Tired paint on shabby four or five storey buildings with single doorways to the side of ground floor stalls. It's hard to guess their age everything here seems old and in a state of constant decay. Clean is a dream and does not survive here, all things will ultimately be sullied and everything seems to be ready to rot. Up worn wooden stairs are labyrinths of small rooms with low ceilings and little air. Cooking stoves, saucepans,televisions, kids toys and lines of washing show signs of people living here. In each room is a suspended piece of fabric behind which is a small bed. It is under these beds that young children are drugged and put to sleep while their mothers make their living just inches away.
Prerana is the charity I am filming and they offer an alternative to this. Mothers can drop their kids off for the night where they are fed, given extra teaching and offered ways to break the cycle they are likely to fall into and it works, they have helped thousands.
Some young girls are forced into underaged prostitution and these are offered places in hostels elsewhere and given training to help them find jobs. Boys too are encouraged to learn skills that will enable them to do other things than pimping, drug dealing and running errands for their mother's clients
In these pigeon holes of lust men from across the social and caste system come and penetrate women that outside would be deemed untouchables. It is odd that this land is where the Kama sutra originates and yet sex has come to a pefunctionary act in a room I don't even want to sit in.
I come away feeling completely disgusted by my own sexuality and in awe that men could want to have sex in these places with these women. That the most powerful of sensations and life affirming action could be squandered between the legs of a woman who is owned by a bullying pimping runt of mankind. These women who are more capable and knowing than the creatures who use them as little more than wastebins for their urges. Prostitution the oldest profession, I know but not like this most of these girls don't want to be here and can't escape. I have never felt less like having sex.

Meanwhile Bombay's cells continue to divide and multiply each one a life and a story.
A young boy gently frisks a near dead body that lays in a gutter, finding nothing he carefully props it up and walks on. The body slumps back down again.
Families gather in the late afternoon in a shaded park , the children are sat on ponies and cantered around a small track. The universal anthem of joyous giggling is a sweet melody that floats over the backing track of the city.
A naked barrel bellied man sits outside his shop happily washing himself he is surrounded by rubbish and yards away from a stinking putrid waterway. Soap the great absolver of dirt
A placid ruminating white cow sits in the middle of a junction with traffic missing it by inches it is seemingly oblivious to mankind. I can see why it's considered holy.
A man with a fag in his mouth nonchalantly cuts chickens heads off that fall into a plastic barrel the body gets thrown to one side where it is plucked whilst still twitching.
A million flies give a reason each why it's best not to eat meat.
A family of five on a scooter cuts in front of a taxi and continues driving into oncoming traffic.
A one legged man sleeps on the pavement with his head resting on his wooden leg that sticks out as if trying to trip passers by.putting his feet up.
Just up the street a naked baby lies face down on the pavement in blissful sleep, curled up sucking its thumb and perfect like infants in their cots all over the world. It's brother and sister lay cuddled up nearby all three alone and under an open sky.
A man and woman next to each other, him clinging to her more like a drowning sailor to a mast than a lover.
Everywhere humans sleeping, switched off to the world but exposed in the most vunerable of states. Sleep seems so personal the last reserve of the self, the place no one else can touch you, they seem on show to the world as though they are In a zoo.

Large crows everywhere , carrion feeding on the buffet that life and death provides for them. They are noisy rude canny and fearless I watch some mob even larger fruit bats that are hanging upside down in trees trying to sleep through the day.

In places Bombay could be London in the future, the architecture of some of the old Victorian civic buildings echo parliament and st pauls and st pancreas.Proud ediffices still standing while the empire they represented has long since crumbled. They act as beacons to all that see them that somewhere else lies a power that can create such impossibe structures.
If climate change were to continue, economies drop further and
Things finally fall apart the inhabitants of the world's poorer countries will be alot more equipped to deal the the new world than we people In the cushy north. For many people living here on the streets and the slums things can't get much tougher and they are at least used to it it is their normality. Nothing changes for them.
We are going to have to start from scratch

It's Lord Krishna's birthday ; the original playboy who had his way with thousands of young women before the days of STDs and herpes. The fantastic sight of groups ofsinfing shouting youths in team colours riding round the city on the back of trucks or crammed into an on top of the old black taxis. They celebrate Janmashtami by making Dahi handi which is a human pyramid that is 5 or 6 people high, a small boy then tries to scale it and smash a clay pot full of dyed milk which sprays all over them.I saw several collapse with the tiny boy tumbling down to be caught by those below.Krishna used to steal milk as a young boy and thins all represents him being a naughty little lad.
Later I walked through the fisherman's slum area and it was alive with partying drunk ecstatic people I was completely invisible and moved through without even being looked at. So absorbed was everyone in processions dancing eating and getting the most of this excuse to forget everything but the moment. a proper festival.noise colour joy and abandon.

The most exciting thing for me are the smells. Though there are some of the most foul stenches here that have ever made their way up my nose there are also some of the sweetest. Perfumes and incence are made here, often solely for the Arabic market. I have spent hours shutting my eyes and enjoying the blends of oud sandal patchouli amber being offered to me from bottles like those from an old fashioned pharmacist. I am a little obsessed and have bought lots calling on more and more to be brought before me like some fat sultan demanding more debauchery. I will come back to this city just to explore the perfume trade more. They are spells these smells and I am helpless to their powers.

My time as part of this enormous amorphous organism is limited and as all cells do I must die and move on to be born again in another city. I find myself coming around in Bombay domestic departures desperately trying to cling to the memories of an out of body experience I seemed to of had.

Sorry if this went in a bit. It was a you should have been there kind of thing


All typed with my thumbs on my iPod !