Friday 21 August 2009

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 !

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