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[Sep. 30th, 2006|10:23 am]
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Hello to all, I am now waiting on my private yoga teacher to breeze along. The fixed time is ten in the morning but I have found that Indian punctuality leaves a lot to be desired. Arranging a time is actually a pointless activity; be content with sorting out the day. This is not what I am used to so I suppose it will do me good.

My treatment here is purely oral and is on two distict levels. Firstly there is the herbal side. My doctor uses many herbs, dozens, from all over the ganges valley. These get dried and then ground up to a fine powder. This is then mixed with water and drunk. Some of them taste absolutely foul in the extreme - and these are the good ones.

Then there is the heavy duty stuff. These are called Bhasmas and consist of minerals and precious metals cooked, or burnt, sometimes many times over, to produce a fine ash. Bhasmas actually means 'ash'. This fine ash, depending upon what it was originally, can be very toxic but in the quantities it is taken it can be a very powerful medicine. A dose can be put on the head of a pin, then it is mixed with honey or ghee and taken.

I am still being largely confined to the flat. I have a whole flat to myself but I do share it. There is a resident lizard who lives in the hallway. I don't bother him and he doesn't bother me. He just gets on with his life's quest which appears to be to get the resident cricket who also lives in the hall. I have not seen him although I have heard him every damned evening. He is very smart in that he stops singing, or scraping or whatever crickets do, just as I am homing in on him using my ears. He seems to know when someone is listening, someone who is not another cricket that is, and so stops making his noise immediately .

The primary school next door has the capacity to drive one to drink. I am reminded of the old Oscar Wilde quote. When asked if he liked children he replied that he did but couldn't eat a whole one on his own. These little lighters arrive with their mothers looking as if butter wouldn't melt but, as soon as they get inside the noise level goes through the roof. The are taught in Bengali and there is one teacher in there who, even though I don't understand what she is saying, scares the bejeesuz out of me over here. She must terrify the kids. Mind you, even though, as I said, they work in Bengali I distinctly heard one heartfelt cry in English; 'Right you lot. Shut up now!' It was effective

I am still waiting for my yoga teacher. The house has been rather disturbed by the fact that the driver went AWOL last night. He got his Puja (holiday) bonus and, reding between the lines, went out on a bender. He did not return so Madame had to go to work this morning in a taxi. Oh, you just can't get the staff these days. Seriously though, the dear lady is on the point of retiring and is getting a rough ride. The last thing she needs is a personal driver AWOL. I suppose, to her, it is like trying to start the car and finding it has died in the night, just at the start of a long and difficult day. Not funny.

Anyway, I will stop now and try and find out how to post photographs.

It is now the 30th September and I think I have uploaded a photograph. I hope I have. If you can see it it, it is of what is known as a pandal. Now this weekend is Puja weekend and could be descibed as a cross between Christmas and New Year, all rolled into one. Each neighbourhood, sometimes even each building, gathers supscriptions and then makes these beautiful idols of the Goddess Durgha, riding on her lion and killing the demon, usually to her lower left hand side. (He is the one who looks a bit dispirited about the whole thing - then he would, wouldn't he?) Around her are other deites, all related, who are responsible for different things. My favourite is Ganesh, the elepant headed character who looks after well being and prosperity. Why he has an elephant's head I am not quite sure; perhaps it is because he is the only one rich enough to afford a 'trunk' call in this country. Enough of that!

However, last night I went pandal-hopping for a while with a young friend of my hostess who is called Joydeep. I think, when speaking English, he prefers his nickname of Tanku - I think I would too. Anyway we set off and visited about seven of these structures, each more splendid than the one before. The one in the picture, if it is there, was made of jute and cardboard, soaked and remoulded - fabulous! Each is housed in a beautiful, and completely temporary, temple, once again each one beautifully painted. (It did strike me as odd, and typically Indian, that they paint these things, that will only last for five days, so ornately and carefully while ignoring their houses that are falling down for want of a coat of paint.. Hey ho. each to their own.) After the festival is over, on Monday, they take the damn-shoot down to the Ganges and fling it in. They are all made of totally biodegradable stuff, usually clay, so they all just vanish until next year.

The whole city is out admirning these things all the weekend and the young blades try and set a record for how many they can visit. The really big ones in town are the centre of a forest of eateries and fun-fairs so the whole thing takes on a very festive atmosphere. Everyone wears a new sari or costume and looks very smart indeed. Regularly, through the weekend there are dance shows with folk singing, etc etc etc. The whole thing is being held in spite of the unseasonal rain that has recently flooded a lot of Bengal and Calcutta. Even as I write this the rain is just starting again. I suppose the 'national holiday = rain' thing is something we left with them when we left, or did we get it from here? All in all, terrific fun though.

The devout hold services to these things and each one has an accompaning priest and drummer at hand. Mind you, if you ask some of the young things what it is all about you would get as much response as if you asked the average party goer at Christmas in London what the three wise me were called -- 'Who? What? Duh!'

My treatment is going on apace and I am told I look better than I did whenI arrived. The proof of that will come with a PET scan in November but I'm going along with it with enthusiasm - not a lot of choice really. I am starting to tire a little of potato and rice, however. Each days's menu, for me, is exactly the same as the one before so I am starting to get a little bored. Still, if it makes me well, who cares? Walking between all the instant eateries and the ice-cream stalls last night was a bit of an ordeal. I realise now why they don't let me out without a minder. That, and the fact that I would turn around twice and be totally lost. Not only to all the locals look the same, their ruddy buildings all look the same to me as well.

Post script concerning traffic. Picture a major road, four or five lanes wide, all stopped at a very long traffic like - one of the few. It is a long light and a queue oaf around 50/100 metres builds up. No problem. However, when the lights change everybody, including out driver puts his hand on the horn and holds it there until the line moves. Absolute hell, but that is typical Calcutta traffic. And through this weave motor cyclists with whole families on board; the record I have seen so far is four. You can always tell the breadwinner - that is the one with the crash-helmet. Lunacy, lunacy, compounded by madness and an optimism the likes of which I have never met before. I think karma has a lot to do with it. "If fate has decreed that this day our whole family will be rendered down to strawberry jam by a bus - so be it."

Anyway, that's all for today. Bye

From: (Anonymous)
2006-10-03 08:47 pm (UTC)


Hello Alan,just Mariko here having read your journal with great interest and amusement at your most super descriptions etc. will..continue direct via email. Is that direct though?..anyway..via email...well other than this that is ...well sort of thing. gosh I really would have expected something a little more coherent and intelligent here and now I'm rambling complete ramble...well 'complete'
Keep going Alan and keep writing....xxxx
From: (Anonymous)
2006-10-03 08:54 pm (UTC)


mariko..that wasn't me really..re:above,
great journal, Alan, hope things going ok and you keeping to your diet...well you have to don't you....still, thinking of you .....keep going!
hopefully you won't think me too greedy for writing twice...I mean once just here as of course I didn't write above comments..!
[User Picture]From: [info]darkjewelz
2006-10-04 05:09 pm (UTC)


Hi, Well done for posting the photo, its not obvious how to do it. It sounds like you're experiencing some of the better aspects of India, which is great. I'll email you soon, J.