A Travellerspoint blog

On the Elephant

For all myths arise from truths...

sunny 40 °C

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By the time I saw the elephant I had already given up on it. We were shoeless, wandering around inside the Hampi temple's inner courtyard. In a granite enranceway, past a humming holy man adminstering fingerprints of powder on a couple childrens' foreheads or pouring a questionably opaqe liquid into a child' hand, to be drunk immdiately, we saw no sign of a massive beast. We quietly refused these religious services, for yesterday my attempt at finding the elephant at the source had led to being blessed and sent out the door, yet another elephantine failure. Well, 'failure' wouldn't be the right word. Diversion, perhaps. Or welcome distraction. Or 'blessing in disguise' so to say, though I have no clue what the old bearded and robed man was saying to me.

We pondered the human likeness of the mischevious monkeys, joked about the five hundred rupee charge for video cameras, on top of a two rupee entrance fee (all the other entrances, wide open, were too elusive for tourists to find) then it was there. In the middle of the temple-bracketed square in the morning sun, lifting a left foot and bowing before a shrine, turning and taking residence in a corner. How had we not noticed the elephant coming into the living room? He couldn't have already been here, we knew, for we'd scoured the somewhat ancient, somewhat eerie, and altogether dank caverns juxtaposed by the false light of buzzing flourescent bulbs that seem to be planted about the countryside indiscriminately. We discovered that this active temple served approximately the same purpose it did five hundred years ago, but now white people glowed like apparitions in the labyrinthine carved granite network of chambers and walkways.

The elephant, a dark beast with light freckles between his eyes, seem content enough. Meandering over to his corner, the eighteen year-old stood at attention. Indians with baskets of flowers and coconut offered the animal white hunks that dissapeared without a second glance. The elephant swung his trunk rhythmically, a heavy pendulum, each time around grasping a coconut, or if none was available, coyly lifting a foot and tapping it with his trunk. People held out coins, and as gracefully, and rapidly, as one could imagine, each coin was slipped from the trunk and into the keeper's hand. I didn't know how to hold the coin, but the heavy, thick-skinned, wiry hair-littered trunk found my hand and pulled the coin from it. I squoze my eyes shut, he patted me on the head like a good tourist. We went off on bicycles to spot the Queen's old elephant stables. Majestic.

Posted by jcooke 20:55 Archived in India Tagged animal Comments (0)

A New Batch of Photos

sunny 38 °C

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Posted by jcooke 23:16 Archived in India Tagged photography Comments (1)

1.3 milliards d'habitants, surface:1/3 des U.S.A!!

sunny 35 °C

je m'occupe de la partie en francais c 'est un blog multi-langue .
Il fait chaud,super chaud c'est le troisieme ete qu'on passe cette annee et j'avoue que je ne m'en lasse pas ,heureusement quelques nuages couvrait le ciel ce matin parce que suer a 9 heures du matin ca fait un peu tot .
On a voyager pratiquement depuis le debut avec un australien et une israelienne qui etait un inde depuis un moment deja .ca fait donc une dizaine de jours qu'on les retrouve sur une plage dans tel village ou dans un temple autre part .ils nous on plus ou moins initie a l'inde:les prix , l'attitude a avoir quand quelqu'un vous devisage intensement ,les endroits a ne pas manquer en inde....
On ne peut pas dire qu'on se soit retrouve tout seule ici .on a rencontre un espagnole ,qui nous a dit que c'etait dur de voyager seul ou de dejeuner seul alors qu'il est entoure de 1.3 millards d'indiens ,paradoxale non?
Je dois avouer que nous n'avons pas ressentis cette grosse claque dont tout le monde parle, en arrivant en inde.Sans doute parce que nous sommes dans une region plus touristique ou simplement parce que nous avons ete chanceux et que tout a ete plutot facile .Je dirais que pour le moment la seule chose qui m'emmerde le plus c'est les transports en bus .c'est vrai que nous avons la possibilite de prendre des couchettes dans les bus (oui oui )mais passer 15 heures a faire des bonds dans un lit parce que les routes on ete innondees des milliers de fois et qu'elles sont dans un sales etats, que le conducteur freine comme un malade pour eviter je ne sait quoi et qu'au moment ou tu vas presque t'endormir il klaxonne comme un malade ,ca fait des nuits blanches qui au petit matin se manifeste par des valises sous les yeux et une melody ronchons pour commencer la journee .
bref ca va qu'on prend pas des bus tous les jours et de toute facon c'etait a prevoir .en contre partie on en prend plein les mirettes et on a le smile tous les jours .

Posted by jcooke 22:00 Archived in India Tagged bus Comments (1)

A brief excerpt

Here's a little blurb of the manuscript I've begun to roughly draft.

sunny 30 °C

The boys used a white powder to wash their teeth. They stuck a middle finger into the clump of powder in one of the boys'palms and went to rubbing their teeth. They were of a different caste than those bathing in the river, it seemed, who were jumping and splashing and swimming in the chill of a day yet to begin.
I stood there, waiting again for the washing of the elephant, something I'd come to understand as a kind of joke, a kind of amusement for the locals. ‘Yes, yes, half hour, ten minutes,’ one would say. Others pointed to the temple in Hampi Bazaar, ‘elephant, yes.’
These boys spoke no English, but as they surrounded me, middle finger in mouth, the look of an almost fearful fascination was obvious. They spoke amongst one another, avoiding eye contact, and only the older boy, the ring leader, chanced sticking out his pasty hand. I shook it laughing, and asked about the elephant. ‘Yes, yes,’ they said. ‘No, elephant,’ I say, and hang my arm from my nose, raising it and blowing air from a bottom lip folded over the top. The rudimentary blast invited more perplexity. These white people are wacky.
There is a saying about the elephant in the living room. Someone would ask the wife of an addict why she didn't leave her husband. And in reply to her excuse that she hadn't really noticed, they say, 'but didn't you see the elephant in the living room?' And so this ritual of waking up at dawn and going to the river to see the bathing of the elephant became my elusive, yet ever-present, reality.
The elephant existed, I had been promised, and you could even go into the temple, give it a rupee coin, and it would disappear the coin and pat you on the head, sending you along on your way. But the problem was that I suddenly saw the absurdity not of waiting to see an animal get washed, but of me wanting to watch this daily ritual. I was the spectacle in this village, the ubiquitous influence so shockingly present after ages (from my perspective) of being a fixture, the elephant in the Eastern living room. I was the undeniable sign of the West, something that has been there a long time but only noticed from a distance.
So if India was about the absurd, from whose perspective did we see it? What I saw as absurdity here I knew was commonplace to the locals. Bathing in rivers, brushing with fingers, washing clothes and animals... this was quotidian. Coming to watch, sightseeing, was not a hillside of steps and temple ruins, it was the bathroom- the girls bathed at the bottom of the steps to the right, the boys to the left, and women washed clothing at the riverside, twirling the multi-colored garments and slapping them on the rocks, laying them out on the angled stone risers between the granite-terraced hillside. Coming to see the remnants of which now served for many villagers' rustic-at-best bamboo houses, the often erotic old carvings on monkey riddled towers, this was something only crazy, rich white people did. And no matter how much money India got, no matter how much influence infiltrated their lives, they would still bath in the river. They would still wash the elephant.

Posted by jcooke 02:31 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

Photos so Far...

just a taste of things we've been seeing

sunny 35 °C

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A sacred bull sitting a few feet away on the beach in Goa. They're pretty tame, but watch out if you're reading, they love paper!
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A religious ceremony in Mumbai we walked in on. People prayed in the water, and others had food offerings on the edge of the pool. The explosions, meant to also please the gods, were deafening and frequent.
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A beautiful Goan bag-seller. Her husband encouraged me to take many photos, and gave an address to send photos, more of a cryptic location than an address, actually. What's the internet again?
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These taxis blew my mind! Gonna get a taxi-inspired tattoo on my back.
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Spices at Market.
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Goan village boys playing in the yard. What often looks like poverty to some is like running around naked to others...
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We met a lot of great people, and run into the same over and over. This is a South African of Indian decent, really cool, chilled out guy who convinced us to go to an ashram for a week.
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A panorama of Goa. Notice the volcanic rock, and the rubbish at the tide line. Oh India!
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A paint-mixer. The colors in the markets please the eye. The prices please the pocket. The gifts please not the back.

Posted by jcooke 05:43 Archived in India Tagged photography Comments (0)

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