Tuesday, January 25, 2011

India part 10: Madurai

Couldn't find all that much to photograph in Madurai - oh, unless you count the Meenakshi temple. And we do.

Temple against blue sky

Gopura details

Meenakshi gopura with dragonfly

View from Sri Devi hotel

This last picture was taken from a hole in the wall at our hotel. Sree Devi was very well located, but our room was not: we slept right next to the noisiest elevator in history. Well, stayed awake next to it, anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

India observation #47

If there's one thing I've learnt from the subcontinent, it's that you'll never see an Indian whistling a tune. If that's what you've come here to see, forget it. Go home.

*EDIT 3/2/11 7.43pm *
Omg, saw this happening live two days ago, I REPENT.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

India part 9: Kanyakumari

Kayakumari, which lies at the southern tip of India, where the three oceans meet, seemed to be on fast-forward when we arrived. We were ushered into a rickshaw, promised a rate of Rs.30 (pretty much as low as it gets if you're a gora), and whisked to our chosen hotel. We didn't even get a chance to open our mouths to request room 408 - listed in our guidebook as the one with the best view - we found ourselves standing on its balcony and nodding a 'yes' to the porter within seconds of walking into the hotel.


As well as these lovely ladies in saris, there were busloads (literally) of shirtless young male pilgrims dressed all in black, dashing around at high speed, larking about, and making lots of noise. Kanyakkers is clearly the choice location for the Hindu acolyte's equivalent of a stag weekend.

Pilgrims and view of the town


Boat and people

Beach conversation
Sarah: That word, 'God' - it just makes me think of an old man with a bird sitting in a cloud in the sky.
Will: Me too, but without the bird.
Sarah: Beard. Beard. [Sighs.]


Fish path


Friday, January 07, 2011

India part 8: Neyyar Dam

Sivananda Ashram

A discovery, courtesy of our four-day stay at the above ashram: I really like yoga. Hurrah! Chanting mantras: not so much. Sitting cross-legged for hours and hours every day: about as enjoyable as sandpapering your own ankles. Anyway, here's an extract from the diary:

My limbs ache. At 2pm we have a lecture. Yesterday's was given by a man who looked quite like the actor Zachary Quinto.

He really did, you know. What's that? More? Okay.

Every morning, we have to do Karma Yoga, jobs around the ashram to help out. This consisted of a rather forlorn-looking man with a beard showing me and a Finnish girl "bin locations". He pronounced these two words with perhaps more gravity than they deserved. We're supposed to pick up full bins and haul them to a spot in the woods where two rough-and-ready Indian men sort through the rubbish, selecting items for compost, reuse, and so on. I suspect they just burn the lot. Still, there isn't that much waste - although there are 250 people living here, there's very little trash generated on-site. Sarah got toilet-cleaning duty lol.

Before you get me wrong, as you so often do, I should reluctantly concede that the whole thing was a really positive and enjoyable experience, and the ashramifications of this are that we are thinking of paying another visit, maybe to one of the Sivananda joints up north. However, the negative stuff is far more fun to type up.

Last night we were shown a short documentary about water. It was dreadful bollocks. This quack in Japan had apparently discovered that you could make water produce "beautiful crystals" if you said nice things to it, or more blobby crystals ("ugly shapes") if you said things like (and I'm quoting): "You fool", "You make me sick" or "I will kill you". I wonder if he got this hypothesis soon after watching Ghostbusters 2, with its psychoreactive pink ectoplasm. Brilliantly, the doctor's experiment even works if you write a few words on a piece of paper and sellotape them to a jar of water - and the scientists in the documentary demonstrated that water understands both French and Japanese! I kept expecting Ben Goldacre to come Tarzanning into the hall. The reason for all this, by the way, was to show that chanting mantras can have an effect on the outside world and therefore mantras are the best thing ever. I shouted, "YOU FOOL" at my water bottle on the way to bed and the liquid within has now turned the colour of Satan's piss, SO IT MUST BE TRUE.

But it wasn't all snarkiness:

There have been some quite special moments. In the mornings, you close your eyes to meditate, and when you open them, the light of day has crept in. In the evenings, you sit with hundreds of people in a completely silent room, and all that's audible are the crickets and the roaring of lions from across the lake.

Lions? Yes, really - there was a wildlife sanctuary nearby. One girl told us she'd visited it and that although there were real lions there, the noise wasn't from them, but was in fact the sound of a tape being played over a loudspeaker. We soon realised this was absolute drivel, since you'd need a PA the size of Portsmouth to achieve such a pointless effect. We left her before she got started on the water crystals.

Yoga man

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Signs I have seen #121

Back to India stuff... This would work well in an X Factor ad break, I reckon.

Just about works

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My top 50 tracks of 2010

Late as usual, but it's occasionally hard finding a computer with a USB port over in India from which to run certain software not available in India, and in the brave new technological world of 2010, a list of songs not accompanied by a Spotify playlist basically amounted to a big slap in God's face. Click here to see and hopefully listen to my festive 50, plus check out three slabs of marvellousness below that had the audacity to not appear on Spotify.

Wait, so 46 songs on the Spotify playlist, three YouTubed above... That leaves one, right? Yup - it's Prince's 'Untitled', the only great track from his album 20Ten, given away with the Daily Mirror, and totally unavailable anywhere.

So instead, here's a brief message from the self-proclaimed Purple Yoda ("straight outta Minnesota!"): "The internet's completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it... Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you." Um, if numbers are so bad, why call your LP 20Ten? Huh? ANSWER ME, PRINCE.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

If you hate Glasvegas this quote will probably not help matters

"Somebody was saying, 'What's your problem with the album?' I said the problem is that it sounds like a band. They said, 'What's your problem with that? What do you want it to sound like?' I said, 'A dream.'"
Glasvegas singer James Allan in NME's Christmas edition