Dogster: Not Quite In Gujarat

Old Jun 24th, 2009, 09:01 PM
  #41  
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Oh, dear.

But at least now I can go to sleep--maybe. I've been sitting here on the edge of my computer chair, reading each installment as it came in. (It's midnight where I am; I get up at 5AM.) Riveting stuff!
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Old Jun 24th, 2009, 09:19 PM
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I cant wait
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 05:37 AM
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"We'll go dancing tomorrow" promised Dogster. Have we been?
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 06:27 AM
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You can sleep now Amy? With this cliff hanger? Fortunately, it's morning here, and I should get to read the next installment before I go bed tonight.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 08:33 AM
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Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. I am hanging on every word. Can't wait for the rest. Bless you for your willingness to share these stories dogster!
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:08 PM
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Nothing much gets past you, Marija, I can see. Heh. Well, I'm saving the last dance for you. Thank you ladies, for letting me know you're still here.

Here's the end of this first phase of Dogster's tribal adventures. Where was I? Oh, huddled in a car...
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:09 PM
  #47  
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‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yah! Come and fight!’

Really, they were all more E-e-e-e-yah than tigah-h-h. The preliminary biff and whallop didn’t last very long - that would have been much too easy. There was far more potential carnage involved.

Relatives charged in from all three sides and dragged the combatants away. Groups of young men scattered and lay in clumps around their trees emoting like extras in a Bollywood movie; high volume, high drama and high camp all at the same time. There was no masculine reticence here – they carried on like a pound of pork chops; squealed and screamed, wept and vowed tribal vengeance for evermore.

‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yah!’

There’s only a fine line between the sound of a wounded warrior and a drag queen with acne.

‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yeww!’

They were sure starting to sound the same.

Eventually the shouting died down and the battlefield emptied, leaving just three men standing alone in the field. After a long discussion the elders returned to their respective corners. The entire group from the man tree got up and stumbled into the twilight, replete with shouted insults over their disappearing shoulders, the crowd at the woman’s tree melted away - soon everybody was gone, just a distant ‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yah!’ from a rocky pathway on a rocky hillside in a rocky situation, not quite in Gujarat.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:10 PM
  #48  
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'You can come out now.’

Madame’s fiancé opened the car door. I caught a blast of Johnny Walker as he leant in to talk.

‘What’s happening?’

‘Everything has been resolved.’

‘Phew.’’

‘They’ve resolved to fight it out tomorrow at the bhagoria – all-out war.’

That ‘phew’ turned round in mid-air and dived back into my mouth.

‘Here? Tribal war? In front of this temple...?’

‘I think I might make an early start at getting the tents down in the morning,’ he said casually.

I was getting his message loud and clear.

‘What time were you thinking of leaving?’ he asked.

A moot point. I had come rather a long way to see the Bakhatgadh baghoria - but once the baghoria got to Bakhatgadh, I wouldn’t be able to get out. We were at Ground Zero.

Thousands and thousands of people would converge on this very spot tomorrow morning. They would keep coming and coming and coming till the roads were full, locked down with humanity - with us a tiny pocket of foreign air in the middle, trapped until night, when the afternoon toddy had fermented to a killer punch - which would be about the time of the scheduled tribal war in the camp grounds.

What time was I leaving? Dunno.

Sometime between dancing and death.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:11 PM
  #49  
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Whoof!

At the far end of the row a tent crumbled to the ground. A lorry drove in, honking. I’d slept late. I was awake now. Madame’s fiancé stood solid with a bottle of Kingfisher beer wrapped up in newspaper, directing the proceedings. He barked out a Hindi oath.

Whoof! Another tent came down. Raju and the boys hurtled round the camp picking up everything they could find and loading it on the lorry. It was all a little surreal, to find your hotel being demolished around you.

Whoof! More canvas hit the dirt.

‘Please, Mr. Sir, chelo...?’

Madame blasted from the hospitality tent with a bill for every sip of liquid I’d consumed.

‘Well, this has been a very interesting experiment,’ I said gaily as I gasped at the amount. She knew I was lying through my teeth.

‘Thank you, do come and stay at our other hotel,’ she lied right back and thrust a leaflet at me.

‘Excellent,’ I smiled, dismissing the idea in a millisecond. We shook hands and smiled and lied and smiled and lied until I could get into the car and shut the door.

Whoof! Another tent collapsed.

I got the hint.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:12 PM
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We’re swallowed up, embraced by biblical crowds, swept through the stalls, the shops and the shouting of the Bakkatgadh baghoria. Troops of saris wander past, each in their distinctive village colors; ten green maidens, a dozen purple daughters, nine yellow cousins all in a row; a pod of green grandmothers, a splash of pink ladies, five orange aunties, eight red sisters out for a husband - magnificent women covered in jewellery; thick silver necklaces, bracelets, bangles, rings and dingle-dangles, impeccably framed on dark brown skin, jet black hair, warm black tribal eyes. Drums, flutes and bells, the shriek of kids, the warm growl of young men, dressed up to kill, heading for their date with destiny. Should destiny fail to deliver, there is a Ferris-wheel for children, three for grown-ups, a magic show and a miracle, a wall of death and a hand-powered merry-go-round.

How could I possibly leave?

‘You go, Mukesh – go park the car outside town.’

Over there - a glimpse of a hand, a scarf, arms flying in the air.

‘Come find me...’

By the time I’ve threaded my way through the crowd the dust has doubled, fifty or sixty men swoop wildly in a circle, arms flailing like an upturned caterpillar, their heads thrown back, throats wide open with the wonder of the drumming and the dance. In the centre of the cyclone three men with large drums bang away as if their lives depended on it. The dance lurches round them in a mysterious, rhythmic flow; three steps rapidly forward, one step slowly back, three steps rapidly forward, one step slowly back – an odd stumble-bum ballet with plenty of scope for creative inspiration. Inspiration and toddy seem to go hand in hand.

The bhagoria boogie dissolves and I notice another, even larger one taking place a hundred yards away. There are several of these, large and small, going on simultaneously. Each has its own dynamic, builds up, reaches critical mass then dissipates as people spin off to recover. Each flows anti-clockwise – why? I don’t know. Maybe they were winding up their seasonal watch, ready for the next annual circuit.

I know Mukesh will be able to find me. He just has to ask. Mr. Dogster is the only white guy here, sole foreign trespasser in the midst of thousands of tightly packed tribals – he’s safe but definitely surrounded. This is dense – about as claustrophobic an environment as you can imagine but it’s dense and friendly. There is no physical space here; people touch, push, bump, squeeze and clamber; there is no ‘me’. I’m a clear drop of water in a vast festival flood.

Keep smiling, Dogster. ‘Wow,’ I say, to no one in particular. ‘Wow.’

‘Wow,’ they smile and wiggle their heads. Everybody is here for a wonderful time.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:13 PM
  #51  
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Mukesh found me. He was very anxious to go.

‘Now, please sir, chelo...?’

‘No, Mukesh. I want to see the miracle.’

Dogster loves a miracle. I’ve seen Shiva floating in the air in Assam, a two headed man and a dancing goat so far. This one was every bit as good. It was a five rupee miracle so I knew it would be special.

In a dish on a table in a bright yellow tent lay the severed head of a ten year old boy wearing a red turban, a peacock feather and a bored expression. His body sprawled headless on the floor at his side – it appeared to be snoring, but of course, had no mouth to snore through.

Around the miracle was a crush of young men, three or four deep, staring solemnly at the head in the dish. The head stared solemnly back. This stand-off went on for quite some time. There was no joshing, no hilarity at the patent hopelessness of this miracle; to them, this was the real deal - even when the body twitched and scratched his bollocks. Of course, the fact that it was still alive was the miracle. I think I enjoyed the audience as much as the show. I loved the wide eyes, the lack of sophistication, the elegant simplicity of believing. I’ve lost that.

One young man turned to me with amazed eyes.

‘Magic,’ he said, gravely.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:14 PM
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Tent City had disappeared. More magic.

It’s just Mukesh and the Dog now - just us and a few thousand tribals. The crowd seems to have swollen, all bloats and blushes, there’s a definite carnal wro-o-omph in the air. People are much drunker than they were an hour ago.

‘Please sir, chelo...?’

The longer we stay, the better it gets - and the better it gets the drunker it becomes - and the drunker it gets the more out of control. Dog loves dancing on the edge. I think we might be there now.

Three or four large circles of dancing men are kicking up the dust with complete abandon. One seems to be entirely composed of very old men with huge turbans, dirty shirts and match-stick legs. These guys are completely, wildly out of it, very drunk and very cheerful indeed, circling and stumbling, dancing like dazed pixies in the dust. One wields a large black umbrella, waving it high in the air, hooting to his Hindu heaven. There’s a fatal twinkle in their old tribal eyes; heading for sweet oblivion, dancing till they drop, round and round; three steps rapidly forward, one step slowly back; round and round, round and round...

‘Let’s go, Papa...?’ Mukesh, tugging at my clothes.

It’s hypnotic, a lurid tribal dream; Fellini Bollywood in aspic. Shafts of setting sun slash through dust turning my match-men molten, glowing demons throwing shadows through the air. Face after grizzled face drifts by, lost in their outer spaces, dancing till destiny overtakes them. Some fall stupid in the dirt, just lay there laughing while the dance sweeps around them, as the tribe and their drums, the whoops and the shouts dissolve and merge into one great tribal hum.

Magic. That kid was right. This was why I had come.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:15 PM
  #53  
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I heard that strange scream in the distance.

‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yah!’

For such a scrawny lad, Mukesh was remarkably strong. He stood behind me, placed one hand on each of my shoulders and propelled me as fast and as far away from there as he possibly could. I didn’t argue.

‘E-e-e-e-e-e-e-yah!’

While everybody ran towards the screams, we ran in the opposite direction.

‘Come and fi-i-i-i-i-ght!’

Now I suppose you’ll think I’m a wimp.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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We were in the car, across the border and back in Gujarat before he relaxed. Gujarat was the best place in the world.

‘You and me, sir. You and me. Wow.’

Mukesh only had one word for happiness.

‘No fool Rana Singh, no Madame, no Mr. Sir, no old Sir, no old Madam, no tent camp...’

He turned on his Bollywood music, sighed a deep sigh of contentment and settled back at the wheel. It was the happiest I’d ever seen him.

‘Chel-l-l-lo! Gu-u-u-ujarat! You and me, Papa.’

I’ll have to stop him calling me ‘Papa’. I feel old enough already.

‘The two tigah-h-zzz!’ said Mukesh.

Well, one and a half.

I chuckled as we drove into the sunset. Wow.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 07:20 PM
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The End. I'll let that little 'phew' out again, now. I'm sure there's only two of you left standing. Let me know if you made it through.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 08:31 PM
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Indeed, I made it through.

But I must admit, I'm dying to know all "we" missed back there at the bhagoria. Of course, dying is what Mukesh and the Singhs were afraid might happen to you if you stayed long enough to report it all. I'm glad you opted to get out and come back and tell us all about it.
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Old Jun 25th, 2009, 08:36 PM
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So, cats have nine lives. How many lives do dogsters have? I am developing some sympathy for the local assistants, but it's a great story.
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 12:25 AM
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Well yes, I know Kathie, the logical and by far the best conclusion to this story would be that I was killed and eaten by the tribals, just pausing to dash off a quick 1000 words to Fodor's to tell you what was happening.

But I can tell you the answer. I found out three days later. There was a biggo, biffo fight outside the palace in Bakhatgadh. Then it was all over. This is how it works. I'd imagine that tribal 'law' is perfectly efficient. It's probably been around longer than our system.

I'm sure I could have stood right on the edges and watched and nothing would have happened to me. It was never about me. I just happened to be there at a specific moment. I don't think the Tent Camp was wildly popular - but I don't think it was about the Singh family either. The tribals were going to do what they were going to do. If we chose to be on their battleground, then that was our responsibility. If a wayward rock knocked us down, we shouldn't have been there in the first place.

But this was just one of many examples of moments where anxiety got the better of me. I actually have no idea whether the information given me was even correct - all I know is that my informants certainly believed it.

thursday: this ol' dog has had a few more lives than he ever thought he would have. It's all bonus now. Sympathy for the local assistants? lol lol lol. I don't know what you mean. I think they should be given danger money when they are allocated Mr. Dogster.

It's really not all derring-do. I'm just writing the juicy bits. If you like I'll write a piece about the dull bits. lol.
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 05:58 AM
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Thanks for telling us about another walk on the wild side!
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Old Jun 26th, 2009, 06:31 AM
  #60  
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Phew! Glad you got out of that one, dogster. Although it does sound like the ultimate in sensory immersion, probably even including a few senses one didn't know one had.
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