My Pilgrimage to Ganpatipule
My Nostrils Are Alive, With The Smell of Mumbai
It’s totaly lashing down like nothing else i have ever experienced in Mumbai. The arrival came at 4:00 AM on Thursday morning. We were picked up by a turban clad Sikh who drove us to our pre-booked, over priced shit hole overlooking the Arabian Sea. The taxi ride through a wet dark city was rather calm due to it being the early hours. Rain thrashed the car horizontally and vertically ( and every angle in between ) – Hard and fast. Evey slab of glass was running with lines and patterns of water, saturated with the reds and yellows and greens of brake lights. Water pounded my face during the most epic arrival yet. You can’t help but be inhabited by Mumbai as soon as soon as you step out of the airport. My face was wet but also my feet, as the water from the pot holes in the roads was ejaculating up through the taxi floor. Wet face wet feet; with nostrils full of a rather ripe Bombay. I have returned and for now it feels amazing. I have waited over six years for this day.
The city is celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi so there are giant effigies of the elephant headed god everywhere; mostly in alleyways surrounded by curtains. Every time i approach i am welcomed by their sitters and encouraged to take Prasad. Only one four-legged beast made me feel rather un-welcome as its fury little head tried its very best to eat my leg. It’s not the best feeling to have teeth around your calf after deciding not to invest in the rabies vaccination! The hound was kicked away by a local man who was by my side as i photographed the idol he was so very proud of. A group of enthusiastic young men approached for a chat, “‘ Welcome to India Mr Michael, you are always welcome” The afternoon was finished off with a walk back to the hotel and seeing a youth with a head full of highlights. In the ten plus years i have been Visiting India this is the first time i have experienced someone who has been abused by a highlighting kit!
I Love My India
It’s Monday morning and the last one to be spent in my beautiful attic flat. Its pretty much packed up, box’s being strooned where belongings once sat. It feels more positive than negative. We leave this coming Sunday after five years. No more rent to pay, no more bills and a break from feeding the British Government council tax. I will be happy contributing to other world economy’s for a while, paying individuals rent on a daily/weekly basis will please me. Not just making rich people richer. I will not have a salary after next month so no more deductions for the good of British society.
Still its thirty-seven days until we fly to Mumbai. The exact amount of days until Ganesh Chaturthi – India’s biggest celebration of Lord Ganesha and the birthday of the elephant god himself. I have been lucky enough to experience this festival in India – Dancing in the streets of Mumbai and partying in a ten-hour procession, following a giant deity on the back of a truck heading to the sea, in the south-west town of Gokarn, covered in paint and glitter.
I spent a total of fifteen months in Gokarn where i came to know the community very well. It would be very easy to arrive into India and head straight back to the people i know, some of whom i love very much. However i need a change. I need to be blown away by the mother land all over again. That will not happen if i retrace very familiar steps. I think it’s time to head straight north towards Nepal, via Varanasi and the holy Ganga. A city i have not visited since my first trip to India in 2001. I am sure it will be beautiful in the rain, or as beautiful as Benares can be. Certainly an intense new beginning for a change of scene. The ashram i booked can wait!
One of the very last things i have to pack to store away is a blue box of photographs i started to compile during my first degree. Images documenting moments past. A box of pre Facebook prints, pre-dating my own digital camera access. Friends i rarely see, pets which have died, houses in which i lived, partners i have loved. Birthday cakes, meals, parties where ive partied. A box i have carried around from move to move, adding to whenever required. There were years where i was obsessed with chronicling time; evidencing moments not only as memory’s but as proof of existence. I guess blogging is this box’s predecessor. Looking over the several hundred scenes i am tempted to discard so many. To choose what i want to keep and what i don’t. Physical aids to memories which seem to have lost importance. Like putting memories in a recycle bin i put evidence. As time progresses the less important the past becomes. It’s about now and the future and that feels like a very positive thing. I don’t need to remember the first time i went to Amsterdam, or times working on film shoots. That journey seems less important than the one i am traveling now. In ten years time these writings may be deleted, but for now they feel important to me, like the photographs i am discarding now, did then.