Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

a nice tight pair of Jodhpurs

So having spent an extra day in Pushkar without bothering to change our train reservation we set off to Ajmer in the hope, and I can't stress the word hope enough, that we could change our ticket for that days train and that things would all go smoothly, not involving queuing at a million different booths while someone wobbles their head in blank confusion.

We share our taxi with Michael a slightly camp American involved with reality television. He's a series produce for an interior design programme similar in style to changing rooms. He told me about a new American reality tv programme called "The Flava Of Love" - in which twenty robustly built african-american ladies vie for the carnal attentions of Flava Flav (of Public Enemy fame). Apparently one of them poos on the floor when she gets evicted - sounds brilliant and much like an indian station platform.

When we arrive at the Station and fight through the rickshaw drivers we head straight for the enquiry desk who, after queuing for twenty minutes and Jayne elbowing an old but pushy granny in the face, tell us we must go the Head Ticket Collector's Office. Unfortunately i decide to confuse matters by approaching the supervisor who tells me to fill out two identical forms and return them to him instead. We opt for this seemingly easier option but as I get to the front of the queue with my hastily completed forms he puts a closed sign up and sits there for fifteen minutes watching me panic and perspire, while he picks his nose and writes impenetrably into his vast tome of bureaucratic nonsense. In India you have to write everything down at least four times. When the closed sign is removed he is replaced by a lady who fiddles around with her printer, adjusts her keyboard, shuffles her paper and generally wastes another five minutes of my life. I give her the forms and she tells me that I must queue at the head ticket collectors office!

With about three minutes to catch our train i precede dad-like to run around the office screaming fuck in random directions while Jayne follows no doubt rolling her eyes at my ridiculously flappy behaviour. I run full pelt to Head Ticket Collector's office who mercifully is without queue, we fling our backpacks to the floor as I remonstrate loudly to the man demanding that he change my ticket - after all the train is virtually empty - he nods his head , shuffles some paper and tells me that:

"i am thinking you are running out of time" - "I know!" I scream, "Just change my bloody ticket!". I am now skipping around like a deranged Basil Fawlty demon. Then he just laughs at me and tells me to just get on the train - that my Indrail pass is valid to do that. Before he can finish his sentence Jayne and I find ourselves sprinting over prostrate beggars and past bemused pakora-wallahs towards platform three. I make an arcane signal to the driver that meant to me "wait- I need to get on! And my girlfriend behind me!" (it was exceptionally clear - should probably be introduced in to BSL) unfortunately to him my gesticulations obviously meant "start the train now - as quickly as possible my good man I wish to board at a brisk run."

As I find our carriage the train is going at a fairly rapid 5 mph (quik for a train here) and I bravely leap through the door and into the main corridor. As I look back I see Indiana Jayne bravely continuing her sprint, athletically and gracefully carrying her bags like a puma might leap from one tree to another. By the time she reaches the train it is going at a rather scary 7 or 8 mph. She deftly threw me her rucksack which I plucked masterfully from the air. With a last minute grab for the door handle she swung her body round, cleverly using the weight of her rucksack as a makeshift cantilever and propelled herself to safety. We stood exhausted and panting and wallowing in the round of applause we received from the other passengers.

Well we're off for a bit of a wander now. Through the shoe district probably.

More about Jodpants soon.

Lots of love

James and Jayne xxx

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Camels give me the hump

Hello there,

Hope everyone is well.

The final day in Pushkar renewed my faith in all this Puja Hinduism malarkey. Jayne and I wandered around the lake to where it was a little less busy and sat on the steps of the Ghat watching Indian families worship at the lake without too much intrusion from money-grabbing faux-priests (only in India would you commonly get Priest impersonators - can you imagine cockney dodgy geezers slamming around their BMW 3 Series dressed in long black robes and dog collars in the hope that they could pilfer the collection tray).

I watched a lady in her fifties and a younger girl, maybe about twenty, walk down towards the lake. I assumed that the younger girl was her daughter and that they were mourning somebody -perhaps an anniversary of a death - as the older lady was crying and the younger girl put her arm around her. They stood there, a hugging pile of poorly matched saris and poured their flowers into the lake. As they came back up the steps the older lady was crying and smiling, slightly embarassed, wiping tears from her face as if they shouldn't be there, shaking her head with what seemed to be a sense of relief or renewal. It seems to me that for many Indians faith or spirituality is something that really gives them succour and protects them from the harsher aspects of existence.

That night as we lay in bed a great humming rose up from one of the many temples. It sounded like an enraged bees nest but was I presume the sound of many people "omming" (conjugate that verb if you will). Soon the sound of a priest chanting lifted itself above the hum and clackety rhythms of drums and castanets and reverbrating cymbals that accompanies this worship.

The next day was dominated by a camel safari. At 3pm we left our hotel and were taken to an old building that seemed to have once been some sort of stadium. Inside were seven camels. Jayne's camel, who proved to be slightly schizophrenic, was called Baba. My, evidently male camel, was bedecked with beads and ribbons. I wanted to call him Campy but was informed that he had originally being christened quite fittingly as She-Ra. Riding a camel is something of a wobbly affair - the opposite movement to riding a horse. Our camel men were quite entertaining if a little over ready to laugh at the disabled (there was a dwarf in the other group to us). They were also quite openly racist. I pointed out an unusual black camel to my camel guy. Unfortunately this camel was sitting only a few metres away from a black man. Slightly confused my camel guy replied "yes that man is very black isn't he".

Jayne had something of a renegade camel guy who liked to stand up on his camel and jump off Frankie Dettori style. Eventually he let Jayne ride the camel on her own - something she proved quite adept at except when the camel would unpredictably break into a sprint.

We were sad to leave Pushkar - we had made some good friends there and the chef at our hotel, Raju, was excellent. A master of card tricks and Jayne's best friend while I lolled around in bed.
What slightly surprised me was Raju and Bopal's (his young assistant) love of slightly dodgy american teen sitcoms. A love only surpassed by their passion for the Mr Bean film which is apparently shown nearly every week in India. They were also big fans of Takeshi's Castle - but that is quality programming.

So that was Pushkar - next stop Jodhpur - an ancient fort and at last a beer!

James and Jayne

PS Comment on the blog! Go on you know you want to.

PPS If anyone wants to email me my address is mrjamesmurray@hotmail.com. I have had one email since I left - which is pathetic compared to Jayne's million.

Saturday, 24 February 2007


Hi Mum

Not sure if your getting my emails so hopefully you will see this. Thanks for the top up but you text the wrong number to me. It is a 16 digit number across the middle of the receipt, no letters at all. I hope you've not thrown the voucher away. Sorry to publically expose your technological dyslexia!!!

Scams Trams and Automobiles

Hello All

Hope all is well.

Where to start - perhaps with the Taj Mahal. It is a magnificent building - its whiteness blinds those without shades. It is lined with precious and semi precious stones and so on. It does suffer from smelling of feet though as everyone who traipses through is forced to remove their shoes. The gardens are thronged with predatory indian families eager to take pictures of themselves with unsuspecting foreigners. Jayne managed to get involved with one family for about half an hour - unfortunately they didnt have a camera and we had to wait while they hailed one of the photographers over. The poor girl was there for ages while they took various different pictures of various different permutations of family. I can only imagine that there is a house somewhere in India lined with pictures of Jayne.

We had taken a cycle rickshaw to the Taj. On the way he thrust a book of recommendations written by Japanese tourists which basically said that he did good tours of the city. He offered to take us round for 100 rupees for the day (about 1 pound fifty). He was annoying me so to get rid of him I agreed to meet him a few hours later for a tour and said I would pay him after. After seeing the Taj though all Jayne and I really wanted to do was sit in a cafe, drink tea and play cards so with a slight feeling of guilt i broke our appointment. As the day wore on I started to feel a wee bit smug as it was I who had scammed the rickshaw driver rather than the other way round ( a much more common occurence I assure you). Later on we made our way back to the train station and I started to get a sinking feeling as I remembered that I had told him what time my train was back and lo and behold who should interrupt me as I tried to slink through the baying crowd of hotel touts and rickshaw wallahs. Yep my friend from before. I gave him 50 rp as pennance but he still put on a look of such hurt that I thought he may just have bought a KD Lang record on the way to meet us. Oh well - theres always a next time I suppose but I'm determined to scam someone.

Our journey to Pushkar was long and tiresome. Our train at Bharatpur was 4 hours late - fortunately every train in India was late that day so we managed to get our connection. At Jaipur we had a couple of hours wait so decided to go for a beer. We bumped into a chap called Rashid Khan, importer of jewels, seller of travel package tours and owner of something that he rather bizarrely described as a Swiss tent. He got us a couple of overpriced beers and invited us into his office - where we chatted for a while about camels, swiss tents and money as you always seem to do in India. Everyone we meet has a travel business, people can be quite deceptive as they chat away with you , but you can guarantee that after about half an hour you will have their business card in your hand and be solemnly promising (i.e lying through you teeth) to call them from your next destination.

The journey took 14 hours in all, the highlight of which was a naked, beturbanned, loco, ex-indian wrestler (according to himself) accosting Jayne and demanding that she leave India immediately. I bravely blocked with a Judo style arm move but still he persisted. Our second plan was to edge our way into the crowd Anglo style - muttering to passersby who assured us madam that he was "being crazy in the head". We jumped on our bus and made our escape.

The holy town Pushkar - where we are now - is very pleasant. Lots of nice clothes stalls and you don't get too much hassle. I have bought myself a white indian style shirt to blend in with the locals, soon I will be using spitoons and crouching everywhere on my haunches. Jayne has some lovely, lucky bangles and a pair of slouchy trousers. Pushkar has 1000 temples apparently although I have counted about ten so I think this may be something of an exaggeration. The idea is that you go down to the central lake and get blessed by a priest. Unfortunately Jayne and I got scammed by some unsavouries who tried to extort money out of us. I'll warn you now that (as a result of me giving them about 20p) I am now a bad man in India and that all my associates will have bad karma for seven generations... so no walking under ladders for a few weeks you lot - just in case.

Final news includes meeting a friend - Afshad. Afshad is a reasonably well to do muslim from Goa who is currently dating a Hindu Brahmin girl. As you can imagine this is something of a Romeo and Juliet situation. He is originally from an area of India called Bihar. To fill you in on the politicial situation of Bihar - there has recently throughout India been something of an uprising of lower caste peoples against the minority higher castes. This is all well and good apart from the horrific violence which has ensued. In Bihar this uprising has allowed a lower caste individual to become MP - once again this is all fine apart from the fact that this chap (laloo basad) is a thug and a criminal who has embezzled 180 million pounds from the local economy. Not surprisingly this eventually landed him in jail. This did not diminish his political popularity as he retained his seat and is now the minister for transport. Jeffrey Archer would love it here.

The upshot of this for Afshad is that Bihar is a very lawless place and dangerous for anyone of high caste or with wealth like himself. As a twelve year old he was kidnapped by bandits and ransomed back to his family for a huge sum of money. Ironically enough though while in captivity his jailers treated him like a prince - feeding him the finest delicacies. Annoyingly enough for Afshad's uncle - he ate so much in four days that the kidnappers added about an extra thousand pounds to their fee for food and service!

Thats all for now folks... we are heading south a bit sooner than planned as we are craving a beach and a party or two.

James and Jayne

Ps. Foggy - am 3-2 up in the Pushkar amateur pool open although my flip flops have caused a re-occurence of my old Snooker ankle. Can you get John Virgo to send that fit blonde masseuse that he bones for money out here, it really is quite painful.

Pps. Ford - weather news.... today it rained for the first time.

Ppps. Mum Phillips Jayne has sent a package home with some postcards and a ring for Jemma.

PPPS. Jemma Dixon - you obviously have a ring on the way.

PPPPS. Si - hello little Si! Heard about your date from Jayne - if she doesn't like drunk or hungover men she is obviously crying out to mow the lawn with her teeth (if you catch my lesbianic drift).

PPPPPS. Jemma Murray hello my darling - Love you lots. xx Help mum and Dad get on the blog they are searching for it on Google apparently??!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Ra Ra Raj Ma Haj

After accidentally leaving our dynamite set at Delhi station we have finally got on the road to Rajasthan.

Am fully recovered from my chest infection for those that were worried but am now the unfortunate bearer of quite a vicious hand wound sustained while punching the crap out of a window in our luxury hotel in Neemrana. I had spent the day on the back of a moped attempting to use an ATM - on the first trip I forgot my card, on the second trip I blocked my card (wrong pin) and by the time I got there the thrid time with Jayne's card they had run out of money. Hitting my head on a ridiculously low ceiling was the last straw and frankly the window deserved it.

Amusingly enough I was kindly patched up by the same young Indian man who had given me an Ayurvedic massage. I had sworn never to look him in the eye again after him and his friend stripped me naked, covered me in oil and spent a good hour or so "accidentally" touching my scared penis. I half expected to open my eyes and see a rabid Graham Norton and Julian Clary vying for phallic control. Anyway was forced to thank him.

Moments of amusement that have happened so far include:

Meeting our new friends Chaswinder and Niyal in TGI Friday Delhi(Indian for Charles (from the Chas) and Neil) who described a good cricket player as a Monster player. I asked them whether Jeremy Snape is a monster cricket player but they looked a little blank. Chaswinder started a theme by promising to do anything for us at the drop of a hat - something all Indian men seem to want to do, they probnably fancy Jayne.

The "entertainment" at our hotel comprising of a Finnish Youth choir whose final was "Ode to Joy" as done in the final scenes of Sister Act 2 "Back In The Habit".

Things that Jayne Finds Amusing But I found Poignant:

Two robed men sitting around a fire at the side of the road playing with their mobile phones (snake I think).

Me on a bicycle (piles are worryingly imminent)

Less amusing moments:

Our journey from Neemrana to Bharatpur via Alwar: eight hours of potholed roads, full bladders, a driver who doesnt understand the word stop, Jayne weeing all over the back seat and not telling me.

Being surrounded by nodding maniacs while I tried to pay a rickshaw driver. Conversation went something like this:

James: How much?

Ricky the fricking rickshaw driver: 20 rupees.

James: Ok here's 20 rupees. Thank you. (turn to leave)

Ricky: Twenty rupees please.

James: That is twenty rupees - look two tens. Thank you.

Ricky: Twenty rupees please (head begins to wobble in expression of mild irritation).

Crowd: Twenty rupees! You give (general head wobbling all round)

JAmes: (english now all over the place) I give!

Crowd and Ricky (simultaneously as if all of Mother India was against me): Twenty rupees please.

James: For fucks sake.

We are now in lovely Bharatpur. Visited their charming National Park and saw some owls and cranes etc etc. Tomorrow we see the Taj Mahal which I've heard is a little unimpressive...

In all honesty every person we have met has been extremely nice to and everyone goes well beyond the bounds of duty when you ask for help. Such kind people.

Lots of love James and Jayne

Ps Mel Gibson advertises whiskey here - work that one out teetotal Judaiphiles!

Pps You can get photocopying done on the roadside, in a little shack.

Ppps Jayne keeps on getting attacked by monkeys - although I haven't seen it yet so I think that she is lying.