This lodge, in a row of six owned individually by Ashok and his brothers, is the calmest place we have found since our arrival in Mumbai over a month ago. The garden is a veritable oasis away from the surrounding busy streets, and during the course of the day we can lounge on the terrace and take it all in, while Indu’s restaurant is open to us all the while. It’s so lovely here that I am feeling particularly lucky (and indolent, as Anne goes about earning money to pay for the trip through her translation work).
Ashok announced last weekend that he could feel winter had come to an end. When we arrived the sky had been cold and grey and we woke to thunder and rain and we hadn’t wanted to get out of bed overmuch, although that quickly changed once the sun had risen a little, spreading its warm rays through the greyish, northern Rajasthan mist. Then a hot shower was followed by a breakfast of porridge and hot buttered toast with a big pot of tea in Indu’s place.
That rain-spattered night we had been invited round to the home of a local family and nearly froze as we were collected and deposited on the back of two motorbikes.
Day by day, though, the temperatures increased, so that we were a little worried the migratory birds which had been held back by the unusually inclement weather might decide to fly off in adherence to an age-old internal command. Thankfully, a trip to the local bird sanctuary assuaged our concerns.
Far more irritating than the rickety old bikes, build-up of heat and worries about any absent avian life was the attention we continually received from adolescent boys away from school, always on the lookout for foreigners to tease and share selfies. This particular day was a state holiday in celebration of the supposed marriage of Lord Shiva to Parvati and entire villages from around the park were out to ask for nuptial blessings at the local temple.
People continually ask me what differences I can see from my last trip in Rajasthan four decades ago and all I can come up with is the increase in traffic – and a lot more tourists. Actually, the rise in the former has blighted this trip somewhat and we are hopeful our next destinations set in and near the Himalayas will be less noisy and busy.
In anticipation of our arrival at Rishikesh (where Anne has just booked herself in for a week-long ashram retreat), I downloaded the Beatles ‘White Album’, containing as it does songs composed during the Fab Four’s stay with the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi.
Apart from the well-known classics like Back in the USSR and Revolution, the collection had a ring of self-indulgence and I was reminded why I had never been a big Beatles fan to begin with. I’d been looking forward to deconstructing the songs and inter-twining them somehow with the India trip (much like I have done with The Doors LA Woman album, in a story from the DOSTOEVSKY’S PLACE collection, set during a stay in Russia), and in some way – and in the same manner – make allusions to the human condition. Well, you can’t fake it.
What did come out of this listening process, for me, was this information :-
The next Beatles album Abbey Road was released in 1969 (i.e. fifty years ago, the ‘White Album’ came out the previous year) and was only displaced briefly from the number 1 spot by the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, and then eventually with Led Zeppelin II. I mean, just look at that list of three albums! Somehow, their emergence together says a great deal about the kind of energy that was being generated around this period of time.
However, a trawl through the works of fiction of that era did not really correlate with this revolutionary spirit. Which tells me, equally, that the literary world has almost always lagged well behind the production of meaningful popular music, the exception coming with the emergence of the Beats in post-war America.
Quite why this is, I can only speculate. I mean, reading isn’t really that hard a process, just so long as you have the right sequence of words before you. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut came out back then and is proof that literature can have a similarly positive effect as accessible rock music.
That is the spirit that I have tried to imbue within my work – and that is the spirit that will eventually make this world a much better place to live.
(Just yesterday evening we were told a baby girl had been born to the daughter-in-law of the local family we visited – slightly before time!)