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A Spider's Web

INDIA | Wednesday, 3 February 2016 | Views [332]

A mellow bluesy number is playing at the Pink House. It's 6.30 pm and dark out.

The Pink House has been a haven. A place to come for breakfast, read and relax in the shade of a thatched hut roof in the company of dogs, crows and, when I'm eating in particular, flies.

This morning I came for breakfast after a morning swim and was pleased that I still have time in Puri before I leave for Gaya on the evening of 4th February. This is not always the case but after a cold that has laid me low for a day or so I'm happy to have more time to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. 

Thankfully my back pain has eased and the cold is now also abating. I had feared that the cold might be the harbinger of malaria but apparently this is not the case.

Yesterday, not feeling well, I holed up at the Old Sagar Saikate hotel where I am staying. Another reason to hole up was a desire to avoid the hucksters of the beach, not the best way but the best way I could think of. In particular I was avoiding the masseur, who I imagine as a giant spider remorselessly smelling me out and making his slow but inexorable way across the ponderous web of sand that separates us. A more fitting image would be of a lobster or crab. 

Of course, this is all unfair as he has a living to make and giving pretty good massages to rupee rich tourists in the heat of the day cannot be easy. However, aversion I felt yesterday and I was glad to avoid him. Today of course I had a massage..

The masseur is not the only 'spider'. There are other varieties, all with their different style, mannerisms and colourings. Manga, the chai stall lady who manages to be sweet and threatening in turn, Cherry, the jack of all trades, with his hard luck looks, and the gay guy on the alley to the hotel, the most charming and beguiling of the species, finding different pretexts to invite me to rest in his room.

The guys in the local clothes shop, however, are a different animal. Having bought some clothes from them, they have persuaded me to take them out for dinner, which in the end I was happy to do. I shall let you know how that goes.

There are more beggars again in Puri, on the subject of generosity, and I am struck by how easy it is for me to spend 1000 rupees on clothes or 150 or more rupees on a single meal for myself and yet how I can baulk at giving them more than a few rupees. Something to put right and reflect on.

I am enjoying the new hotel and do not miss the comforts of the last. I particularly enjoy waking up in the morning to the dawn light. I am, however, sleeping poorly which I don't understand. I'm also enjoying sleeping under my mosquito net, pleased to use another item I have brought with me, and reminded of the old days in Puri.

The other thing that I have done is to visit the Konarck Temple. This is situated around 37 kilometers from Puri and to get there I took a cycle rickshaw and bus. I'm fairly convinced that I was taken for a ride in more senses than one by the rickshaw cyclist as instead of taking me to the bus stand he initially took me to the railway station, demanding more to further me to the shores of busdom. I had a brief fight with him before conceding the fare he demanded, sorry fellow tourists, partly because I don't begrudge paying cycle rickshaws the same rate as a motor rickshaw. After all, they work a lot harder for the ride.

I managed to hop onto a moving bus to Konarck and get a seat. Again I paid over the odds (5 rupees extra!!) more out of ignorance and naivity than anything else (what else there would be I'm not sure). Anyway, my accountant can write that one off. The bus journey took around an hour, leaving me to tread the tourist shop lined road to Konarck temple. 

One of the reasons I had got up early to go the temple was to meet with my Canadian Guru there but as he decided to remain by the beach instead (!) I ended up enjoying its splendours on  my own and at my own pace, which I was grateful for, not least for the huge number of erotic carvings it contains on its sandstone pillars and stones. The Temple is a world heritage site and with good reason. The interior was filled in and its riches are now inaccessible in order to preserve the rest of the monument, which attracts on the evidence of my visit, many Indian visitors. I was particularly impressed with the apparent sexual openness and straightforwardness at least of medieaval Orissan culture. I could not imagine erotic carvings on the walls of St Paul's or whole British families coming to admire a monument containing them.

I also managed my record number of selfies or otheries at Konarck. I was torn between starting to get a bit tired and peeved at the number of requests I was getting and conversely becoming tetchy and itchy when I was not asked for a photo. My mind!!

The journey back from Konarck was remarcable largely for being told by someone peddling me an auto rickshaw ride back to Puri for 500 rupees that it was standing room only on the bus going back and me dismissing/ not believing them. Strangely it was as they said, standing room only, but at 25 rupees (exact fare paid this time) I could justify standing. It's odd though how reluctant I, and not just I, get to spend a sum of money that in the west would be fairly negligiible.

Of my reading matter, the Sea of Poppies has taken precedence over other fiction, though I am trying to finish 'Oh shit Not Again' as quickly as possible too. I'm still on the Awareness section of the Bodhicaravatara, trying to move as quietly and gently as a cat, crane or thief (this takes an effort of remembrance and, as the section would imply, awareness) and, having bought some clothes recently reflecting on "you do not gives clothes and such to a servant if you think he is not going to stay. The body will eat and go. Why do you make the outlay?'

On that note I'm off to dinner (well shortly).

Loads of love to you all.


Tags: beach, hucksters, sickness, temples

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