I wrote this (well most of it) recently for a Times of India special on Rajasthan
Holy Cow and a B’wood Gora.
Rajasthan was exactly what I’d expected of India, the postcard image that had been romanticised for so long: Long rolling deserts, blistering heat, tenacious religious fervour and broad, welcoming smiles. I rode to Udaipur at around dusk on my Enfield, and revelled in winding up through the steep streets (my bike loves an incline) gazing at the ancient buildings. I was so captured by the sight, craning my neck upwards, that I almost ran right up an elephant’s rear.
Pushkar was amazing – the heat was oppressive such that almost everyone that ventured into the sunlight was rendered unconscious by its harsh glare. The streets were deserted, and only the most legitimate holy babas remained – all of the scamsters had left with the tourists, in search of temperate climate. I even saw a five-legged cow, that was far holier than those from my farm in Australia. I have developed a strange relationship with cows after being in North India, where the Brahmin bulls stand taller than me – and I’m 6 foot 3! I’d grown on a cattle farm in Australia where the black cows we knew were terrified of us from birth, it was amazing to be able to touch and feed these holy beasts as they nonchalantly stood in the middle of the chaotic roads. They really are more intelligent than I’d guessed. The cows in Australia know that they are food, and yet here they are Gods – and again they know it.
I’d bought my bike from Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, and have ridden almost the entire length of India before coming to live in Mumbai. It was a fantastic way to become acquainted this place, and my visit to Rajasthan, to see the religious centre of India was probably a significant factor in my decision to stay here. Although I am an atheist, it is fun to appreciate the origin of such intriguing customs, such exciting festivals and such strange stories as are offered by Hinduism. I hold faith that when we learn to accept one another’s beliefs as unique and valid, we will pick and choose many parts of Hinduism to design our new morality.
The North Indian dal, mutton and paranthas (when we could get it from sleeping restaurateurs) were spicy and deliciously flavoursome, and has caused me to become an addict of Indian masala. Now, I add spoonful after spoonful of spice to my old favourite continental dishes – because now, compared to India, the rest of the world seems rather bland. The food hardened my stomach and opened my mind; it caused me to laugh and tear out my hair; it confused me, amazed me, and will always stay with me. No wonder people always come back – because India is the motherland. It’s such a fitting metaphor that it is the birthplace of speech and it invented the zero.”
I was also quite amazed with the extravagant jewellery that women wear. During the shoot of the flick, The Flag, I thought the women folk would only do a bit of makeup. But was quite amazed with the jewellery they had to wear. It isn’t just about those big bangles but also about the nose ring, huge earrings and heavy fake gold jewellery. I was so impressed with it that I couldn’t stop from buying necklaces and earrings for a friend in Australia. She was so happy with the collection that she kept the whole of it.
As told to Divya Pal
I’m busy as hell now, helping out with AR Rahman’s ‘The Journey Home World Tour 2010′ getting ready to go on tour with a superstar. I am so excited, but don’t really have time to tell you how busy and excited I am, so read regurgitated stuff until I’ve got a moment to scratch myself and I’ll tell you all about it.