JULY 2001: DELHI TO LADAKH
|Michael's first email was an exultant shout . . .
Michael (email 7 July 01): "I'M IN DELHI !!!"
That was all it said, but it was enough. It is easy to picture him walking around in wide-eyed amazement and joy at the assault on his senses from the scenes around him: the teeming, jostling crowds, the unending noise, the many and varied smells, and the all-pervading pollution in the air and on the ground. This was totally unlike anything to be seen in Australia. He loved it as he always knew he would.
There was also the bizarre. In a later email to a friend he recalls a meeting with a most unusual person, who is possibly the subject of the above photograph . . .
|Michael (email 25 Jan 02): On my very first morning in India I'm cruisin through the back streets of Delhi just spinnin out at the sheer spectacle of this place, dodging cows, sleazy shop owners, "hellooo sir. . . . HELLOOOOOOOO" crazy rickshaw drivers who follow and harass you, hash dealers and retarded looking lost tourists, beggars grovelling on the street with most of their arms or legs missing, no shit it's a Delhi heat wave and 47 degrees and like a sauna why did I come here in the middle of summer. I come out of the narrow shitty laneways of the back streets of Paharganj and on to the main road loving this freak show carnival of a country but hating it at the same time. Right on cue, I see this sadhu, a dreadlocked, naked, ash-smeared holy man walking down the street like he owned it with a big trident in his hand and people getting out of his way like he was some sort of a god. "Yeah!" I think and start following the guy which is no easy task as the dude was really stridin down the street. I catch up with him and just start walking alongside, he looks me up and down and says "follow me" so we go back to where he has this little clearing in a park. The place is just a little shady spot under some trees but surprisingly clean and peaceful with a little shiva temple under one of the trees. One of his followers (the guy had disciples and shit) rolled out some carpet for us to sit down on and whips out a big box full of photos and news clippings. One of the photos shows the sadhu with his dick wrapped around his trident and he's really twisting the trident hard so he can kill all the feeling in his dick. He doesn't wanna ever be tempted by sex you see. I'm kinda lost for things to say so I just give a weak smile and say wow or something like that. Next he shows me a news clipping of him surrounded by a big crowd of people. Behind him is a big truck . . attached to the truck is a rope. attached to the other end of the rope is his dick. The dude is pulling a truck through the streets of Delhi with his dick! People in the photo are cheering and apparently he was doing it as some sort of protest against police corruption. Again I'm kinda lost for words. . . .|
|(Click here to view more of Michael's photos of Delhi).
But soon it was time to move on. He boarded a bus, heading north.
Michael (email 16 July 01, subject Chai, Chillum and Chapattis"): "Hi, everyone. Hope all is good. I'm now in the Himalayan town of Naggar after one truly amazing bus ride up from Delhi. The bus took me to Manali from where I slowly walked down to here, stopping and staying in the most beautiful mountain villages over the past few days. I have been fortunate to meet some of the most amazing and wonderful people every day. Can't begin to tell you all I have seen in the past week but I will try! Yesterday I spent with a local man, an ex-Buddhist monk from Sikkim, who happily took me to some of the most spectacular back-hills and sacred temples of the area that tourists would never see. I was also very lucky to get to see an angry local devi (female spirit) being carted from village to village to receive her puja. Huge trumpets and horns blaring, people shouting . . . all trying to appease her and bring good luck to the village! I've met many holy men in my short time here, some of whom defy description. I feel a bit like an ex-alcoholic at Oktoberfest right now as cannabis literally grows wild around here and lines every road! Everyone smokin' the chillum, drinkin' chai and eating the chapattis! Mike.
Well! All this barely a week out from the staid suburbs of Sydney! But now there was something different again to challenge him.
Michael (email 18 July 01, subject "Trekkin'"): Hi guys. I'm back in Manali again. Hope you're all doing well and Gab is O.K. Guess what! In two days I start a 22 day trek across the Zanskar and Himalayan ranges! I've hooked up with 3 Israeli guys and the last couple of days we've spent running around organising a guide, ponies, food and equipment, etc. We leave from Darcha (H.P.) and end up in Lamayuru (in Ladakh) going via Padum. The company that helped organize our trek is called "Himalayan Quest Adventures" and their phone no. is 91-1902-53139 or email on email@example.com. They also have your details and will contact you if anything goes wrong. I'll let you know how things are going as soon as I can, but don't hold your breath as, although we are following a major trekking route, we are unlikely to encounter any phone or email facilities along the way. This is not too difficult a trek and we are going with a guide and 2 ponymen who know the area well. Love to everyone and don't stress, Mum! Take care, love,
As he expected, there was no further contact from Michael for quite a while. Then, early in August, his parents received an urgent phone call from him in Leh, a remote city in Ladakh . . .
August 2001 Ladakh to Varanasi
Photos Michael's photographs of Delhi