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Published: June 15th 2008
From Panchgani, we came to Kolhapur by bus. My mp3 player has a pleasingly bizarre mixture of Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra and Bollywood soundtracks, and nothing beats watching Indian life racing by with the sound of 'Chicago is My Kinda Town' in your ears. It's greatly weird. Kolhapur was a typically busy Indian town, with a nice Mahalaxmi temple (she's the Goddess of wealth) which had a pretty black, carved base (10th century) and a modern, painted roof and spire. (As eclectic as my music taste, really.) Lots of the locals wanted to shake hands and talk, and there was a great atmosphere plus the best damn mango lassi i have ever tasted. It rained hard and we managed to find the city's wrestling pit and watch young trainees grapple in the mud. Personally, i have never been surrounded with so many men in skimpy pants, so i kept a distance and put my back against the wall. There were so many push ups and stretches going on, i tried hard to look above pant level. i thought i would feel like a little pervert taking photos so you won't see any on here! The wrestlers rubbed their limbs with earth
first and made popping sounds by slapping their elbows whilst warming up. Then they grappled, and tangled up so tight you couldn't tell which leg and which arm belongs to whom. It was intense, and a shrine to Hanuman the monkey God watched over the scene; he's equated with strength and loyalty, very apt. We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the market. The vendors were excited to have Seth take their photos, and i loved how the Indian women seemed to have dressed to match the produce they sold - the woman selling lemons was in a lemon coloured sari (she looked stunning) and the lady selling green chillis wore bright red (i think Howard Hodgkin would have dug her opposing colours.)
The next day we headed south to Bijapur. It's not my first time in the city, but I'm glad to be back, and for Seth to be seeing it for the first time. It's a great place. Imagine a walled city full of 16th/17th Islamic ruins in various states of repair and disrepair, with an atmospheric modern city growing up around it all. It's not a big place, either, so we just turned
on the GPS and walked from the Ibrahim Rouza (i think it's one of India's most gorgeous buildings) to the Gagan Mahal (I think it's ugly - like someone started bulldozing a Wallmart then changed their mind - but Seth thinks it's incredible. Have a look at the photos and see what you think.) That night, after more paparazzi market action, we chilled out with beer and cigarettes in a rooftop bar, and a man at the neighbouring table told Seth (in Hindi, but i understood him perfectly and couldn't quite believe my ears) that he shouldn't let his wife drink and smoke. Seth tried to explain that I'm free to do whatever i like and that in England it's normal but i was annoyed. I kept telling this guy, 'Mera Zindagi aur tera zindagi bilkul same hai' (in bad Hinglish, it means 'my life and your life are just the same.') He apologised but it took me an hour or two to cool down.
Next, we head south to Badami, and the neighbouring towns of Aihole and Pattadakal, to look at some Chalukyan ruins, and hopefully get a taste of some rural life. Part of me thinks that
perhaps I'm so used to India these days - the rough and the smooth and all it's little obscurities - that i might lose some of the magic spell it casts over me. It feels more and more familiar all the time, and i don't know if it has the capacity to surprise me very much any more. Perhaps getting out of the cities and into these rural towns will bring the magic back...
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