This happened in 2011 …so this post is more of a memoir
You see 2011 is one of, if not the most important year of my life.
Certain events happened that year that changed me, changed my life and went a long way into making me what I am today.
Event 1 – Paralysis and Hospitalization
My spine became tired of carrying my frame and went kaput.
Result – 17 injections within the first 24 hours of hospitalization (still ok, but raw papaya for dinner not ok)
Event 2 – Attempted Murder of Count Brian Christopher Luigi di Jimborghini
The Count Brian Christopher Luigi di Jimborghini was my best friend. He was thrown off the balcony of the 2nd floor. He fell on the concrete below and broke his spine and ribs, which punctured his internal organs.
(Have you ever had to sign and condemn someone to death? I had to. He was unable to move, in pain and had no chance of survival. It was upto me to stop his pain and the only way to do so was to put him to sleep. Unless you have caused the death/killed someone you love, you don’t know what it feels like….and may you never do, because its something that will eat at you for every second you live.)
Event 3 – The Betrayal
All those dog/animal lovers. You know what they did? They spat in the face of justice. When the time came to bring the murderer to the police, none of these dog lovers stepped out of their rooms. The murderer went away scott free.
And you know the reason for all that cowardice?
The murderer was a homosexual.
And because these animal lovers were educated enlightened secular liberal people, they decided that murdering dogs was a perfectly ok thing to do as long as you are a homosexual.
This gave me a valuable insight into the human, or rather the secular, liberal, intellectual psyche.
I was dismayed and disgusted by the behaviour.
I needed to escape.
I thought I would go to Bhopal (to check out the artwork in Bhimbetka)
I went to boss and said “Mr. Boss, give me leave”.
Boss, being boss, naturally said no and asked “Why do you need leave?”
I had to explain about the rights of man, the constitution, the Kyoto protocol, the offside rule and even more importantly about the EPIC BETRAYAL and my resultant state of my mind and soul.
In fact, I gave him such an awesome lecture that he granted me leave for 2 days though I had asked for only 1.
I had made plans to go to Bhopal.
And thus, naturally, in a feat worthy of Bharat Barki (who started from Hiranandani to go to Elephanta and reached Pune) I ended up in Aurangabad.
Why Aurangabad you ask?
It is near Ajanta and Ellora, two genuine wonders of the world
It is near Daulatabad, the temporary abode of one of our nuttiest rulers – Mohammed bin Tughluq
I bought the tickets, booked the hotel and landed at the airport…..and encountered cataclysm, catastrophe, catatonic consternation!!
Its an abomination and needs to be banned.
I was just about to start thinking “Can this trip become any worse?”, when, in a plane half-full of girls, bhabhis, milfs etc, whom did I get as my neighbour?
An octogenarian grandma who spent the whole flight coughing in various volumes and tones.
O Tempora o Mores
I was so depressed that I ended up ordering a sandwich.
I was thoroughly depressed by the time I got off the plane once it landed. So it took me quite a few minutes to realize that I was loitering on the runway. That minor national aviational security matter aside (it involved lots of security personnel glaring at the Fatman, but soon getting affected by the awesomeness which surrounds him like a miasma), I managed to reach my hotel in 1 piece, whereupon seeing my awesomeness, they gave me a double bed room free of cost though I had booked a single bed one.
However, despite the presence of more than 90 tv channels, the number of sports channels was a resounding zero. Being ashamed of this piece of heinosity, they gave me 2 pieces of soap.
After freshening up, I went out to explore the city.
I requisitioned an auto with the help of some extremely helpful gentlemen and ordered him to take me to all the noteworthy places in the city….
Whereupon he took me to Big Bazaar.
After I explained to him what I was looking for, he took me to Akashvani (why that is a place worth visiting, I don’t know), then High Court and then a park with flowers and birds and lovey dovey cooing couples!!!!
There was only one thing to do.
I asked the autowallah, “Look into my eyes comrade, look into my eyes and tell me – do I look like a man or do I look like a cultural studies studying lying cheating backstabbing hypocritical disgrace to humanity??”
Without a word, he started the auto and took me to a place, which, to my immense delight, turned out to be a medieval hydro powered mill.
Its called Panchakki.
Water falls and forces the wheel to move, that puts gears in motion, and that powers a grinder which goes up and down grinding wheat etc.
Of course, there was a cock and bull story about miracles due to blessings of Hazrat baba. Apparently, said baba somehow managed to get the water from miles away and then through the power of awesomeness got it to rise vertically and then fall on the chakki so that wheat could be ground out. Bunkum of course, but there is no point arguing with belief.
One of the Muslim priests even took a broom like thingy and patted my head with it claiming that my wish will come true…but since psychopathic killers and cultural studies studying hypocritical bastards are still all walking around proudly and spewing their unique brand of shit, I guess we can safely infer that all that wish-granting business is nothing but complete balderdash.
Anyway without all that, its a very nice and relatively clean place. There are fountains, a small pool, the baba’s shrine and a very small museum with the baba’s stuff.
Its quite a peaceful place and well worth an hour or so.
By this time, I was hungry. Therefore, I ordered the auto laddie to take me to a good restaurant. Taking his responsibilities about showing me the city way too seriously, the lad took me to the city’s biggest hospital, one temple, the municipal corporation building and then and only then to a restaurant.
It was one of the oldest restaurants in the city, famous for its Mughlai cuisine.
3 tandoori rotis, 1 chicken biriyani, 1 Irani chicken and 600mls of Mountain Dew – price Rs. 180
The waiter telling me that I just finished food normally eaten by 3 people – PRICELESS
But, I still wasn’t sated, something was missing. Therefore, next up, dessert!! I ordered auto-laddie, who by this time was jelly in the my hands, as I had treated him to dinner at the restaurant, to take me to an awesome sweet shop. He fulfilled his duty.
I got some extremely yummy peras/pedas….in fact I liked them so much I ended up buying and eating half-kilo of them.
Next morning, with vim, vigour and potato chips, I set out for a day of excitement, adventure, history and hopefully ice-cream.
First stop was at Bibi ka Muqbara
Its a tomb for one of Aurangzeb’s wives, built in her memory by her son. It sorta resembles the Taj Mahal but on a much smaller scale. It needs a bit of a sprucing up though, the marble was stained, the mosaics were peeling.
Next stop – Devagiri or Daulatabad Fort
In the absence of a guide, but in the presence of a plethora of individuals determined to sell me antique coins, I bought myself a guide book on the fort and went in.
And had more or less the same feeling as Samwise the Brave and Frodo the Baggins when they encountered the Orcish army on the plains of Gorgorath; or when Theoden first saw the Uruk Hai in front of Helm’s Deep – the whole fort was teeming with legions and legions of stampeding water buffaloes – who on closer forensic investigation, turned out to be school kids (and a few extremely attractive school teachers).
Anyway, according to the guide book the fort was apparently impregnable (it failed to mention who did the hysterectomy though). There are about 4 layers of walls and doors, each with the mandatory defense systems, which involved holes through which you pour boiling stuff and arrows on the enemy soldiers.
Once you pass each gate, you reach a courtyard containing way too many cannons – some big ass, some way too wee, some not as big as the big ass ones but bigger than the wee ones.
After passing all these and an enclosure for keeping pachyderms, I came upon a moat. The only way to pass it is through a wooden bridge high in the air.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, isn’t the Fatman afraid of heights? Doesn’t he suffer fro ma heady mixture of altophobia and vertigo? What will he do? Will he have the courage to cross the bridge?
Well let me tell you doubters, any man who has had the courage to go parasailing without wearing a belt while wearing extremely loose-fitting half-pants has lost all fear.
However, I am not stupid. I waited for the stampeding herd of water buffaloes (or school students, if you prefer) to cross the bridge first. Once I saw that the bridge did not protest or make any sound despite this treatment, I stepped on it.
Being the anthropomorphic personification of awesomeness, I crossed it.
Next up, secret, dark, booby-trapped tunnel. This booby-trapped tunnel apparently accounted for hundreds of enemy soldiers who suddenly found themselves impaled/decapitated/plunged into the moat hundreds of feet below. If all this was no enough, there were also hidden chambers through which burning oil, arrows, rocks and mime artists would shower down on the hapless soldiers.
I paused and pondered about going into that tunnel. Discretion turned out to be the better part of valour…and anyway there were more stairs.
I turned back, and despite an epic attempt by an individual hell-bent on cleaning my ears with a safety-pin, proceeded towards and reached Ellora.
Where is the Dead Body
Let me tell you something – if you are an Indian and have not seen the wonder that is Kailash Temple at Ellora, then you have wasted your life.
But the Kailash Temple is merely the cherry on top, the tip of the iceberg, the crown jewel. The whole archaeological area is choc-a-block with rock cut caves adorned with some of the finest sculptures the world has ever seen.
A protected area under the Archaeological Survey of India, Ellora has rightly and deservedly been granted the status of an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here’s what the Archaeological Survey of India says about the place
The caves are hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharasthra, known as ‘Deccan Trap’, the term trap being of Scandinavian origin representing the step like formation of the volcanic deposits. The rock formation, on weathering has given rise to the appearance of terraces with flat summits. At Ellora, one can also have a glimpse of the channels (near Cave 32) through which the volcanic lava once flowed. These channels, due to overheating, have a characteristic brownish red colour. Similar rock was used in the construction of the Grishneshwar Temple nearby and also utilised for the flooring of the pathways at Bibi-ka-Maqbara.
The region is also famous for its antiquity. It has been inhabited since time immemorial, the stone tools belonging to the Upper Palaeolithic (around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago), Mesolithic (less than 10,000 years ago) bearing testimony to this fact. The Chalcolithic remains (2500-1000 BC) in the vicinity also indicates the continuity of human occupation in this region.
Thus grew one of the largest cave excavations at Ellora, that too of three different religious creeds, viz., Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism. The caves are datable from circa 6th – 7th century A.D. to 11th – 12th century A.D. In total, there are nearly 100 caves in the hill range out of which 34 caves are famous and visited by many tourists, out of which Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist; Caves 13 to 29 are Brahmanical and Caves 30 to 34 are Jaina. Two more groups of caves are noticed on the Elaganga and on an upper terrace, namely, the Ganesh Leni and Jogeshwari Leni.
The majority of the Brahmanical establishments and the remaining Buddhist ones can be attributed to the Rashtrakuta times which indicate the religious tolerance of the contemporary period. The Jaina caves definitely post-date the Rashtrakutas as indicated by the style of execution and fragmentary inscriptions. This region was under the control of Kalyani Chalukyas and Yadavas of Deogiri (Daulatabad) during this period. The patronage towards Jainism under the Yadavas is also known by the findings of several sculptures of Jaina faith from Daulatabad. Thus, we have the greatest religious conglomeration at a single place, signifying the religious tolerance and solidarity of different faiths.
The Ellora caves, unlike Ajanta, have a distinction that they were never lost to oblivion, due to their close proximity to the trade route. There have been numerous written records to indicate that these caves were visited regularly by enthused travellers and royal personages as well. The earliest is that of an Arab geographer Al-Mas‘udi of the 10th century A.D. In 1352 A.D. the approach roads to the caves were repaired on the ensuing visit of Sultan Hasan Gangu Bahmani, who also camped at the site and visited the caves. The other important accounts of these caves are by Firishta, Thevenot (1633-67), Niccolao Manucci (1653-1708), Charles Warre Malet (1794), Seely (1824). During the 19th century A.D. these caves were owned by the Holkars of Indore who auctioned for the right of worship and leasing them for religious as well as a form of entrance fee. After the Holkars, these caves passed into the control of Nizams of Hyderabad, who through their Archaeology Department carried out extensive repairs and maintenance of the caves under the guidance of Archaeological Survey of India.
A tourist can plan the visit of these caves according to the time available and depending upon the interest in ancient art. If a visitor has at his disposal three to four hours, then the Cave nos. 10 (Visvakarma Cave), 16 (Kailasa), 21 (Ramesvara) and 32 & 34 (Jaina group of caves) should not be missed. Thus, by visiting these caves, one can have a glimpse of the representative art of Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism. If a visitor has an entire day at his disposal, the Cave nos. 2, 5, 10 & 12 of the Buddhist group; Cave nos. 14, 15, 16, 21 & 29 of the Brahmanical group and Caves 32 to 34 of the Jaina group should be visited.
The caves are excavated in the scarp of a large plateau, running in a north-south direction for nearly 2 km, the scarp being in the form of a semi-circle, the Buddhist group at the right arc on the south, while the Jaina group at the left arc on the north and the Brahmanical group at the centre.
The Buddhist caves are bare, monks used to stay there and whatever adornments there once might have been, nowadays there only the rocks survive. If you have lots of time and lots of energy, you can explore them.
However, I would suggest that once you buy your ticket and enter the complex, turn left and reach the Jaina caves. Start from there and work your way to the centre – Kailash.
And then bow down your head in awe and wonder when you realize that ancient artisans created this wonder of the world by curving a hill using only hammers and chisels.
Ellora is a wonder of the world, a marvel of human endeavor.
And so is Ajanta
I went to Ajanta the next day.
What Ellora is to sculpture, Ajanta is to paintings. Ajanta is a group of caves where hundreds of years ago, a group of men (and women presumably) painted spectacularly beautiful murals.
Here is what the ASI says about Ajanta
The Ajanta Caves were discovered by an Army Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one of his hunting expeditions. Instantly the discovery became very famous and Ajanta attained a very important tourist destination in the world. The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting.
These caves are excavated in horse–shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora. The location of this valley provided a calm and serene environment for the Buddhist monks who retreated at these secluded places during the rainy seasons. This retreat also provided them with enough time for furthering their religious pursuits through intellectual discourses for a considerably longer period. The caves were excavated in different periods (circa. 2nd century B.C. to 6th century A.D.) according to the necessity. Each cave was connected to the stream by a flight of steps, which are now almost obliterated, albeit traces of some could be noticed at some places.
In all, total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also include an unfinished one. Out of these, five (cave no. 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29) are chaityagrihas and the rest are viharas. In date and style also, these caves can be divided into two broad groups. The earliest excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism of which similar examples could also be seen at Bhaja, Kondane, Pitalkhora, Nasik, etc. In total, 5 caves at Ajanta belong to this phase, viz., 9 & 10 which are chaityagrihas and 8, 12, 13, & 15A which are viharas. These caves are datable to the pre-Christian era, the earliest among them being Cave 10 dating from the second century B.C. The object of worship is a stupa here and these caves exhibit the imitation of wooden construction to the extent that the rafters and beams are also sculpted even though they are non-functional.
The addition of new excavations could be noticed again during the period of Vakatakas, the contemporaries of the Imperial Guptas. The caves were caused to be excavated by royal patronage and the feudatories under the Vakatakas as illustrated by the inscriptions found in the caves. Varahadeva, the minister of Vakataka king Harishena (A.D. 475-500) dedicated Cave 16 to the Buddhist Sangha while Cave 17 was the gift of a prince (who subjugated Asmaka) feudatory to the same king. The flurry of activities at Ajanta was between mid 5th century A.D. to mid 6th century A.D. However, Hieun Tsang, the famous Chinese traveller who visited India during the first half of 7th century A.D. has left a vivid and graphic description of the flourishing Buddhist establishment here even though he did not visit the caves. A solitary Rashtrakuta inscription in cave no. 26 indicates its use during 8th – 9th centuries A.D. The second phase departs from the earlier one with the introduction of new pattern in layout as well as the centrality of Buddha image, both in sculpture as well as in paintings
The world famous paintings at Ajanta also fall into two broad phases. The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C. The headgear and other ornaments of the images in these paintings resemble the bas-relief sculpture of Sanchi and Bharhut.
The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. The specimen of these exemplary paintings of Vakataka period could be noticed in cave nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17. The variation in style and execution in these paintings also are noticed, mainly due to different authors of them. A decline in the execution is also noticed in some paintings as indicated by some rigid, mechanical and lifeless figures of Buddha in some later period paintings. The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various Jataka stories, different incidents associated with the life of Buddha, and the contemporary events and social life also. The ceiling decoration invariably consists of decorative patterns, geometrical as well as floral.
The paintings were executed after elaborate preparation of the rock surface initially. The rock surface was left with chisel marks and grooves so that the layer applied over it can be held in an effective manner. The ground layer consists of a rough layer of ferruginous earth mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material of organic origin on the rough surface of walls and ceilings. A second coat of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material was applied over the ground surface. Then the surface was finally finished with a thin coat of lime wash. Over this surface, outlines are drawn boldly, then the spaces are filled with requisite colours in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes. The colours and shades utilised also vary from red and yellow ochre, terra verte, to lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The chief binding material used here was glue. The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the aid of a binding agent, whereas in fresco the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet which, thereby acts as an intrinsic binding agent.
Its quite far and it takes the whole day to go there, check things out and come back.
And it is totally worth it.
No matter what vehicle you use, you have to get off because no gas-belcher is allowed within a few kilometers of Ajanta.
From the parking you have to walk a bit and then que to get on electric buses. The buses are few. the people trying to get on the buses many.
As a result, you get packed like sardines or rather like Indians during office hours in Kolkata or Mumbai. Its a highly uncomfortable 10 minute journey – unless you meet a lad from Dortmund and can spend the time discussing the pros and cons of Jurgen Klopp’s high pressing game (this was 2011 remember).
And then you get off the bus and go on a half an hour hike to climb to the caves.
Now, if you are a young, fit, healthy, vigorous, energetic individual, you are going to enjoy the hike and the views.
However, if you are me, you will semi-stagger semi-crawl semi-lurch you way up like an one-legged zombie on an acid trip during an earthquake and once you reach the top, you will promptly collapse and cause a minor international incident.
It was like an episode of medicine sans frontiers with Japanese, German, American, Spanish, British and other nationalities fanning the Fatman, feeding him water, shading him, wondering about 911’s Indian equivalent etc – while true to form the Indians pointed and laughed (“hehe, mar geya hoga, bhenchod!”).
Anyway, much like the Fatman, Ajanta is dying. Men created all those beautiful art and it is men who are destroying it. The paintings are peeling off; human breath, atmospheric moisture and grime and light – from the camera flashes of uncouth, uneducated, uncivilized Bong tourists – are all playing their part.
The ancient artists had used all natural colours – no chemicals – but those colours stood the test of time, they survived 1500 years of the earth.
They haven’t survived 50 years of Bong tourists.
The only way to preserve Ajanta would be to ban humans – or more pertinently casual tourists – from going near it.
Its a mother of a catch 22 situation.
I heard of government plans to introduce limits of people who can go there; don’t know when that will be implemented though. By the time it happens, it might be too late – more than half of Ajanta’s treasure are already gone, lost forever. Its only a matter of time before the rest goes too.
Anyway, once you are tired from all that hiking and appreciating art, you can go to the restaurant and rest room.
The only issue with the restaurant is that in 2011 they were selling a can of beer – that too Kingfisher, the worst beer in the solar system – for INR 150.
I stuck to fresh lime soda – its soda, sugar and lime, chances of fucking that up is very low – and started on the return journey.
One entrepreneur with high hopes latched on to me trying to sell statuettes, knick knacks and crystals from the area.
He was persistent, I was , well me
I had to finally explain to him, “Look, comrade, I work in STAM Interactive. Doubloons are not something that I have to spare”
He felt so bad about my plight, he gave me a rock crystal for free.
There was just one more thing I had to do.
And so, once I came back to Aurangabad and before I boarded the flight, I went to a saloon and got both my moustache and beard shaved off to pay my respects to Jimborghini.
Till date, it remains the only time I had shaved off both.