Thursday, August 31, 2006

How to entice "The Kids" back to church

WARNING: I better kick this one off with a warning that certain images presented may offend some readers … but then again they may excite the rest of you!

East Indiaman #1: I say Gerald, we’ve been at this now for three blasted hours! [slap] I’m getting eaten alive by these damnable mosquitoes and we haven’t seen any sign of the natives since we left the beach! Surely enough’s enough!

East Indiaman #2: Just a little further, Roger ol’ Boy … we must be almost there, by Jove!

East Indiaman #1: Hodge-podge! From out on the Bay, it looked as though it was right there … we must have headed off in the wrong direction! Let’s go back to The Britannia and get on our way, if we weigh anchor on the tide, we should make Calcutta by tomorrow evening, and a hot bath is definitely in high order, wot?

East Indiaman #2: No, Roger, please. I’m sure this is right, we must be almost there … not much further, I assure … Goodness Gracious!

East Indiaman #1: Good Lord, will you look at that! Absolutely incredible! Remarkable! Look at that structure.

East Indiaman #2: And look at those carvings, Roger … absolutely splendid.

East Indiaman #1: I say, Gerald, are those carvings doing…? Is that what I think it is …? Is she …? [blushing] Good Lord!


Despite the high public profile, the reality of daily life down at Saving-the-World HQ is much like any other office-based job; we receive urgent calls for assistance to save thousands of lives every day, and accordingly we dispatch the appropriate teams and equipment to do the job. Sounds flash, I know, but all you do is sit next to a phone and a computer, and you might as well be in New York or London!

Occasionally, however, one gets to step into a phone booth, don the cape and red undies, and head out to the field for a bit of hands-on action, and it was while on one such field visit to the Indian state of Orissa recently, that I witnessed a most extraordinary site.

The visit saw me hard at it by day, working with communities on cyclone preparedness, but in the evening, I returned to a small town, Konark, about three miles inland, and completely surrounded by impenetrable, malaria-infested, tropical jungle. In the centre of the town stood an enormous, ancient temple in which the inhabitants of the region once “worshipped” the Sun.

Now at this stage, let’s just clarify what I mean by the term, “worshipped”, because this is very important to this rather plodding tale. Growing up as a Catholic boy in Melbourne in the 80s, “worship” usually referred to a pretty rigid, staid process involving fathers with Sunday morning hangovers, an unwavering and mind-numbingly boring script and a gnawing hunger to get home for a crumpet!

But this wasn’t the case all over the world … oh no! Here in Orissa, for example, we don’t really know exactly how people went about their “worship” of the Sun all those centuries ago because there aren’t a lot of records available to tell us … that is unless you count the records carved into every inch of the four-storey high temple! In that case, if you count THOSE records, then we know exactly how they used to “worship”!

“Worshipping” the Sun looks like it might have been quite appealing, because at the Sun Temple in Konark, it’s pretty clear that what they used to get up to in the guise of “worship” was the kind of stuff that, today, your average family-oriented anti-virus software tries to protect the kiddies from! That’s right, my friends, the ancient Orissans were into something akin to triple x-rated, hard-core, pornography! And just in case they were worried that the youth of the day might be swayed by new-fangled interests (as kids so often are), the Orissans decided to take steps to ensure future generations would not forget “the old ways”; so they carved into the walls of their sacred meeting place, in tremendously graphic detail, every conceivable position, be it with man, woman or beast.

Crikey! What must those aristocratic, socially up-standing and morally-superior British colonialists have thought when they stumbled upon this amazing monument to the desires of human nature? More importantly, I reckon, is the question of wether or not the Orissans were still hard at it at the time, which would have been quite a moral conundrum for Sirs Gerald and Roger (no pun intended)!

All Presbyterian ‘shock and horror’ aside, the Sun Temple at Konark is truly an amazing piece of heritage in a country that has experienced waves of “religious cleansing” over the years in the name of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and variations there of, over and over again. The legacy of these waves is a rigidly, sexually conservative society which even prohibits the screening of kissing scenes in movies or on TV! Yet, kissing (and a lot more to-boot), when presented on an ancient temple wall, seems to be socially acceptable, and has become a magnet for young, recently married “scholars of history”, who flock to Konark year after year during the wedding season!

One can only wonder why the Orissans stopped “worshipping” at the temple. Did they truly see the light of Christian missionaries, or did they just run out of “religious fervour”? Who knows? Maybe you really can have too much of a good thing!

The impressive Sun Temple, Konark. Photo: Hagas

OK ... I had a bit of trouble with this 'cause my Mum sometimes checks-in to DonkeyBlog, so here is just a tame sample of what's on offer on the walls of the Sun Temple. Raunch aside, the temple is truly spectacular! Photo: Hagas

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A spot of poetry, wot?

Part I: From Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Overflow

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the [AIRCON] and the [RICKWHAWS] making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.


And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal—
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

Part II: From Donkey of the Underpass.

A year ago, I too was in an office, of all places,
but a little different from this one, with it’s sallow, un-lit faces.
It was down South at Small Malaita, where we’d gathered for talk and training,
A dilapidated Court House, t’only shelter from the raining.

And in a week of rats, and filth and tasteless scran, of rain and endless lessons,
I forged relationships with people, and with cultures and locations,
And I learned something of a happy race, of hardships and of me,
And I know I’d gladly swap this prison cell, with it’s flouro lights and whirring beeps,
To look across the beach, and see the waves sway to and fro,
And to feel the wind across my face, and to belong as once before I did, when I worked in Afio!

Yep, Old Banjo knew what he was on about ... I think it might be time to make a move ... whadayareckon?

The view from the courthouse where I was running training in Afio ... pretty nice, hey? Photo: Sally.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Why Granny, what big, piercing, betrayal-fuelled and hatred-filled eyes you have!

Hasn’t the wolf received a bad ol’ wrap from Man over the years? For starters, and I’m sure this hasn’t helped his plight all that much, we teach our children that wolves are all Big and Bad! OK, I’m willing to concede that if the wolf which led a starring role in all those fairy stories was actually Big and Bad, then I guess the name was somewhat deserved, but surely it wasn’t the same wolf in every story? If that was the case, why not call him the Big, Bad, Well-travelled, Foreign-looking, Not-from-‘round-here Wolf, ‘cause if he was the very same wolf, he would have been hot-footing it all over medieval Europe in order to catch up with Red Riding Hood in Belgium, Hans in Munich, the Three Little Pigs in Oxfordshire … the list goes on.

And to be honest, were the deeds of the Big, Bad, Well-travelled, Foreign-looking, Not-from-‘round-here Wolf as “bad” as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen make out? Wasn’t Farmer McDonald, the owner of the Three Little Pigs, just ticked-off because the wolf, in trying to devour the tender little porkers, was doing him out of an anticipated Christmas dinner of roast pork, smoked bacon and pickled trotters?

And cross-dressing aside, I’ve no doubt that the Big, Bad, Well-travelled, Foreign-looking, Not-from-‘round-here Wolf’s devouring of Granny, rather than being viewed as a tragic massacre, would have earned him the respect and gratitude of Belgium’s political right as a successful model for reducing the Belgian social security budget! Hardly a hangable offence (on the contrary, he’d be national hero in George W’s USA!).

The more I dwell upon it, the clarity of just how much of a fickle bunch we humans are is startling. We might be great advocates for “Dogs are Man’s best friend” and all that gaff, but judging by what we teach out kids from fairy stories, it’s evident that that friendship is conditional; valid only while Rex is hanging on the end of a leash.

For instance, one of the most popular fashion accessories with which to be seen strolling along Melbourne’s trendier designer shopping districts at the moment is a well-groomed Alaskan Malamute – more or less a wolf, if ever I’ve seen one. As a self-proclaimed metro-sexual Donkey, I fully understand and condone the need to accessorize, but each evening, these very same shoppers have the gall to read their kids bedtime stories (often in the presence of a tethered Fido) condemning the exploits of some “evil” dog who’s really just trying to find a home or a feed … yes, that’s right, just trying to survive in the xenophobic countryside of medieval Europe!

It is we humans that are the not-so-nice ones. Look at Shackleton and his near disastrous exploration of Antarctica. Their dogs (again, very closely related to wolves), dragged those dirty, smelly, pommy bastards across the freezing pack-ice for the better part of eight months, and what did they get in return when the going got a bit tough? That’s right, they got to share a spot on a plate with some Surprise Peas and a blob of Deb! Try as I might, I fail to see how those selfless canines had been all that Big and Bad!

And what happens when we lose a baby in the jungle, hey? Is that baby rescued and raised by monkeys, or elephants, or gazelles, or dear, or giraffes? No! Without fail, that baby is rescued and raised by wolves! All these other animals are too selfish and self-absorbed to help another (and if you ask me, I reckon Bambi’s mother got what was coming, the selfish old Bag!), but wolves, fiercely loyal and believing man when he bangs-on about life-long friendship, do their bit.

And what do they get for holding their end up? A starring role in anti-canine propaganda and persecution to the point of being chased down like dogs (ah-ha, that expression is all the evidence you need!). I have a bit of a theory that, far from being “stolen and eaten”, little Azaria was saved by a very clever and caring dingo (again a close relative of the wolf) who rightly surmised from their dressing her in a lemon-coloured matinee jacket, that she was heading for a life of pain at the hands of mentally unstable, religiously fanatical parents. But instead of being praised for his good service, he and his kind were hunted down and killed at the hands of their indignant “best friends” … Man!

Well, it can’t last! Even the most lowly self-esteemed girlfriend won’t put up with an abusive relationship for ever! So, Man, next time you send Butch out to the freezing dog-house at night before you get all cosy under the doona inside your centrally-heated bedroom, take a last peep through the curtains into the yard, and mark well the piercing, betrayal-fuelled hatred in your “best friend’s” eyes. That might be the only warning you’ll ever receive before you get what’s coming.

"Oooh yer Cool, Man, Coooooool!" Sure, this Cat might be Bad, but in a hip, cool way! Picture: Google Images.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Go on, entertain me!

Friends? I’ve got LOADS of ‘em. Big ones, lil’ ones, fat ones, skinny ones, witty ones, earnest ones … and all of ‘em interesting. Unfortunately, they’re all in another place, and making new friends is never easy, especially when you start to get on a bit and staying home with a beer (and your wife … but don’t worry, Hon, not in that order!) in front of a DVD on a Saturday night becomes more and more attractive.

But we do try to make friends … in fact we try pretty hard sometimes. And that’s the theme of this short Blog; is it just me, or are people losing the skill of conversation and congregation? Are email, the internet, reality TV and movies-on-demand slowly whittling away at our social skills?

I’ll try to give you an example of what I mean … a little while ago, Mrs Donkey and I were out at a weekly, social, sporting commitment, which had become a regular for us since we were new in town and were out to build a bit of a social circle. We met lots of new people, and the conversation (after general, “what’s your name?” introductions) usually went something like this (now, I don’t want to single anyone out here, or contribute to stereotypes, so lets choose a name that’s nice and neutral and non-descript … how ‘bout Hank?!!!!);

Donkey: So, Hank, how long have you been in Delhi?
Hank: Two years.


Donkey: Two years, hey? That’s a long time … how’s two years in Delhi?
Hank: It’s OK.


Donkey: Are you working here?
Hank: Yeah.


Donkey: So, am I allowed to ask you what you do, or do you work for the CIA?
Hank: No, I do all different sorts of things …

...and that was it! And I just couldn’t do it anymore? I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking that when you’re the new bod, you gotta keep trying. But hang-on a minute, I didn’t go to no posh finishing-school or nothin’, but even I know there is a certain protocol to communicating with people. You ask a question, they give you an answer, you affirm their answer, ask another question, they answer, and then ask something about you … and then, “Hey Presto!”, as if by magic, you have had a two-way conversation and learned something about each other. That’s how it’s supposed to be … and it’s thanks to both parties understanding and following these simple social rules that Mrs Donkey and I have been able to develop lasting, mutually beneficial friendships with so many wonderful people over the years.

And let me just say, this ain’t no isolated event! There have been many, many Hanks over the last six months! I'll admit that discovering Blogging has really been one of the most wonderful things to have happened to me in recent years, and when you’re bored or a bit low, it’s great to just hit “Next Blog” and enjoy a whole hour or so as the thoughts and happenings of people from all over the world are just laid out before you. But, when it comes to the face-to-face, this “Go on, entertain me!” attitude has just gotta stop!

Donkey seems a bit grumpy today, sorry.

Hell hath no fury like a Donkey with a gripe. Photo: Google Images

Monday, August 21, 2006

What a twonk!

Dear readers, while I may have been at this Blog-gaff for well over a month now, I’ve only just discovered the “moderate comments” function, and of course, all your wonderful, supportive comments.

Mrs Donkey will attest to my being a complete pain in the ass (pardon the pun) over the last few weeks as I was becoming increasingly despondent that no one was commenting (a fact which, I reasoned, indicated that no one likes the ramblings of a travelling, talking Donkey), but now I find 23 wonderful comments, scattered across DonkeyBlog (some of them are even legitimate, non-spam comments!), and I have been re-born.

So to all of you who are reading, thanks … and to those of you who have commented, thank you so very, very much! I promise to get onto your comments over the next couple of days, and to have a squiz at your own sites.

Cheers … he-haw!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lampooning the baboon in Shimla

Hanuman is the Monkey god of Hinduism, and the character immortalised for an entire generation of Australian youth in the 80s thanks to the ABC's regular afternoon showing of the Japanese TV series, Monkey Magic. You may recall the often comedic antics of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as they blundered their way through an East Asian medieval epic of political intrigue, lust, supernatural shenanigans and considerable confusion over their feelings for their “master”, the hermaphrodite Buddhist monk, Tripitaka (who just happened to be played by Masako Natsume, one of Japan’s more successful female models of the time).

Monkey Magic, icon of a generation. Source: Google Images.

Well, in addition to Monkey, Hanuman has been portrayed in many other different ways, the most recent being an animated Indian feature film about the great hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. In this Disney-esque interpretation, Hanuman is portrayed as a cute, cuddly dwarf who looks and sounds a bit too camp for a great supernatural warrior, but not surprisingly, in religious crazy India, the movie was a brilliant success.

Despite being "as gay as a row of tents", Hanuman was a big hit in India. Source: Google Images.

Y’see, despite the often comedic portrayal, Hanuman is one seriously respected dude around these parts, and modern interpretations aside, most Hindu and Buddhist temples between India and Thailand feature pictures of legions of armoured, spear-wielding apes following Hanuman into battle to save one deity or other. These pictures must surely have been the inspiration for the classic Franklin J. Schaffner production of Planet of the Apes, and possibly influenced the Wicked Witch of the West’s legions of winged monkeys in Victor Fleming’s 1939 classic!

While travelling to the Himalayan hill station, Shimla, last weekend, I was accidentally handed an opportunity to pay my respects to Hanuman, “Great Sage and King of Heaven”. We’d been out wandering around the hills, and had gotten a bit lost while trying to get back to a coffee shop. We ended up on a rather exposed ridge in the middle of a white-out, and when it finally cleared (somewhat suspiciously, in a “being led-like lambs to the slaughter” kind of way), we found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep flight of stone steps, descending which were hundreds of pilgrims who informed us that they had been worshipping Hanuman at his Jakhu Temple, all the way up there in the clouds.

Being great adventurers, and always up for an exciting challenge, we attacked those steps with gusto, and would have been there in no time, if not for the fact that in addition to being great adventurers, we were also uncoordinated, weak, completely un-fit fatties, so it took a bit longer than anticipated to reach the dizzying heights. But slow and steady wins the race, and after about an hour of having to stop for a 5 minute break after every ten steps, we reached an imposing gate which was guarded by a couple of gigantic, heavily armed statues of monkey-soldiers dressed in fierce helmets and chain mail. Despite their menacing appearance, we were warned by a friendly vendor at the gate that they were unable to protect us from trouble up at the temple, and that we should each hire a lathi (a fighting stick or staff) from him.

Talk about red rag to a bull. I hail from a long line of incredible tight arses, and I know a scam when I see one. I was like, “Yeah right, who do we need protection from up here? Have the Islamic extremists finished with Heathrow and turned their sites on the hilltops of Shimla to attack Hindus and travelling Donkeys? No way am I gonna need a weapon all the way up here!”. So I ignored Mrs Donkey’s qualms, “Maybe we should just get a stick, just in case”, and headed on through the gate.

Now I know that I have been occasionally, justifiably accused of exaggeration on this here Blog, but I assure you I tell the absolute, God’s own truth (any god … you take yer pick) when I say that I had only taken one step through the gate when a very large, ferocious-looking monkey came bounding from beyond my peripheral vision and latched onto my torso, bearing sharp, white, butcher’s knife teeth and scrambling at my pockets. It might have been the last you would have ever seen or heard of Donkey if not for the afore-mentioned friendly vendor who was there in a flash, swinging his lathi and sending the aggressive primate on its way.

“Sir, you will need a lathi,” said my rescuer with a mocking smile, “please take this one and pay me five rupees when you return … and take off your glasses and hat … the monkeys will steal them!”.

So, in a futile attempt to maintain my shredded dignity, I took the lathi and agreed to pay the AU$0.15 hire charge (hey, I told you I was tight arse!), and with my metaphorical Darwinian tale between my legs, I headed up to the temple, wielding my lathi at the armies of monkeys that rushed at us from all angles.

The temple was like many other Hindu shrines, except with the added challenge of having to protect yourself from marauding, sacred monkeys, whose aggressive attacks, be they upon each other, tourists like us or the devoted pilgrims who looked upon their attackers with adoration, must surely have provided the inspiration for Hanuman’s great armies in the Ramayana.

We took turns guarding each others shoes with lathis and the odd Monkey Magic-like staff spinning/martial arts manoeuvres, while we payed our respects to the Great Sage inside the temple, and then we got out of the place and down the mountain as quick as our evolved hind-legs could carry us. As we sat in the warmth of the coffee shop an hour or so later, sucking down on our long blacks and iced teas, I listened to the conversations of the wealthy Punjabi holyday makers around me, as they pushed their way past the queue to be served first; as they complained that their lattes were too milky; as they demanded table service from the busy, low-caste serving staff; and ass they argued with each other about who would get the last piece of chocolate cake, and I wondered wether Darwin had in fact been a little wide of the mark. Whether the aggression of the monkeys up the hill had stemmed from some kind of animal preservation instinct, or from the divine influence of an all-powerful deity, it struck me that they were not all that further down the evolutionary scale than the rest of us … civilisation is only a hairy tale away from big, purple arses and swingin’ in the trees!


Sally, lathi in hand, and ready for action. Photo: Hagas

Friday, August 11, 2006

When the well runs dry

Rebecca McClusky had been making eyes at me all week, and as much as I tried to ignore the squelchy wobbling in my tummy, I knew that it was now or never. Rebecca McClusky (not her real name) was not like the other girls in Grade 6 – she was gorgeous (you know, for a 12 year old girl, seen through the rather rose-coloured glasses of an 11 year old pre-pubescent boy). The reason it was now or never was that we were on Grade 6 camp; the last hoorah in the final weeks of primary school. Next year I’d be dragged-off to an all-boys Catholic Prison Camp, and Rebecca would be well-and-truly off the menu after that. Besides, if truth be known, I wasn’t the only Donkey Rebecca’d been eyeing off that week, and many of the other recipients were staring down the barrel of distinguished sporting careers, which would no doubt have been altogether more attractive than what I was heading towards; a lifetime membership to the Chess Club!

Around the campfire on the last night, everyone was goofing around, singing songs, performing skits and telling jokes … we all knew we were entering a new period in our lives, and the creative energy in that fire-lit circle was as thick as treacle. Some time during the night, Rebecca had positioned herself next to me, and I could feel her warmth at my side … so you can see, it really was now or never … I had to do something … I had to pluck that creativity out of the air, and channel it into a Rebecca-winning piece of theatre.

When my turn came, I stood up and waited for the crowd to quieten down. “This one is for Rebecca McClusky”, I announced. And then I launched into the only piece of creativity I could muster; my time-honoured impersonation of Fat Albert, “Hey, Hey, Hey…” And I sang it all for Rebecca. When I got to “And I’m gonna sing a song for you-ooo…”, I even pointed my big, Fat Albert finger at her … and she loved it! She was laughing so hard … and everyone else was laughing so hard. I was a comedic genius!

My Fat Albert theme petered-out about half way through. At that time I realised no one was actually laughing, they were, in fact, staring at me in cold, angry silence. And Rebecca’s convulsions of mirth were not exactly that. She was sobbing shamefully … the creative energy had well-and-truly fled the fireside!

Twenty years later, I sit here on the grass beneath Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi; my laptop open and the only thing on my page is a cursor flashing in anticipation of a great creative outpouring of Blogging brilliance. I have been sitting like this now for 18 minutes … and there’s nothing coming.

Humayun’s Tomb is the precursor to the majestic Taj Mahal, and almost identical in appearance other than that this one is blood-red to the Taj’s marble-white! It’s a great feat of creativity; from the marble, onion-like dome, to the symmetrical arches, to the extensive catacombs beneath … and even to the symmetrical, meticulous gardens and water features surrounding the structure. Basically, there’s been so much creativity gone into the design and construction of this incredible monument, and indeed continues to do so every day from the armies of gardeners, stone masons, plumbers and other restoration staff, that there seems to be bugger-all left for Donkey to feed on.

Y’see, I’ve developed this theory over the years. The scientists tell us that there is only a certain amount of energy in any one place, and that some of that energy gets converted to light, movement, heat etc. But I reckon that a limited portion also exists in the form of creative energy.

For instance, in my office, we are all supposed to work on innovative ways of saving the world, but there’s so little creativity being used up by anyone else, that I can’t stop thinking of ideas to Blog, and it’s like I’m on some kind of high-grade creative speed.

When I get home each night, I’m still pretty toey, but Mrs Donkey’s got a fair creative streak, too, so often my creative energy levels drop a bit as the total amount of creativity balances out between us to about 50/50 (actually, we all know that it’s about 60/40, but for the sake of relationship longevity…), and we can usually pour that creative energy into cooking, writing or playing music together.

But right now, I’m sitting beneath Humayun’s Tomb, and there’s nothing left. Contrary to the often-held belief that places like these have, over the centuries, been powerful sources of inspiration for poets, writers and musicians, they are, in actual fact, great big plug-holes through which all the creative energy within spitting distance is sucked and swallowed-up, only to be forced out the other end in the form of brown, smelly, unemotional 5-minute, happy-grabs on TV lifestyle and travel programmes.

Need more evidence? Well think about all those free thinkers and artists over the years. Michaelangelo didn’t get his inspiration for the Sistine Chapel from visiting the numerous, creatively-designed Cathedrals of Rome, but from hanging out in seedy bars! Jimi Hendrix didn’t write Purple Haze while walking around The Louvre (although it’s possible that he might have, but he was that far off his nut on acid that he didn’t actually know it at the time!). So you see, great feats of creativity are borne, not from fine pieces of art or performances or symphonies, but from environments that are more or less plain and boring, because the creativity hasn’t yet been swallowed up; it’s still hanging in the air, ready for the plucking!

By the way, how was I supposed to know that Rebecca McClusky had an eating disorder? It was the mid-80s; a time when the media was flooded with images of the Big M girls, telling us that skeletal = gorgeous. It’s no wonder we boys all thought she was different from the other girls! If only the creative energy around that campfire hadn’t been all used up by all the other kids that night, maybe I might have come up with another performance, and maybe life would have turned out differently … but I was too late. I didn’t understand back then about the Laws of Creativity … but now, sitting here beneath Humayun’s Tomb with a blank screen in front of me, I am understanding all too well.

A very special relic from the 'Big M Girls' calendar, 1985. I apologise for the quality (a long time pre-digital) and I apologise to any non-Victorians (you guys must have no idea what I'm talking about).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keep your Hans to yourself

In the Wordsworth Edition’s publication of The Complete Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm, there’re way too many stories about Hans. Get this … first there’s Clever Hans, which I guess is about a little fat kid who wears lederhosen, and who’s always got the remnants of his last gorging of sauerkraut and chocolate cake hanging from his enormous jowls. Although he’s fat and lazy, and not particularly well liked, his incredible cunning manages to save the village from being overrun by puppies. It seems that the Nasty Wolf has been having his way with all the saucy virgins, thanks to their rather dim-witted fathers who send them out to work the fields each day without a chaperone. Clever Hans is the only one to question why it is that these young, nubile temptresses always head out for the day with left-over bits of last night’s bratwurst hidden in their bags. Very clever, Hans!

Then there’s Hans in Luck. By this time, Hans is 25 years old, and is so fat that he is unable to leave his kitchen. After saving the village from becoming populated entirely with suspiciously canine-looking children at the age of 9, the grateful village elders pledged a lifetime supply of strudel for Hans, and while his mind is still as keen as ever, his size prevents him from being able to move around. He is unable to wear clothes, and he cannot wash himself. One day, the old, blind woman who comes to scrub Hans with a massive brush every three months, finds a discarded raisin in one of his stomach creases, and offers it to him for a feed. Lucky Hans!

The very next tale, is Hans Married. Now as I mentioned, despite his size, Hans is still very clever, and from his days of studying the habits of the Nasty Wolf in order to foil his evil scheme, he picked-up a thing or two about how to treat a lady. So rather than scoff the prodigal raisin when offered to him, Hans instead gives it to the old, blind woman, who eats it and immediately turns into a stunning, sexy maiden who instantly falls in love with Hans, not for his looks, but for his brain (hard to believe, I know, but this IS a fairy tale). Hans gets married.

The next story about Hans describes his wedding night. There is a typing error in the title, though. It’s called Hans the Hedgehog.

While one might have thought the next story, Iron Hans, was also about his wedding night, it does in fact describe his heart-wrenching struggle to lose weight. Under the instruction of his enchanted, and eternally beautiful wife, fresh as she is from the catwalks of Milan, Hans learns how to discreetly excuse himself after every meal and to retreat to the bathroom where he inserts his fingers into his throat and vomits it all up. Before long, Hans is as fit as a fiddle, and opens up the world’s first franchise for pressing creases into freshly-laundered lederhosen. He calls the franchise, ‘Iron Hans’.

In Strong Hans, the final chapter in the G-Brothers’ epic, our hero is much older, and very, very wealthy thanks both to the success of the business, and the odd omission on his annual tax declaration. Hans was forced to learn very quickly how nasty it can get in the business world, particularly for a tall poppy like him! It seemed to Hans that every young businessman in town had a snout for trouble, sharp teeth and a grieving complex for the Daddy that was deprived them at birth. They were out to get Hans, and he had to make a choice; get tough, or perish. Strong Hans became the Berg’s baddest mob-leader, at least on the outside. His cronies terrorised the young, wolfish wannabes, demanding protection money and offering no room for forgiveness on late payments. Strong Hans was feared by all who frequented the taverns and bawdy-houses near the wharves, but every night, in the arms of his beloved, he cried like a baby at the deeds he was forced to perform and for the childhood innocence that was deprived him by the scandalous conduct of the Nasty Wolf, all those decades ago.

And just like the archetypal tavern brawler, or the undefeated gun-slinger of the Old West (or the New West, as it would have been then … well really, it would have been the Future West), Hans was forever being challenged or threatened from the shadows by every young punk who could wield a sabre and who dreamed of making a name for himself as the ‘One who brought down Strong Hans’.

It was on the night that Strong Hans learned of his enchanted wife’s decades of infidelity that one of these young no-hopers finally got his break. Hans, drunk, disillusioned and weeping insanely didn’t stand a chance as he was attacked from behind and took a dagger beneath his ribs. Strong Hans spent his last seconds lying in a grizzly mess on the cold flagstones, mouthing an inaudible “thank you” to his young assailant.

So you see, Dear Reader, that The Brothers Grimm’s message is very clear. Nothing good ever comes from standing out. Hans should have kept that big, fat, sparsely hirsute, over-developed scone of his out of the Nasty Wolf’s business right from the beginning. He should have listened to the villagers when they told him he was fat, useless and that he should lock himself away in the dark broom cupboard. Yes, the message is oh-so clear. If you do not wish to lead a retched life, you must remain mediocre! Do not be smart, pretty, famous or witty. Be plain, retiring and avoid success of any kind. In short, do not shine! Latch that bushel down very tightly. Only then will you lead a long, unambiguous and uncomplicated life.

Picture: Google images

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Donkey with Two Points of Interest

#1: Tellin’ it straight.

While holidaying by the Ganges on the weekend, the Donkeys visited a very old Hindu temple erected to Siva, the Hindu god in whose hair lives the goddess, Ganga. Siva is sometimes represented as a blue, somewhat feminine looking, man-type being, however he is often worshipped in the form of a black phallus, known as a lingam, which is said to represent fertility.

So while visiting this ancient temple, the Donkeys did the right thing and bought some floral offerings for the powerful god, to be placed upon either his statue or one of the many lingams sitting beneath a huge, sacred tree.

Donkey is very dismayed to report that of the eight lingams sitting beneath that enormous tree, Mrs Donkey chose to leave her offerings on the shortest, fattest phallus she could find!

Post script: the folks back home need not get excited, it was a cultural requirement that we make fertility offerings.

Unfortunately for Donkey, this lingam is quite a bit larger than the one selected by Mrs Donkey on which to leave an offering. Photo: Sally

#2: eBay, Ganges-style.

As I whiled away the afternoon on the terrace of our beautiful hotel at the weekend, listening to some great tunes, I started to notice just how much stuff floats along the rushing waters of the Ganga. The following is a list of the debris that passed by, and the music that sent it all on its way.

Track Name: Sway
Artist: (artist unknown – a Kiwi chick)
Floaty Bits: Plastic bags full of something quite buoyant.

Track Name: Shadow stabbing
Artist: Cake
Floaty Bits: A massive, plastic dice (OK, I always have trouble with this … dice or die? Suffice to say, there was only one of ‘em, but it was pretty bloody big). No idea what this could be for.

Track Name: So bad it’s good
Artist: The Fireballs
Floaty Bits: Large, decorated terracotta pot, ironically used in these parts to carry water.

Track Name: Bright future in sales
Artist: Fountains of Wayne
Floaty Bits: Coconuts – some de-husked, some still green, some with holes and others in bits.

Track Name: Take me out
Artist: Franz Ferdinand
Floaty Bits: Nothing visible for a while, but two eagles were out there eyeing something off, then a walking stick (they do say the waters are healing) and then … a child! He was alive and eventually made it to the shore.

Track Name: Rub a Dub Stylin’
Artist: General Smiley and Papa Michigan
Floaty Bits: A doll in a green dress – tasteful!

Track Name: You and Me against the world
Artist: Her Majesty
Floaty Bits: A large, plastic water storage bottle that had obviously gotten away from some pilgrim who was trying to take some holy water to the folks back home.

Track Name: What’s my scene
Artist: Hoodoo Gurus
Floaty Bits: Garlands of flowers and two boys … then another … then another … and another. Lots of laughing as they tried not to drown.

Track Name: International bright young thing
Artist: Jesus Jones
Floaty Bits: Heaps of portraits of Hindu gods – a pretty freaky sight!

Track Name: My sister
Artist: Juliana Hatfield
Floaty Bits: More coconuts and garlands of flowers.

Track Name: Back door
Artist: Kris Demeanor
Floaty Bits: A bike tyre tube, two cushions (one purple, one pink), a pair of thongs and something big and shaggy that I was a bit too scared to investigate further.

Track Name: Wild child
Artist: Lou Reed
Floaty Bits: Coconuts and a water bottle.

Track Name: Night boat to Cairo
Artist: Madness
Floaty Bits: A packet of ciggies.

Track Name: Hey ladies
Artist: The Beastie Boys
Floaty Bits: More portraits of Hindu gods – still freaky.

So there you go. If you’re reading this Blog, living anywhere between Haridwar and Dhaka, AND you’re in the market for any of this booty, I’d say get thee to the banks of the Ganga with a net. It’s all on its way and should be reaching you in a couple of days.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is that a deity in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

So this was it … the moment of truth. Rebirth, or miserable, cranky old bastard for all eternity?

As we wandered out of Haridwar Railway Station at 5.30am, dazed from the brilliant blue sky and the early morning sun after a pretty rough over-nighter on a rickety bucket of bolts, the first thing to confront us in Haridwar was an enormous billboard advertising Haridwar’s main export; a line of male underwear called “Macro-Man” (he-heh “enormous” billboard - that’s pun number one already – oh yeah, I’m on fire tonight!).

It felt great to be back in Haridwar; apart from the clean air and surrounding landscape that boasted an elevation above 3m (maybe I was just happy to be out of Delhi), it was fun to again be among the fragrant masses of dreadlocked, saffron-robed sadhus stoned out of their skulls and listing from one side of the street to the other, the brightly coloured saris of the female Hindu pilgrims and the buzz of the busy, bustling, tortuous streets of the old town crammed up against the banks of the Holy Ganga (aka the River Ganges).

It was here that we flopped gratefully through the door of the stunning Haveli Hari Ganga, our hotel on the river which had once housed the feudal master of Haridwar. The marble-lined halls and the hanging gardens in the courtyards kept the place pleasantly cool and the immaculately re-constructed Mughal terrace overlooking the river, with its thousands of bathing Hindu pilgrims, was a great place to take a break from … the humanity.

Sitting up there in the morning sunshine, it suddenly struck me that someone in Haridwar has made a whole heap of rupees on the back of an illusion. As I watched the male bathers performing their holy rituals in the fast flowing waters, I noticed that every one of them was wearing very, very tight, brown underpants. It would seem that North India’s answer to David Copperfield was the criminal genius behind Macro-Man Underpants. It’s quite simple, really. Market your product on the basis that every bloke thinks he’s got a gianormous wanger, and that he needs a good pair of “Macros” ‘cause obviously nothing else has what it takes to do the job. Then you sell everyone a pair of jocks that’s three sizes smaller than indicated on the label and before long, every metrosexual in town is believing his own publicity. Take it from me, I know it’s true ‘cause I’m typing this at a pitch that's three octaves higher than normal! “And why brown?”, you may indeed ask … well, I guess if you’ve forked out all your spare roops on the Macros, you may not have enough left to pay the laundry-wallah!

But enough about Donkey’s y-fronts. Mrs Donkey and I had a great couple of days exploring and revelling with the other pilgrims in the numerous Hindu temples in and around the town – s’strange yet energising experience, coming from sombre old Catholicism, to join a singing, dancing mob of thousands as they progress through the alcoves of a hill-top temple throwing colourful flowers on a couple of immaculately dressed Barbie dolls, but I kinda like the gay abandon of it all.

Later on, we joined millions of people on the banks of the Ganga for the Ganga aarti; the evening river worshipping ceremony at which people release into the rushing waters their hopes and wishes aboard little boats fashioned from folded leaves, and filled with flowers and candles. It’s a magical sight to see thousands of these little sparks rushing by to a soundtrack belted out by six or seven very loud, discordant bands blowing horns and banging away on drums. This all ended with an awesome display of fire throwing and another rush of humanity towards the flames in order to rub them over sari-shrouded heads and turbans. Incredible!

Worshippers at the Ganga Aarti. Photo: Sally

More temples on Day 2, followed by a dip in the Holy River in order to hedge my bets, just in case God actually turns out to be a monkey, blue, have an elephant’s head, be a sexy dancer … or any other of the multitudes from amongst the Hindu pantheon. It was then back on the train for a deep sleep before being dumped unceremoniously on the filthy platform of New Delhi Railway Station.

But as the Donkeys wandered slowly through the crowded car park, I didn’t seem too fussed about the rude, pushy rickshaw-wallahs falling all over themselves in an attempt to rip us off. I even enjoyed flying through the dark streets as we made our way south past India Gate. Dunno if it was the clean air of Haridwar, the thrill of the trains, the luxury of the hotel, the spiritual sojourns in rustic temples or the dip in the filthy, freezing Ganga, but something had definitely changed. True, it could have been the bulging illusion of my newly oversized genitals that put a bit of a spring in the steps of Mrs Donkey and myself, but whatever it was … it felt good.

India had again shown me what beauty is, and what life should be … I’d taken a deep breath of Hindu-inspired gusto and now I feel a great enthusiasm to make a go of this place. Donkey’s had a wash … and it’s good to be clean again. Now, where are those undies? … ah, here we go.



Sadhu in the hills above Haridwar. Photo: Hagas.