— 2 7 D A Y S I N H E L L —
SORRY, IN INDIA.
THE INDIA DIARY
This idiot of an author decided to set most of his new novel in India.
This meant that he had to travel there
in order to research the thing.
While there, he kept a diary.
Or rather, he kept a record of the frustration, the fury, the filth
—above all, the filth—
that largely constituted his 3-week motorbike road trip through
the south-Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
HERE THAT DIARY IS.
Uncensored, unapologetic, often unkind;
but most of all,
U N R E L E N T I N G
IN ITS HONESTY ABOUT A COUNTRY WHICH
A GREAT MANY PEOPLE BEWILDERINGLY THINK WELL OF.
Bangkok —> Chennai, the 1st of November, 2017
A day of death.
Hungover, maybe a couple of hours’ sleep.
I remember always, but have not been able to find again, something Richard Burton said about “days lost to hangovers.”
Determined to lose no days—I have so few left, as I know I shall be dead before 40—I get the f*&k up out of bed and swim and run it off.
Then, a day lost to travel.
Packing for India, taking with me only clothes that I am in no way attached to for I fear that they shall not survive.
I take my suitcase, my dirty clothes, my work over to D’s, and deposit the suitcase.
Sign the last of the last of the inscribed copies of GRIEVE then walk them to the post office, all the time mentally working through the Bangkok part of the story.
Once back, I work on finalising the book’s notes and type up The New Cavalier Reading Society’s third and fourth Quadrigae.
Another run, then wash clothes, back to the other building, take my backpack and return to Park West to await the clothings.
Print the finalised notes for the new book:
3 parts, the longest being the middle.
Bangkok — Bali — India.
14 pages of synopsis.
14 pages that essentially took 2 months of work, on and off.
Convinced that these synopses get stronger and stronger the longer they take, but my love of the story dissipates with its freshness. Striking the balance essential.
Also, the books being the spontaneous and the raw work of a single year—most essential. Essentialest.
It is those who demand perfection of an artist who seem to dislike the novels.
Dullheaded enough to believe that a book can, and therefore should, be perfect.
I write D a thank you note—she really is a delightful human and has made my life inordinately easier the last 2 months—and am away.
My pants do not fit and are about to split in the crotch. Thailand has made me fat. With great delicacy I lift one leg over and get on a bike.
I fall asleep on an old lady on the BTS.
Through immigration and customs, and onto my—
“Excuse me can I ask you question?”
An Indian person.
"Are you a designer?’’
"I am not.’’
"I saw the Sharpies on your backpack and I thought that maybe you were a designer because I know like designers always carry Sharpies with them. You see, airport travelling is sometimes very boring so I play these little games with myself you see.”
"No, I’m not.”
"What do you do?”
"Please shut up and go away.”
"Oh a writer! Awesome, man. Where are you flying to?
"Wherever you are not."
"Chennai! You are going to my city!"
"I just have to use the bathroom really quickly."
"Maybe I’ll see you at the gate."
"I very much hope not."
"Cool, man, see you then.”
And so, departing from gate 25, I sit with a migraine at gate 11 until Final Call.
There is, most curiously, a man waiting in line with a very large plastic bag full of cubed meat—presumably chicken, but not certainly so—tucked under his arm. Through a tear in the bag it is dripping blood onto the floor. Portentous? I fear so.
I am the only non-Indian on the plane and the dude sitting next to me has the most pungent smelling armpits that I have ever had the privilege of sitting beside.
The deep, wet, yellow smell of old OLD sweat. Right there in his armpits, and fewer than 6 inches from my nose.
Land, and, walking to immigration the only person ahead of me is Sharpie Boy.
He drops his phone, picks it up and it’s wet. He turns to the cleaner and says, “What is this?”
The cleaner says, “Only water.”
And this guy’s eyes turn violent and he instantly switches to a scream: “Is it an international airport or a fucking gutter, you fucking piece of shit?"
Chennai, the 2nd of November, 2017
Up at 5am—the best way to see any city—and out the door.
And there IT is.
Crazy motherf@&*ing India.
There is no distinction between road and footpath, the latter being in most places covered over with dirt and rubble. Everyone and their cow walks on the street, further blocking the traffic which seems incapable of not beeping its horns.