Stepping on Human Skulls in Bangalore’s Black Magic Graveyard

As I stepped over the leg bone, I laughed. I’m no bone doctor, but it looked human to me. Orthopaedist, is that what it’s called? I’m no orthopaedist.

Must be from a cow, or maybe a dog. Do dogs get that big? Not a human. Definitely not a human.

But then I tripped, and I stepped on a skullcap, that really nailed it for me.

This Bangalore graveyard was covered in human bones.

“Maybe the dogs dig them up,” suggested Kaveri, as she led the way to the high priestess of the graveyard. “Or the rats.” Continue reading “Stepping on Human Skulls in Bangalore’s Black Magic Graveyard”

India’s Charlie Chaplin-branded Potato Chips

Okay, they’re not really potato chips. They’re about as far from that as you get — offerings like papad chivda, soya chips, sev puri, and mari banana wafers. They’re tasty.

And the bags are all stamped with Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.

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I loved them so much I bought every kind the supermarket sold.

I think this might be my new favorite Indian snack.

Photographing India, Then and Now

In London, I found the old box of slides. It was hidden in the back of my parents’ closet. I had to move fifteen other boxes to get to it. It hadn’t been touched in decades. I bought a slide scanner immediately, and went to work.

Going through the treasures inside, I keep gagging at the photos that I’m retaking 30 years later.

Some are awfully obvious, like these crackers of the Taj Mahal…

and Humayun’s Tomb…

But these are the de rigeur shots. Of course Dad shot them in 1983, and of course I re-shot them 30 years later. But then I keep finding less traditional shots, like this so-specific angle of one stretch of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu…

Mahabalipuram? I can’t remember being there, let alone that very specific 15-degree angle. Or how about this off-centered angle shot of Continue reading “Photographing India, Then and Now”

Goodbye Telegram / Hello Telegram

If you’d asked me, I’d have confidently told you the telegram service was long gone, relegated to dusty 1930s spy thrillers, retro New York hipster bars, and awesome games I’m building.

I would have been so completely wrong.

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It turns out India actually still uses telegrams. Barely. The service is closing in days!

When I read this, I sent Woo an urgent SMS. “We’ve got to send a telegram. Pronto.” I looked at the note, and added one word to the end: “Stop.” And I knew, this was going to be awesome.

The local post office didn’t think it was as awesome as we did. “No, we don’t send telegrams,” the guy behind the counter said. “That stopped weeks ago.”

What!?!? Continue reading “Goodbye Telegram / Hello Telegram”

This Hindu God has 1,000 Vaginas!

So I’m in the middle of R.K. Narayan’s condensed version of the Ramayana — one of the great Indian epics — and I have to re-print the amazing story of Ahalya, Gautama and Indra. It’s too amazing.

The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)


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Now Ahalya was gorgeous. Like, insanely gorgeous.

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Brahma had created her from the ingredients of beauty, itself. Of course this led to problems. Continue reading “This Hindu God has 1,000 Vaginas!”

Dr Shankar’s Wonderful Collection of Brains and Other Medical Obscura

It came up over a bowl of brain stew at Karim’s, Old Delhi’s famously-dingy 1913 eatery.

“Tasty,” I said, wiping my mouth. “By the way, did I tell you about the brain museum in Bangalore? The architect told me we should go.”

Michelle tore off a piece of naan, and sopped up a wet chunk of brain. “We have to go,” she said.

And this weekend, we did.

Continue reading “Dr Shankar’s Wonderful Collection of Brains and Other Medical Obscura”

Murder, Incest, and Fratricide led to The Taj Mahal?

Well, we made it to the Taj Mahal last weekend. Huge. Overwhelming. Magnificent. I wiped away a tear or two.

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Shah Jahan built it in memory of his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. That’s like the awesomest romantic gesture, ever.

But I was also reading William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi at the time. It’s a great book. And according to it, Shah Jahan wasn’t just a mad romantic. He was also the head of one seriously fucked-up family — a generation plagued by incest, murder, harems, fratricide, sororicide and even patricide. It’s less Shakespeare than it is Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Continue reading “Murder, Incest, and Fratricide led to The Taj Mahal?”

Another Little Bangalore Boat Church

53 weeks ago, I posted about my first boat church. The other day — deep in Bangalore’s Austin Town — I found another.

So what does this represent? St Thomas coming to Kerala? Or Jesus and Mary coming to India? Is the boat a little Fisher of Men? Or the stormy trip to Gerasenes?

How many of these boat churches are there? And when will I find one that’s not empty?

Antilia: The Most Gratuitous House in Mumbai

When you’re in Bombay, a great way to get some context is start in the alleyways of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. About a million people live here, crammed into 0.67 square miles.

“It’s like mainlining gratitude for how much we have to be thankful for,” said my old pal Chris.

I couldn’t agree more. But there’s no time to ponder that — hop in a Premier Padmini cab, and zip the few miles downtown to Mukesh Ambani’s 27-floor, 40-storey, $1bn single-family house Antilia, Continue reading “Antilia: The Most Gratuitous House in Mumbai”

Amazing Old Bollywood Poster Shops

Somewhere on Mutton Street, in Bombay’s Chor Bazaar, sits a cave of musty sweetness. It’s filled with old movie posters, piled almost six feet high.

poster-stuff

Bollywood Posters (Paperback)


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“You know V. Shataram, yes?” says the pint-sized operator, Khalim, who looks to be about twelve years old. “He’s fantastic, amazing,” he says, flailing his arms. “You must see his movies.” He dives into the center of a thousand posters, and flips through four before he lands on a Shantaram poster. “You must buy this. It’s beautiful!”

Do-Ankhen-Barah-Haath-Bollywood-movie-poster Continue reading “Amazing Old Bollywood Poster Shops”

Elvises, Genies, and Sandalwood Beach Madness

If you know me, you know I like things big and overdone. I care less about the society of the spectacle than I do the spectacle of the spectacular. And Shangrila fills that fetish.

It’s this month’s hit song from next month’s hit Sandalwood movie, Topiwaala, starring the legendary Upendra (Uppi to his fans). And you have got to see the video: Honeymoon in Vegas meets I Dream of Genie in a Burning Man-Busby Berkeley dream. Dick Dale gone Bhangra gone Kannada.

You have to see it, here on BangBangBangalore.com.