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Head of an Indian Elephant and a Bronze Ganesha, photos taken by Jim McPherson in Rajasthan, 2005

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In India, the Splendour's Mostly Indoors

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Full view of the Udaipur Elephant and the Ganesh Bronze, photographs by Jim McPherson, 2005

Full View of the Bronze Ganesha and the Udaipur Elephant


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Unsolicited Observations and Photos, India 2005

| The Queen's English | Usage Photo | Marble Skating Rinks | Devotion to 'Doing No Harm' | Barber's Tomb Photo | The Taj's Jawab Photo | Devotion to Dollars | Brahma's Sacred Lake Photo | Photo of the Foot-in-Mouth Fellow | Close-Up of the Foot-in-Mouth | Photo of Snake-Temple Children | Patience is NOT a Virtue | Jain Temple Photo | Hanuman and Garuda | For the Future File | Notes on Background Tiling | Bottom of Page Lynx |

The Queen's English

“We Indians pride ourselves on our ability to speak the Queen’s English better than the Queen herself.” So claimed a local guide the group of travellers I was with had in Jaipur, Rajasthan, when I was there in late October, early November 2005.

However, he admitted, slyly humorously to my eyes and ears (such as they are), because he and most of his fellows also speak a number of other languages and/or dialects thereof, Indians are prone to making the occasional “bloomers”.

He then proceeded to tell us of a rather notorious caption he’d spotted in an English Only newspaper during one of Her Majesty’s visits to India. The picture below it was of a group of dignitaries greeting her with applause. The caption read: “Local Politicians Give Queen the Clap!”

I have to say I thought his use of the word ‘bloomers’ was funnier but it turned out he believed bloomers was the correct word to use. (He meant ‘bloopers’.)

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Usage Example

An Example of Indian Usage of the Queen's English

Sign spotted in Margao, India;  photo by Jim McPherson, 2005

Sign spotted and shot in Margao, Goa, India, by Jim McPherson in 2005

Marble Skating Rinks

This is one of the many blights and plights of India. Nothing is quite right. For example, after the Republic came into existence in the late 1940s, maharajas were officially stripped of their feudal authority and a good percentage of their land.

Be that as it may or may not be in practical terms, a number of them went into business. One of these businesses was turning their manor houses into ‘heritage hotels’.

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We stayed at a number of them during our tour. At least two had blown renovations designed to accommodate Western desires for sit-down toilets and stand-up showers.

How, you might ask? (Besides filling sinks and drains with stinky mothballs, which every hotel we stayed at on our tour did for inexplicable reasons.) By installing the shower, without a stall, between the sink near the entrance to the bathroom and placing the toilet at the other end of the room.

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Freshly polished marble floors to go along with just as snappy marble walls, beautifully preserved or restored, are all very well and fine.

Try making it to the toilet in bare feet after your roommate has just had a shower. Talk about slippery. Even without skates ice is easier to cross.

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Devotion to Doing No Harm

Much has been written about India being the world’s largest, in terms of population, stable democracy. As well as its people (most of them) and some pretty special architecture, that’s certainly one of its attractions.

I hold, however, that democracy has little to do with its comparative stability. To my mind, much more important is its ages-old adherence to the doctrine of non-violence (‘ahimsa’).

I was given to understand that ahimsa is more a doctrine of doing no harm. Some Jains (Jainism was originally a Hindu sect) go so far as to wear a surgeon's mask in order to avoid inhaling small bugs and such like.

I was further given to understand that Jains are amongst the richest people in all of India. Apparently, at least in theory, making money does no one any harm. Which might explain why so many folks you encounter want yours.

Hamayun's Barber's Tomb in Delhi; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005
Hamayun's Barber's Tomb in Delhi
(To the right of Hamayun's Tomb)

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The Jawab, on the western side of the Taj Mahal in Agra; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005
The Jawab, on the western side of the Taj Mahal in Agra
(It mirrors the mosque on the other side)

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Devotion to Dollars

In my three weeks plus in India, I found Delhi, Agra (famous for the Taj Mahal) and Rajasthan very safe places to travel. (Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the Arabian Sea, was even better. Then again I do enjoy my beaches, especially when the water’s warm and the waves not too hefty.)

Safe-travelling is good. For it, I was also given to understand, over and over again, we can thank devotional religion, principally Hindu and Muslim, their priests, mullahs and holy men.

As already noted, what isn’t so good is everyone seems to want a piece of the action. None more so (or less so, for that matter) than the priests themselves.

By way of illustration, one day I was walking by myself in the Holy City of Pushkar. It’s the site of Brahma’s Sacred Lake. No motorized vehicles are allowed there. (Which, naturally, given it’s in modern-day India, doesn’t stop it from being full of motorized vehicles.)

Along with Goa and Nepal, Pushkar was considered one of the obligatory overland stops on the Hippy Trail of the Sixties and early Seventies. It isn’t so much so nowadays.

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Brahma's Sacred Lake in Pushkar, Rajasthan

Brahma's Sacred Lake in Pushkar, Rajasthan; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005
And the motto of this story is: Beware of Brahmins Bearing Blessings

(Neither is the Hippy Trail, what once ran from Spain, Italy or Greece through North Africa to the Far East. Turmoil, primarily in the Arab World, Iran and Afghanistan, has seen to that.)

The lake is manmade. Surrounding it are ‘ghats’, stone or concrete stairways leading into fifty odd temples, all of which are dedicated to a different Hindu deity.

You have to take off your shoes before entering a temple. Fair enough. Many people I know prefer it if you take off your shoes before entering their living room. I’ve often taken off my hat before going into a church.

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You are also expected to make a charitable donation before going into a temple. Consequently I didn’t go into any of the lakeside temples.

What I didn’t realize was you were supposed to take off your shoes while you strolled around the inland walkway beyond the ghats and temples.

(Even if I had been aware of this custom I likely would have paid it no mind. I ascribe my cultural insensitiveness to the fact I was giving most of my attention at the time to avoiding the near-ubiquity of cow pats.)

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A guy sees me. His two pals, who are both much younger and fitter than either he appears to be or I am, see me too. Together they accost me.

The leader claims I need to be blessed in order to wash away my sin. I attempt to ignore them but I had a flare-up in one of my knees before leaving London for Delhi so I’m slow, on the limp, walking with a cane. They’re persistent; I don’t look very penitent. Maybe I strike them as an easy mark.

The leader shows me a string strung around his neck. He says that identifies him as a priest, a Brahmin, a member of the highest Hindu caste.

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Ergo, as a result of his birth, he is thoroughly qualified to rectify my otherwise unpardonable transgression of walking on a dung-splotched, concrete pathway well away from the surface of Brahma’s Sacred Lake while wearing shoes.

Close-up of the foot in mouth; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005For all I know he could be a professional parcel-tier. Nonetheless I succumb. It seems the most sensible thing to do.

He does his blessing bit. All very nice, crumbly flowery and washy watery, it is too.

Then he informs me, for the first time, that in order seal the deal, to attain absolution for my ignorant non-shoelessness, I need to make a donation.

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The Foot-in-Mouth Fellow

Five hundred rupees will do the job (approximately $17.00 Canadian) but, he adds, much to the vigorously nodding approval of his bully boys, others have offered him $100.00 American, 100 Euros, or more.

As slow as I am I’m not that easy. I decline to offer anything.

Canes have other uses as well as other names; sticks being one of them. (As in sticks and stones can break some bones.) I reckon he appreciates that ahimsa doesn’t necessarily apply to Westerners.

He tells his bully boys to let me go; that I’ll have bad karma from now on.

There’s a reason the collective noun for guys like him is a ‘plague’ of priests.

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The Foot-in-Mouth Fellow

Trivikrama, the Foot-in-Mouth Fellow, photo by Jim McPherson, 2005
In the Delhi National Museum this idol is identified as representing Trivikrama, whom I'd never heard of previously. It dates from the 11th Century AD.

The plaque doesn't specifically state that this Trivikrama fellow suffered from foot-in-mouth disease, as this writer sometimes does. However, as per the close-up to the left, he might have.

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Photo of a couple of children sitting in the Snake Temple; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005

A couple of children sitting in the Snake Temple on way to the Jain Temple; they didn't ask for money but, sucker that I am, I donated to the temple anyway; there were a couple of interesting posters outside it

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In India, Patience is NOT a Virtue

For all the efforts Rajasthan in particular and India in general has made to clean up its not-so-ancient fortresses, palaces and temples – and thereby appeal to Western tourists by giving them something to see besides desperation – there’s no way to avoid going outside again.

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Frothing cows; their aforementioned, omnipresent leavings; the extreme and extremely visible poverty; the pollution; the ever-so-competitive, call it reckless, driving habits of its men; urban overpopulation; the trash; the infuriating touts; the aggressive shopkeepers (“Won’t you give me a chance to rip you off just a little bit” was one of the best lines I heard).

Do I need to go on? All right, I will.

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The practised pathos (bathos) of the beggars; so many missing limbs; child labour; attitudes towards women (Western and Indian); the evidently intentionally, mutually challenging loudspeaker systems between mosques and temples; the lamentable lack of properly chilled beer (when you can find beer at all); and so much more.

There’s a dreary sameness from city to city, town to town, in what little I saw of the subcontinent. Everything you’ve read about India, good, bad or indifferent, it’s all there in Rajasthan.

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Some might call it Third World charm. Being charitable, I would call it eye-reopening. I’m glad I went.

Can’t beat the shopping, that’s for sure. The food’s pretty good, too; provided you go vegetarian or ask for boneless dishes. Can’t beat the people either (although at times you might be tempted).

In a place like India, reincarnated life after reincarnated life, patience isn’t a virtue so much as a necessity.

I have to admit I’m not too sure I’d go back there, though.

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The Jain Temple

The Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Ranakpur Tirtha

The Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Ranakpur Tirtha; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005

According to a pamphlet I bought here, construction of this temple began in 1446 Vikram Samvat. The pamphlet does not provide an equivalent date Anno Domini but 1446 VS appears to have been 1390 AD.

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Hanuman and Garuda

- What's their relevance to the PHANTACEA Mythos? -


One of the myriad Hanuman idols spotted in Pushkar, Rajasthan; photo by Jim McPherson, 2005
A blow-up of one of the myriad Hanuman idols spotted in Pushkar, Rajasthan, as photographed by Jim McPherson in the Year 2005

References to Hanuman from Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Rather than inserting foot in mouth again, proverbially speaking of course (or having Hanuman make a monkey out of me, put more appropriately), allow me to extract a few selections from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ultimate Reference Set 2003) re one of the most popular and oft-depicted supernatural entities I encountered in India:
  • "A beneficent guardian spirit, he is worshiped in the form of a monkey ... who stands erect like a human. Temples in his honour are numerous."
  • "In his devotion to Rama, Hanuman is upheld as a model for human devotion to god, an attitude beautifully depicted by South Indian bronze sculptors."
  • "He is also a popular deity in Japan, where many temples are erected to his honour and districts of towns bear his name."
  • "In the great Hindu epic the Ramayana (“Romance of Rama”) Hanuman, accompanied by a host of monkeys, aided Rama in recovering his wife, Sita, from the demon Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons (rakshasas)."
  • "In modern times, Tamil groups who oppose what they believe to be the political domination of southern India by the north view the story of Rama as an example of the Aryan invasion of the south and express their sympathies for Ravana and against Rama."

From the PHANTACEA Mythos:

  • In 'Centauri Island', a Byronic Master Deva possessing one of the Fatman's Untouchables was named (presumably by ancient Illuminaries of Weir) Tau Hanuman;
  • his fellow Byronics refer to him as Monk-Eye;
  • this Monk-Eye has as his devic power focus or Tvasitar talisman what he calls his 'Bazooka Banana';
  • Rakshas demons appear 'The Trigregos Gambit' as the Gatherers of the Glorious Dead

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ultimate Reference Set 2003):

  • "In Hindu mythology, Garuda is the bird and the vahana (mount) of the god Vishnu."
  • "Garuda's mother was held in slavery by nagas (serpents), to which is attributed the lasting enmity between the eagle-like kite and the serpents."
  • "The nagas agreed to release his mother if he could obtain for them a drink of the elixir of immortality."
  • "Garuda is described in one text as emerald in colour, with the beak of a kite, roundish eyes, golden wings and four arms, and with breast, knees, and legs like those of the kite. He is also depicted anthropomorphically, with wings and hawk-like features."
  • Vahanas include Siva's bull Nandi, the 'haisa' (goose or swan) of Brahma, the rat of Ganesha, the peacock of Skanda, the elephant Airavata of Indra, the parrot of Kama, the owl of Lakshmi, the lion of Parvati, and the man of Kubera.

From the PHANTACEA Mythos:

  • Garudas who appear in PHANTACEA include Sorciere's teacher, Granny Garuda (a Utopian of Weir born Kanin Nauroz), and her grand nephew, Aquilla Falconiform;
  • Granny appears mostly in 'The Moloch Manoeuvres' while Aquilla and his family feature throughout 'Heliodyssey';
  • In the PHANTACEA Mythos, vahanas are indistinguishable from psychopomps like Fish's Delphi; the mnemonic I use for psychopomp is psyche (for soul) prompt;
  • In "Forever & 40 Days, the Genesis of PHANTACEA", which is still available for ordering,vimanas (reminiscent of vahanas) are depicted as flying machines employed by the pre-Genesea, Golden Age Patriarchs of Humankind.


A Garuda made out of wood; photographed in Delhi's National Museum by Jim McPherson, 2005

Garuda as Vishnu's vehicle; the winged platform on his back is presumably where the local potentate sat during festivals or state ceremonies; the Garuda is made out of wood; photographed in Delhi's National Museum by Jim McPherson, 2005

References to Garuda from Encyclopaedia Britannica

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For the Future File

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For the Future File: Goa, Looking North from Betalbatim Beach

Betalbatim Beach looking north, photo by Jim McPherson, 2005

According to 'The Rough Guide to Goa' (1996): the sand stretches for twelve miles north of Colva Beach. There it meets the Murmugao peninsula. It's "marred by the metallic chimneys and pressurized storage tanks of Zurari Agro's giant fertilizer plant. Seepages from this plant ... caused ground water pollution and the death of tonnes of fish here during the mid-1970s; its presence overlooking one of the world's most beautiful beaches is a continued source of controversy."

Kind of reminds you of home, doesn't it?

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Notes on Background Tiling

Image Map: Click on individual graphics for the Cyberian equivalent of teleportation

  • Foot-in-Mouth: the close-up is here; a full-on shot of the idol is here; the idol, identified as Trivikrama, is in the Delhi National Museum;
  • Chaotic Delhi: sidewalks seem to be used as parking spaces for motorcycles and scooters as often as they are for purely pedestrian purposes;
  • A Tholos or beehive-like structure spotted on man-made lake near Jodhpur, Rajasthan;
  • Posing Dwarf in the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum - The City Palace, Jaipur (after offering to pose he wanted money; I got a free picture);
  • Snake Charmers in Jaipur, Rajasthan;
  • Snakes in Love: shot of a poster spotted at the Snake Temple on way to Chaturmukha Jain Temple

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Collage consisting of photographs taken by Jim McPherson in India, prepared on PHOTOSHOP by Jim McPherson, 2005

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Foot in mouth fellow Chaos on a Delhi Street JodhpurTholos A Dwarf in a guard's uniform posing for picture Snake Charmers at work in Jaipur Poster purporting to show two snakes in love