Category Archives: India

May the Rotten Bones Absorb Life Again

Delhi
14-02-2012

From Bangalore, we took a flight to Delhi, India’s capital. It was actually the same price as taking a second class train to the same place, and it took two and a half hours instead of something ridiculous like forty eight hours. I know it’s not all eco friendly and all, but we’ve done our fair share of train traveling already (and we’re not finished!)

Delhi is apparently one of the oldest living cities in the world, along with Jerusalem, and Varanasi (see later in this post!) – estimated to be 5000 years old and destroyed 11 times!! But we didn’t have time to visit the oldest parts – it’s quite straining to do anything here, so we stuck to what was close. Luckily, Delhi is super awesome for travelers like us, because it has a very modern metro and train system which actually links the airport to the area where we were staying. We thus never had to deal with pushy rickshaw and tuk tuk drivers who literally assaults you when you come out of the metro stations. The only thing that kind of sucked was that there was a huge lack of directions, so you needed to ask people constantly where we were going… luckily, everyone happily obliged to our constant questions!

The very modern Delhi metro, built by a Montreal company – Bombardier!

We stayed in a backpacker ghetto called Paharganj – which is very close to pretty much all the local attractions. It’s pretty much a street bazaar with tons of tourist stores, hotels and restaurants, trapped in a huge cloud of dust and pollution.

The Main Bazaar street in Paharganj, viewed from the top of “Everest restaurant”

Rickshaw driver amidst the crowd

Street sweets! This is called “Indian Jelabi” or something. I tried it out, it was like a sugar syrup soaked crunchy donut. So good, but sooooo evil.

The restaurants we tried in Delhi were mostly located in our area, which meant that they were kind of catered to tourist tastes… but they were still quite tasty.

A lunch set meal, or thali with naan bread, basmati rice, egg curry, chicken curry, salad, yogurt and tandorii chicken (it was a bit too dry for my liking!)

Biryani rice. Spicy as hell! It’s like the Indian version of chicken fried rice.

The first touristic thing we did was to visit the National Museum. We read everywhere that it was not to miss. We are always interested to learn about different cultures, so we went for it… but we were a bit disappointed. Perhaps half of the exhibitions were closed for renovations (or something?) and barely anything had explanations… they say the name of gods and goddesses, but what are they god of? We don’t know! Some stuff was even written by type writer. It looks like no work was done since the 70’s.. except for the miniature painting exhibition. That one was actually decent, and worth the entrance price alone. I swear, I’ve never seen such tiny details in my life! These artists use to paint with paintbrushes the size of one hair… it’s really crazy. I couldn’t really capture it on film, but I took a couple photos of paintings I found quite interesting:

The god Krishna stealing the clothes of bathing ladies. I thought it was pretty funny that their gods were such tricksters!

My favourite goddess, Kali! Usually she is portrayed in blue, but on here she is renamed “Mahakali”, the dark goddess. She is a popular deity of Bengal, and is considered infinite without beginning or end (hence the extra body parts). Her horrifying and ferocious appearance associates her to battlefields, cremation-grounds, death, destruction, fear and terror. How's that for a metal goddess?

The next day, we went around and did a bit of shopping. India has awesome textiles, and I wanted to buy myself some clothes. While walking around in Connaugh Place, I saw an amazing of work of art, done by hundreds of Indian men and women:

Crazy mass of red-coloured spit

You see red-coloured spit everywhere in India (I even saw some in Malaysia – and apparently it’s worst in Bangladesh), but this was the biggest mass I’ve seen so far! If you are wondering what the hell it is, it’s the product of chewing on betel nut – a kind of slightly addictive and stimulant shredded nut. You usually find these in “paan”, a digestive commonly taken after meals, which sometimes also includes fennel seeds, sweets and flavourings. You chew on that thing (I tried it, it tastes like tooth paste mixed with perfume) and then you spit out juices as you go.

Paan. Some are wrapped in silver foil!

Finally, at the end of our 6 days we were staying in Delhi, we decided to do our first sight-seeing. There are so many things to do here, but we decided to keep it short and sweet – as I said earlier, Delhi has a great metro system, but once you come out of the metro, it’s REALLY hard to get around. We decided to visit Old Delhi, which has the biggest mosque in India, a famous restaurant, as well as the Red Fort.

So, the mosque, Jama Masjid (also known as Masjid-i Jahān-Numā) was erected between 1644 and 1658. Built by a Mughal Emperor (the Mughal empire was settled in Northern India at the time), its courtyard can hold up to 25 000 worshippers!

Jama Masjid viewed from the courtyard

As usual, to enter a mosque, a woman must be covered by a long dress so she doesn’t reveal anything. We thus had to rent out a little costume thing, which cost 2$. Later, when we came out of the mosque, they tried to rip me off by saying “More money! Overcharge!” but I refused, obviously! Trying to rip you off in a “holy” place. What the hell!

My moo-moo looking muslim dress. What’s weird is that they didn’t even ask for us to cover our head or anything!

Mughal architecture is a mix of Hindu with Arabic and Persian styles. The Taj Mahal (which we will see later!) is also constructed in a style… it’s really beautiful, and definitely very exotic looking!

Inlay details of the interior arches. Notice the other beautiful moo-moo’s.

Details of the wall decorations with Qur’an writings

Qur’ans

The mosque also houses several relics, in a closet. I was there when the relic guard took them out to show them to a muslim family but unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos. There was one of Muhammed’s beard hair, some ancient Qur’an manuscript written on deer skin, one of Muhammed’s sandals as well as one of his foot prints on… marble! The sandal looked quite authentic, but strangely the foot print was much larger than the sandal itself… anyway, it was really cool to see all of those things!

The relic closet

After that, we went to a really really famous restaurant called “Karim’s”. Apparently, the founders were royal cooks, for the Mughal emperors – so the cuisine is considered royal cuisine. The presentation was far from being royal, but the taste was sublime!

The Karim’s kitchen

We ordered way too much food; mutton sheesh kebabs, goat qoma, goat and potato stew, egg curry as well as tons of roti’s (some kind of nice flatbreads):

Those greasy turd-looking things were the sheesh kebabs. They were to die for! But they could have done so much better for presentation haha

Goat in a thick onion gravy (It was sooooooo tender and juicy! But really not for people on a diet hehe) and a tandorii roti. Yum!

To digest a little, we came back by walking through a bazaar and eventually to the Red Fort. It was Sunday, and there were many many people in the streets. Don’t know if it’s like this everyday, but it was particularly striking!

Tons of people walking in the streets

A muslim bbq’er

The goat before being made into a kebab!!

And then we arrived in front of the Red Fort, which we didn’t actually explore hehe… it cost more than 5$ per person, and we weren’t ready to pay that much to enter it. Anyway, it looked quite cool from the outside!

The Red Fort in Old Delhi

The next day was a big holiday everywhere in India – it was the celebration of Shiva’s birthday! It is also on that day that I lost my most valuable possession at the moment; my camera. I only noticed it when I was on the train on the way to Agra – where the Taj Mahal is located. Can you believe it? I stupidly forgot my camera somewhere (or perhaps got it stolen, who knows!) right before going to visit the Taj Mahal. Anyway, I knew it was going to happen eventually because I always lose stuff, but it still sucks. After alot of work, I did manage to find a photo boutique that could order the newer model of my camera for me, but I was only going to get it 5 days later. We spent a couple of days doing damage control, and decided to visit a nearby town, Orchha, while waiting. I didn’t take any photos, obviously.

Orchha
23-02-2012

To get to Orchha, we had to take a train to a nearby city (Jhansi), which was very very nice and smooth, and had a really killer veggie breakfast. But our stream of bad luck continued. We were instructed by  the owner of an Agra tourist agency (apparently, a “friend” of the owner of the hotel where we were going), when coming out of the train, to go to the pre-paid booth outside of the station and to get a rickshaw/tuktuk for Orchha, which should cost us not more than 150 rupees (3$). When we came out of the station, there was nobody at the pre-paid booth. The annoying rickshaw and taxi drivers asked us where we were going, so we said “Orccha” and everyone kind of cringed. They said it was election day and that the border was sealed. See, Orchha is situated 20 km, but in another province. So a guy  came to us, and said he’d “help” us and bring us to Orchha on his scooter, but for 1500 rupees. That’s 30$… 10 times more expensive than usual, and for us to sit THREE on a scooter with our big bags and all. So we told him off, and finally he “lowered” his price to 500 rupees. We agreed, stupidly thinking it was the only way to go there. So we all got on the scooter, and the ride was fine but tight… until we got to the hotel! Arrived at the hotel, we checked in our room, and everything was nice, until the manager came to see us and told us we had to move to another hotel, due to some logistic problems. That’s when I kind of blew up haha, it was just too much shit one after the other! Apparently, both the scooter guy AND the tourist agency guy wanted commission on our room (which we had lowered from 1000 rupees to 800 rupees). The Indian hospitality business runs on commissions (it’s like the mafia), so it’s bad business to turn down this kind of bribe system… And it was because the hotel manager didn’t want to encourage those scams that we couldn’t stay there. But finally, after much dealing, we stayed in the room and the manager told both guys to fuck off and not to give him business again. So kudos to the manager of Ganpati hotel. What a way to travel though! So many scams!

Orchha is a farming village located among ruins of medieval palaces and temples. I thought it was going to be a bit like Hampi, but it really wasn’t… it was certainly very beautiful, but it was really loud. All day, cars, motorcycles and rickshaws passing by would toot their horns REALLY loudly for no apparent reason. I think they’re on powertrips or something. But the buildings WERE nice, and what is cool is that you can walk everywhere you want. There are no restrictions or anything, no security guards, nothing! It was really cool to go through secret passages and end up in weird rooms with medieval ceiling paintings, etc… really a nice experience. And the surroundings were really stunning as well.

We then took the train back to Agra, waiting for my camera to come…

Agra (part II)
25-02-2012

Back in Agra, we received hugely deceiving news. The camera, which I had ordered and was supposed to come from Hong Kong, did not arrive. So basically, we cancelled all of our trains, delayed all of our hotel stays and extended our trip for nothing. The only sensible option was to rent a camera, and the only decent camera to rent was an analogue SLR – a Canon Rebel EOS. At least it’ll be fun and a bit more artistic than a disposable camera! Might as well have used one though, the company who ended up developing my film and scanning the negatives did a really amateur/digital job and the photos ended up looking like they were scanned by a 10-year old from an eighties color guide book. Oh well. I tried, I swear!! Hahahaha

So after 5 days (normally, people go to Agra for one day!), we finally went to visit the mystery that is the Taj Mahal! We got up at dawn, and entered the site to experience a magical rising of the sun… The first monument we encountered was the main gate:

Main gate

Ceiling of main gate

The sunrays bathed the immense structure in pinkish cream colors... it looked like we were in some exotic movie set

For those who are only familiar with the name and photo, let me explain you something… the Taj Mahal is actually a gigantic mausoleum complex, which has been built in the 1630’s by the love-sick Shah Jahan (a mughal emperor) to honor the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child (he really, really loved her it seems!!!) The complex consists of extremely refined marble buildings, surrounded by a  huge green garden with flowers and trees:

Myself and François in front of the Taj Mahal, on one of the garden’s paths. I always remove my glasses for photos (I barely never wear them anyway, but I do suffer from short-sightedness) and unfortunately I didn’t notice they fell on the ground. Moments later, I found them completely crushed and sampled on the ground!!

Almost everything has been designed and built symmetrically, except for the emperor’s tomb, who was added at the end by his son – and thus, screwed up his whole concept hahaha… anyway, the details are absolutely impressive. Everything has been carved into marble, and the flower details are all made out of precious stones!!

Details of some steps

Inside the walls (we cannot take photos of the main mausoleum, unfortunately)

An iwan, with a passage from the Qu’ran written in exquisite calligraphy! Notice the way the marble is cut in the dome, I think it looks really impressive. Of course, it’s way cooler in real life!

A metal door. Some parts are missing, perhaps tourists wanted souvenirs? Haha

Details of the ceiling from one of the side mosques

A window with a Persian poem. Again, these flowers are cut from precious stones.

The Taj Mahal looked impressive from all angles, and in real life, was really really BIG!! It hurt the neck to try to appreciate all its details!

Taj Mahal view from one of the side masjids (mosque)

Back of the Taj Mahal, with view of one of the four minerets (tower to call muslim faithfuls to prayers)

Myself in front of the Taj Mahal. I’m sorry for the repetitive photos haha, we had the camera for 3 hours only.

We spent a couple of hours walking around and gazing at the beauty of the structure, and then returned home to take a nicely deserved siesta hehe. The Taj Mahal surely did not fail to impress me – and for sure deserves all the praises it gets. Really a fantastic experience! Oh, and I got pooped on by a bird, which my Indian friend Vik told me is good luck. Phew! Now, onwards to the 13-hour train journey to Varanasi.

Varanasi
28-02-2012

It’s funny, I don’t see 13 hours on a train anymore, I see it as a fun opportunity to talk, read a book, listen to music, work on CAUCHEMAR stuff and design posters for our upcoming tour! We arrived in Varanasi around noon, where a man picked us up to lead us to where we’d be staying – the Kautilya Society. It’s basically a short and long-time residence for students, film makers, travellers and musicians. We’d have to pay 2$ to join the community, and 5$ a night for a bed in a dormitory. This place was heaven – breakfast AND lunch was included, there was free wifi, and the building was incredibly old and gorgeous… oh, and the staff was really sweet! We met a lot of nice people, among them a Mexican guy, Serbian guy and a Spanish girl whom let me practice mendhi (henna tattooing) on her! Oh yeah, and the super friendly Mexican guy, Geraldo, let me use his nice digital camera, so I could have photos for my blog.

Myself doing mendhi. Notice the swing in the background! A swing in a building! Amazing!

Two of the ladies helping out with the lunch. Later in the week, they taught me how to cook Indian breads and make chai masala! (Indian tea with spices)

What one of the lunches looked. Totally home-style Varanasi Indian food – fried cabbage, red carrot with mustard seeds, moog bean stew with potatoes and spicy okra with Indian spices. It would always come with fresh vegetables, basmati rice and chapatti (Indian bread). So good!!!!!!

But enough of where we stayed! The whole point of this post is to talk about the extremely rich experience of being in Varanasi. The holy city of Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world, dating from the iron age (!) and still looking like it. Many Indian philosophers, poets, musiciens, writers and artists flourished here. Even Buddha himself declared it as a pilgrimage site! It’s not hard to know why though, there’s a certain energy floating around here. Perhaps it’s just the smell of burning corpses… (see later in this post, hehe)

Varanasi and its ghats (stairs). You see here the holy Ganges river!

What attracted me to the town itself is its really old history, as well as its fascinating religious devotion. The city is located on the bank of the Ganges river, which is extremely sacred in Hinduism as well as Jainism and a few other religions. The incredibly polluted river, which is seen as an elixir, is thought to wash away sins. From the dawn to dusk, people bathe and brush their teeth in it – some having a good time with friends, and some are alone under deep religious stupor. We took a boat trip early in the morning, to see the sun rise and see for ourselves how people take their ritual morning baths:

The river bank of Ganges around 6AM. The water almost looks good to bathe in.

Still at dawn! We see here hindu temples on the side of the ghats.

Offering (candle and flowers) to the gods, floating away on the Ganges

The sun coming up and people boating on the river. Ahh, the joy of having a good camera!

Peaceful sunrise on the river

An Indian man happily washing himself!

Indians brushing their teeth in the holy river

Praying in the sacred water

More religious Indian guys soaking in the water.

Ahh, how cool it is that these guys can wash ALL their sins away in a day! Notice, the Indian lady second left. Haven’t seen too many of ‘em around in the Ganges.

This area is also a favourite spot for yoga and meditation practitioners. We found this peaceful looking man meditating, and soaking up all the vibes of the place:

Meditating man on one of the ghats at sunrise

Varanasi is also, with Venise, the easiest place to get lost in the world. Seriously, its downtown area is a real labyrinth. There’s no way of finding a way, you have to ask the people where the river is, and just follow it back to where you come from. I don’t know how they built it; it’s really insane… but I like it like that! It was fun getting lost and finding our way again! The very narrow streets were lined up with tiny shops, and their walls were decorated with religious paintings. The electric lines sometimes were a HUGE mess. They looked like spider webs! But I think it was worst in La Paz, Bolivia. Haha

Religious paintings on one of the walls

Myself with Geraldo, the Mexican guy, and Milan, the Serbian guy. Thank you Geraldo for the camera! (BTW he’s not sitting on me, my other leg was hanging on the other side of the wall haha)

One of the little shops. This guy is making packages of paan, the red stuff I was telling you guys earlier on in the post. Apparently, Varanasi paan is one of the best in India!

Some women selling cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a key ingredient to most Indian dishes. Remember that!

An incredible mass of electric lines. No wonder Varanasi is known for its notorious power cuts!

A colorful Indian wedding taking place in the streets. It sure looks like an unhappy arranged married, due to the seriousness in the newlyweds’ faces!

Varanasi is also THE place where Hindus wants to die. Why? Dying here, and for the remains to be tossed away in the Ganges river means instant Nirvana! No bullshit with karma and reincarnations, this is fast forwarding straight into illumination! The popularity of this place means that 300 bodies PER DAY gets cremated here, most of them at the burning ghat, Manikarnika.

The highly ornamented body gets a small procession in the tiny streets of Varanasi

A different body. Only the male members of the family are allowed because women cry too much, which can retain the soul from reaching Nirvana. (Almost the same with Buddhism!)

Families have to plan cremation in advance, because it is quite costly. Richer families buy exotic imported wood – some of them with nice smells like sandalwood, and poorer families use ordinary, local wood. The body is first bathed in the water, brought back to shore, covered with firewood, and then lit up by an “eternal flame” (a fire that is apparently still burning for thousands of years!). The body takes about three hours to get “purified” by the fire, and then, all the ashes and burnt remains are sifted by the lower caste people (the untouchables) over the water, to keep bits of gold. Apparently, sometimes sadhus (holy men) eat the burning flesh in order to purify themselves! I felt like I was stuck in the lyrics of an AUTOPSY song or something!!!! Also, children and sadhus do not need purification by fire, they are tossed in the water directly, as they are considered pure. Sometimes, very poor people are also tossed in the Ganges without being burned… A rock is attached to their feet, and their bodies are brought to the bottom of the lake. It happens that sometimes a body floats back to the surface… in fact, I think I saw one, but as I had no glasses, I couldn’t see properly. Maybe it’s for the better.

The burning ghat in the afternoon. Taking a photo here is forbidden, but you know me... hehe.

Burning ghat from the river at dawn. Only one body is burning. The “eternal flame” is in one of the buildings... but you can’t see it very well.

Walking on the side of the ghats , you could notice sadhus, cows and even snake charmers! I think these sadhus are false though, apparently real holy men wake up early in the morning and are never “around” to ask money from tourists. I certainly never gave them any money either.

A beautiful cow an her baby. I love Indian cows. I want all of them!!!

Snake charmer with two live king cobras! Geraldo took this photo.

A sadhu. Probably waving us to get money or something. Notice the trident he is holding in his left hand – it’s the symbol of SHIVA – god of destruction.

Every night, around 18:30, is Ganga Aartii, an incredible ceremony that immerses faithful followers in divine energy by calling the five elements. It was the first time I assisted to this sort of sacred religious ritual, which certainly invoked some very powerful forces. The ringing of the bells, the fire, the incense, the purification through the Ganges water… it actually managed to give me huge shivers! Noble-looking men started the ritual by holding lit incense sticks in the air – moving them around softly, and then they lifted a chalice full of smoke, while ringing a small bell. They also threw water from the Ganges on their altar and blew from conch shells. Every move was repeated in each direction – north, south, east and west.

The ritual leaders with incense

A chalice full of smoke!

A crowd of Hindu devotees are mesmerized by the ritual

Spectators, both Indian and foreign were enjoying the celebration from the water

Then, my favourite part arrived… FIRE! The background song became faster and intense, with ritual drums and bells – and the guys held brass-torches, which is meant to purify. Not sure if the fire comes from the aforementioned “eternal flame”, but it wouldn’t surprise me!

Holding a one of the torches

Different torches. These ones were really cool – some were multiple headed snakes, other were king cobras. I was just picturing how could it would be to see a live concert with guys like this around the band! Screw pyrotechnics!

View of the king cobra torch

FIRE!!!

The ritual ended by the guys purifying themselves in the water, drinking from it, and then singing together and throwing flowers around them. It was pure beauty.

We stayed in Varanasi for four nights in total, in order to soak in the life a little. The streets are quite dirty, yes, and the people burp and fart a lot in the streets (for them it’s natural, so it’s ok!) – but it’s their culture, and I totally accept it as that. I can totally also understand why some Europeans might find this place totally shocking and repulsive… but I can give them this advice: visit Varanasi with an open mind, and embrace all those cultural differences! You might even find yourself burping, too – at the end of your trip! Haha

So now, the Indian leg of our trip is over. It’s pretty crazy – we were only planning to stay two weeks here in India, but finally we spent a month and a half. And we still have SO much to explore. I came here with no expectations, but found an incredible country (or many incredible countries – every city is so different…) with really nice people and a culture that is absolutely ALIVE. I have a feeling I will be back, in the future. And the cool thing is that I don’t think anything is going to change… hehe (ok – perhaps the metal scene!)

We just landed in Kathmandu, Nepal, and will be spending a month here! More news later on, as usual! Wish me luck on finding a good camera here!

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Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers

We landed at the Bangalore airport only to be received in the welcoming arms of our metalhead friend, Sandesh. We had been in contact with him for several months, when he asked us to play the Trend Slaughter Festival – opening for ABIGAIL and DYING EMBRACE. He came to greet us at the airport, and then dropped us at Ganesh’s flat, another friend – who would be our session bass player for the gig. Ganesh thoughtfully invited us to stay at his place and made us feel at home for a week. We spend many good nights with him, drinking beer and listening to doom metal. (Yes, there is a small, but good doom metal scene in India!!!)

Bangalore (formely known as Bangalore), located in the South East of India, was the kind of place you went for a nice, peaceful retirement. In fact, it used to be called the City of Gardens… until the computer/IT industry boomed. The city now attracts young Indians from all over the country to work there, and has thus grown as fast as a shark and reaching a population of almost 8 million. I haven’t traveled long enough in India to say for sure, but apparently this is the most “western” of all Indian cities. Perhaps it’s a good thing for us to land here, in order to have a nice slow transition into the real India! What I liked about Bangalore is that everybody spoke to each other in English… it made everything so much easier!

One of the most famous commercial streets in the city

Bangalore is also known for having the country’s best extreme metal scene, with a rich spectrum of killer Black Metal, Doom and Death metal bands. I even spotted a metal car in the middle of a traffic jam, one evening!

Metal car

I really couldn’t wait to try Indian food, so my friends brought us to Guzzlers’, a rock/metal pub that played really good classic stuff like RAINBOW, DIO, BLACK SABBATH, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, URIAH HEEP, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON and IRON MAIDEN. A fun place, with some killer finger food!

Ganesh, François, myself, Sandesh and Vik (Dying Embrace vocalist)

We tried tons of food, but my favourites were these:

Some kind of vegetables fried with chilli flavoured batter. They call ‘em bhajis.

Reshmi Kabab, tender bbq’ed pieces of chicken, wrapped in a thin layer of omelette. You dip them in a mint chutney sauce... to die for!!!!

At the beginning of the week, we hung out at Ganesh’s apartment, waiting for him and everyone to finish work. I was trying to clumsily cook some Indian food, when Ganesh’s maid came along, and showed me how to do True Indian Cooking. I totally messed up the first dish, adding yogurt at the beginning (it started curdling to my great horror!!!)

Myself with Fatima and my horrible vegetable yogurt masala

Some yummy dal (lentils), the veg masala, fried beans and a real yogurt curry

Killer chicken curry

Chicken curry, spinach daal and roasted eggplants with mustard seeds!

I bought tons of spices and a nice spice dish so I can make some at home, when I come back.

A few days later, on the day before the gig, the ABIGAIL guys landed (they had previously played Dhaka in Bangladesh!!!) and we were all welcomed in the true Indian way:

Youhei (ABIGAIL drummer), Jero (ABIGAIL live session guitarist), Vik (DYING EMBRACE), Sandesh and François.

They brought us to this huge rock star suite, which had a sofa and a fridge (for beer and leftovers). I swear, it’s the biggest hotel room I’ve ever slept in! It just screamed metal party!

No sleep ‘till Trend Slaughter

Idly (kind of breakfast couscous with cashews) and coconut pancakes for breakfast

Working on the CAUCHEMAR setlist

In late morning, we headed to Kyra, the venue, to do the sound check. The venue was very professional, and had great sound guys. The show will kick some serious ass!

Gig poster at the entrance. You know what, I think we are the first Canadian metal band ever to play in India! And we sing in French hahahaha!

Ganesh, Vik and François at ABIGAIL’s sound check. Yasuyuki would scream “FUCKKKK YOU!!!!!!!! FUCK YOUUUUUU!!! Instead of the usual “check, check” hahaha

Before the gig, the club offered us some quality Indian food, in the form of a buffet. There was something like 10 different types of curries, 5 different types of rice and a huge dessert table.  Apparently, the food was more in the style of North India… and I loved every bit of it!

Heavy metal buffet with ABIGAIL guys

My plate. Looks like a mess, but it was so good! I had some fresh nan bread to scoop out all the yummy sauces

Yasuyuki was so full that he had to undo his belt hahaha

The doors opened around 3:30, and more than a hundred Indian headbangers poured in the venue. Some rushed in at the merch table (records are very hard to get in India!) and we actually sold out of our records before we played!!!

The merch table with local bangers

The first band that played is called DJINN & MISKATONIC. I had listened to some of their songs beforehand, and was very curious about seeing them live… They play an original doomy style of metal, with highly distortioned bass and Lovecraftian lyrics. The bassist’s style would kind of remind me of CIRITH UNGOL, but played much heavier! The vocalist had this haunted voice that fit tremendously well with what they played, and sometimes his vocals leaned more towards a death metal style. The last song of their set, “Weird Tales” was the highlight for me. Anyway, this new band is a true gem, and I certainly hope to watch them grow! I will be buying whatever they release, that’s for sure.

Djinn and Miskatonic

Next band playing were Dhwesha, who had just released their first demo for the occasion. This band was a total surprise for me. I was talking to a few people near the merch table, and when they started, I had to cut the conversation short and run to the front to watch them… They played very dark doomy black metal with melodies, reminding me of the MORBID ANGEL/ARMOURED ANGEL style with lyrics in Kannada (the local dialect). Very solid stuff, and the guys were young as hell! I loved how the vocalist sang with absolute hatred.

Dhwesha

Dhwesha vocalist with his killer eyes! Reminds me of the 80’s Brazilian scene...

Afterwards was a local two-piece gore-grind band called GORIFIED. In fact, they have a drummer but he’s in France, so they just use a drum machine instead. I am FAR from being a gore-grind band, so I can’t honestly criticize their set, but I can say what they did, they did it well. They had the usual pig squeels and blast beats, you know. A strange addition to the line-up, but it gave me a well deserved beer break. You need those bands sometimes!

Gorified

My band, CAUCHEMAR, played next. We were backed up by two great local guys, Ganesh on bass (from the kickass doom metal band BEVAR SEA) as well as Deepak on drums (also from BEVAR SEA and DYING EMBRACE)! We played the five songs from our EP, as well as a cover… I don’t recall too much from our set, except that I remember feeling fucking possessed while singing! I did hear people sing along to our cover and headbang like hell for “Le Voile d’Isis”. It was incredibly special for us to play in India, and I really hope to come back with the rest of the band! Here are some photos, kindly sent from the kickass photographer Uday Shanker:

Deepak, François, Ganesh and myself! Photo by Uday Shanker.

Myself! Photo by Uday Shanker.

Ganesh, our session bass player! Photo by Uday Shanker.

After us was DYING EMBRACE, the first extreme metal band from India – who luckily had just reformed last year. Seriously, although I really loved most bands of the night – and been wanting to see ABIGAIL for a long time, I think DYING EMBRACE are the ones that left the most lasting impression on me… probably because I didn’t know them before. They played an amazing, deep style of black doom, mixing elements of weird early 90’s Black Metal, BATHORY and CANDLEMASS together. They had no bassist, but even then – it sounded absolutely great. They previously released a few 7″’s before disbanding in 2001, and like I mentioned, reformed in 2011. Vik (vocalist) seemed absolutely taken by Jimmy (guitarist)’s melodies, and kind of reminded me of an Indian Bobby Liebling! Jimmy played guitar like it was the extension of his body – flowing through solos as organically as humanely possible. And Deepak had some really original drum beats, which I think is really essential in this type of metal. They played songs raging from 1991 to 2001, a brand new title, as well as a cover of AUTOPSY’s “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay”. Fuck yes! A true discovery! Sadly, their EP’s are long sold out, but Shaxul (Legion of Death records, France) will be re-releasing all of them on a compilation. Support!

Vik and Jimmy

Vik

Indian fans, who seemed as stoked as I was!

After all that crushing metal finally came ABIGAIL, whom I’ve been following for more than 10 years (time goes fast huh!) and never even saw live yet!! As you read before, I was really impressed by the live performance of DYING EMBRACE but for ABIGAIL, I think I totally went fucking mad. You know, when you totally, intensely get drunk ONLY by the sheer power of the music? I lost all control during ABIGAIL’s set; it was just that good. They played my absolute favourites from their first album, “Intercourse and Lust”; Attack with Spell and Hail Yakuza (with the ultra long part and all! Arghhh!!) as well as some more stuff from later albums, like Violence, Kill and Destruction, Bitch! We Gonna Kill You, Satanik Metal Fucking Hell!, Prophecy of the Evening Star, Hells Necromancer and the most recent classic, Metal Evil Metal! I was also very impressed by Jero’s guitar playing. It was so fucking cool to hear total heavy metal solos and riffs (he also plays in MELUCIFER/GORGON) in all that evil metal punk hell! And Youhei didn’t stop beating the shit out of the drums from beginning to end… he literally broke my neck, trying to follow his beats, that bastard! And Yasuyuki was insane, going right up to the front of the stage, playing amidst a totally chaotic mass of rabid Indian headbangers… his vocals were as powerful as usual, and, really, the whole band totally blew away the whole of the crowd!!!

Youhei and Yasuyuki

Jero

Yasuyuki

They finished with a cover of SODOM’s Outbreak of Evil and then… Yasuyuki called me to play bass and Vik to sing the chorus of Rocking Metal Motherfucker (BARBATOS –I had played session bass for them in Montreal 4 years ago.) It was really fucking cool and a total honour to play with the ABIGAIL guys – especially after such a crushing set!!!!!!

Vik, Yasuyuki and myself during “Rocking Metal Motherfucker”!!!

Myself on bass! (Photo by François)

A better photo of everyone on stage for "Rocking Metal Motherfuckers"!!!

ABIGAIL played a full hour, and after that, I was completely done and satisfied with the evening… until Sandesh and Vik announced us that there was a whole table of kickass Indian food set up for us. ARGHHHHH!!!!! Best way to end a show ever!!! (OK a whole table of poutine would have given me the same effect hahaha).

François, myself, Ganesh and Deepak... a little bit too happy after ABIGAIL hahahaha

François, Jero (BLACKOUT!!!!!!!) and Yasuyuki

It’s weird, I thought we were totally somewhere else until we got our plates of Indian food, and my Indian buddies started eating with their fingers around me. It’s so funny how metal unites us, but food is what takes us back to our own cultures…

Speaking of food (like usual with me haha), we got invited the next day to eat breakfast by Vik, who’s not only a kickass organizer and vocalist, but also a RESTAURANT owner!!  Him and his father owns Ullas Refreshments – which is one of the landmarks of Bangalore. It is so well known and good, that it is even featured in my very own guide book of India!! Apparently, it’s known in the metal scene as the metal restaurant because that’s where the headbangers meet to organize gigs and exchange metal information. In fact, that’s where our very own Vik discovered IRON MAIDEN when he was a kid; a long time ago, one of the clients of the restaurant had forgotten a tape with Maiden recorded on it, which young Vik picked up… and which totally blew him away!

The legendary Ullas restaurant in downtown Bangalore

What totally ruled is that François and myself got invited to visit the kitchen. I love Indian food so much, but yet, have never seen behind the scenes, you know, stuff like tandorii ovens and spices in huge quantity. I  was really excited, it felt like I was a kid!!! The kitchen was really clean and the main cook looked old haha, a sign of experience and good food!

Taking balls of dough and making roti (kind of the little brother of nan bread)

Using some kind of rock to smash the roti’s inside the tandorii oven

Rotis in the tandorii

A pile of hot, tender in the inside but crunchy on the outside rotis!!! Ahh I want some of those babies right now!

The dish of spices (masalas). I actually ended up buying myself a similar dish – makes it much easier to make Indian food!

Electric-powered grinders, for making the base of curries and gravies. Vik explained that this way is very old school, and that it gives a much better taste to the food.

So, the first thing we tried are puris, which are huge puffy balls of bread, which you dip in different thing –  curried potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, coconut chutney and garlic chutney (this was my favourite!):

Puris with their sauces

Some local guys call them “boobies” because they are so big. Jero had to demonstrate:

Boobie puris

We also had a dosa, which is some kind of crispy crêpe that you dip in the same kind of sauces. Yasuyuki put out his finger in order to show how big the crêpe was compared to his hand!

Dosarghhhh!!!!

And I wanted to try his naans so I had one of them with three different kinds of curries. Ahh, what a treat!!!

Sweet sweet tandorii naans with curries

We finished with some fresh fruit salads, but Yasuyuki had ice cream on top of it. “I love sweets”, he said!

Ice cream fruitsalarghhhhh

We also came back to Vik’s restaurant a few weeks later to have a lunch thali, which is a very typical South Indian dish. It was really good, especially the sprouted moog bean curry. So healthy, arghh!

Ullas thali! Miam!

We had one last goodbye drinking party in the evening, at the clubhouse where we stayed. They had Kingfisher (Indian beer) on tap, but for a club member price… 100 rupees (2$) for a pitcher! Can you imagine that? We drank about 12 for the whole of us, closed the place down, and had more in our hotel room…

The incredibly cheap pitcher of beer. I think this set a new record here!

And we finished the night by Youhei and Jero teaching me the basics of karate. I now know how to punch and kick in a drunken way! Drunken master 666!

Learning from the drunken master

Youhei blocking my super kick

So, we said good bye to a hungover ABIGAIL, and a day later, we were off with Vik to Goa, an old Portuguese colony beach place located about 12 hours of bus from Bangalore…

So here is a little surprise for all of you guys… a mini-metal compilation featuring only Indian metal – all bands from Bangalore! You can download it here: Indian Metal mini-Compilation


Goa
02/02/2012

The province of Goa is quite different from the rest of India. For years, it was nearly inaccessible due to being surrounded by mountains and the sea. In the 1500’s, the place got invaded by the Portuguese who were attracted by the local industry of spices, and eventually, they Christianized the area by doing an Inquisition! It was either conversion or death!!! So, many Hindus fled the place… among them were Vik’s ancestors, who went to establish themselves at the border. Nowadays, Vik has a small but beautiful flat in the village of Calangute, which is in North Goa.

Remnants of a Portuguese past – the local St-Jean Baptiste church

An abandoned church. The locals built a Hindu temple on the left of it! The times, they are a-changin’!

Vik lives on the second floor of this nice apartment building! Paradise, no?

Holy cows marching in the streets. Cows are sacred in India. You cannot move them – you leave them be. Killing one is an major offence!

Apparently, the village changed a lot back in the last 30 years… in the beginning, there used to be naked hippies rolling around on the beach, and then tons of drugs, and then raves, and then the government banned loud music from 10:30PM to 9AM. The word still spread around that Goa was THE place to go for partying, but now it seems that mostly retired people go there to get away from the cold European winters. The beach was full of over-tanned 50-something British and Russian women in tiny bikinis, and men with guts that were hanging out like skirts… but of course they also had hot Swedish chicks, which made everything even! A part of the beach was really popular with Indian locals (some who came to see the hot chicks) and it was especially crowded on Saturday afternoon. In fact, I’ve never seen such a crowded beach before! But the other side of the beach was nice and relaxing. I spent every day just listening to metal and relaxing in the sun…

The “Indian locals” part of the beach. SO CROWDED, ARGHH! The Europeans hang out at the other side of the beach.

A lot of Indian families came here, and went in the water completely dressed!

An Englishwoman in a tiny bikini that should have been thrown away ages ago...

Vik showed us the way of the Goa party. First of all, he popped these babies out… the ayurvedic way of partying:

Party smart capsules. Removes hangovers! For real!

And then he introduced us to the best Indian beer we’ve had so far, King’s! A real pilsner, European style. Very good beer, and you can only find it in Goa, unfortunately…

King’s beer

Like I mentioned, during the day, we hung out on a beach shack, and at night, we’d go back to Vik’s apartment for metal listening. It was really fun!

Vik pouring himself two Tuborgs in the beach shack

Beach-shack Chinese-style squid

Another beach-shack delight... tikka bbqed shark!

Malai Kofta, some kind of cheese-vegetable dumpling covered in a thick, creamy, mind boggling cashew-nut sauce!!!

We even had the chance to taste some very potent home-made cider, at this English pub! I haven’t had cider in the longest time, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. Argh! Thank you “party smart”!!!! And thank you Vik for this awesome 4 days in Goa!

Hampi
06-02-2012

We arrived in Hampi after a crappy bus ride with broken air conditioning (it was so cold, I was dreaming that I was sleeping in snow!) But the absolutely mystical scenery stunned us, and made us forget all negative thoughts:

The golden dawn of Hampi (around 7AM)

Hampi is a small village located within the ruins of Vijayanagara empire’s capital, which dates from 1335 to 1565 (although there have been human settlements here since 1 CE.) In the last years of the empire, the town was destroyed by a six-month Muslim siege. It has always been a sacred site (you can feel the magic in the air), and meat and alcohol are forbidden in the main city.

Walking on the main bazaar street in the early hours of the morning. This is the Virupraksha temple, dedicated to Shiva. It predates the Vijayanagara empire.

The site is located near a river, which we had to cross on a tiny boat in order to reach our guest house. This area gave me shivers… it felt like I was in ancient times or something! People were purifying themselves in the river at the dawn of the day, washing their hair and clothes in the holy river water. It was one hell of a sight…

The river at sunrise

The sun getting higher on the holy city

People washing themselves in the river

People cleaned everything in the river, including their clothes – which they laid out on rocks for them to dry:

A bunch of sarees drying in the sun

Finally, we reached our guesthouse, which was chosen for us by our friend Ganesh. We had no idea what to expect, really, but we were surprised when we arrived. A cute little bungalow with an outdoor hanging bed was waiting for us:

One of these was our bungalow. We spent many evenings there listening to music and reading. Ahh, paradise!

This side of the river is really calm, and we had some really nice sleep. People told us how India was fucking LOUD and how it never slept. I guess they haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Hampi!

The main road leading to our guesthouse. On the left – some kind of plantation, on the right, restaurants and hotels.

Some farmer spreading seeds in the field

We mostly went to touristy restaurants, which usually implies they have better hygiene. The food served here is a mix of north Indian cuisine (I wonder why?), Israeli (falafels and humus), Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and continental. We mostly tried to eat as Indian as possible… and 100% vegetarian in order to be as safe as possible. It’s so good anyway!

This is a potato stuffed with cottage cheese and cashew nuts, covered in a rich Indian sauce and sprinkled with fruits and cashew nuts. Killer stuff!

A thali, a set lunch consisting of fried rice, papadums (crispy bread), chapattis (soft, pita-like bread), lentil curry, cauliflower curry, vegetable salad, spicy pickles and yogurt to finish it off.

Our favourite meal at a restaurant called the “Laughing Buddha”. Pineapple curry, creamy potato curry and cheese + pea curry with an amazing sunset on the side of the river...

This is what the sunset looked like! So magical, arghhh!!

During one of our meals, the cooks started becoming all agitated and were trying to kill something. I thought they had found a rat or something… but no! They were killing this gigantic 3-inch scorpion!!!!

One hell of a dangerous scorpion... squished to death!

What is really weird here is that people visiting from all over the world are dressed up as pseudo-hippies. They wear some kind of colourful puffy elephant pants and 50% of them have dreads. Restaurants seem to cater to them, and most of them have hippy/spacey decorations and paintings. François snapped this shot of myself, which kind of looks like it would come from a HAWKWIND live gig!

Annick, the new Stacia? Haha

Anyway, enough of all of that… let’s get to business and visit the ruins – which is the real reason why we came here (besides relaxing).

Spread over 26 square kilometres, the ruins of Vijanagar are mostly concentrated in two groups which we have visited; the ruins of temples around the Hampi Bazaar (the main street, full of squatted ruins turned into homes, restaurants and souvenir shops), and the second group is the royal enclosure – consisting of palaces (or what remains of them), elephant stables, guard houses and a few temples.

The most famous of all Hampi temples is the Virupaksha temple, which we have seen earlier. It dominates the village by its size, and attracts tons of pilgrims every day. Inside is a cute female elephant who let me pet her trunk.

Virupaksha temple

Some pretty explicit stuff going on on that temple...

Inside the temple

A pilgrim sleeping among ruins

The temple elephant, Lakshmi!

East of the chaotic Bazaar is the Boulder Hill, which becomes Matanga Hill. We happily climbed its beautiful boulder-filled path in order to discover more ruined hidden gems…

Some parts of the Bazaar ruins has been taken over by villagers and turned into homes. Monkeys and dogs are plentiful in the area...

Here is one unhappy she-monkey that found an empty pile of bananas

The east side of the Bazaar with the Boulder Hill, which we had to climb

A simple temple on the top of Boulder Hill. Doesn’t it look like it comes from a fairy tale or something? Haha

On top of Matanga Hill

West of Matanga Hill is the Achyutaraya temple complex which dates from the early to mid 1500’s and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It also boasts some quite interesting erotica stone carvings! They are a bit erased by now, but you can still figure out what’s going on with enough imagination.

The Achyutaraya temple from Matanga Hill. The scenery here was quite spectacular with the mountains and everything!

A lizard was hanging out amongst the ruins

Erotica carving #1 – I hope that’s not a monkey on the left!

Erotica carving #2

A little walking later and we arrived at the famous Vitthala temple, which is protected under Unesco as a monument of high importance to the heritage of the world. The temple, which was also built for Vishnu, possessed small musical pillars which resonates to a note of the scale when struck!  Everything has been built from huge granite boulders, and it looks really, really cool:

The entrance to Vitthala temple. The entry cost for tourist was 5$, and for locals, 20 cents haha

The main temple with its musical pillars

Inside of the temple. We couldn’t visit it unfortunately because they don’t want tourists to keep on hitting those pillars...

Local women which kindly accepted me taking a photo of them! The middle one was laughing because her saree wasn’t positioned correctly.

Another temple inside the Vittala complex

In front of the temple is a representation of a wooden processional chariot. The wheels are now cemented but they used to revolve apparently!

Temples with the chariot in the background

The chariot

When coming back to the Bazaar, we have to go through a riverside path which is absolutely beautiful! There were some funny signs along the way, as well as the Agni temple on the other side of the river… you could reach it by jumping on a small hand-made round boat thing.

Agni temple. Apparently these stone pillars are actually lingas, the holy form of phalluses

Interesting signs along the river

The other set of ruins was further away, so we had to take a rickshaw to get to ‘em. We found one that would take us for 1$, but a poor non-English speaking French couple we met were cheated in paying 10$ for the same thing! I guess they didn’t try ripping us off with the way we look hehe. Anyway, we first visited the Lotus Mahal, which is where the queen and the women of the court could relax. I think you call that a harem or something!

The Lotus Mahal, which features Islamic influences

Details of the Lotus Mahal

Myself in a total Islamic style doorway

A bit further away are the royal elephant stables, which reflected the high status accorded to elephants, both ceremonial and in battle. There was also a bunch of kids sitting on an elephant that were really excited that I take a photo of them!!!

Cute Indian kids sitting on a stone elephant

The beautiful elephant stables. By the way, all that grass is hand cut, using little sceptres or something. Looks like a pain in the ass.

Walking towards the royal palace is the private palace shrine, which features nice detailed friezes. Unfortunately, it seems all the women on it were decapitated!

The Hazara Rama temple

Finally, we reached the disappointingly ruined royal palace, or what remains of it. It had remains of a really cool aqueduct system anyway!

The royal palace ruins! The siege really went at it!!!

The remaining aqueduct system

So, that’s all of what we visited of Hampi! We’re going to take a night bus back to Bangalore, and then fly to Delhi to keep exploring this intriguing country that is India!

One last day in Bangalore
13-02-2012

On our last day to Bangalore before we headed to Delhi, I went to get some henna tattoo done by Vik’s wife, who is super talented! I always wanted to get one of those, and it turned out awesome:

Vik's wife working on my "indian style" hand henna (they call it mendhi around here)

My hennam finished!

And then we had this amazing St-Valentines dinner which I cooked to thank Ganesh and his wife for their hospitality (and friendship)! Goat Steaks with Chocolate Red Wine Sauce, Roasted Caramelized Vegetables!

The result!

Our dessert, pouding chomeur. Nothing as sweet as this exists!

Ganesh and Aranyani!

OK, too much wine. Time for bed. See you in Delhi!