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SWEET SIKKIM

 

Three men sat on a huge pile of garbage, waiting for a lift to go home. One leant back on a large sign and hoiked up a great gob of phlegm.

WELCOME

TO THE LITTER AND

SPIT-FREE ZONE OF

GANGTOK

said the sign.

The poor old Urban Development and Housing Department had no hope in hell of ever sorting this place out – but they were trying. The mall was being ripped up. It looked as a gigantic earthworm had tunneled along the main street leaving a mountain of rubble either side in its wake. Civic harmony will eventually be restored. One day Gangtok would be perfect.

I think it’s perfect now. It’s a crazy, jagged city, perched on a ridge, sprawling down both sides of the mountain in zigs and zags, as if the great Gangtok God had picked up the city and thrown it in the air. Dogster’s random wandering revealed a young population, shrewd, smart and sassy, living a shrewd, smart and sassy urban life. I met a few of them in the Beauty Salon.

Jakir Hair Cutting Saloon:

Ladies WELCOME Gents

Hair Cutting                                                                         Rs- 20.00

Machine Cut                                                                         Rs- 30.00

Body Massage                                                                     Rs- 25.00

Head Massage                                                                    Rs- 10.00

I knew it was a Dogster kinda place. I had the lot.

*

Indian men are tremendously vain – tell an Indian he’s handsome and he’ll believe you. Like for these lads is spent in a Bollywood movie. They are the star. Today, like everyday, the Jakir Beauty Salon was a hot-bed of testosterone and conceit. The young men of Gangtok were all being waxed, combed, creamed, poofed and tweaked in a very girly fashion, tarting themselves up for a big night on the town.

I chatted away to a dozen or so of them while I was being shaved, scraped and sanded. We had a great time. The air was vibrant with their enthusiasm for life, the musk of their masculinity improbably mixed with cheap scent and after-shave. It was a man’s place. I like that. The most difficult task I faced was deciding which shaving cream to have. I was rather taken by ‘Gelitte Fome’.

They all had an opinion – but then, I’ve never known an Indian who didn’t.

Denim

Park Avenue!’

Old Spice!’

Ahhh, Old Spice. Now there’s a name to conjure with. It’s been a while since I’ve had that on my face. Church youth group social, I think, circa 1892. In the end I just abandoned all hope and submitted to the general consensus.

‘You are a very handsome man, Uncle,’ they cried.

Uncle Dog was sitting there with a head-band on, white cream slapped liberally all over his face. A smear of red lipstick and he would have been the Joker from Batman. When he smiled the creases in his face stood out like the earthworks in the main street; train tracks carved across the slimy snowfield of an elderly foreigner’s face.

Conversation flowed free and easy. We all laughed a lot. Rude jokes mostly. I have a stock of filth and self-deprecating smut I bring out on occasions like this; various Zorba the Greek-esque statements generally encouraging them all to go out and spread their Sikkimese seed. Young Indian men like this – and consequently me. Men are men. We all had a very jolly party until the Dog could be transformed no more. He was practically an Indian by now, shaved, plucked, trimmed and pounded, the object of all attention and lavish, though fatuous, praise.

‘You look so beautiful, Uncle!’

‘I love your face, Sir.’

‘Ha-a-a-andsome…’

Dogster left the shop through a flood of friendly hands, shaking his way along the line to freedom; crisp and smooth like a baby’s bottom, reeking of Old Spice and hair gel, looking not one jot better than when he’d first walked in the door.

It was a Beauty Salon, after all, not radical plastic surgery.

My latest Bongo was waiting for me. He was a sweet man from a sweet village full of sweet Sikkimese. It was a sweet little world – and, like all little worlds, full of world upon world of sweet fascination to all those living inside. I know. I walked the only street, sat in his mother’s front room listening to their radio while children played with my camera and the family gossiped outside. He’d never drunk a glass of beer or smoked a cigarette, never driven a car or flown in a plane, never ridden an escalator nor walked a flat piece of land; he’d never said a bad word in his life.

It was my good fortune to have this sweet Bongo as my personal companion, conduit to the strange secret world of monks, monasteries and village life that surrounded us here in the hills. Each day we went out and never once ended up where we should have – which Dogster saw as the mark of a perfect guide. But poor Bongo had a problem he felt compelled to share. He was thirty-five years old and had never slept with a woman in his life.

‘Well, I did once,’ he lied, ‘but I didn’t like it.’

He pulled a face.

‘I know I should be wanting girls,’ he said, completely without guile, ‘I know I should be crazy for lady – but I don’t feel anything at all – nothing.’

Sex. He’d misplaced it somewhere. He knew he should be looking for it but he couldn’t think where to begin. He’d lost his mojo but, never having had it in the first place, wasn’t quite sure what to look for.

As a canine with a fine, keen appreciation for the pleasures of the flesh I found this all very strange. Dogster had never had to go looking very far for his mongrel mojo – he woke up in the morning and there it was.

But he was a dog.

*

First stop to knowledge for Bongo was to quiz his client in forensic detail about Mr. Dogster’s long un-forgotten amorous pursuits; names, dates, places, positions, locations, combinations, double-back-flips, triple somersaults – he wanted the whole diving board and pool. Bongo was a most inquisitive chap.

‘So how old were you when you started err… doing things?’

‘How often?’

His little eyes grew wider.

‘Where?’

‘No-o-o-o-hh!’

Dogster happily dished the dirt. This was a topic he knew all too well, having done copious research – he was pleased to have the chance to re-open that battered copy of his favorite book: Dogster’s Chronicles d’Amour; a weighty tome of brief encounters and disgraceful behavior that extended back altogether too many years. It was a catalogue of what not to do if you’re a Sikkimese virgin – chapter and lurid verse – after verse – after verse. What was worse, the old fart had no regrets whatsoever. Luckily, now he’d been spayed.

*

So Bongo and Dogster passed their days together, hurling from monastery to monastery, talking dirty all the way. Luckily the driver didn’t understand English; he would have thrown them out of the car. This is a staunch and moral society. Western ideas about normal sexual behavior do not apply. Bongo was the exception to the rule. He was like a drowning man hurled a lifeline of smut.

‘Let me tell you about the time…’

And off I’d go. Dogster’s Chronicles d’Amour had no end.

I took care to restrain my more lurid fantasies at the beginning, anxious not to over-excite him. Leaky tour-guides are not my thing. Gradually though, the truth emerged. Dogster couldn’t help himself. He had such an attentive audience.

The car would bump to a halt, we’d take a break from the filth and go meet a monk in his room, sit at the feet of the master and watch as he mumbled sacred things, sit silent at puja, listening to the prayers, just me and the mountains, the monks and the moon.

Then back to the porn.

‘She hung there, on the trapeze – dressed only in a skirt of bananas…’

His eyes were like saucers. If they could have popped out on a spring they would have.

Bless my latest Bongo, Dogster thought, bless him. He blesses me by his presence. I am with a pure soul. The air is clear around him. He feels clean. Dog ignored the fact that every word he uttered was corrupting the very purity he so admired. Bongo was positively eager to be corrupted. He’d never had a client like this.

‘How many airline hostesses…?

‘They did what to you?’

‘All at once?’

‘In the plane…?’

‘No-o-o-o-hh!’

*

PART TWO

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