Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Being Human: A Crash Course

On my bike in Krishnagiri,almost 3/4 of the way across India. Waiting to turn right at the motorway intersection a car speeding in the opposite direction knocks a poor Indian couple off their bike,swerves violently across the lanes and BANG! It hits my bike head on, I'm thrown into the air and land hard on the motorway. Blood leaks out my mouth as I lie stricken and am immediately surrounded by locals. That sickening feeling of bones clicking in my leg as they try to move me is halted by my shouts and some bald headed Indian dude directing affairs. The red hot tarmac is burning my bloodied skin,John's coat eases that and people give me water. The ambulance comes and they get me in alongside the first crash victim. The old chap looks in a bad way, bones sticking out his feet,moaning next to his distraught wife. My prayers are for him,not myself, as we speed away,the back doors flapping open pursued by the shouting crowd.
The first night in Krishnagiri hospital, a state-run village hospital is culture shock writ large.They wrap a bandage around my leg and for the next five days my 'home' will be a bloodstained and damaged mattress.
The whole place is filthy,blood under my bed,people are just staring at me,I'm alone -smashed up and night is falling. More people arrive - shouting and vomiting noises are heard ; these are the suicides. A bag of salt and a visit to the open toilets for this lot to cough up the overdose. I doze off and awake in the night with two guys at my bed,one holding my book. "Be good to me,and I'll be good to you". Whaaat?? .He repeats and I'm getting nervous. Then he offers to get me drugs and we're not talking medicine. I decline as forcefully as I can,they move on.A young baby is placed next to me -connected to a big 02 cylinder,and left. Someone tries to beg money off me; it was a long,long night
At this level,the Indian way is that relatives provide food& water for the patient so am lucky John is here to fetch supplies. I'm not eating much though as there's no way I can use a squatting loo, my requests for a bedpan are just laughed off, I'm glad I brought that Immodium! The next day,I glimpse starched white nurses dresses and youthful Indian faces spying on us. The most forward of these girls -comes over and in almost perfect English introduces herself as Rada.Then she brings her two best friends both called Priya. It snowballs and for the next few days I meet all 50 of these student nurses.Apparently I bear some resemblance to the star of Bollywood film "Little John" .Seems I have a group round my bed constantly and John's laughing as I have to try and remember all their names and do repeated tests on the Tamil words Rada & Priya are teaching me.Primarily because of the cops,I'm stuck there for 5 days without treatment,yet these girls made it bearable.
I eventually reach a real hospital in Bangalore (Manipal) and within the day am X-rayed and readied for an operation.The kneecap that the 'doctor' bounced upon,exclaiming "Simple Injuries!" is smashed -half of it now missing and the tendon ripped off.My lower leg has a major crack too. Stainless steel wire loops are inserted and the tendon attached to them. I end up marooned there alone for a week -as the insurance dallies arranging a flight home.My only contact is a mobile phone (John's) and when it gets stolen,I can confess that was a real low point.
However I eventually flew home in style, BA Club class (as my leg was in cast) fine wines & cuisine of course.Although I'm going be in a leg brace for some time am fully aware I'm lucky to be around,sadly we heard the guy in the ambulance with me died. Looking back - I encountered some heartless dirtbags and some absolute stars,the guys who gave me 100 Rs,the folk who bought me English papers,the chap who witnessed the accident and came 60 miles to visit me in Bangalore, not to mention the many people who offered their help and their handshakes. Same the world over, human beings are not objects - being human is the objective.

Manchester's Famous Steam

 Took myself on a short tour of a great Victorian industrial city: Manchester. I'd only really been there at night to either play gigs or party. In the sober light of day you cannot fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. I always get a buzz when I'm in London (unless I'm watching Orient and then it's more a feeling of slowly unfolding disaster) and that's partly due to the architecture. Manchester's is no less impressive but in a very different way,  more Victorian factory owner than Georgian dandy. Sturdy functional edifices that impose themselves upon the observer.
Being at the power stroke of Britain's technological past, I head for MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) and a Dibnah-esque collection of huge beam engines and steam locomotives. Nice to see the staff getting oily maintaining these wonderful old trains which are appropriately sited within the world's first ever train station (1830). Over to the transport collection and Manchester's own Avro aeroplanes dominated by a massive Shackleton (based on the famous WW2 Lancaster).On the motorcycle front there are several DOT's,some beautiful old Speedway JAP's (as raced at local team Belle Vue) and this interesting Anelay special. Loosely based on a Villiers power unit these raced at the 1951 TT. When John Anelay disbanded his racing team -he gave this engine to Senor Bulto -upon which he initiated the Bultaco concern. So all those Sherpas and Pursangs owe their heritage to sunny Lancashire!
A march across to the People's History Museum and the background story of the the working classes struggle to be represented, and the suppression to deny this. From the 'Peterloo' massacre that took place round the corner in 1819( two of the savage looking cavalry's cutlasses on display) to the Miner's Strike in1984.Centuries of pressure to get a vote,to work safely,to have support in old age,unemployment or sickness. Most of which within a mere 5 years are scheduled for "re-structuring...."
Finishing the day with a wander round Chinatown and a visit to Manchester Art Gallery .Huge amount of breathtaking art here, particularly liked Valette's impressionistic Edwardian street scenes (here)
Cracking day and admission to everything was free!