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The Riptide Movement's Diary From Delhi
Drummer Gar Byrne's firsthand account of his band's unforgettable trip to India...
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 31 Oct 2012
On the way to the Taj Mahal, I nod off in the back of the car and wake up at a police checkpoint. At my window is a monkey looking me right in the eye. There’s monkeys everywhere, monkeys on leads, monkeys wearing make up, monkeys on walls, monkeys bashed into the motorway. The driver says not take a picture or you’ll be forced to pay 500 rupees for it. Pricks!
En route, we see snake charmers, more monkeys, green rivers of sewage spilling out onto the street with wild pigs bathing in it, men pulling camels on rope, wild dogs and wilder people.
When we arrive into Agra, the town beside the Taj Mahal, it's heaving with markets, shanty towns, beggars, cows, bulls, camels, dogs, rats, cats. We’ve seen some mad shit in the past few days but nothing compared to this. Five year-old kids smoking fags, a man taking a shit into his hand! There is no way I can unsee it, absolutely shocking!
Our tour guide boards the car and fills us in on some local history, really nice, intelligent, genuine sort of guy. He brings us through the east entrance where us foreigners pay 750 rupees (about €10) for entrance and Indians pay 20 rupees (about 20c) The Taj Mahal itself is flat-out amazing, really a must-see.
I sneak in a Hot Press magazine for some promo pictures! You’re only allowed a phone, camera and bottle of water inside, guards with metal detectors and guns enforce this. Finish the tour go for a bite, spot a snake charmer with a cobra and python, got some pictures, the cobra looked like he wanted to eat his owner and the python looked like he lost the will to live, poor bastard! From there we head back for the hotels, and a 3am call-time to get back to Dublin. To sum up our experience in a paragraph is nearly impossible.
This place is insanity on legs, the people are either filthy rich or devastatingly poor. They are warm, friendly and shockingly honest – there’s no hidden cracks, there’s nothing swept under a rug, this country is what it is. It’s a first world country and a developing world put together for all to see. They see no shame in it, they don’t hide it, they don’t claim welfare, they don’t have benefits. There’s work out there if you want it and they take great pride in it, be it as a road sweeper, a barber, an ear cleaner or a marble maker. I’ve never in my life met friendlier, chattier people, and I’ve never seen so much poverty.