20 May, 2009


A London life: Hare, Hare!

You don't seem to see the amiable nutters of the Hare Krishna persuasion trotting round central London so much these days. Time was when columns of a score or more of the saffron-robed buggers could be regularly seen jogging energetically up and down Oxford Street, serenely but non-threateningly barging bemused shoppers out of the way as they passed.

And then yesterday I was making my through the by-ways and alleyways parallel to the Street itself. You will of course understand that no sane Londoner, certainly no sane male Londoner, actually walks along Oxford Street these days to reach a specific destination; that is a contest best left to the throngs of the cosmopolitan hoi polloi.

I heard a familiar sound in the distance.

But there was something not quite right about it. Partly it was the location. The vulgar sound of energetic drumming and chanting on New Bond Street, no less, was somehow a crass demotic intrusion, a solecism, nay a veritable sacrilege in that island of refaned haute coûture and an extravagance so discreet and natural it seems like modesty, where normally a calm, respectful, almost understated silence reigns, broken only by the occasional purr of a Rolls Royce or Bentley.

But there was something else, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. And then they hove into view, trotting briskly up the hill. A squad of no more than seven. A drummer at the rear, some tambourine monkeys, and one bloke in the lead, endlessly chanting "Hare Krishna! Hare Rama! Hare! Hare!" through a microphone.

Perhaps the recession is so bad that even the Hare Krishna ('Arry to its mates) is having to downsize acolytes. Perhaps it's just the march of progress. But somehow it didn't seem right, like a motorized prayer wheel in a Tibetan monastery.

Plus ça change, plus ça devient pire.

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