A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Thursday, 31 January 2008

A week in Khajuraho

It's already been a week since I've been in khajuraho, and it's like I have started a new little life. With family.

I am warmly welcome here and it is very very, very heartwarming. I am housed, fed, and very well look-after, like a part of this "far-away" family but so very close now. The first night I arrived here, after a very long journey from Pune, I had been alone and I had now arrived in a colder, more remote part of the country, with only one white person, a woman, me. So on the bus journey I had felt odd, almost scared but not quite at the same time, and I arrived in a dark and very cold night. I felt very strange. Weirdly comfortable yet somewhat uneasy, but when I came out from the bus this very familiar face was waiting for me. I was seeing Vijay again and I was happy, still I probably didn't look too happy in all that oddness. The following day, though, I woke up afresh and surprisingly happy. Since then,I have been like at home.

Vijay's sisters and mother do not speak English and I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but the feelings have lifted too, already. I am learning hindi now, immersed into it, and after a week I can communicate surprisingly well. I have my hindi books and notebooks and my very available teacher. I make everybody laugh, too, when I build my own funny sentences. We laugh like children, they draw henna on my hands, they give me anklets to wear, oh and for the wedding tomorrow they were very excited to get me to try on an Indian suit. I felt VERY odd in it, but would like to wear it tonight. But it is cold at night and so perhaps I will not wear it. I have funny new ways they havent seen yet and that make them laugh, too, but amongst all that they feel I am open and it surprises them that I like some Indian ways like sitting on the floor and eating with my fingers. So I am immersed in this new culture, I learn tons, about cooking, too, hihi I have tried making a chapati, too, but it was not very round.

Everyone knows each other in this small city, and I am now "on the other side", the Indian side not the tourist side, that is. I meet everyone here in the company of my dear friend. They tell me the stories that goes on and I have access deep within. And with my dear friend we laugh, we talk a lot, we share a lot, we make funny voices, he tries speaking French and I laugh; I try speaking Hindi and he laughs. My heart always knew, but my mind is still very surprised at how close we can be even though our backgrounds are so, so very different. And I am surprised when I meet someone who remembers me from two years back, especially when all they can remember of me is that I can move my ears... And so I have been asked to move my ears quite a lot.

I have started writing a journal on paper because there is so much to write.

I love this place, and this place loves me; I can see it. I don't like everything here in this culture, well I don't understand everything. But I feel so good; I am so far away from where I was born and yet I feel so good; really it surprises me everyday.

Learning more family life and Hindi

[Typed from paper journal]

Everyday Vijay has to 'leave me' to go on some business for the home. He has to support the family for sure. Sometimes I don't know where he is, and I have to admit it makes me somewhat uneasy to stay with the women alone. Ravi helps; I guess because he is of the masculine gender, and a funny boy and he speaks pretty good English. I always am more uneasy with the feminine gender even in the West, so the company of Indian women whom I cannot understand makes the situation even more difficult. I have always felt uneasy amongst women because of my masculinity, my independence, and my somewhat masculine behaviour that comes from it. Yet these women are obviously happy in my presence. I know it and only have to deal with some insecurity that is only in my head

I also have to keep myself busy when Vijay is away. I am still surprised at how much of doing nothing they can 'spend' in the day. I 'do' that also, to some extent, but my 'occidentalness' makes me want to keep myself busy, and with the best I can do. Today I did my laundry, at least. With a mixture of English and ever-so-broken Hindi, as well as many facial expressions and hand gestures, I asked for a bucket of water. Rita, Vijay's older sister in the house (his two oldest sisters are married and live with their husbands' families) gave me a metal bucket, one of those buckets that even look Indian somehow. And I did my laundry in the bathroom, door open. I was squatting and washing my clothes in the bucket like an Indian, when a woman, poor-looking and in a saree, passed by. She stopped to watch me for at least five minutes. I couldn't help but interpret the situation as follows: it must must have been very strange for her indeed to see a white woman work in a local Indian house, kind of like a 'reversed situation'...

Right now, as I write, two lady friends of the family have come for a visit. That is six women for me, haha. They just love looking at me, my foreigner-ness I suppose, with very big interest. Part of the game for me is to meditate to put up with being watched. Sometimes, Preeti and Rita even come to have a peek at what I am writing in this journal. Nobody has yet ever knocked on my door to come into 'my' room. It seems there is hardly any privacy here, but I guess that is what you get when seven people share the same limited space - although there must be a lot worse; it is quite comfortable here.

So, I put up with being watched, but I accept it because they probably have never had much access to the western ways. In their place I would do exactly the same. I have seen so much of the world in comparison! Now I am part of the world to be observed also. Not that it is a huge problem. Meditation does help me; I just have to get used to it.

After lunch, to my surprise, Vijay's sister brought out a dholak (Indian drum). They wanted to teach me how to play it; they started to show and teach me one rhythm. It was obviously the right moment to take up my violin. I tried out a couple of pieces from my music sheets. I was shy and I had not practised for a week; because of the embarrassment I felt I didn't play very well, but later Rita asked me if she could play the rhythm on the dholak again, and I improvised a simple melody on the violin. It was lovely but it didn't last very long. The sisters were quite shy too; well I guess we all were.

Evening time: in front of the TV as usual. I am a little bit hiding behind the writing. Vijay is gone again, I don't know where. He told me earlier that his sisters (and their friends) like me because I am friendly and open to Hindu culture, unlike most foreigners. I guess it is true. I am aware I have to accept everything that happens to me. I have no choice and I do also, with gratefulness - like the food. Having food is like a ritual here; it is so enjoyable, and it is offered to me in a way that makes me consider it like a spiritual moment. Every time we eat, especially at lunch time, I am present to every moment and every bite.

So right now I am hiding behind my journal and writing. I don't really know what to do. Tomorrow Washim will be back. I don't know where I will stay after that; I will have to speak to the boys. Part of me would like to go downstairs to the bedroom and read some of Iyengar's book, but I feel I cannot. There is love in my heart. I wonder how they feel about the fact that I gave them so many rupees for Vijay's leg. If they are so grateful, they would house and fed me for God knows how long. I should perhaps talk to Vijay about it...

The kids had come round again for schooling tonight when I arrived back home with Vijay - and Raju's irresistible smile that could make me want to adopt him. The kids had to work on some English sentences, so Rita invited me to correct their mistakes in their notebooks. It was a little like a taster of English teaching, except I was not in control really. The little four-year old boy was having to copy again and again 1 to 10, and say the number out loud as he wrote. Vijay's mother almost hit him once; she hit him pretty hard on the back another time. That shocked me; poor boy he is only four and he tries so hard. The other small girl also, she seemed to be having a difficult time with the European alphabet; her writing being very irregular. Rita raised her voice quite a bit. I will show compassion when I teach if I ever do. I don't know. I am writing shit and I should perhaps stop now, hey?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Learning family life and Hindi

[Typed from paper journal]

Vijay left this morning to meet a craftsman and do some business for his father's shop. He doesn't do much during the day, but he is the only man in the family now that his father has died, so he has to provide an income to support the family. Indeed he is treated as such: I asked him yesterday why he always had lunch before his sisters, mother and little brother. He explained to me that it is a mark of respect towards him, and when his father was alive it was him the first to eat. I am always eating with Vijay - I guess as a respected guest and close friend of the family's head. Although, it must be said, if the women feel particularly hungry they can very well eat earlier or at the same time. This makes it an intentional, accepted custom; I find it beautiful.

So while Vijay is away I am taking the habit of writing this diary, as well, of course, as working on my Hindi. Vijay is a great teacher but I don't think he has great awareness of grammatical terms. (I have asked him questions about verbs, adjectives and the consonant/vowel distinction, which he could not answer). I think perhaps Hindi is not a language that requires the sort of technical grammar terms we have in the west, in French or in English. So naturally he does not know them and sometimes cannot clarify my queries. He always comes back to saying such or other little words are 'helping words', and though he has good intention, he cannot tell me in what way they help, or what is their function! That is where my Hindi books come in handy, and so when I encounter some terms like 'ko' that I do not understand, I can consult the books. It was very helpful this morning.

Yesterday afternoon Vijay and I went to visit his uncle, his wife and their three children. It was lovely. His uncle was working on his craft on the house rooftop; old bronze pots and other items, which he renovates and puts together to make new items. Using a nail and a hammer, he also makes beautiful, very intricate, dotted designs onto them and later will add some calcium to give them white colour, Vijay explained. For he is also learning this technique with his uncle. The children were ever so funny, especially little Raju, age seven, who had come to Vijay's house for after-school lessons with Vijay's sister Rita yesterday, and had already started giving me those cheeky, funny, puzzled looks and smiles then. And so he was giving me them again today but with even more liveliness, since he was now in a playing situation rather than a serious one... We had a lot of fun. Ravi soon joined us. I was again learning speaking and writing Hindi to the kid's (extreme) amusement - and their mother's too. We also made boats and planes with folded paper, and showed each other a few yoga postures between bursts of laughter. Later, with Ravi and Vijay, I invented the 'Swami Vijayanda School' and they burst out in laughter once more, because - Vijay explained - 'anda' means 'blind' and 'andha' means 'egg'. (To be more serious it should have been 'VijayANanda' - 'ananda' meaning the 'joy' or 'bliss' gained after (years and years of!) meditation.)

I forgot to mention the other day, how much fun we had when Vijay tried to teach me how to drink 'Indian style' (Indian people have the impressive ability of pouring water into their mouth without touching their mouth with the bottle or recipient - even on a VERY wobbly bus!) At first, he had to try and pour water in my mouth but I lacked trust and laughed instead of keeping quiet; I would not let him do it. Obviously then when I myself tried to pour the water into my own mouth, I showered myself instead of drinking, and much laughter ensued.

Vijay and I went to town after the uncle's visit; I wanted to have a pizza! We went to the Italian restaurant where Vijay also works in the evening; it was lovely. The quality of the pizza impressed me, but mostly did our conversation. When we first met two or three years ago, I remember having been somewhat wary of sharing, afraid of our massive culture difference. But now it is so easy to talk with him; it keeps surprising me everyday. I even talked to him about my concerns on ethical trade, multinationals, blind profit-making and such, and he was very responsive - though I really do not know to what extend he can make a picture of the situation. I told him more about my job with people with learning difficulties too, as I think he had never quite been able to imagine what my work actually involved. His eyes were big when I was talking and he was very impressed with my good motives in general. The size of my heart, I guess. But his heart has a size comparable to mine, I know. I love him very much like my little Indian brother.

When we got back after dinner, we joined the women and Ravi in front of the television. Soon Preeti gave me my promised henna tattoo. I chose the pattern in her book. I had to leave it on my hand and arm for one hour to dry, scrape it off, and after that apply some mustard oil onto the red drawing and leave it overnight so it would intensify the colour. I was impressed how dark it had become by morning. I loved that she had written my Indian name, Meena, below the pattern inside my palm.

Family life is definitely a lot stronger in India than in the West. I am very much a loner and don't know how much I would appreciate this if it was part of my life (and I will never know because family relationships are very different in the west - and in my family), but I very much like to take part in their family. They are so welcoming it warms my heart. Vijay told me that Preeti had been sad when I had been out with him. They keep laughing in my presence, because I do funny things like pulling my sock up and between my toes before I put on my flip-flops. I amuse them with my Hindi. It has only been four days but I am very happily settled and comfortable here. I wonder how long I will stay in India, really.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Exploring a culture

[Typed from paper journal]

I like my life here. I feel very welcome. I cannot but think of Seven Years In Tibet by Heinrich Harrer and how I loved this book, learning the culture of Tibet and its language! I am here, in India, in this lovely family, and I learn their language. I keep thinking how grateful I am to them and their welcome, but it is true, a year and a half ago I did send them the money so their brother and head of the family could have the operation to save his leg and his life. So I accept their offerings, and offer my presence in return. I learn their language, make them laugh by being my different self, offering them to see some of the western culture through me. And of course there is Vijay and we spend an amazing time together, so basically I make them happy by offering my novelty. I am surprised at how 'occidentally-open' my friend is. Of course he is my good friend, but perhaps I knew little from actual experience, more from my trusting heart. And it was very right. He has massive English vocabulary too. At first I would intuitively be tempted to speak a simplified, broken English, but I mustn't, because if he has to learn English from me I must expose him to proper English. Also, I mustn't underestimate his capacities to understand; he does know more than I think.

Yesterday was Independence Day. So we went to town and watched the school rallies, myriads of kids parading in amazing costumes. Vijay told me some of Indian history around that time, but as always my memory for such things fails me.

Vijay has explained to me the basic Hindi sentence now. My new Hindi book also helps. I start familiarising myself with tense forms, past, present and future (though right now I only know the present). It is very helpful and I am starting to build my own sentences. I learn a few new numbers a day, and I know the days of the week now, as well as all the months but they are just a 'Hindianised' version of the English months so they are easy. I have started with telling the time, too. It is amazing to learn a language in total immersion, though some English is very helpful of course. It is the perfect situation and I make fast progress. After all it is my third day only.

Yesterday I watched the making of chapati. Chapati is an English word; I was surprised to learn today. The Hindi word is actually 'roti'. Today I rolled my first chapati. It seems so easy when I see Indian women do it, with their 'appropriate dexterity', but clearly I have never done this before, and my hands are not used to it! They were sitting around me, laughing when the rolled-out dough started sticking onto the 'rolling stone' and I had to add more flour. The dough folded over and stuck on itself, and obviously my chapati was not round ("meraa roti gol nahi hai")!

I love Indian women's anklets and told Vijay I would like to get some. He told me his mother had some spare; I don't need to buy any. Today they gave them to me. I like to wear them, and the typical jingling sound they make when I walk. I could dance now. Though I am still learning to move my head side to side, haha. It is a slow, aware process, just focusing on the sensation in the neck, feeling the muscles, very subtle awareness but it is growing and I feel that I do movements now, albeit very small ones. Still this may be the beginning of progress?

Friday, 25 January 2008

First day in the family

[Typed from paper journal]

I had bread this morning, which was a nice surprise. Vijay later told me it was made of rice flour but I am not sure I understood right. I had the French fig jam that I had bought in Pune, and chyavanprash (an ayurvedic herbal rejuvenating and energising herbal preparation) which I offered Vijay to taste. He was going to have some later, and his mother tried it also. I had also decided to do a cure of magnesium chloride to boost my immune system, as the family have a fridge so I can keep my bottle in it. So I had a glass, not exactly tasty, but I can already feel its good effect. If my cold didn't develop I hold the MgCl2 responsible anyway. That and perhaps the "super-food" spirulina I got in Auroville. And I've also started to take grapefruit seed extract again. I feel fine.

This morning Vijay took me round Khajuraho. I don't have memory of the town apart from the street with "the shop" and "our" hotel opposite it. The shopkeeper I had met three years ago was not there this morning. We met a few people who remembered me. I didn't remember them; obviously it is easier for them to remember me than the other way round! I was astonished to discover that what the guy remembered about me was that I can move my ears! He asked me to do it again, followed by more laughter (and my big surprised eyes!) Later today, Washim's sisters and mother asked me to do this again, and once more to my astonishment.

Oh, I forget to mention: before leaving the house I can't remember why I went upstairs. Perhaps it was to look at the view. Ravi, Vijay's brother, was trying on a maharajah outfit with his sisters! They explained to me (in Ravi's modest English) that tomorrow was going to be Independence Day. And frankly I was amazed that I had arrived just for that. Anyway, to be part of the celebration. Ravi is to wear this costume tomorrow at school, so I am eager to discover about the festival.

So Vijay took me round Khajuraho this morning. I bought a thick woollen jumper and a woolly hat. I'm happy. Though it is not cold during the day, actually. I then went on to the internet though the connection wasn't good. There I met two Westerners; it relieves me somehow that I am not the only one. A few tourists are there though I am not part of them. As Vijay say, I look Indian. I have some Indian ways; e.g. I don't mind brushing my teeth outside and like to sit on the floor. I look Indian, and now I am even learning Hindi. And I bought two copy books; one for Hindi and one to write this very journal.

Then we went back for lunch and I got changed into lighter clothes. I love the food and it seems I am safe to have salad here. In the afternoon we went to meet Washim's family; on the way we met Israil I also knew from last time, and it was lovely to see him again. I practised a lot of Hindi all day. It is nice to try out my skills onto everyone I meet! It was slowly getting colder as the afternoon passed, so that I really had to go and get changed. I needed to go back to the internet to write to my family, too. We also had some sweets as I was hungry; we had laddu (yellow round sweet) and bhaji (?) I think. I told Vijay my story of how I know about laddu; from Deepa Mehta's film Water. So it was fun to try them out for real now!

Back at the house I had to ask for a dustbin. I will have my period soon, and I don't know how to dispose of my sanitary towels. Vijay was away so, a bit concerned about the taboo-ness of the subject, I asked his older sister as best I could, looking in my dictionary for the Hindi word, speaking broken English too. Eventually Vijay's sister asked Ravi for some translation help. Then, she took me outside, in the direction of the beautiful small temple that's just opposite the house... I was fearing what was going to be what I had indeed thought: the bin was that pile of rubbish down below, behind the temple in the dried lake. It was painful for me. My sanitary towels are not ecological, as I don't find any here. One (unpleasant) thing to realise what becomes of your trash is to have to throw it outside, to actually see what it becomes... I will definitely avoid plastic, plastic bottles, and non-ecological towels in the future if I can.

We soon went back to Washim's family for dinner. It was dark to walk and Vijay took my hand so I could walk more easily on the uneven path and not walk in a pond of muddy water or a pile of cow dung I may not see. The evening was lovely, and to the whole family's enjoyment I did plenty of Hindi tonight. It was funny especially when that small boy, a friend of the family, showed me his Hindi textbook and asked me to read the sentences. With everyone's wide eyes and ears!

It was again very cold tonight, but in my extra jumper I was very comfortable. We walked back home; I was very tired and could hardly walk straight. And I kept knocking things down in the small shop where Vijay bought the cigarettes on the way.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Arriving in Khajuraho

[Typed from paper journal]

I took the train from Pune to Jhansi on 23rd January. After a first difficult journey, initially anyway, from Villupuram to Pune, it was so smooth I was so happy. I arrived at the station not too early, waited not too long for the train, really paid attention to the carriages that passed by me and so could find my carriage very easily. I even slept well on the train.

There is something I don't like about the first class; rich families, very westernised - and that overweight woman (signe extérieur de richesse...) It seems as though richer people don't speak to foreigners so much, either; well, no-one or hardly spoke to me anyway. I had encountered friendlier, warmer people on the sleeper class. As if rich Indians looked up (in awe perhaps?) to Westerners, while 'ordinary' Indians don't so much, I find. I do still prefer first class to travel, for safety, when on my own anyway.

I found the bus to Khajuraho easily: upon arrival in Jhansi the rickshaw drivers all gathered up towards me to get me onto their autos. 80 rupees to the bus stand was the first price I was given, but I surprised myself with the ease with which I found a driver who would accept just 20 rupees. I felt so confident and aware, I guess, that I would take no shit. So there I arrived at the bus stand, and quickly, too, caught the bus to Khajuraho. I think it was the last bus: 2.20pm to arrive at 8pm. Jhansi-Khajuraho is only 176km though; this I gathered thanks to my (still rudimentary yet existent) Hindi-reading skills! I could read on the road sign "Khajuraho"; it was the first time ever that I was actually using Hindi in an real situation; the first time Hindi was helping me for real. It felt like a kind of breakthrough and made me amazingly happy!! Only a few words but they made such a difference. Before I got on the bus a boy tried to sell me his biscuits but I was able to say 'mujhe nahi cahie' (I don't want). He opened his eyes big with surprise and said "Hindi!!??" I said I guessed so and left him. I think I will gain much respect here from learning Hindi. On the bus I had Seat No.4. I was crammed near two unpleasant-looking men, but at least I had the window. My neighbour made me think of Micha from the fact that when I looked in his eyes it was a little like looking at a cow. "So stupid" according to Micha's description, but it was easy enough. Pretty cold, no tourists there, all these Indian men... I looked around and was surprised not to feel so uneasy. After two hours the bus stopped and we could get out if we needed to pee and drink chai. A man showed me where I could have peed, a destitute field of earth and earth behind the shops, with a few eating cows. I went to look around to find where I could hide and pee. Nowhere. Some men soon queued to pee, and I would have been far too enclosed. I returned to the bus to realise, to the great amusement of my 'stupid' neighbour, that I had walked into a HUGE pile of cow shit, and that I had brought half of it into the bus with me... I surprised myself again; from the calmness with which I dealt with the situation. I grabbed the shit with a plastic bag, looked at my neighbour (who had by now informed - laughingly - our other neighbour of my great achievement). As if to tell I had no other solution but to throw the shit and plastic bag out of the window. He nodded in agreement when he could make out that I was going to do my best to avoid the passers by... As we carried on, soon some new neighbours sat next to me. By then I was listening to Yann Tiersen on my newly-acquired (and cherished) MP3-player. He was looking at my toy puzzled, and so I offered him to listen to the music with me, as I had another pair of headphones with splitter. He looked like a curious little boy listening to this mysterious music (he spoke no Hindi). Then he passed it on to the next neighbour. I felt my heart filled from having shared such a strong thing (language) as music. At the next pee-stop I finally could alleviate my needs as two kind women took me with them to the toilet. After we got back on the bus they invited me to seat near them in the safer space (usually reserved for women and children) at the front of the bus next to the driver. It was a fun place to watch the road and the landscape, although not as good when night falls. Before setting off the driver lit some incense from his shrine and offered some blessed(?) smoke to his wheel, as if it would make the driving more safe. Towards the end of the journey, a young man came to sit near us. He had, in his eyes, the look of a man who 'just wants to seduce you'. Truly enough he had pretty eyes. But I wanted to be careful. He started to speak to me and was friendlier than I thought, so I decided to be friendly too. One of the first thing he told me was that I looked Indian! Soon he went on to tell me a couple of words in French, and I did to him in Hindi, and he asked me for my name and where I was going to stay in Khajuraho. I said, in one of my friends' family. He asked me for my friend's names. When I said "Vijay and Washim" he asked me to confirm Vijay's last name. To my great surprise he knew them both and was a close friend of Vijay, he said. But then of course Khajuraho is a small pace. Very soon we arrived, and when he got up, Jeet (for that was his name) announced my arrival to Vijay who had come to pick me up with a group of friends, including Washim's older brother. (Washim was then away so I would have to wait to see him.) It was so lovely to see Vijay again. We shared a warm hug. I had never thought that, culturally, I could hug an Indian man. Although I think my joy was lessened from the oddness of the whole situation. The only white woman in cold Khajuraho in January, it seemed. For it was shockingly cold (around two degrees?) after the warmth of south India. I was catching a cold on the bus already and had to be cautious. I was a little scared, though I was also very calm and did surprise myself, again, to be amazingly at ease given the situation. An odd combination of feelings. And I knew I was safe with Vijay's guidance and trust. I was very tired from the journey. That was probably why I felt odd - as little odd I felt as it seemed. It was nice to be in Vijay's family. I was obviously very well received. Pretty late (9pm) Vijay's mother and older sister started cooking. I saw how they made paratha, a bit like chapati with flour but also potato. I was a little scared when I was presented with uncooked tomato chutney - tomato finely grinded on a stone board, but Vijay assured me that the vegetables had been washed with boiled water. They always do for westerners as they know our risk of drinking untreated Indian water. If they wash the vegetables with non-boiled water it is only because they are going to be cooked. I was safe. At the time I write I know that I am! For sleeping I was to have Vijay's father's room. There are two beds but Vijay put his outside and my bed in the room. So I have a room to myself. I slept very well tonight, though I dreamt (again!) about losing my teeth.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Pune, still

I am always amazed at how feelings that appear so strong at one moment can dissipate so quickly and leave space to other completely different, sometimes opposite, emotions. "Tomorrow is another day"; isn't this statement so beautiful with truth?

Actually, I have liked Pune. Perhaps it is because I discovered (some of) it on my own, and for the first time took the effort to walk around with my map rather than take a rickshaw everywhere. The first time I was brave enough to challenge my bad sense of orientation. But it's not that I have a useless sense of orientation, I do know it! I do learn, but slowly, and i need to be alone, else i'll let myself be automatically guided and not learn at all. so today and yesterday I walked to places and discovered them on my own. And it felt good! And actually I have discovered some lovely spots here. Pune at times seemed very much like a western city, and not too big at that. There were malls, fashion shops, lots of shops. Not that I liked those, I didn't even get in because I have no interest in them, but it made me feel somewhat comfortable (I have to -surprisingly- admit). So: rather western at times, just a little dirtier, and of course noisier but when I wasn't so tired, it was manageable.

That German bakery yesterday was so sensational that I returned today. I have bought some super-dark millet bread with yak cheese for my dinner on the train tonight. And I even found some of my favourite french 100%-fruit jam for breakfast tomorrow. I am amazed, plus the flavours are rather exotic: fig, and pineapple/mango jams. Ooh joy. I must also mention that the fresh honey melon juice, mashed potato, and... TIRAMISU (Yes! Tiramisu!) I had today were completely exctatic... Ah. I love how India sometimes makes you so happy of what you have at home, makes you so grateful for a plate of mashed potato!

I also went to see the Osho International Centre today. I couldn't get in of course. I didn't really want to anyway. All these Westerners in various dark red robes or clothes were rather funny to see. Some even wore velvet, which reminded me(?) that, as I have heard many times, it's a lot about money and perhaps indulgence(?) in there (though I can't be too sure, I don't know for myself), and it (still) puts me off. Anyway. It was interesting how the site is located on a very shady, airy green narrow street and it feels rather outside of Pune even though it is very well within it.

I have become surprisingly confident with crossing the roads here. Mad, mad traffic. But somehow it's all about common sense more than rules here, as if each vehicle was a person and you just have to accommodate with one another. Common sense more than rules; this suits me very well. Yyou can communicate with the man in the rickshaw, too, with your arm and hand, to ask him to slow down for you and that's fine. People seem to have more awareness when they drive than in the West. I guess they have no choice, they have too. Nobody shouts at each other and becomes angry. It's so very different. Noisy with horns yes, but not angry horns, simply communicating horns. So you have to make your way - with awareness - and you're fine. (Awareness, as always, my best friend...)

I ventured walking on the side of the busy main road on the bridge too, after discovering that I could have gone down some stairs and walked underneath. That I did on the way back. Underneath the bridge there was a life of its own, a slum, obviously. So I walked through the slum. There is so much beauty in that poverty. Many people would find it so difficult to see all this, but how do you help if you refuse to look at the destitution with your eyes? You HAVE to go through this. Otherwise you stay blind, you don't do anything about it, and that is an even worse situation. There is so much love in me when I face poverty, it's unbelievable. I guess that's why I can face it. The only reason. People have asked me, how did you face poverty in India? Well, I face it with love. That's all there is. Love. And the realisation that there's such a potential with helping that it makes it wonderful.

What made me most happy today was meeting the two street children. As always, I should perhaps add. The little girl was so brown with dirt, yet so sweet and beautiful. She was asking for money for a chai. There was a chai stand on that side of the road, and a man translated to me what she wanted because she was speaking in Marathi. I tried out my Hindi (khana=food) but she didn't understand. She didn't even want food, just chai, the man told me. So we had chai together and I took a picture of her. Later I met her brother who wanted to sell me a little piece of junk for a few rupees, but instead they were happy with the pen I gave them. I met their very beautiful mother too, who didn't seem so keen on me. But the kids were, and they look very happy on the photo I took of them.

The guy next to me at the bakery was eating a muffin. He left at least half of it on his plate and went away. Food waste is even more inconceivable to me in India than it is in the West. I couldn't help but wrap it in tissue to later give it to another couple of street children. Through that slum there was so much dirt and still I felt quite comfortable. So I enjoyed Pune. And in the last month or so I have been so sheltered and surrounded with Westerners - at Amma's ashram and in Auroville - that Ii had forgotten how much I wanted to come to India to help people. It is the main reason why that I initially wanted to come here, more than yoga and meditation, and I had forgotten. And Pune has reminded it to me, and it has made me very happy indeed. I no longer feel alone or miss my companions today. I am very happy on my own today, because there is a huge amount of love in my heart.

In a few hours I am taking the train to Khajuraho. Tomorrow I will meet my dear Indian brothers, I keep having to add. But I am so happy. I will live in their family and share life with them, quite simply. I will hopefully find ways to help. And teach English, even if I don't have access to a school I will teach English to my brothers. And learn Hindi. I have been reading as much as I could on the street signs here, now that it's not all Malayalam and Tamil like it was in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Finally I can read Hindi everywhere. It looks a lot more familiar. It even helped me to find my way a couple times. And I have spoken a few sentences and understood the guy who told me he didn't understand my English. :D Oh I can't wait to be in Khajuraho. Tomorrow night now, tomorrow night... I have been awaiting this for so long...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Pune & B.K.S Iyengar Institute

So the day before yesterday I left Auroville for a 25-hour train ride to Pune. This last week in B'ee's company had been, quite frankly, amazing, so it was a little difficult. And I was also leaving Micha, who had by now been like my Dad for over a month, and Morgane who I had been my neighbour and best friend for a week. So I was leaving three amazing friends, and a little town that had kind of become my home, with habits, friends, acquaintances, activities, etc.

To start all over again. on my own. Thank God I had bought this MP3 player last week and I had music (and selected by who!?) to accompany me on my long journey. It wasn't easy. At first I went to the wrong side of the train and had to get on it because otherwise it was going to leave. But the first class and my birth where at the other end of the train. I couldn't help but sit and stop and cry with all my bags amongst all the noisy Indians. To gather up strength to realise where I was and where I should be and how to get there. It was so crowded there was no way I was going to go through. But a man finally helped me and took me where I was supposed to be. And from then on it was easy but long, and I had to stay with all my emotions.

. But I am in Pune now. And this morning I went to the I wasn't going to take classes; I wasn't able to. But I bought a book. And then I went back in the hall, turned my head to the right, and observed the shock: suddenly my eyes were looking at B.K.S. Iyengar himself. My eyes began to grow bigger, and I couldn't stop looking at him. He was signing some books. I looked and looked and looked, I cried too. A man went to bow to him. I was stuck, I couldn't, I think my tears were my bowing. Then the other man directed me to the practice room where I was allowed to sit and watch - everyone doing their own practice. And very soon Mr Iyengar himself came into the room and started his own practise, amongst everyone. I couldn't help but admire the calm in the room. If it had been at Amma's ashram, people would have gathered around her and cried her name. But here, a few people came to bow else everyone carried on with their practice - in his company. Mr Iyengar is 89. He hanged himself on a rope in a back-bend and stayed there for at least thirty minutes.

I stayed in the institute for one hour. At 10am I was out, and I felt I no longer had any reason to be in Pune. I had seen Him. I had seen the centre. In just one hour I had done all I had to do.

So I went to get a new train ticket. Another 25-hour journey. Tomorrow I'll go to Khajuraho, to finally meet with my dear Indian friends again.

It is funny to be here all alone. It was the first time last night that I was in a hotel room, in over one month. It felt like B'ee & Michael should be here. It was big and empty. It is like I am starting it all again. It is big and scary. But then if I was to come back to the west, where would I go? And if I was to go back to Auroville, it wouldn't be right either. Just the thought makes me uncomfortable. I am here, I don't know why I am here. I am not quite comfortable here yet I'm OK and I know I'm OK. I am here and I'm supposed to be here, quite clearly, and to go through this. It is just that at the moment it is not very easy.

But then in two days I will be in Khajuraho and I bloody well wonder how I will feel to see my dear Indian brothers again. And to start a new small little life of its own, there?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

From Auroville to Pune

I am leaving Auroville on 20th January to go to Pune. I am going to stay there for a couple of weeks (?) and see if I can attend some yoga classes at the B.K.S Iyengar Yoga Institute. I have to try at least, or even if I don't get in to see this place. And to be near 89-year-old B.K.S. Iyengar whilst he is still alive. I am so close so I cannot noT try, quite obviously.

After this, finally, I shall go up to khajuraho to see my dear Indian brothers. At last!!! ^_^ And that will be on time for my birthday... :))))

Villupuram-Pune will be a 25-hour train journey. On my own now! Time to leave the guys!

I will have stayed three weeks in Auroville, in fact five if I count the two weeks in Adishakti. Five weeks of being stationery. I had my little room in Auroville, my bike, and for the first time in my entire life I had a home and a vehicle in one place (usually I have no vehicle...) I have been cycling tons, which has been very very pleasant indeed. I am crap at cycling with circulation but not too bad at all with no traffic! I have been yogaing, violining, eating (haha), been to the beach a little, helped B'ee with his french (hihi), enjoyed re-meeting our Canadian-couple friends and meeting others, etc. The days get filled surprisingly easily here. Everything is slower too, I guess, and what I have especially noticed and enjoyed was that inevitably (for me anyway) in a more natural place, i.e. with less electricity and hence more darkness at night, routine became more in tune with nature, bzw. sun cycles. Getting up at 6.30am and going to bed around 9pm, because frankly there was not much to be doing at night, or not many places to go to because I don't often want to cycle in the dark with my small light and risking to get lost more easily. that said though I will have to cycle tonight, because I'll be going to Michael and B'ee's concert.

It's been lovely to still be near the guys yet all have our different places to stay. Like local friends you live nearby and meet once in a while, more or less often. Easiness, lightness, simplicity. I breathe. I am so grateful for all the work too. I smile inside, and I am, yes, so amazingly grateful. aah. :)

So, another week to go and enjoy Auroville. and B'ee's light company, for a while anyway. Oh, and on 18th there is a concert of South Indian classical music played on the violin. This is the reason that I am leaving on 20th and not earlier. :) And now it is time to go for a chai.