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.


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Bye-bye Varanasi

I am leaving Varanasi tomorrow night. A month gone already. A bloody good month too despite the difficult hammering heat most of the time. Varanasi in the winter must be amazing. I leave behind me some good volunteer work (though not as much as I'd hoped, because of the heat and a need to rest), a training in Reiki, some really amazing and musical company, and a lot of progress on the violin. I am very happy.

Of course though I feel odd about leaving the place. Doing nothing about it, just observing... tomorrow I'm going to Khajuraho for another goodbye-week or so with the family before I head for Mumbai... and Mumbai Airport. It really does feel odd; I can't quite believe that I've been here almost a year already, though it does feel weird to say to people I meet now that I've been here since November 2007!! And yet at the same time India has become so normal to me and I can't believe that I'll be in "anotherworldly" Europe in less than three weeks.

Tonight on the way back from my violin class I was thinking though how easy it is to just walk the city-streets in Europe compared to India. In Europe walking in the street is pretty obvious and pretty straight and smooth. Here, I'm quite glad to have my hiking sandals actually because you have to always go round or up something, you just cannot go straight all the time. In the super-slow (and thick) traffic you have to give way to motorbikes and bicycles and cycle-rickshaw, who drive around and just by you. And the hardworking sweaty men with the scarf round their head, effortfully pushing stackloads of bananas or piles of long metal sticks or sacks of grounds or mounts of plastic chairs on their wobbly wooden carriages. And you have to go round the many many people around you because streets are so fucking crowded, and round the numerous slow or stationary cows, and the massive cow-shits, and the sleeping dogs, and the piles of rubbish, oh and the long queues of heavy, turtle-slow buffaloes, and all the mud, and the chai and food stalls, and the shoe-polishers or bits-and-bobs' sellers or even the neem stick seller who just run their single-squere metre (or less!) "businesses" sitting on the street's side. And there's so much loud noise and deafening multi-sound horns and traffic noise and people's noise and "Madame, rickshaw!?" here and "Madame please come my shop!" there, and the kids running shouting 'Hello!' behind you. Just noises from there being so many people or living beings in this crazy country. So, often on my way I'm amazed at how alert you have to be to just walk in the streets, a little like rodeo...

The last time I came to india, for one tiny month, when I got back to Europe the streets seemed empty and miserable to me. After a year I can't yet imagine how the hell I will feel walking the streets in Europe. No doubt they will look un-be-lie-va-bly CLEAN to me though, and the dog shits on french pavements (pavements!) will just look ridiculous to me.

But obviously it's not just walking in the streets. It will be the whole way of life, the not-easily-being-able-to-live-with-your-heart thing I guess that will strike me in Europe, though I am pretty clueless as to how to express how feel right now, and I can't possibly know yet how I will feel because it's not now yet.

What will I do? Where will I live? Friends have started asking me in emails for quite some time now. When I initially left I thought I would know after I get back. A year has passed and I have no clue. But as always the present works for me, and I won't be homeless and pennyless so I'll be OK. It's just, as always, the big Unknown that I have to deal with. Difficult sometimes, but as time goes on, I am becoming pretty good at dealing with It... In the end, if it looks like I do so many things in so many places, I just feel like I always do the same tiny thing all the time: put one foot in front of the other one, and again, and again, and again. Focusing on how I feel at the time, looking at the lead of the pencil - that unchangeable tiny dot - not the big changeable or intimidating drawing that it manifests into. I do nothing but being, what form it takes is secondary. I guess though being will manifest in a form a little like; taking some time to "recover". To rest and recentre myself. To meditate so that I can see what comes in front of me. To see how I feel in Europe. In France, in Scotland. I guess I will have to visit Scotland. I want to visit Scotland, yes! I see it sunny and breezy and beautiful! Edinburgh, its castle, its green hills and its amazing architecture, and Portobello Beach - I remember how amazingly beautiful it looked to me after I had left it for just three months in 2005. I want to see my friends! My family! I'm so happy I'll see them all again - yet at the same time I know it won't all be easy because I'll feel disconnected from such a long, disconnected time away - but I get used to it, don't I. I've been feeling disconnected for a long time from having friends everywhere and therefore never quite connected with anyone. But I'm happy to be who I am, however disconnected I have to be.

And blah and blah and blah. But for now, mind, please would you kindly keep quiet. I am here now. Another violin class to go still. And I'm slowly ending my trip - thinking of what to bring "home" and what to leave behind; the clothes I'll never wear in Europe or those that are slowly dying after seven-ten months from being of poor quality. I've been to the dentist, too, because it's so cheap, and had a 150-rupee eye check-up, and bought a one-year provision of lenses for 20 euros (ha!ha!ha!) I've bought a lovely pile of books and about hald a dozen Hindi/English children's books :p (I am motivated, yes!?) and bits and bobs I won't find in Europe and a lovely OM and a bansuri for a friend who asked me for one. But what else? I clearly do feel like I'll come back to india in the near future (but what do I know?) I don't feel like "I have to bring back souvenirs because I will never see the place again". I feel not like it is an end but a beginning. Despite some hardships (the heeeeeaaaaaat....) I feel so unbelievably comfortable here or at home!? I have no clue about what comes next but there are feelings up in the air - misty, unclear, pale and vague, like a landscape under a dense, thick layer of blinding fog, piercing out, slowly, shily. I can't say what. I can't see it yet, I can't possibly express it yet. I can only slowly discover it as the cover lifts up...

We will see...

I am still here now.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

"Topcon" (pour les Fran├žais)

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Today I bathed in the Ganges... accidentally...

Yes. Today I bathed in the Ganges. I had not wanted to really though. In about two weeks the Ganges is drying phenomenally quickly. Seeing from the temple that was submerged in the water before, Ganga is 2-3 meters lower than before. So, on the way back from work today I was going to go home walking along the now drying ghats. Well not completely dry that was. And the muddy grounds are still so wet that they are very swampy indeed. There was a very swampy bit I didn't expect, and pfloof! I sank down to the level of my thighs. I was not exactly proud. It was so hard to get my feet out; each step out I had to press down to get my other foot out and in the process sinking the previously released foot back down. So I screamed! And three kids came to rescue me!! It was not easy! Especially with my sandals who were so muddy that they made my feet more heavy! Man. That's so clumsy-me! In the end the kids put a big wooden stick onto and across the swampy ground so that I could put my rescued foot on it and release the second one. After I got out obviously I had to bathe my bottom half in Ganga to remove the mud. And I gave 10 rupees to each of the three kids for "saving my life"! Haha.

I went back to my guesthouse with completely wet trousers and a muddy bum. What I hadn't realised until I got home though was that my trousers were completely torn at the bum. Ha. What people could see from my bum that I will never know. Haha. I wasn't very proud of myself, though it was kind of funny really. And it made me realise how dirty Ganga is - and how much rubbish people throw in it. Which makes it rather ironic that they would ask you to remove your shoes (like in a temple) before going walking through Ganga's water. ahem...

Anyway. I changed guesthouse, yet again, the other day. But this time I am very happy. In the end I had decided to move in this big house with all the Western musician-people so I visited some - very dirty - rooms which the owner said he would clean by evening. By evening the rooms were not clean, and the family (though they had promised) did not know which other rooms they were to show me. So I had also visited the next-door, clean, lovely, cozy, homely and cheap guesthouse (less than £1.50 for a room!) so I moved there. And my room is right below my friends' room in the building across, separated by a lane wide of about 50 cm. So I am still close to my musician friends, to say the least. I am very happy there. The weather is slowly cooling down (very slowly!) and my room has many windows so when I open the door I get wind even though the light/fan does not work all day! There's pots underneath my bed, a mosquito net is provided, I get all I need here, and the owners are friendly - a lovely family really. So. I shall stay here until the end of my time in varanasi, this time. I feel very good here. Horray.

Today and yesterday I am doing an initiation/training in Reiki with the lovely German neighbour. Ii'm looking forward to my first practice session this afternoon. I also practised the violin with a great Israeli guy who is learning tabla - great for him to practise with me, and great for me to get used to the so-intriguing-complex Hindustani beat, which I'll have to learn soon... I'm so happy here - oh and my lovely neighbours (the German bakery) has finally opened again after their six-month break (they close during hot season) so I can have great food and breakfast and great bread and yum, yum, yum...

I'm so happy in Varanasi - did I mention it? (Yes, I know!) Oh but less than four weeks to go In India; I can hardly believe it...

My camera sometimes works, sometimes makes very very odd pictures. Mostly it doesn't work though - so I should really try to get it repaired... But there are some mad photos here.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

This morning a monkey was looking at me

This morning when I looked through my barred window, a monkey was behind, holding onto the window and looking at me. Behind him on the temple rooftop, a monkey family with a mother grooming her child. Perhaps I really should try and get my camera repaired. I didn't have barred windows or a view onto a south Indian temple before. I have changed hotel because I couldn't cope with bathing in my own sweat in bed at night, because the light would go and the fan would stop. One night when I was preparing to go to bed, the light went, so instead of going to bed I packed my bags. By the time they were ready the light had still not returned and so I left to the next-door hotel who have a generator with 24-hour power. That changed my life. Now I can sleep all night and practice my violin whenever I want. I have come to like my room very much too. I pay a tad bit more but "expensive" still is far from appropriate to describe reality. From my asking around it seems that I am lucky to have a room with 24 hour power in Varanasi. There are other guesthouses and a lot cheaper (i.e. £1 a night or less!) and they have very open windows and nice open rooftops and a lot of air, but at night I don't know, and I don't feel ready to sleep amongst the monkeys yet. Those guesthouses are packed with Westerners and it's tempting to live with them, but it feels better for me and for my practice to be on my own. My guesthouse is small and quiet and I like that. The hotel people are nice yet perhaps somehow "trying too hard to keep me", but mainly they live me alone so it's OK. In the last few days I have met many Westerners, many of whom also are "long-term" or come and go to Varanasi to study Indian music. It's great because it feels like I have a (home-style) social life for the first time in six months (since Auroville). Many speak Hindi, too, and it's very very nice for me to hear. one French guy has been coming and going to India for eleven years and speaks very good Hindi. Another French guy has just started studying violin with my teacher too. A german woman who speaks perfect French and teaches Reiki also studies slide-guitar. Many artists around here and most of them in the same area and/or guesthouses, but yes, I am happier to be a little more aside.

A few nights ago there was an Indian classical festival in a VERY big temple; three nights of concerts in a very highly kitch-ly, over-the-top-ly decorated temple. I was struck by the decorations, millions of hanging leafy-garlands and fruits and bananas and apples and lights all over its ceilings and walls that put Christmas decorations to a shame. I went to this concert because my teacher was playing. And his brother on the tabla. And his other brother on the sarangi. The whole family. And many other musicians, on a sarod and on many sitars and one on the santoor and some amazing (crazy!?) singing, and some very surprising dancing too. Oh and a very good violin player that I wanted to go and watch play but in the end I never looked at his violin because he was putting on so many funny expressions while he was playing, that I stared at his face continuously. It was amazing. Very very beneficial for my understanding of Indian classical music. But mostly I had never heard my violin teacher play like that, and it struck me (again) that I am very very very lucky to have him as my teacher: he was stunning. I went to the concert with a group of five francophone people and suddenly it felt like I was going out with friends in Europe, and I even went back home at 4am (in the car with my teacher, not alone in the streets of Varanasi!!) and I hadn't been to bed that late in a very very long time. But it was fun.

In the meantime, I really like my work at the Mother Teresa Institution. The fact that it's every day at the same early time of the day keeps me somehow grounded. My routined part of the day, a bit like my yoga classes in Rishikesh. The laundry is difficult and I come out wet from water and wet from sweat, because it's hard work and it's really hot at the moment. But I like it, somehow. I like watching the other women work while I work. It's always the same funny woman who fills the huge pots of water, that funny woman who always covers her head with funny clothes and who smiles at me cheekily. And I like to see how the chain works. How it all gets done. and the work goes from most difficult to most easy. first comes the difficult laundry with hitting the cloth on the stone table, to rinsing and vigorously wringing it. There are many many clothes to wash everyday. The Indian women are so good at it, from bashing the cloth with a wooden stick to brushing it on the floor, and they are astonishingly efficient at wringing the cloth in one go. It's amazing that one can be so good at that sort of thing! Then when the clothes are washed we all take buckets of them upstairs to hang. And that means we're up on the roof and there's the view on the Ganges and the air to dry the sweat and water off my body and it's a lot easier. Many of the "less-able ladies" help in that part of the work and I communicate with them more then, one especially who always call me 'Auntie! kapra!' (Auntie! clothes!) (They all call volunteer workers 'auntie' or 'uncle') so I pass her on the clothes and she hangs them. When laundry is finished I go to the kitchen to make chapati, which is not difficult for the muscle. I'm so keen to learn to make chapati that I forget everything - especially when I roll them out onto the wooden stool because it takes a lot of my concentration to learn how to make them nice and round. Yet sometimes the woman in charge won't let me roll, So I can only take on "less advanced" tasks like making balls of dough, because my chapatis are not (far from!!) perfect. But! I am improving! My three months of observation in the Khajuraho family have proved very useful! Another lovely thing about going to work is sitting with Margaret, before and after work.
I met her on my first day when I went to leave my sandals before starting work; she called me to leave them in her room. Her perfect English struck and welcomed me. Perhaps in her sixties, she has lived here for three years since she can no longer walk. She has a broken leg but doesn't want to do anything about it, she no longer wants to go outside anyway. She just happily sits on her bed with her books and embroidery. She is Indian but of European parents; she has always lived in India but speaks perfect (British) English, so it's the first time for me that I can have fluent conversations with an Indian woman. She tells me about her life and about everybody and everything about the institution! After my chai and my chapati I go back to get my bag and my sandals and sit with her before returning home for a SHOWER!!!

The rest of the day I think about music and violin. This week my teacher is away for concerts in Delhi. I love him because he really is keen to teach me. Because he left today, yesterday I had two classes, one in the morning and one in the evening. So I missed work yesterday but there at his house I met an Australian guy who studies sarangi with his brother. And he told me about an open-mic, improvisation evening in a cafe nearby. I went and ended up playing music with him on the sarangi or lira (another bowed instrument, from Greece), with a tabla player and a bass player. And a small stage and with a microphone and with people listening, and oh my God I would never have dared to ever do that before!! And there was no fear somehow. I had always secretely dreamed of such a thing, but it had been covered with thick layers and layers of fear, so much that I couldnt see it or I felt too bad to talk about it. Still I feel funny writing it onto a blog now... I have been removing the layers one by one, slowly slowly, for a few years now. And yesterday it felt like a miracle had happened. I was only focused on the music, with no impinging fear or discomfort, naturally. Really there were some moments were I had nothing to do but focus, for it was automatically coming out of me.

I like varanasi. It is the most 'European' time I am having in a way though in India at the same time perhaps... Oh, but I won't put that into words now because just the first line makes it all sound inaccurate and awkward. Sometimes (all the time?!) words belittle and distort reality completely. And so it is better to keep silent because it is not ready to manifest itself yet.