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.

Enjoy!

Friday, 30 January 2009

Khajuraho

The journey to the next community, to Purkal near Dehradun, was a little less adventurous than I had thought. And less long because we left earlier. To get there we had to take a bus to Dehradun, then to phone up the community to say we had arrived so they'd send a driver for us, because it is difficult to reach this place. While we waited for the car to pick us up we had some lunch, and got a little horrified by the price of the food though converted into UK pounds it wasn't so bad! My old SIM card was useless and I would need a new one, and Vijay's phone was blocked, so we couldn't contact anyone. We had agreed of a place to wait for the driver. It was pretty funny how we found him. He had expected to have to look for two tourists so he was confused that I was waiting for him with an Indian friend. Vijay knows what it is like to be a tourist in his own country now, because when he is with me Indian people look at him as inquisitively (perhaps more actually) than they would a tourist. And I guess tourists also look more at me when I am with him, too.

The community was pretty remote, one hour from Dehradun, higher up in the mountain. It reminded me of Nagarkot - that small village in Nepal - very much, which I guess is obvious, but I had forgotten about Nepal so it was a surprise for me. It was all very organised. I met both founders of the community - we took a good visit round and were shown workshops and classes and the library and the small science lab and all the kids stood up when I came in etc. But we didn't feel quite comfortable there, both Vijay and I. It was kind of too much, and certainly too far from everything for me. The founder of the community on the phone had told me we should stay the night to have time to see the community well and so I'd think about how I can contribute etc. But we really didn't feel like staying the night, so eventually we left - there were regular buses back to Dehradun at least. We didn't want to stay too long either because we had to go back to Khajuraho as soon as possible for Vijay's sister's wedding.

Back in Dehradun we went straight to the train station. Khajuraho is a very long way away so we wanted to avoid buses this time. We needed to go to Jhansi by train; after that the bus drive to Khajuraho is "only" 6 hours. We managed to get a train ticket for the following morning, 28th. Number 69 and 70 on the waiting list. I don't quite understand waiting lists on Indian trains. Alone I had never dared to book myself on the waiting list, or perhaps only if I was 3rd on the list or something, preferring confirmed tickets - but apparently all you have to do once on the train is give a little money to the conductor and he will allow you on a sit - or berth - anyway. So we got a berth no problem. The train journey to Jhansi was long; 6am to 9pm, but the train was 3 hours late. That's how I got immune to late trains or buses in Europe. Really 1 or 2 hours late is nothing for me now!! So - a LONG journey. But I guess it was pretty smooth. People were looking at us funny obviously, some people looking puzzled and others completely 'reluctant' - but by the end we befriended a young "europeanised" woman from Delhi, as well as a big family with whom Vijay got to play cards. It was very lively. In the meantime the 10-year old girl in glasses and long thick braids was speaking to me in good English, as she wanted to practise. I joked with her in Hindi too.

We arrived in Jhansi at midnight, exhausted. But the quest wasn't over: NO single hotel would let a foreigner stay the night! Our kind rickshaw driver took us to many hotels and we came out empty-handed every time! If Vijay's phone had worked he would have solved the problem easily, since he has connections, but we just couldn't stay anywhere. Hotels need a special form to accept foreigners, which costs money to have, so hotel in "non-touristic" towns don't always invest in them - and they just won't accept foreigners. They are more strict now because of the bombings in Mumbai three months ago, Vijay said. I was exasperated!

Our only solution was to drive another 30 minutes to Orccha! So we did that, and eventually found quite an expensive room there - even that took a little time, because a film is being shot there at the moment so most hotels were full... What a relief when we could finally go to sleep...

When we left the hotel at noon, the sun was bright and it was warm. And I was happy to see Orccha again, which I had visited with Niko in 2005. What a lovely cute place, and I remembered the palace and the square and the temple where Sadhu Kissigiri had taken me, and the bright colour powder stands. I took my first photos but with my new camera, deleted them all by mistake. Urgh. Oh well! We shared a very crowded rickshaw back to Jhansi and then finally hopped on a bus to Khajuraho. I always love to arrive in Khajuraho. At the last stop before Khajuraho hotel men and tourist guides always come on the bus to try and catch tourists. But Vijay heard one guy (who hadn't seen and therefore recognised Vijay) say to another "don't try to catch her, she often comes to Khajuraho!" Vijay told me bursting into laughter. I started having to say hello to people who knew me on the bus. We arrived in Khajuraho by evening. Ram and Kallu were there greeting me. And soon we were in the house again. I was happy. Before I went to the main room upstairs I heard the little nephew say "Vio a gayi!" ("Vio has arrived!"). I thought it was P., but no, it was 2 1/2 old R., who had by now started to speak! I was amazed. It was lovely to see everyone again...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Rishikesh

We are in the hotel in Rishikesh. It is hard to believe we arrived so quickly in Rishikesh – well, the day after I reached Delhi by plane. The flight was smooth. It all went to plan. No delays. I stopped via Bahrain, and I must say it was a little odd to see - with my real eyes – some Arab men around with the long white cloth and the black cord round their heads, well dressed like this. A bit odd to be in an Arab country, albeit for just two hours and not beyond the airport limit.

So I arrived in Delhi. I could not quite believe it – a little as if I had forgotten the intensity and weirdness and 'otherworldness' of India during those last three and a half months in Europe. A little discouraged and impressed again perhaps by the precarity, and having to care again about the food I will eat and the water I will drink, and will my body have “forgotten” that it had adapted to the Indian lifestyle or will I be just fine? But the feeling did not last long, and it feels like I am already home now, and of course I will be fine. Within a few hours or a day, it was a little as if I had never really left. It felt odd, yes, and of course, as I got out of the airport I bypassed the 'welcoming' guides and autorickshaws and people wanting my money. But straight away and unlike all the other white people from the plane I looked for Vijay. It took a little while to find him; I didn't know which exit to go to. Eventually in all the oddness, when his face appeared it was like being home again. Of course he had already booked the hotel and he dealt with finding the taxi; he had organised everything. And I didn't have to get any cash out either as I had a little money left from last time. We were both tired from our journeys – he has travelled longer than I had actually however mad that may sound since he had not even left his own country! He had left his house some six hours before I had left my father's! Oh, the joys of slow Indian travelling. After we arrived we basically crashed in the hotel – had just about enough energy to watch “Water” by Deepa Mehta which I have on my computer and which I had talked to him about for so long – it was great to watch it with an Indian this time, as he could explain bits and bobs of vocabulary to me which I had not caught previously.

We hardly stayed in Delhi. The following morning we just went for breakfast and caught the bus to Haridwar early afternoon. I have just a few days to visit the orphanages / communities I want to visit in the north before heading back to Khajuraho for Vijay's sister's wedding. We had just walked to the bus stand when we saw the bus to Haridwar leaving – 'get on, quickly!' - we had to hop on to the moving bus, as I have got used to – not easy with big rucksacks – but I am not alone to carry them this time. It all went so quickly, straight into the crazy and local Indianness – we had no choice but travel by local bus because we had no time to book a more comfortable train. The journey was bumpy and pretty long, seven hours, but I was grateful to do it by day so I wouldn't have to try and sleep on a bus. The bus was crowded so Vijay and I had no room to sit together. I had to sit with just 2/3 of my bottom on a seat because I was sharing three seats with two grown-up men and a wee boy. My seat neighbours were a friendly man from Delhi with his 5-year old adorable son, called Aman. After a while I asked him in Hindi how long it would take to get to Haridwar (I never get it in India; he replied “four hours” but it took seven!), and a little later I saw him laugh as he saw me take out my notebook and write down the content of some Hindi signs on the bus – as I had guessed their meaning or wanted to ask Vijay later what they meant. I also offered my travelling-pillow to little Aman as he decided to sleep onto his father's lap. “Say Thank You” to Madam”, he said to his boy with a bright yet shy smile. That sort of sharing just never seem to happen in Europe, but I love it so.

I think my three-month Hindi break was very good for me. I didn't forget Hindi at all, and to my surprise Vijay even finds that my understanding has improved. I have more motivation to speak Hindi now – as if the break had freshened my mind and freed-up more space for further Hindi acquisition... It is rather pleasant. As is the temperature, I have to say! 22 degrees during the day – very welcome after some very cold month in Europe, which I think were a little tougher than before after a year of Indian heat. But also it is a lot cooler than the latest sweaty months in Varanasi. So, very pleasant during the day, and cooler at night – But we just have to wear one jumper (or perhaps two when the rickshaw is moving); it is very comfortable!

We arrived in Haridwar at around 9.30pm. We had some food quickly and then had to try and find a taxi up to Rishikesh (about one hour's drive from Haridwar), which at this late hour was rather difficult. It took much effort from a cycle-rickshaw driver to unsuccessfully take us to the next bus stand, and then basically carry on cycling in the direction of Rishikesh and stop a taxi on the way. Eventually we found one – arrived close to 11pm. We had no money then because I hadn't withdrawn any cash in Delhi and had forgotten to let my bank know that I was going to India again so my card was blocked, and Vijay was running out of money too. We had to tell the taxi driver to stop us by an ATM if he wanted money – which didn't happen as I couldn't get any cash – but we gave him our last rupees and it was just about enough. Again we crashed pretty tired. But I was happy to be in Rishikesh and on very familiar grounds.

This morning the priority was to phone up my bank. As if miraculously Vijay found a 50-rupee note in his wallet, just enough to phone my bank to unblock my card. But at no time we worried – we always manage in India. You can really live with your heart here and bypass the light rules. And I am in good company of a friend who always solves problems all the time. Once the money issue sorted we went to eat in that restaurant whose honey lassies I had loved so much in May 2008, and was greeted by the owner's bright smile. Then we went to visit the first orphanage which was very lovely – but we will see... And then we went back to Dayananda Ashram where I had stayed a short month last spring, visiting my Indian-singer friend, as well as my ever-so funny Sanskrit teacher/swami friend. It was quick but lovely, and we had dinner offered in the ashram. We kept forgetting what we had to go for on the internet – usually get phone numbers of various places – and so had to return three time. Eventually this evening I phoned that other community in a small village difficult to access near Dehradun, which we will visit tomorrow. It sounds like this will also be quite an eventful adventure...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Off...

Yesterday I finally got my visa. Tonight I'll go to London on the night bus. Tomorrow morning I'll go to Lille on the train. I will reach the father's home tomorrow around lunch time. Then I will have about 48 hours to sort a few things out, unpack and repack my rucksack...

And Friday evening I will fly to my Dear India...

I am happy.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Oh India, here I cometh...

I just bought a flight to Delhi for 23 January. It is a little scary as I don't have a visa yet, although I will hopefully apply for one on Monday, and it just takes three days to get it. It is great how easy it is to get a visa here - in Edinburgh - just up the road almost.

So, I already phoned my Benares violin teacher to check he'd be available in Feb-March (he is, and it was LOVELY to hear his voice again!) I ordered bits and bobs including antimalarial Ayurvedic herb which I have already received etc. There is hardly anything to prepare for now, since all my vaccination jabs are still up-to-date from last time, and of course now I have absolutely no research to do when it comes to getting ready for India. either I have all I need already, or I know exactly what to get and where to find it. it is amazing, how familiar it all seems now, how easy it is, how close and homely India feels to me.

I have also contacted a few orphanages and have had positive response, and I have already contacted the Varanasi Hindi centre too. And Vijay in India has also phoned places for me to see how they felt for him - always checking that I will be ok... He said he would come and pick me in Delhi, too - it will be lovely to arrive on familiar grounds and be welcome by a member of my family...

And so I keep doing bits and bobs and getting ready a little, and meeting more friends I had not seen for a year and a half - there are still some I haven't seen; many were away for Christmas and/or New Year. I feel so sociable sometimes, almost running from one meeting to the next. It is almost tiring, but it is lovely too. Often I end up talking so much that I have a sore throat at the end of the meeting. I caught quite a bad cold on New Year's Eve (went to bed at 11pm and heard the fireworks for my bed - but I found that rather convenient and was very well pleased to be missing the madness...) I guess my body was a little weakened by the cure of clay which I am currently going through - but cleansing my body - and the cold is almost gone now.

Still have a few peeps to meet; I feel I may not even meet all the ones I want to meet. But it doesn't really matter. And still have a few things to sort out. Installing things onto the shiny laptop - which I realise is quite small, it is good. Oh, the other day I got myself the DVD of that marvellous wonderful colourful beautiful Water by Deepa Mehta, which I love so much and was so desperate to see again now that I understand some Hindi. I ended up watching the film and then all the extra bits and then, on the same day, watching the film again. But paying extra attention to the Hindi dialogues, pausing, replaying, hearing again, pausing again, looking for the new mysterious words in the dictionary, and hearing again. I love Hindi. I wonder how many times I will watch this film - I could see myself watching it once a week until I understand the whole lot - but I do understand quite a lot already; it makes me happy.

so, I guess I will be another week and a half in Edinburgh... Then I'll need to go back to France to pack for India and go...

I am not excited about going to India; i am calmly happy.