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) 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, 12 February 2009

Varanasi, Birthday, and "Slumdog Millionaire"

So many days have past, so much has happened, and I haven't found the time to write about it yet. And whenever I find myself in a public Internet place the computers or the keyboards or the connections are shaky and I can't possibly spend time writing. I am glad that I have my laptop actually, because I have been able to write in my own time, quietly in my room. I can then save the text onto my MP3 player to later plug it into the public computer and quickly upload it onto my blog. But this last week or so I spent a lot of time on my laptop, not to write for my blog, but to design a website for Vijay's Handicrafts shop. That's what I did most of my time during the last few days in Khajuraho. It was Tif who had suggested to me that I build an E-commerce website for Vijay so he could sell his metal pieces on the Internet. She could help me, she even offered. And well, why not? So I started working. I have countless photographs of Khajuraho and the shop and everything I need to build a good site here. We spent hours with Vijay and his Uncle to gather more images of the Nakashi craft procedure; Vijay explained many things to me which I translated into well-written English; we checked out information with his uncle; we took photographs of many pieces from the shop, weighing and measuring them. I checked out other bits and bobs from the internet. I worked one hour up until we were due to leave to Varanasi, but by the time we left I did had all the material and information I needed to finish the website from Varanasi. The work is almost complete now, and I am very happy with it. It will not be an online business website, just informational page, but a lovely one I feel, that might hopefully attract some more visitors to the shop. Who knows... The only thing I will need now is to connect my laptop to the Internet, somehow, in order to put the site on line. Which may not be easy as internet connections from Internet cafes are often pretty poor, and well, I haven't seen any Wi Fi anywhere... Yet?

So we arrived in Varanasi on 8 February, on my 32nd birthday. Ram and Bharat, two friends of Vijay happened to be going the same evening too, so we ending up spending the train journey together. Travelling with three young Indian men, it seemed I was going to attract even more attention than I normally get with just one! The train was late by some three hours. We had booked our train ticket the day before so we didn't have confirmed seats. Often it is not a problem, but this time we didn't have berths to sleep, and it was new adventure for me. We shared a berth with a retired army officer who eventually went to sleep on the floor so I could sleep on the berth, at least. At midnight my friends wished me a happy birthday. They had bought some sweets and, as Indians do on special occasions, each took turn to feed me one bit of sweet. They know I don't like things too sweet so they just gave me some small bites - I am always grateful of their thoughtful attention! When we wanted to sleep, I passed my sheet to Ram and Vijay so they put it on the carriage's dirty floor and slept together in the alley. Many people slept in the alley so that people had to walk over them if they had to go somewhere else or to the toilet. But what would be unthinkable in Europe is perfectly fine here. Bharat didn't sleep until morning, preferring to read; I guess it was more convenient that way! The window didn't close properly and the air made me cold, so I slept with both my jumpers and my scarf, covering my lower half with my towel. You make do with what you can. At one point the only option for me was to rest my head in Vijay's lap while he tried to sleep sitting. Halfway through the night though someone left so another berth freed up. I didn't sleep too badly in the end, but my three friends hardly did. We arrived in Varanasi at around 10 am.

We went to our favourite hotel above the cremation ghat, again, and it felt just like home. It was lovely to see the hotel staff again, and they too were happy to see us. For my birthday I had wanted just one thing: to take Vijay to the cinema to see “Slumdog Millionaire”, that amazing film about a boy from the Mumbai slums who ends up on the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show, not out of money but out of love. In Scotland I had seen the film twice in the space of three days, because I had loved it so much. The film came out on 23 January in India – the day I flew to Delhi – so I really wanted to take Vijay to see it. We ended up going to a very fancy shopping mall & cinema complex of Varanasi. For some three hours it was as if I had jumped back into Europe. Except of course it was full of rich Indians, who looked at Vijay and I even more than normal, it seemed. I hadn't thought of it: only the rich population here go to fancy shopping malls or to the cinema. The tickets cost Rs 100 which I found surprisingly expensive. Obviously not your ordinary population would go to the cinema indeed. And the people who looked at us, the rich Indians, as I understand, are the ones who mostly look up to an Occidental way of life. They seemed to look at us more with some kind of “awe” or envy. I am in India exactly for the opposite reason though: I do not enjoy the rich Occidental way of life at all!! I am here because I want to live as far away from it as I can; I want to live the lifestyle which rich Indians want to flee!! I am not impressed by flashy malls! But it was funny: Vijay had never been on an escalator before so he was carefully hopping on the moving steps.

“Slumdog Millionaire”, for Occidentals, is 1/3 in Hindi and 2/3 in English. “Slumdog Crorepati” for Indians, however, is completely in Hindi. The 2/3 of English have been dubbed in Hindi. Waiting for the cinema hall to open, some young men came to us and asked Vijay questions about me. I hadn't realised people were more surprised to see me in a cinema hall because I was going to see a film in Hindi. I hadn't thought of that at first, but once I realised it was pretty obvious. It didn't cause any problem for me though, since I had seen the film twice before. When I didn't understand the Hindi, I knew the scenes well enough to remember exactly what they were about, and well, I understood more than I thought I would anyway, which made me happy. But the experience of the same film was amazingly different in an Indian context! And that was fascinating!! In India the cinema experience seems to be one solely of entertainment. Perhaps most Indians don't know that one can go to see a film in an end of learning or because a film is profound, or because “you really want to see that film in particular. Besides it seems to me, and from what I know of Indian TV, that the only (foreign) films the Indian has access to are expensive blockbuster, violent or flashy or funny productions, not at all the more thoughtful, profound stories. So they didn't seem to have much respect for the film, and I was almost shocked to discover that they didn't care about switching off their mobile phones (my neighbour even answered his mobile happily during the film, argh!), and talking or commenting loudly on the film was not a problem for them, either...They reacted to the film completely differently from Europeans, too. They laughed at different moments, “typical Indian moments” which the European population would not have gathered. At other moments which made the European laugh, they didn't get it. The way the children in the film talked broken English was translated differently – more realistically – too. In the Indian version the kids' English was mixed with Hindi which made it more authentic, but which would have obviously been too difficult for Europeans to understand. It made it more funny than it was in the English-for-European version. Some bits were taken out altogether. And whereas one scene profound with love made me cry the first time I saw the film, here some Indians found it hilarious, which almost upset me! But then I guess, since the rich Indian population see only shallower Hollywoodian or Bollywoodian production-type films, perhaps it is logical that they couldn't take this love story seriously...? Seeing how ridiculous the India-seen-by-European moments were for them, towards the end of the film I started wondering how they would react to the European-made Bollywood dancing ending of the film... and indeed I was relieved to discover that it had been cut out completely!!

When the film ended and the room's lights switched back on, I realised I was in India again, and people started looking towards us again. It had been pretty odd to be sitting with Vijay in a modern cinema, as if I had taken him to Europe for just a couple of hours.

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