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.


Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Pancakes, decision-making & to India

Last days in Varanasi

Back in Khajuraho. The last days in Varanasi were lovely. I stopped the Hindi classes just before Vijay came to see me. But I had one last violin lesson when he was there because I wanted someone to hear me play with Guruji. We didn't do very much. For him it was a well-deserved holiday, after all the work he had done with arranging his sister's wedding. And I too felt the need for a break, after a studious month of Hindi and violin. It was lovely also that Vijay met some of my new friends and acquaintances of Varanasi; where I am slowly becoming familiar in my neighbourhood. When we are together, we seem to be a familiar pair for some, like for the staff in the restaurant that is slowly becoming my main eating room. We spent time with my Belgian friend Yoeri, and my new English friend Jez, both of whom also study Hindi. We all enjoyed practising our newly Hindi skills with Vijay, so I guess it was not quite a holiday, ha! It was lovely, then, to spend time together in my Varanasi again. We spent a lot of time watching and playing with and feeding the monkeys on the guesthouse rooftop with Yoeri. The funniest was when we tried to give them a half-empty bottle of Coca Cola to drink. We thought they would have drank from it, but instead they poured the coke out onto the floor and started licking it, sticking their bum up in the air! We couldn't believe it.

And we made pancakes! Real French crèpes! With the small gas bottle in my room I had been boiling my water but there was a chapati pan in Yoeri's room and we used other utensils to cook. Tea, vegetable omelet, and the pancakes. I had wanted to cook pancakes for Vijay for a long time, I had not known whether it would work well with a chapati pan because its bottom is not flat but a little convex. But it worked really well, the pancakes didn't stick in the pan, and I didn't even mess up the first one. They were not very round, but they all tasted nice and homely. The mustard oil replaced the sunflower oil well, too. It felt so amazing for me to cook for the first time in India! I felt such a sense of achievement that I was felt with joy – ordinary cuisine turned into an exceptional event in the Indian environment.

Facing the unknown

I still don't quite know what will happen next. The ashram for orphaned children in Varanasi had offered me a sort of placement starting in April for two months, and I would love to work there, but I have to be realistic: the heat will be far too much to bear. The orphanages I visited in Rishikesh and around will be no good, either not the right place for me, or when I go the children will have fled from the heat to higher mountains. I don't really want to be as hot as I was last year either, and yearn for some anticipated freshness. Last year I had thought I would go up to Dharamsala again as I had loved the place so much in 2005, but I never went. As I get closer and closer to Vijay and our love steadily grows, I feel somehow reluctant to go as far away from him as to Dharamsala, which is about 48 hours away from Khajuraho, and to leave “real India”. But I cannot be idle and do nothing. I have wanted to work with children for far too long and haven't done it yet. I need some free experience as part of my Life training...

I wasn't really thinking about this then, some three or four weeks ago, but when Yoeri came to Varanasi his friend had a guide book of India. I no longer have a one, because clearly I don't like to use them, and they are far too bulky and heavy to carry around. But we were sitting having food and chai in my homely restaurant, and I flickered through the pages of her guide book. In it I found some information about volunteering in Dharamsala and wondered why I hadn't come across it before. Immediately I went onto the internet to check out the indicated websites; one of which offered many opportunities for teaching English to Tibetan refugees. I sent an application straight away, but I still haven't received any answer back. Jez, though, who spent eight months in Dharamsala last year, told me I could surely just show up and ask for work, and I know it would probably work that way too. So in a week or two, I guess that is what I will do. It is one of those decision-making process in which I don't really know what to do but have one option in mind while still being open to any new opportunity – open for any sign from Life that I should do something else. But no other option has come up, I have been left with this one for as long as I've been thinking about it, so I guess I will have no choice but to follow that only road. And hadn't I strongly wanted to work with Tibetan children some years ago...?

And after I get back to Europe in June then what? Before I came to India this January I was already thinking of applying for a course in Benares Hindu University (BHU) just so next time round I can apply not for a tourist visa but for a student visa, which is longer according to the length of the course applied for and up to five years. I had thought I may not even follow the course I apply for, just enjoy the permission to stay in India longer, but despite my triple postgraduate status I feel inclined to study in a university yet again. There is a one- or two-year Hindi programme for foreigners (which does not start at beginner level), that I find appealing. I visited BHU when I still was in Varanasi, and gathered a lot of information. The course would start end of July or early August 2009 up until March 2010. It would be pretty relaxed with four days of classes and only two hours a day per week. That's a little lighter even than this past month (and anyway studying language never scares me, never feels like work to me), which also means I could also focus on studying violin with Sukhdev for all those (weatherly-agreeable) months... I must admit that my conditioned mind has been judging my heart quite harshly for a while until I reached this fairly resolute decision, trying to convince me basically that I should not go back to studying yet again but work and make money instead, yet my heart should be my guide, as we all know... I am financially lucky still so, whilst staying vigilant I really have no reason not to follow my dear, reliable guide.

To my dear India

And there is another factor screaming in my heart: However naïve it may sound considering the corruption in my dear India, I see studying in one of its (renowned) university as an act of respect, and love, towards Her. To build something “officially” that would take my belittling status of “tourist” forever. To prove to Her that I spend all this time in Her not motivated by superficial, entertaining tourism still keeping my European standards and blind of Its weaknesses, but that I love Her fully. I love not just Her splendour and Her colours and Her outward beauty, but I am willing to study Her and love Its obscure depths too. In my love I embrace India's poverty and Its violence and Its corruption and Its illiteracy and poorness of education. Despite all the frustrating occasions (and there will be many others) in which I felt I hated India for the primitiveness of Its mentalities, for Its corruption and laziness and lack of organisation, for the massive extent to which Hindu religion, despite its beauty, rules and conditions the lives and minds of its people and how that regularly suffocates me. And yet I love India with all my heart and want to understand Her deeply; I wish to live the simplicity of Indian life for I have come to love sleeping on the floor and to take time to wash my laundry by hand, and to shower in cold water with bucket and pot, and to live in a house bare of furniture and to sit on the floor all the time, and to travel long hours in wobbly buses and trains. And the lack of privacy is slowly putting less pressure on me for somehow it feels more and more natural.

Thus, I love India fully, and I see studying in one of Its universities as a way to pierce more deeply into Its culture. Of course it is personal and it may sound trivial and meaningless, but it is strong in my heart. Perhaps it will further integrate me into the community and allow me to stay longer in India in the future, although again this may sound very naïve because ultimately for the officer who will stamp my passport I will be just another number, and I know that if I knew the right person and gave him a sum of money underneath his desk, he would give me a visa because he is greedy of money, not at all because he gives a shit about me. But I am ever so honest and my heart is ever so loud deep within me. And the supreme ultimate is that it is Life, or the Universe, or God, or Consciousness, that makes all final decisions, not people, so if the embassy officer does not give a shit about me, perhaps beneath the surface of his conscious mind he will feel a hidden force driving his decision differently. That is how Life works and I am aware of It... And yet above all that I think, if I am wrong, if I am illogical, if I am unreasonable, it is pure Love that guides my decision which means that ultimately it will be the right thing to do...

And in the meantime, before the unbearable heat comes, what else can I do but spend time with Vijay and my Indian family? Whenever my conditioned Western mind comes back with judgement and urges me not to “do fuck all” and be productive, my heart knows that all I can do is spend time with them and with all my awareness for as long as I can until I cannot bear the heat. I feel I have no choice, again, for it all comes to Love...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Holi Festival

Guruji had invited all his students for Holi but they other two couldn't make it, so I was the only one to spend the twenty-four hours in his home. This unsettled me somewhat at first, but I had a lovely time and felt very privileged to spend time in the company of such a remarkable family. So, on the evening of the 10th I went to Guruji's house, making sure to buy sweets and some mala flowers on my way. I wasn't sure that I should bring some devotional flowers but I had done for Guru Puja last year and liked it. I didn't know if it was specifically required for Holi but I guess it was as puja would certainly be involved, and I was happy to bring them in respect for my teacher. He was happy to see the garland and ornated Saraswati with it as soon as I arrived.

Holi was just crazy, even though we played it safely within the walls of the house. During Holi if you don't want to be splashed with colour you have to stay in all day – at the very least until early afternoon. Everyone in the streets plays Holi and you cannot escape it, and absolutely all the shops and restaurants are closed which is a pretty rare thing in India. If I hadn't been to my teacher's house I would have had to buy food the day before because I would not have been able to eat out anywhere.

My teacher's 8-year old daughter was very excited from morning; I heard her shouting “Holi khele, Holi khele!” (“let's play Holi!”) before I even got out of bed. Our first (and only) task of the day was to fill small balloons with water to be thrown later, although I didn't see anyone use them all day. I was useless at tying up the balloons; they broke and fell and splashed, and it made my little colleague laugh a lot. Before it all started we all applied coconut oil over our faces and arms, and a thick silvery paste all over our faces, to protect ourselves from the colours that would be thrown to us later. We literally looked like robots, it was really funny and pretty surreal!! I didn't understand what the paste was made, but it was going to allow the colour to wash off easily. It felt odd to have this on my face for most of the day; and it smelt funny too... I am now very happy about it, because today I've seen people with faces still bright pink despite all their scrubbing efforts.

The day started gradually; the two youngest children started with toy guns filled with coloured water. That was like a harmless taster, and I would have enjoyed the day a lot more if we had only used them or smeared dried powder in each others' faces... But it just drew crazier and crazier and each step was nothing compared to the following. At the beginning I watched what was going on in other people's houses and in the streets from the height of the four-level rooftop. That's what I enjoyed the most, you know, watching from a safe (and coward! :p) position in an “anthropological studying” perspective... It was surreal. People were performing their daily activities, cleaning, eating, looking down at the colourful spectacle, laughing, and colour-fighting, with green, blue, pink, red, purple faces and completely stained clothes. Everyone was completely multi-colourfully soiled, and that was what made it surreal, because it made it look so normal!! In a beautiful saree the robot face looked especially surreal!! And slowly but surely the terraces and the grounds and the walls and the cows and the dogs became green, blue, pink, purple, red, etc. as well... A group of colourful men even passed the street carrying a dead body for cremation and singing the typical chant that goes with it (“Ram, Ram, Satya hai”, “Ram (God) is Truth”). We were at least twenty minutes walking distance from the cremation Ghats; and colourful, fun Holi seemed to clash so much with death that it kept me completely baffled.

When the women in our house had finished their work, fed everyone, it all started here as well. Soon they left the water guns, preferring to throw water with plastic pots, then bucket-full from balconies showering the people below, and by the end of the play the family had taken the hosepipe out – within the house's yard; mixing colour powder and water with never-ending frenzy.

I “took part” in the beginning, although I had no motivation whatsoever to splatter anyone! I only allowed myself to be splashed; some put colour in my face and I ended mostly purple with a bit of green and red. But I was reluctant with the water. I didn't want to be soaked and cold (between the narrow lanes and inside the house it wasn't all that hot), and it seemed to be lasting forever!!! Women most of the time stood on the balcony throwing water to the men in the lane below, who were dancing to loud music, showing their sexy hip-move to one another (this seems to be particular to “Indian e-style” men dancing...). I tried to take photos but soon gave up, for my camera's safety obviously. I kept going to the terrace because I wanted to see, bewildered by the speed with which the entire lane was became purple. But every time that guy with hilarious pink teeth (a surrealistically strange sight when opposed to his silvery-robotic face...) pointed that huge water gun to me again I ran away (I guess I was over-impressed because to me it looked like a real weapon!!)

And after the terrace-to-street fight, everyone moved into the house yard, and visitors joined too. I couldn't believe they hadn't had enough of it! I really didn't enjoy all that water. People showered one another with coloured water on and on and on, for two or three hours straight, in the streets and in the house and in their clothes. That's when, to my utter stupefaction, I saw them take out the hosepipe!!! I love what seems to be widespread architecture in Varanasi. All the houses I've been in have a courtyard in the middle of their ground floor with the rooms arranged around it. On the higher levels of the house the rooms are arranged in the same way around a big-hole space above the central yard. Sometimes there is a large grid above the yard on each level to allow for people to walk on it like they would on a normal floor, or else there is a one-metre wall all round that central hole. It is great because it allows for some light and openness in the house, and when it is far too hot outside the height of the building brings coolness inside too. And that way, sitting safely on the grid I could watch the Holi colour-war going on the in the yard below me... People shouted, showered and splashed powder in one-another's faces and showered each other again and laughed and danced and became wetter and wetter, and darker and darker when the colour mixed up, to a point that I couldn't recognised anyone anymore.

After a long while it was the end, to my great relief. The women cleaned the floor and one after next we all went for shower in the bathroom, this time!) I had been wearing the clothes I least cared about, but I don't know why it had not occurred to me that I should bring clothes to change. The family lent me a large, completely white Punjabi Muslim suit which looked horrible to me at first, but which was surprisingly comfortable. They all said I looked very beautiful in it, but it just looked so odd to me that I found it very difficult to agree! By the end of the day Sukhdev's wife went to look for the rest of the outfit (the matching pyjama trousers, the shall, and a bright blue HIDEOUS “thing” that goes over the top of it) because she thought I looked so beautiful in it that she wanted to give it to me. It is true that it was my size perfectly, which is a rare thing in India because I am quite a lot taller than the average Indian woman! Despite my discomfort I was genuinely moved by this gesture, and I could see myself wear it again (for special occasion perhaps?) (without the hideous blue addition...). I surprised myself with the ease with which I wore this odd outfit for the rest of the day; a few years ago I am sure I would have felt ridiculous. But then I would feel completely ridiculous if I wore this in Europe; it is funny to live in a country so different that even dressing feels altogether different. There are things I will clearly never were in India, and others that I will clearly never wear in Europe. It is funny how context is important with regards to the appropriateness of dress; as such it is obvious but I had never experienced it so intensively before.

And so, Holi was not always a pleasant day; I hid a lot in the house to avoid being completely soaked and stained and cold but I wasn't the only one to hide. Guruji's brothers and father didn't play either. It was about 2pm when it all ended, and although I had hardly taken part into the play and mostly spent time doing nothing, the intensity of it had made me so tired that after lunch I slept for close to two hours! Last time I had been so tired it was after Rita's engagement. It is amazing how intense Indian celebrations are for me... But I guess I am slowly getting used to it...

The rest of the day was pretty quiet – although perhaps for me only, because I was amazed at how noisy the house was with people talking from every corner... India is so incredibly loud. Or perhaps India is simply European experience multiplied by ten as a general rule...

In the evening I watched a little TV with my Guru's father. I like him. He hardly talks but it seems I make him smile and laugh a lot, and we enjoyed many moments of silent communication. I have always felt genuine respect towards him because I know he was my Guru's very first Guru , following generations of teaching traditional Indian classical music on and on and on. In India, the younger ones respect their elders, clearly unlike in the West, and I really love and appreciate that; perhaps from having worked in a nursing home. When it was time to leave, and after the Punjabi outfit trying session, everyone gave tika (the red mark on third eye, between eyebrows) to one another for goodbyes and respect. I know those moments well from the Khajuraho family now, and love them, although I don't use the “touch feet to heart” gesture much because as a foreigner I don't have much genuine reason too. But this time I had one, and despite the shyness from not being used to doing the gesture, I was happy to take part. It was the second time that I gave tika to Sukhdev but the first time that I gave him the “touch feet to heart” gesture, and it was good to express due respect to him in his own traditional way. I did it to his brothers and his father, too, and then I gave a tika to the women of the house – but they received a hug from me rather than the “touch feet to heart” gesture, which was no less lovely.

The family made sure they'd fed me before I left and Guruji gave me a lift home on his scooter. It had been all good but I was glad it was over.

Monkey licking soda off the floor

Monday, 9 March 2009

Violin joy and India love

My violin lesson with Sukhdev this morning was pure joy. Somehow I don't practise my violin as much as I could, because I want to focus on Hindi this month. But I do practise, and I am amazed at how quick progress does feel nonetheless. There are times when I think I must be doing this, not out of choice – but for a reason. But perhaps it is over-pretentious a statement, I do not know. I want to reiterate yet again how lucky and grateful I feel to be studying with Sukhdev; Fred and I were sharing the other day. With him also we were talking about deserving what happens in human life, that we all (human beings) are where we are supposed to be at a given moment in our lives. If we are there it is because we have to be there, somehow. It reminded me of what I had heard in an ashram last year, I can't remember which one – that if you find yourself in a Guru's ashram it is because He or She has accepted you. Therefore, whatever feeling of “not belonging” or “what the heck am I doing here” is in our heads only. And sometimes I feel like such a beginner at violin, and really wonder what I am doing amongst all these exceptional Indian traditional musicians at Sukhdev's house. But I guess I must deserve it, else I would simply not be here. The other day an incredible tabla player from Australia/Iran and a brilliant Indian sarangi player were practising for the concert they will perform in a few days, and I felt really blessed for being present during this private, impromptu session. After my class Sukhdev joined them and they played with such frenzy that it lifted everyone's spirit. Fred was there too as he was repairing another of Guruji's violin and adjusting the bridge on mine. We were sitting in a corner of the room, sharing our good luck in French.


Sukhdev and I have only been practising a few times with the tabla machine. I have only had time to practise maybe three or four times on Loreena's rhythm exercises. But today my alaap was wonderful. My skills at sliding and listening are getting sharper and I can reproduce pretty much everything he improvises on the spot, when just a few months ago it was such a difficult task that it scared me and made me feel very small. Now it has become a wonderful exchange with my teacher, and today's alaap was longer than it had ever been. We played and played and played, and Sukhdev for the first time moved on to show me alaap “with rhythm” - and I don't know how to say with words, I would have to sing it to describe it, but he was showing me those fast, crazy, amazing, beautiful things he usually does at the end of a composition, and as if out of miracle I could follow him pretty well and the rhythm did start to fill into my body; it was joy.

I am growing into Indian classical music, I do feel it, and I see myself dancing and moving at concerts now. It is growing in me, despite me. I don't know how to analyse it, I have no idea what raag I hear, I don't know what taal it is they are playing in (16 or 12 or 10 or 7 or whatever beat) but I am appreciating and enjoying it more and more.

It feels so strange that I am here somehow, when I consider how suddenly I “landed” into this new, Indian life. But more and more when I walk the streets of Varanasi I just want to stay and live here and explore, for a long time. I feel this is my place, this is where I am supposed to be and start building. I am tired of living and eating amongst the tourists; I want to move to a more local guesthouse, and I have found a local restaurant where the food is completely Indian style, not Indian style adapted for tourists. I speak Hindi more and more. It feels to me more and more like hanging out with westerners and eating easier food is cheating, and I don't want to cheat. If I am in India I have to live like an Indian.

Most of the time I do not remember my dreams. But two nights ago I had a strange dream, in which a man of about 60 years old had been looking for me because I was the reincarnation of his defunct wife. He had been looking for me, and when I asked him how he'd found me he replied it had been revealed to him after meditating for 10 hours. I forget the details but it was a stunning dream. And I never got to know the answer because I woke up before he told me, but I asked him if I had been Indian in my previous life. And last night, I dreamt that my house, a high building by the sea made of red bricks, had been destroyed by a tidal wave. When I was still half asleep it seemed to mean to me that my life was changing for good now...

On 11 March it will be Holi Festival, the festival of colours, although it already started slowly two days before the “official” date.Yesterday on the rickshaw to go to Sarnath with Yoeri we already saw some of the decoration lights in the streets, and some piles of wood and rubbish that will be burnt before the festival starts. It can be very intense, even violent with drunken men fighting apparently. Last year I was in Khajuraho for Holi and with the family women I had stayed in the house most day, although it is not so bad in a smaller place, I guess. People throw each other coloured powder or liquid and become completely multicoloured. Last year Vijay had just been out for 30 minutes and come back with his face dark green. He had cleaned it as soon as he'd got home but he was still green for three days. It is funny to see but I don't know how I would like to take part - and some of the colour they throw is made chemically – though some is natural. I hear it will be mad in the streets. But Sukhdev Ji has invited all his students to come to his house on the evening of the 10th, to stay overnight, and to play Holi with his family on 11th – safely within the house walls. It promises to be quite a special event...

Holi has started!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Life goes on; the routine settles and friendships form...

It seems like a lot suddenly happened in the last few days. Or perhaps that will sound like a pointless remark, since a lot seems to happen all the time in India. I might more accurately say that, whereas I felt somewhat lonely (not in a bad way) (and always studious) the first two weeks in Benares, I have suddenly met many people in the last few days. And it is lovely, but tonight I need a rest and some time alone.

Four days ago I changed room and moved to the one I had last September. It has a (tiny) bathroom inside and I find it more comfortable and practical than sharing (dirty) toilets and the shower room. I don't have to worry that someone may want to use them at the same time as me, and I don't have to go outside at night to pee, and I don't have to go too far to fill my pot with water for boiling. The first morning in my new room I spent a lot of time cleaning, and it is lovely and homely now – even more so because I know the room from September. And it is in a corner of the guesthouse building, more isolated from my neighbours which I prefer, and that also means it gets less dusty, somehow. Oh and I am far less exposed to the stealing monkeys!

It was Frederic, also studying with Sukhdev, who introduced me to Loreena. A forty-something (or perhaps a little less!?) Canadian woman, also Sukhdev's student, and who has been playing violin for twenty years. She is so bubbling with energy that I feel very shy and quiet in comparison. She too is studying Hindi, on her own to start with and only since last month or so, but she is learning very fast. It's good to talk about Hindi and violin of course and other things because we seem to have quite a lot in common. We agreed she would give me improvisation and rhythmic classes, which are more than welcome for my self-confident, improvisation-shy, and rhythmic-beginner self. She seems to arrive at the exact right time since I just started working with tabla with Sukhdev! Funny (read typical!) that I had just phrased out my non-desire to study Indian rhythm when (the following day) Sukhdev announced that we would start working with tabla. And it is hard! And I am shy and I feel awkward! But it does come slowly and I do acknowledge that despite the discomfort it is more than necessary... I also had a class with Loreena, and she gave me a good list of exercises to practise which I already feel will be very useful. Busy, busy, busy bee...

And my friend Yoeri from Belgium has arrived in Varanasi for two weeks! I have only known him since December, but there is something special about having a friend from Europe around in India, really. He is taking great advantage of my Hindi teacher quest and will probably take classes with the good ones I kept now! Talking of which, I am fully satisfied and happy with the Hindi classes now, really. I am learning tons; plenty of conversation with one, and a bombardment of great new structures and grammatical explanations with the other. The teacher today was very happy with how quickly I remember formulas and build new sentences, and he told me that I had brilliant language insight and that I would be a great teacher. It makes me so happy! And then when I come out of the classes, with the people around me or with Vijay on the phone, I practise all the new phrases to reinforce my memory. It is fun and it also make people laugh. That with the violin, I realised yesterday that I hadn't taken any rest since the start of my study-month, so I took an afternoon off with Yoeri, much needed for my brain full of Hindi. On Sunday, we will hopefully also visit Sarnath, the initial place of Buddha's teachings; it is just 20 km away from Varanasi.

The day before yesterday I was talking in Hindi with my conversation teacher when a young woman, sitting at a table across ours in the restaurant, starting to praise me for learning the language. My teacher left and we started talking and talking and talking. When I looked at my watch it was 22.30 and I realised I had completely missed the concert I had planned to go to! We had spoken for three hours. She had worked in an orphanage in Gujurat and had learnt Gujurati. She had spent time in rural India and in families and away from the tourists. She had been in India for six months and was about to renew her visa for another six. She is half-Italian and half-Scottish living in London but was even born in Edinburgh. And the best of all: we shared our names in amazement; hers is Yoletta! I had never ever met anyone with a name so close to mine, and she hadn't either! It is not often that I meet Westerners who are so deeply interested in, and have had much experience within the Indian culture. We had a lot to share and it was wonderful.

And I meet the friends of the people I meet. And this morning at my violin teacher's house I also met a French man from Corsica, who wants to meet me tomorrow. And next week my South Indian singer of a friend from Rishikesh will also be coming to Varanasi. And the week after next it will already be time for Vijay to come for a visit, now that he has married his sister and is free from work for a while...

But for now, the most important is the studying, and I shall not let all these beautiful encounters distract me.