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, 6 December 2011

At long last...

To read this entry, please email me to request an invitation.

If you already have an invitation, you can read the entry here.

Singing and sadhana

I started Indian singing classes about a month and a half ago, and I am enjoying them immensely. Although I am taking singing more lightly than violin practice, I feel indeed that it is bringing a lot to the violin practice as well, as the teacher is bringing a new light or angle to my Indian classical music training as a whole. In addition, it brings refreshment to my routine, as I am doing something completely new at the same time as learning something useful/relevant for the violin. The teacher is very friendly and slowly becoming a friend. He is the first Indian person I am having regular contact with who is exactly my age, which feels kind of new. As a teacher I feel he is also very open (as opposed to many traditional Indian teachers who would start teaching any student technical exercises for months/years before moving onto something more substantial), and he listens to what I'm looking for and giving me that exactly and more. I go to singing class just once a week, but we are already singing compositions that I would play on the violin, accompanied with tabla. It is also extremely useful for me to get used to the Indian notes (sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni), because although I know them well by now, the European notes (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si) are still terribly "anchored" in my brain while I play violin. So having to actually sing the Indian notes are finally helping me to get rid of my lazy brain's habit... I also love the fact that I am learning to feel the music through my body directly as opposed to feeling it through the instrument medium. This will be very beneficial because it will help me feeling the rhythm and the ragas more deeply.

Of course, I do need to work my voice in order to sing all the things I have to sing, and I am very happy to work on my voice. It is actually the first time in my life I am actively working my voice! This reminds me how phobic I used to feel about singing in front of others, how I used to sing in a choir in order not to show my individual voice to others and how much I was scared to even think about taking one-to-one singing classes. But today I sing in front of my teacher, and I use singing to teach violin, and I'm happy to sing! But I feel Indian classical music is a lot more an inward meditation than western music, which seems to me (most of the time anyway) outward performance to impress, and the former suits me and my conception of what music is all about: an Inward journey.

In order to have a more powerful voice, in addition to the raga/scale/rhythm practice I do in the day, I have started doing a Dhrupad practice every morning at 6am. It is total meditation and I love it SO much that it gives me the motivation to wake up that early every day, like no other practice ever did before! Normally one has to practise this at 5am, before sunrise, but I "grade" the work down a bit so I am able to do it. In Dhrupad, one has to work the lower octave of one's voice (i.e. the lowest notes) early morning before sunrise. That does make sense because lowest notes are clearly easier to sing in the morning than they are during the day! So, the practice consists in singing the four descending notes (sa, ni, dha, pa / do, si, la, sol / C, B, A, G) with mouth closed ("hmmm...") for 10 minutes each. So 10 minutes "hmm"/sa, 10 minutes "hmmm"/ni, 10 minutes "hmmm"/dha, 10 minutes "hmmm"/pa. I love it because this combines meditation, pranayama (breathing exercise), and voice work. It is just like an extended version of bhramari (a type of pranayama where during exhalation a soft humming sound like the murmuring of a bee is produced). During the practice I love concentrating on my breath and the vibrations which the sound creates in my body (tummy, heart, throat, head), which is also very healthy (it massages the internal organs)! The genius of this practice of lower notes is also that it gradually and naturally widens the singer's note range: Over time, as the singer can start singing lower notes, s/he can automatically produce higher and higher notes as well. I LOVE this!

I also love this practice because I have always felt that my body is extremely sensitive to vibrations, yet although I've always loved the idea of singing particular mantras in yoga for specific benefits, they have never worked for me. The same goes for singing kirtans and bhajans (religious chanting). And I know why: because if I did start believing in God thanks to Yoga, I could only believe in a shapeless, all-encompassing, energy-love kind of God, and I never got into singing the names of Rama or Shiva or Ganesha or any "belief-based" god in particular. I think this is also why I prefer the mantra "So Ham" which simply reflects the sound of the inhalation ("so") and that of the exhalation ("ham"). I know there is more to it, but this signification is the one that moves me. After all I am a very practical person; working on visualising my chakras has never worked for me because I need something tangible like working on feeling something like my limbs (Iyengar Yoga) or my breath, and focusing on something universal, unquestionable like body sensations and vibrations which I know and feel for real, rather than belief-based gods and goddesses. And that's also why I love the Dhrupad practice; because there is no more imposed meaning to it than what you do and feel while you do it. And because the benefits are real and I already feel them, the first being to love getting up for practice and to feel fresh and ready for yoga afterwards!

Music and yoga were always one and the same for me, and with singing it is even more. I start at 6am with Dhrupad practice which is meditation and breathing exercise and music at the same time, and then I feel more ready to practise one hour of yoga asanas (postures), as I have the time, the inspiration and the energy.

Yoga, meditation, music, vibrations, this is more and a journey, this is also looking after my physical and mental health. This is my daily sadhana (practice, quest) which I cherish and love, and which India turns more meaningful and vibrant everyday...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Devendra the Indian violin

I want to post more but I can't be bothered spending time on the internet. As usual. And I'd rather spend time practising.

I have started practising with tabla students regularly. It's so much FUN! I have finally passed the stage of self-confidence and fear and shyness and embarrassment for mistakes in front of other people. I can play just feeling this tightness in my tummy, and then it does go. Now the music flows out of me. Improvisation used to be such a scary and mysterious thing; now it happens to through me too. I have tons to learn and hours and hours to practise but it's fun, only fun. I love love improvising now. it flows and it's wonderful. I play faster, too...

And I have started Indian classical singing, to improve my improvisation and feel the ragas through my body more (in singing the body is the instrument so the music comes through you directly), to complement the violin work. So I practise 30 minutes to an hour everyday. I am no longer singing-phobic; it's magic. And I'm very very happy to work on my voice.

And I have a student! A violin student from my class at university to whom I give private tuition. I will give him class twice a week and he even wants to pay me (it feels weird!) He seems very excited about the violin, and very serious. We will see how it goes...

It is the first time in my life I am learning music full-time, wow and it was once just an inaccessible dream I was ashamed of having. But it's real now! I used to wonder why I started violin so late, and I used to feel so self-conscious of my playing because I started late, but now i'm just super grateful for having started it at all. Better late than never!

It was 7 years ago now that I bought this lovely lovely violin (which I named "Devendra" at the time, without knowing it was an Indian name - meaning "king of the Gods" - an Indian name for what was to become an Indian violin.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Explicit violin classes, implicit Hindi classes & a new girl-friend

I've just spent an intense month of violin classes with Guruji. Almost every morning I have been going to his house for class with a few (Indian) students from BHU (Banaras Hindu University), and in the afternoon I've been practising alone. I've been playing between three and six hours of violin everyday. But tonight Guruji is leaving to Mexico for two months, so I'm allowing myself a little break. It feels a bit funny thinking I'll have no teacher for two months, although I will still have plenty to do: Guruji has requested that our group of students keep practising together like in class once a week. We picked up my place for practical reasons (which I'm quite happy about as that will save me from sweaty cycling through Indian traffic - although I do enjoy cycling). Also, I will still be practising with the tabla student of Guruji's brother, so I'll still be going to his house and be able to practise in a “traditional musical family”'s atmosphere and energy. And anyway, I have tons of material to practise with alone, with less inhibition and more motivation as I get along, so I'm happy to give myself the challenge to impress Guruji with my progress when he returns after two months! :-)

But I started this entry wanting to write about my new friend. My new Indian friend. My new Indian girl-friend! That's quite exciting news because it is generally very difficult for foreigners to befriend Indian women. For one, married women don't generally go out of their houses much in traditional (and rural) families, and most of them seem very uninterested by anything that's too far away or too different from their traditional housewife lives, uninterested by anything inaccessible to them or outside of their world. And if one has the chance to speak with them, there isn't much topic for chat beyond traditional/religious and family life, cooking, and cosmetics/clothes... This is slowly changing in bigger cities, but obviously Varanasi being Holy Benares, it is still an extremely traditional place. Then, if girls and younger or unmarried women go out for school or university or whatever, they seem extremely shy towards Westerners or non-Indian people, and even if they do know or understand English they are usually very shy to speak it. Apart from Vijay's sisters, I had never developed proper friendship with an Indian woman in almost four years – until now.

Among our group of students who go to Guruji's house for class every morning there's one girl; she's studying on the final year of Violin Masters at BHU. It's funny because she is my senior of eight years at university, but at Guruji's house we are in the same class. She's very good; technically our level is similar although she's clearly more advanced than me in Indian music theory and knowledge, and more experienced in playing accompanied with tabla and performing on stage, as she regularly has to perform in BHU. It took us some time to start speaking as we are both slow in opening up to new people, and she's very young (21), and being an Indian girl she's quite shy, but she is curious and open and fun, and in comparison to most Indian girls it feels like she kind of “has guts”. Once we started talking we got along quickly.

I'm so very happy; because this is all thanks to my finally being fluent in Hindi. It's funny with Hindi and the violin, how every time after a three-month break in Europe I come back and my mind (and body in the case of violin) has clearly digested all the information learnt in the passed 6-8 months. With Hindi, it feels like my mind has digested all the information, freeing-up a lot of brain-space for more, and I suddenly (magically!) understand more Hindi and speak it better than three month before.

And so with my all-Indian group of classmates who go to Guruji's house (in India they are called “Guru-brothers/-sisters”) I've been speaking only Hindi, being part of an Indian circle for the very first time. And it feels amazing to be integrated in a group of Indians who share a common interest, not to be spoken to only because my skin is white or because I'm a female, and not to be considered like a foreigner, but to be spoken to because I am part of their group, because I'm just like them. That really feels special in India, and for me it feels like such an achievement that I truly feel blessed, and proud of myself for having conquered such a different language as Hindi! In India, it's all too easy to stay amongst Westerners, because deep contact with Indians takes so much time and effort, but I'm finally piercing through!

My Indian girlfriend and Guru-sister took me once to meet her small family (they live one hour away from Varanasi), which was absolutely lovely. She has also introduced me to her friends and classmates at BHU. She lives in one of the student residences for girls on campus, which I've already visited a few times to practise violin with her (and to avoid a 15-hour long power-cut at my place!) I've thus met quite a number of her room/house mates, and that, too has felt pretty amazing! Being with a group of Indian girls, talking about whatever I want freely, like girly things including the Mooncup (!) or boyfriends, music, and why they are shy to speak with foreigners!

Classes have finally started for me on the Violin Diploma at BHU. It's a bit funny because I'm in class with complete beginners, and yet I love it because the fact that I have joined BHU for music means I'm allowed in a new “Indian music circle”, which is very interesting on the “Hindi community” side of things. At the same time it is very nice to be let in whilst having no pressure, no homework because I can already play everything I've got to learn! Being a student without the tough part, only with the fun, socialising part of it! Yet “being the best” in class is also interesting, because the last thing I want is to “show off”. When the teacher asks me to play or show something in class I still feel very shy and self-conscious, therefore I have to focus inward to play it. In a way, I kind of have to “play the game” in the most humble way possible; I have to accept what the teacher tells me, going back to the basics without just thinking that “I know it all”, but paying attention to any aspect and feeling I can learn from. It is a funny situation and one I can learn from, because I am my classmates' senior in the explicit, violin subject whilst they are my seniors as far as the implicit, Hindi teaching side is concerned! Apart from violin practice classes there will also be one theory class per week, which is taught in Hindi. I know most of the content of the syllabus, which will help me focusing on understanding, and hopefully taking notes in Hindi. Perhaps I shall even take the challenge to sit the theory exam in Hindi at the end...?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Varanasi Year 3: Focus violin, routine & monsoon

I have been back in India for about a month and a half already. Quite a lot of paperwork later (student visa renewal and university registration amongst other things..), and a lot of lovely, quiet time in my Khajuraho family (including one week with Niko from Belgium) watching the cooling monsoon rain, sitting on the doorstep of the house and sipping chai, I have now been back in Varanasi “for good” for a week. My violin teacher is also back in India now, so I have resumed the violin classes.

And I have now completed my two-year Hindi Diploma; I passed with distinction. I am now registered on yet another diploma; Violin Diploma from the Faculty of Performing Arts in Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Wow that sounds quite serious (I find the “Performing” bit a little discomforting especially...) but it's a beginners' level starting at Level 0 so it shall not require too much of an effort from me, and I won't have more than four hours' class a week starting in September). At registration though, as soon as I told the Head of Department (that's my violin teacher's teacher, i.e. my “Grand Guruji”!) that I had been learning Indian violin for three years with his student, he suggested that I take an extra exam from a music school in Allahabad (3-4 hours from Varanasi) at the end of this academic year so I can skip two years next year and enrol on to the BMus (Batchelor of Music) in 2012-2013 instead of wasting my time on the over-easy three-year diploma. I have to say it's kind of interesting, but my teacher had been suggesting I enrol the Allahabad school alongside learning from him since the beginning (2008), and I didn't like the idea of studying music under pressure and having “music exams”, so I had declined the suggestion. One year later I joined the Hindi Diploma on top of learning violin so I didn't even consider the option of having extra music exams. Now I could take on his one extra exam this year, since the BHU diploma will be a peace of cake. However, after a postgraduate Business School degree, an MA in Human Resources Management, a PgDip in Developmental Linguistics, the CELTA (English teacher certificate), and an Undergraduate Diploma in Hindi, I think I should have enough collecting diplomas! As my little sister says, I am a student of the IES (Institute of Endless Studies)...

That said, I have until October to think about the extra Allahabad exam at the end of the year in view of skipping two years of over-easy Violin Diploma. Let us not forget though that I initially joined this diploma solely for student visa purposes... Ahem...

So my main focus this year shall be violin, since I'm “over” with Hindi. It feels funny to have dropped Hindi actually. Of course I haven't “dropped” Hindi as I speak it everyday, it's only the formal, exam bit that I've dropped, and I intend to carry on reading and practising writing (writing might be more of a tough one though...) in my own time and I may go to a private teacher from time to time after I've gathered enough questions for a class, but I won't be under pressure for Hindi. It does feel funny but it feels kind of liberating, too, because my main subject after all has always been violin. I “only” studied Hindi so I could function and communicate properly in India, and I made it “formal” by studying it at university so I could have a student visa. So now I can focus primarily on violin! And this year my teacher wants me to work intensely towards performing often with him, and practising with a tabla player.

So that will be three objectives for me this year:
  1. Performing on stage more and more – the scary discomforting “performing” bit – and working on my self-confidence. (I am good, yes, and I know it!) (well, most of the time...)

  2. Working towards integrating cyclic rhythm into my body and heart! Which shall be succeeded by hours and hours and hours (…) and hours of practising with a real tabla player (as opposed to a tabla machine). Timed improvisation (glups! No I'm not scared!) (Yes I am scared, but I will watch and go through the fear with love and faith!) (And playing with other musicians will take me out of my comfort zone and help me through working with self-confidence, yes, I know...)

  3. And a third one for myself; that's related to working towards integrating the rhythm: doing a lot of practising and exercise towards playing faster and faster...

And it started this week: My teacher has been organising some daily morning practice sessions with a couple of advanced BHU students, which I have been joining. And I will join them every morning on top of my ordinary private, customised afternoon classes... Lots of classes, lots of immersion, so I don't get the chance to drift off and get out of the mood... that's exactly what I need.

And apart from the violin, my lovely routine has resumed. My room is clean (that took a lot of work) and the trunks are open, stuff is out on the carved-in shelves. I am grateful, for I still so much love my room, the house, the family who are my landlords, their two grand-children who play and shout especially three-year old Dibya who's really got on talking now (there's something I find irresistible about children starting speaking when I've learnt their language as a second language!) The onion and potato seller still shouts in the same funny, nasalised voice when he passes down the street. The harmonium and the bells and the vedic chants from the ashram next door, the neighbours in their courtyard, whom I can see from my window chatting as loud as if they were in my room. And the cows, too, mooing as loud as though they were in my room! Oh how I love you, vibrant, lively, noisy, smelly Banaras! And my one-meter squared kitchenette is back in service, and I love it too. Squatting on my floor, I've cooked a lot this week, which I'm very happy about. It's all too easy to be lazy with cooking when you can go out and eat cheaply in India, which most non-Indians seem to do, especially when equipment is so rudimentary - no oven, no microwave, no fridge, no ready-made meals or quick fixes, oh and no dessert or nibbling a square of chocolate. Everything takes time to make, so easy-cooking soon becomes boring and same-y. There is little choice compared to what one can eat in the west - not much else than a cereal base (chapati, rice, pasta, maybe bread) and a vegetable dish. But time flies and prices do rise, and I want to be more careful with money this year... So I've been cooking every evening, simple, wholesome and lovely food. Always kind of the same, but I've been inspired and somewhat more creative, perhaps I find food less boring than I would in Europe because I do find the “mundane” stuff less boring than in Europe - perhaps because everyone leads a more simple life here? Or perhaps I'm just inspired to cook because season hasn't fully started, most of my friends have not returned yet so I'm not very socially active “yet”. Less distraction, more focus, which I am enjoying while it lasts and hope it carries on. It's too easy to get distracted in India, between going out for food, having a chai at the local stall, talking about life with the passer-bys. Time is slower here but it makes everything takes more time! But of course, this is precisely what is so irresistible about Indian life...

And apart from all that, the good, wonderful news is that it has rained a lot this year! A real monsoon, locals say. And the Ganga is higher than it has been for years. Indeed, I had never seen the Ganges waters so high and they are higher than when I first came to India in 2005! It makes me so happy to see a high, powerful Ganga. India is Green, and with all this cooling rain, apart from just a few days, I have not suffered from the weather at all. Where did last year's Sweatyland go? I have forgotten all about those unbearable nights when the fan stopped and I started bathing in my own sweat! And it's so nice! And it's almost September already and when the “-ember” months come in India, so does the most pleasant season...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Partage & Culture Sarasvati (English!)

Partage & Culture Sarasvati

Association Loi de 1901
SIRET no.: 44787364700013

Sharing material, sensitive and spiritual wealth

The association acts in an artistic, educational, and social scope. It promotes exchange between human beings and relationships between cultures. It works towards raising funds to initiate or participate in supportive activities targeted to meet specific needs. It contributes to the training of men, women and children, and their participation in artistic, cultural and educational practices.

Partage & Culture Sarasvati (français)

Partage & Culture Sarasvati

Association Loi de 1901
SIRET no.: 44787364700013

Partager des richesses au niveau matériel, sensible et spirituel

L'association agit dans un champ d'intervention artistique, éducatif, social et solidaire. Elle favorise le partage entre les hommes et les relations entre les cultures. Elle s’emploie à trouver des fonds pour initier ou participer à des actions de soutien ciblées répondant à des besoins. Elle contribue à la formation des hommes, des femmes et des enfants, à leurs participations à la pratique artistique, culturelle et éducative.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

India, here I come yet again...

In three days I will be in India again.

Time has flown as always, and I have had a lovely, valuable time in Europe. From Lille (France) to Edinburgh (UK), Intres & Valence (France) to Geneva (Switzerland), Munich (Germany) and back to Lille again. From Brussels to Liege (Belgium) and back to Lille again. From Lot (south France), up to Fursac and back to Lille again. From Edinburgh again and back to Lille yet again. One weekend in Paris, and back to Lille again.

I've checked my health, refurnished my stock of magnesium chloride and clay and grapefruit seed extract and nature-friendly tummy medecine, and bought other practicals that are difficult to find in India.

Apart from my family, I mainly met Indophile or Indian friends this year. Although I had a lovely time with all, I think the best time I had was with my franco-Indian friends and my violin teacher in Lot. It felt so right to be with them doing what we were doing, like being with family doing something I could do for the rest of my life.

This year whilst in Europe, I stayed focused on my Indian path; it clearly felt like opening my western violin and seeing old-life's friends would be too much of a distraction. I've listened mostly to Indian music and I didn't even make it to a western music concert this year. It would have been lovely of course, but somehow it didn't happen. The only three concerts I made were those of my Indian violin teacher and of kathak dance. I had a few Indian violin classes and I managed to practise more violin than I had last year in Europe. I wanted to listen to Indian music more, and I met an Indian violin player who lives near my father's place. And I made a website for my Franco-Indian friends' wonderful association Partage & Culture Sarasvati.

India, even in Europe

Maitryee Mahatma

So when I arrive in India I'll have to register on the violin diploma in Banaras Hindu University, and extend my student visa. I'm looking forward to seeing how that diploma goes. I may not need to go to classes much as I can already play violin and I'm starting the diploma at beginner's level, but I'm excited to have Indian classmates this year, and to be taught in Hindi. There will only be private classes for Hindi per se now, and I should be more "free" university-wise. I wonder how this year will change from last year. I may well be less taken by the university diploma, but this year I've accepted a kind of "communicator-facilitator" job in India, to help organising a tour for my violin teacher's Swiss-African-Indian music & dance project; that will be a new experience, it might or might not turn out lucrative, but it doesn't really matter. In any case, I shall learn a lot from it, and then I will see where that takes me...

Friday, 15 April 2011


wow. i haven't written on this blog since early january.

i'm back in europe for three months now and i don't really have anything to say.

hindi exam and diploma over. violin still going on, for as long as life will allow. it feels like i'm no closer to where i want to be, but of course each day is closer than the previous day, so it's ok.

now let's see how those three months will pass by. i'm flying back to india on 8th july.

wow the roads are so empty and quiet round here! i miss the animals, the smells and the noise, the dirt, the mess, the vibrancy...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Winter/New Year

Vijay came for two weeks; it was lovely to have him with me for so "long". I played the concert on Assi Ghat on the big stage on 18 December. It had scared me so much but I enjoyed the 25 minutes and wanted to play more. True, my microphone was pretty low so I didn't have to worry much about making mistakes! We played fusion music, "east meets west", eight musicians altogether, including a fantastic didgeridoo player from Holland/France whose instruments and skills fascinated the Indians so much that we could almost see their mouths drop from the big stage. As soon as he played a sound they clapped. Because of him, we featured in three local newspapers the next day!

We played with this band twice more, including on New Year Eve. That night wasn't so pleasant for me as I had to learn a (simple) piece of Irish music in two days; yet that part was definitely what I enjoyed playing most. My teacher is really kicking my arse hard, if I may put it that way. He'll tell us exactly what to play at short notice and with little practice so we play more spontaneously on stage. It is very challenging for my "shy little girl" side who wants to be prepared and perfect and who feels inferior compared to the other, professional, musicians. But the Indian way is different, like I said in a previous post. It doesn't matter if you play two notes out of a concerto; you're joining in, you're learning, and that's what matters. No Indian will look at you thinking you look crap for not playing. It's OK, and who cares!??! I am learning. Violin and also shedding the self-consciousness issues I've had for years when it comes to "playing music in front of people". It's moving. It's difficult and it has got me to shed tears, but mostly it's fun, I feel better every concert, and my teacher is happy with my performance. So it's all good.

Christmas was lovely too. We celebrated Christmas properly for the first time in perhaps five years. With Marie-Christine and Jerome, some French and Indian friends, Vijay of course (who was celebrating his first Christmas), Marie-Christine's wonderful cuisine, some music from my computer, a Christmas tree, a cake, and some presents. It felt like I was in my Varanasi family.

Vijay is gone now, and the cold has seriously arrived in Varanasi. My computer says it's 9 degrees, and yesterday's newspaper indicated peak temperatures of 18 degrees, and 4 degrees at night. I am a lot better equipped than last year though so I'm not suffering as much. This year I have my sleeping bag, in which I sleep under three blankets (head away from the window!) I have a hot-water bottle in case, although I haven't used it and I don't think I will have to. I am blessing my thermos for the hot water I drink all day, and I am very happy that I brought thick tights because I can wear them under my jeans/trousers. Oh, and this super-warm fleecy-woolly jacket I bought in Rishikesh is wonderful; of all "pieces of equipment" it's probably that which makes this winter bearable/pleasant. I wear it all the time. Of course no heating in badly isolated Indian houses means I wear 5 layers and feel like a bloated chamallow at all times, but I'm well-warmed up and this is what matters. No-one seems to care about looks in India and I love it!

I am still going to my new yoga teacher twice a week, despite the cold. It's hard to get up in the morning because the outside world is a lot colder than the cosy world of blankets and sleeping bag, but it does me a lot of good; that and the cycling. Hindi has started again now, which I'm enjoying after the break... 2011 will be a deciding year of change for me... I shall strive to welcome it with love and faith...

I have decided to apply for another degree in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) so I can carry on extending my student visa. I feel guilty for not working but I love this Indian life, and shall let it last whilst it can... I no longer want to study Hindi formally as I have reached a level now that allows to carry on learning on my own, reading, speaking, and generally speaking living in India. So I will apply for a degree in violin/Indian music! I have to start from first year which means I will start at beginner's level. It's OK, it's mainly for visa reasons, and the fact that it should be too easy for me means it should allow me to be to spend more time with Vijay/away from Varanasi. The theory part taught in Hindi does sound exciting though... We will see...