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!

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...