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.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

From violin to Infinity

I am so happy about my violin practice again these days; that's all to do with playing with other souls at long last. Once the layers of judgment and discomfort are stripped, spontaneous music gives light to joy and energy - that bliss of the present moment.

I had started practising regularly with an Indian tabla student of my violin teacher's brother (my "guru-cousin") in September-October, but then life got in the way, we didn't meet for a couple of months, and I didn't know any other tablist I felt comfortable playing with either. After New Year I really wanted to start practising with tabla regularly again, and it seems like Life agreed with my plans, because I've practised with three different tabla players since January! Mostly I have resumed the practice with my "guru-cousin" from September-October.

I had been very cautious opening-up with him at first, as I always am with Indian young men - because men here too often only seem to be interested in foreign, female skin... Plus, in the tradition of arranged marriages, most young men here don't have much "romantic maturity", so they too quickly interpret friendship from a woman as romantic interest. Thus, for a long time we both stayed very shy, playing our respective instruments without communicating much other than nodding to each other to indicate one's turn to improvise. But he is a very disciplined, hard-working young man, and completely devoted to his religious and musical practice, and we are slowly getting to know each other both musically and personally. It has become totally comfortable and fun to play music with him now, and although still reserved, we're getting along well too. I know that many people think I'm cold or unfriendly when they first meet me here, as I am slow to open my heart up to others, but in India this attitude is a real saviour. Being too friendly too quickly with others here can be so distracting, and with Indian men it can lead foreign women into nasty situations. So I slowly open up and by the time I have done, Indian men clearly know that they have NO CHANCE!!!

So as we start enjoying our musical practice together, "my" young Indian tabla accompanist, whose name means "king of elephants", asked me a few weeks ago if I would play a concert with him in his temple for Shivaratri Festival (Shiva's night) on 20 February! My first solo!?! So I have started practising violin with him every morning in his place to prepare for the concert. "King of Elephant" is a young brahmin (priest) who half of the time lives in his tabla Guru's house and the other half lives in a small Shiva temple on the banks of the Ganges at the other end of Banaras where time seems to have stopped. At the age of 12 he came from another state of India to Banaras to receive dharmic (religious) teaching for three years in an ashram, followed by three years of Sanskrit at the Sanskrit University. Now he is responsible for the daily pujas (worship ceremonies) in this small temple over the Ganges, where he lives with his spiritual Guru. He lives in a very rudimentary room of the temple; on the floor of this tiny room he cooks chapatis, and on the same blanket on the floor he sleeps and plays tabla.

I first came all the way across to this area of the city to take yoga classes back in November 2010. I had loved the teacher, but at the end of the season I had decided to stop going because it was too hard sustaining the regular bicycle ride so far away at 7am, and it was taking too much of my time in the day which I preferred to dedicate to violin rather than yoga. But this "timeless area" of Banaras is also where "my" tabla accompanist lives, as well as the French clarinetist also previously mentioned, who is becoming a really good friend now. So again I cycle there regularly in the morning, not at 7am though and for violin reasons - with a good occasion to pay visits to my new girlfriend. :-)

I had not forgotten how much I loved going there. This part of Banaras feels so different from the area where I live, that it refreshes me every time I go. It is almost completely untouched by tourists and foreigners, and the locals there behave differently towards them. There is less cheating and pestering. The atmosphere somehow feels more pure and more authentic. It's only about 10km away from where I live, but it feels like I've travelled back 100 years into profound spiritual India. It is impossible to put it into words, but I feel blessed to be offered "access to such ancient authenticity". Going there makes me feel like the character of one of those books I read about old Banaras, Banaras that sacred old "City of Light" where Vedic spiritual teaching was still carried out in its purest, most authentic form, in a time where the poor and religious pilgrims were fed free food in dharmsalas (religious places). And I feel blessed to be practising Indian music with a devoted Indian who doesn't know English and only speaks Hindi with me and who is also a priest responsible for the daily pujas of his temple on the banks of the Ganges!

I am still and will probably always be puzzled by the fact that before "knowing India" I used to feel so "anti-tradition". My mind is adverse to remembering anything historical, I have had no catholic education whatsoever, I know nothing of the story of Jesus, I can't help but always forget the dates and meanings of festivals like Easter and Ascension, and I feel quite indifferent about celebrating Christmas! And then Life threw me into the land of deepest traditions; India!!! Although I have read many books about Yoga, Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda, Indian history and Hindu gods, I feel ignorant about Hinduism. Hindus' religious practices seem to me filled with beauty one day, yet totally absurd the next. I often wonder how it must feel to have a Hindu mind filled with so many fact-like interdictions and rules, such as the firm belief that "a married woman wears a saree" or that "going to a temple unshowered is a sin". There are tons of those interdictions and rules that I find absurd and senseless and ludicrous and even cruel; yet I feel completely comfortable and at peace in this old traditional city; I love speaking its language filled with yoga-related Sanskrit words and dressing myself in long, all-covering clothes, and it generally feels like this traditional place agrees with my disciplined state of mind, my temperament. I dream of knowing who and where I was in a previous life. Surely I was Indian at some point? It is completely beyond my comprehension, although today another thought came to my mind: It is perhaps just that beyond the nonsense of carrying out someone else's (our elders') rituals without really knowing why but with love and devotion, keeping tradition alive allows us to keep a connection with ancient times and back to infinity... like the flame that has been burning continually for centuries from which all cremations are started at Manikarnika Ghat. (I love this!) And perhaps then it doesn't matter which (ancestral or not) practice one does - as long as one does it with love and devotion. I don't do Hindu pujas in temples for I don't know how to do them, but I do feel like my little home is my temple and I care for it with love and devotion. With love and devotion I am also learning traditional music in a place where music and religion are intertwined...

I feel ignorant about history and religion because I wasn't there to see what happened and I don't remember facts, but maybe I love Banaras because here for the first time I feel history and religion. Maybe feeling history and religion just means feeling a connection to eternity. Maybe that is what makes Banaras such a special city and that is precisely where its unique atmosphere comes from...

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