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.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Saturday, 25 October 2014

10-year violin anniversary!

Today is my 10-year anniversary of being a violinist! Ten years ago today I bought my wonderful toy, my baby, my joy, from the amazingly talented Steve Burnett, and I started learning violin - and changing my life... Look, look, look! ♥ (& this is the journey... ♥)


I have been feeling really good about the violin recently. The "super-fast" practice seems to be paying off, finally, after about 2 years of hard work and frustration. My shoulder doesn't even hurt anymore, and I've also finally taught myself to tap the beat with my knee or foot whilst sitting crossed-legged, in order to be able to follow the rhythm cycle while I play. It started off such a pain and so much frustration that I was feeling emotionally exhausted after 10 minutes. So I would give up regularly, but today I can almost "dance" continuously while I play and improvise, and it has really helped me to integrate the cycle a step deeper into my mind and body... Recently I've also forced myself to count "1, 2, 3, 4" out loud every 4 beats while I improvise. It was a small torture at first, but it's almost easy now, and it feels like my brain can focus a lot better on two things at the same time, playing and "seeing" the cycle somehow. It feels like I can breathe more, like it has given me freedom and a sense of space, and more confidence also. I guess it has literally helped me expand my consciousness...

And I have two concerts coming up in November:

Firstly I have been invited to play a concert in Rajasthan, on 28 November! It is an American acquaintance I was meeting in the River Ashram since three years, who works on a cultural project in Jaipur. He has to organise concerts for his work and he loves the sound of my violin and so he asked me to play in concert! I have only played two solos so far and I (still!)(obviously!) lack performance experience, so I'm a little anxious about the concert, but I am also very happy and grateful for this opportunity to grow! So I have asked a (new) friend (for new friends come into our lives at the right time!) who plays beautiful flute (bansuri) and is an experienced performer to play a duet with me. Because I want to start playing with other instrumental musicians! Listening to one another and getting renewed inspiration... So we've been working towards this wee project... He teaches me a lot...

Secondly, following my meeting with Saskia and Shubhendra Rao, Saskia asked me if my Khajuraho student would accompany the school kids for their school concert on 14 November, in Delhi! At first I didn't register the offer, as I was myself quite intimidated to meet Saskia for the first time, and I was dealing with my own emotion. So I told her it would probably be difficult to "take him out of his family" and bring him to Delhi, as he's just 13. But a few days later Saskia's question popped back into my head and I thought "Hell no! It won't be difficult!" We're not in "all-regulated" Europe here, and Udit belongs to Vijay's extended family so it won't be a problem if I travel with him and Vijay to Delhi. It is a wonderful opportunity and there is no way I should let it go. And so Vijay went to ask Udit's parents and they agreed to let him go to Delhi with us. When I asked Udit if he wanted to play on a big stage in Delhi, he screamed with delight! So I have already sent him the recording of the first song we have to play along with the notation, and four days later he phoned me, played it to me, and it was almost perfect already. I will go to Khajuraho from 4 to 12 November and I just have another small song to teach him in those 8 days, before we head off to Delhi... It will be wonderful to take my young countryside-student to the big city for a concert and for him to meet other (& great!) musicians!!!

Happy, happy, happy! ♥

Monday, 29 September 2014

(Sham)poo-free: still getting better!

This one will just be a wee update. I didn't really think I would post again on my poo-free experience after my last post, but it's 14 months on, and I'm amazed to notice that my hair is still changing and reacting to its new environment... I can now wash my hair (with soap nuts or baking soda) not after 5-7 days, but after 10 days of just rinsing with water!

I wonder if one day I'll get to the stage where I don't need to wash my hair with anything but water, like this lady...? Let's see... I shall keep posting...

I just want to exclaim: THE HUMAN BODY IS AMAZING!

This got me reading from people with longer no-poo experience than me, so here are a couple of really interesting articles below, and a video...

  • I haven't used shampoo in 2 years and my hair has never looked better (telegraph.co.uk)
  • 3 hair without shampoo (thehairpin.com)
  • Why I haven't washed my hair in 3 years (independent.co.uk)
  • This girl hasn't washed her hair in 5 years! (youtube.com)
  • Monday, 22 September 2014

    Finally meeting Saskia & Shubhendra Rao!

    About four or five years ago someone gave me a recording of a cello & sitar concert. I don't remember at all who gave it to me. All I remember is that I couldn't stop listening to it, and that for an entire year I had no idea who the musicians were because no names were displayed on the screen of my crappy mp3 player. Finally, when I came back to Europe I bought myself a laptop and transferred my small mp3s collection onto it. One day I played the cello & sitar recording and, oh wow! My computer did display the musicians' names!

    This is how I finally got to know about the cellist Saskia Rao de Haas and sitarist Shubhendra Rao. I did a search on the internet and found out that they were husband and wife, she was Dutch, and they lived in Delhi. I became quite obsessed with them and again I couldn't stop listening to the recording. I just loved that she played Indian music on a cello and that she was a European woman married to an Indian man (I wasn't yet, but one day I would be one too) and that she lived in India. She kind of became an ideal and inspiration to me, even though I felt very small in comparison, and I really wanted to see them both in concert one day. A while later I added them on Facebook to be notified of any future concerts...

    Maybe a year after that I had to go to Delhi so I dared sending her a message: "I'm going to Delhi for a few days. Do you have any concerts coming up by any chance?" She didn't, but she gave me her phone number and told me to give her a ring from Delhi! Once there, even though I felt shy and "inadequate", I dared to phone her. I never got the time to go and meet her though, and it was probably best because I really felt far too shy, and Vijay felt too uncomfortable about visiting a stranger. Yet we did talk quite a while on the phone, even though I have no idea how the words came out of my mouth because I didn't know why she should be interested in me. She was really nice and friendly though...

    About another year later I found out that she was going to play a concert in Delhi at the occasion of an album release, on 20 September 2012. I couldn't wait any longer. I contacted her and said I was going to come to that. Saskia was very welcoming, I got really excited and I bought my train ticket. Just a few hours before I was due to leave though, I received an email from the French embassy, in which it was strongly advised not to go to Delhi that day because some violent riots were going on near the train station! I couldn't believe it! I called the embassy to get some more information, and then Saskia to hear her opinion on the matter. In the end I cancelled my ticket and didn't go to Delhi...

    Time passed. I went to Delhi a few times but never long enough to dare to phone her again, or I was busy with other things anyway. Many years had passed since I had discovered this mp3, and I still hadn't seen her in concert or met her. And why did she never play any concerts in Varanasi? Perhaps I just wasn't ready to see her now, but I knew it would happen one day... One day...

    I regularly kept checking Facebook for any concerts nearby... In the beginning of August I saw that husband and wife had founded an association, the Shubhendra & Saskia Rao Foundation, to promote and improve musical education for children in schools... Interesting!

    I have to admit that when I'm in Khajuraho, I tend to check Facebook a little too much when I feel lonely. Especially after a long time feeling isolated in my small Indian woman's life in traditional family, I start missing my Banaras friends and my exciting musical life... I don't have "proper" friends as such in Khajuraho, and so Facebook is a bit of a way-out for me... And then they posted a new entry, but that one really caught my attention. It said: 'Teacher Training Program' introductory meeting on Sunday. Want to become a trained music teacher? Want to know more about the program? Come join us... Interested, but busy on Sunday? We have more meeting coming up soon.

    Now that entry was not going to stay in the unreal world of Internetland! I just couldn't let it go; it had to become reality! I couldn't stop thinking about it... With a pounding heart I grabbed my phone and dialled Saskia's phone number... She was really happy that I was interested in the project and wanted to know more about it. Living in Khajuraho and Varanasi I wasn't sure how I would be able to help them in the near future, but even though I only have one student in Khajuraho at the moment I too teach music to children, and after all we too are starting a new music school with the Partage & Culture Sarasvati association. So it would be great if I went and see how Saskia worked! She was really friendly and suggested that I come to Delhi mid-September, to go to the school with her and see how she taught. Later she also suggested that I stay with a student of hers, Nawa.

    I was really excited. It was going to happen now! Not only I was going to meet Saskia, finally, but also Life had provided me with a brilliant reason to meet her!

    And so I went to Delhi from 14 to 19 September. I had an amazing time staying with Nawa and her flatmate, a sitar student. With Nawa and Saskia I taught music to girls in the Nizamudddin school. I felt completely in line with the way they teach music. On my last day I also took a violin class with Saskia which overwhelmed me with emotion and offered me a new way to enrich my practice... I have to say it was also really interesting to stay in a wealthy area of Delhi and to get a taster of the city's music scene! And the best in all this is that it feels like this is just the beginning of a beautiful collaboration...!

    More information:

  • Official Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation website
  • Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation on Facebook
  • Interview by Shubhendra Rao in Outlook India
  • Delhi-based musicians Shubhendra and Saskia Rao are all set to take music education to every child: The Hindu
  • Article about the launch of the Shubhendra & Saskia Rao Foundation in the Stateman
  • Thursday, 28 August 2014

    Overdue update

    I've been writing quite a lot on my confidential blog recently but nothing on here...

    I am still in Khajuraho, and I'll have been here most of the time since 15 May! I did go back to Banaras at the beginning of this month, but in the end I only stayed there for about a week and came back to Khajuraho for Raksha Bandhan. I thought we would visit Vijay's sister but it hasn't happened, and I'm still here because we are doing up our new room and I want to have my say in the works... And as we all know, "Indian-style" timing is pretty sloooooow, and so the works are taking longer than expected. The plumber was supposed to come in two days; on the third day he still hasn't come, so Vijay goes to try and find him but he can't, so he checks another one who will come on the fourth day, in the end the first plumber agrees to come, but on the fifth day he hasn't come because it was raining... Ya know - this sort of thing!

    And so I've been keeping myself busy writing, and in the last week mainly designing a new website... But now that I've done all I could do on it I'm really missing my life in Banaras, especially my musical friends! I'm still teaching my young student Ajay here though, which is great fun. He is now my only musical companion here and thank God I have him, because I have stopped teaching the music teacher's son who has now gone to another city for his studies. Besides I have finally stopped going to his father's music classes because he no longer has time to teach me anything, and I'm bored with accompanying the children because I no longer feel I learn from it and most of the time there's nothing to play because the kids are not ready and I just sit and wait... It seems the flame has gone out and I'm also bored with the teacher's traditional narrow-mindedness, whilst he seems tired of my silliness and playfulness. He is just too serious for me and I think music should just be fun! I just feel I no-longer have a proper space in that school, and it's probably a good thing that I move on...

    I love teaching Ajay more than ever though, and he keeps surprising me with his initiative, with how quickly he grasps things, with how excited he is about learning music. I love teaching him because he only has me, and with him I do what I want. Recently I've also been writing harmonies for some of the bhajans I did learn with the music teacher, and now I try them on with Ajay. I must say he is a much better audience than the music teacher! Ajay really loves my harmonies! So I teach him the songs as I've been taught them, and when he's ready to play them well I play the second voice with him. It brings a new dimension to our play, a new wee happy dimension...

    Monsoon was very shy this year. It hardly rained, really. Now the temperatures have dropped somewhat, it's not too hot, but it's super-humid so we just sweat like beats constantly. The worst time of my day is when I have to switch off the fan to broom the house... After the tasks is done I have to sit for 10 minutes by the air-cooler to dry myself. Obviously I also ended up removing my necklace, my anklets, my bracelets and two of my rings, because they give me red, itchy rashes! No space for being lady-like in Sweatyland! I could take a shower but after 5 minutes it's just the same so I prefer to save water (and electricity)... So yeah: we just have one or two months left to go in Sweatyland, but compared to the hell of June, this is nothing! And in two months, I'll be able to wear jeans again! Horrah!

    And I long to go back to Banaras (even though the sticky-and-sweaty-ness will be worse than here), and indeed I hope I will return to my "fully-independent" life in a week or so. Actually I have quite a few exciting musical projects coming up and I'm really looking forward to start working on them. But for now, while I am in Khajuraho they are just... pending...

    Wednesday, 20 August 2014

    On Indian women's conditions & conjugal matters

    To read these two entries, please email me to request an invitation.

    If you already have an invitation, you can read them here:
    Part 1 & Part 2

    Monday, 28 July 2014

    Travelling with the family

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

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

    Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    A year without shampoo & how to wash your hair with reetha (soap nuts)

    (La même page en français!)

    Today is a big day for me! Yes, today is my first anniversary of being poo-free. I have not used shampoo for a whole year, and I am still delighted about this change in my life.

    I have not written anything about being poo-free for six months, yet my hair has changed and my experience has evolved further since then.

    (1) The first thing is that it will have taken about 8 or 9 months to make a difference, but now I really lose my hair a lot less than I used to. And here in India I used to lose my hair more during the hot season, but those days of are over, finally.

    (2) The second thing is that it took me quite some time, but I have finally learnt how to use reetha (soap nuts) properly. It used to clean my hair well sometimes and badly at other times; now I finally have the hang of it. As a result I have also grown to like reetha more than baking soda, which I only use when it is inconvenient to soak reetha overnight, for instance after a night on the train or if I have forgotten to soak it the day before I want to wash my hair.

    And so for my first anniversary, I have decided to write a detailed guide on how to use reetha/soap nuts properly - or at least how I use it and how it works for me. Because most of the websites I found on going "poo-free" talked about baking soda only, and because I only found (very few) websites explaining how to wash hair with powdered reetha, but absolutely no-one that explained how to use soap nuts in their natural form!

    NB: Soap nuts are a cheap local product for me because I live in India! I am aware that they are very expensive in Western countries; still they can usually be found in organic/health food shops so feel free to try! If they are too inconvenient/pricey for you, there's plenty information on how to use baking soda in the list of links below!

    (1) Preparation:

    In the evening of the day before washing your hair

    It's very simple, but you have to remember it. If you wash your hair in the morning, the evening before put some soap nuts in a bowl of water. Some people use hot water, but I don't find this necessary if the nuts are going to soak all night.

    - My hair is quite long and I use 8 to 10 nuts. It is important that the nuts are open before you soak them, since the soap is secreted from inside the nuts. To open a nut you can use a knife to cut through its soft top and crack it open. Alternatively, if you think about it, about 3-4 hours after soaking the nuts are soft and easy to open by hand. A round black stone comes out from each nut; you can remove them from the water if you want as you won't use them.
    - Do not add too much water, otherwise the soap will be too diluted and it will not wash well. I pour about 2 cm of water in a medium-sized bowl, like on the picture below.

    In the morning before shower

    You will need:
    - the soapy water in which the nuts have soaked overnight; it should be dark yellow/brownish.
    - the juice of a lemon in a small cup, topped-up with water, for conditioning;
    - a clean comb. I use a wooden comb which I regularly clean using soda becarbonate and a toothbrush.

    (2) Hair washing with reetha:

    Remove the nuts from the water and keep them aside, as they still contain some soap and you will be able to soak and use them again. Throw away the black stones. The water is now soapy, and it should be quite dark yellow in colour like on the photo above. If it's too limpid it won't wash your hair well enough.

    Pour the soapy water little by little onto your wet hair - tilt your head back so that the water won't go into your eyes, as the soap stings them badly! Pour a little water, massage your head; pour a little more, massage, and so on. If your hair is long it's handy, because the length of your hair will get very foamy with reetha whereas your scalp won't! I use the length of my hair as a "glove" to massage my scalp, so it gets a little more soapy and it washes better.

    After you have poured all the water and massaged your scalp and hair well, rinse well.

    (3) Conditioning with lemon-water

    Slowly pour all the lemony water onto your head and hair, tilting your head back so the lemon juice won't sting your eyes. Comb your hair as you would do with an ordinary conditioner. The hair is easy to comb as the lemon juice makes it nice and soft. Rinse well.

    That's it!

    (4) Remarks

    - Reetha doesn't wash out oil well, so I no longer put oil in my hair (I never did much anyway, but this is a problem for many Indian woman because they are used to putting oil in their hair!)

    - The soapy water is cold by morning time, and it may be chilly to pour cold water onto yourself! I live in India where I shower in cold water half of the year anyway because it's so hot, thus it doesn't matter, but in the winter I prefer to tilt my head forward so the cold water won't run down on my body - in which case you have to be extra careful not to put any soapy water in your eyes - it really hurts, your eyes get all red, and it takes a while to wash out...

    - You can use apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice for conditioning. It works in exactly the same way; instead of the lemon juice simply pour a tablespoon of vinegar (same amount as the lemon juice) in your cup and top it up with water. Pour it onto your hair and head, comb your hair, rinse well.

    - It is not actually necessary to condition your hair with lemon/vinegar after using reetha, but the wet hair after washing it with reetha feels kind of "papery" and uneasy to handle. Although the hair feels normally soft once it has dried, I prefer to condition it with lemon water, as it makes it really soft and easy to comb.

    - In theory you can reuse the soap nuts 2-3 times more. I find that for hair washing though, they don't work well a second time. So what I do is I keep the used nuts of two washes and then only I use them to wash my hair. In other words, I need 8-10 new nuts but 16-20 used nuts to wash my hair well.

    - I wash my hair with reetha (or baking soda) about once a week. In between two washes I massage my hair in plain water everyday as this keeps it clean for longer. (And in India it's a great thing because there is so much dust that it gets grubby quite quickly!) Note that in a hot country like India, half of the year I shower in cold water which doesn't clean the hair as well as hot water! And in the winter I rinse my hair (with hot water) every two days only because I don't feel like wetting it every single day.

    (5) Results

    - My hair is silky and soft (OK, it always was!)
    - It falls a lot less.
    - As a result it feels more voluminous.
    - It gets greasy a lot less quickly, and when it is greasy it doesn't show as much as it used to.

    My dirty hair after 6 days of just rinsing with water, before I wash it with reetha:

    It doesn't look too bad when my hair is tied-up, even after a week!

    My hair just after I have washed it with reetha:

    (6) More information on how to go poo-free:

    On how to quit shampoo using baking soda & vinegar:
    Shampoo Free from Now On! - with photos!

    On washing hair only with water!
    Beyond no poo only with water - I have not tried this I have to say...

    On washing hair with natural powders, including reetha powder:
    (French only)
    Joséphine au natur'elle
    Poudres pour les cheveux

    Comment se laver les cheveux aux noix de lavage ("ritha")

    Aujourd'hui est un grand jour pour moi! Et oui, c'est le premier anniversaire de ma nouvelle vie "poo-free", c'est-à-dire sans shampooing, et je suis ravie de ce changement! J'ai déjà écrit plusieurs articles sur ce blog depuis que j'ai arrêté le shampooing (ici) mais ils sont en anglais. Aujourd'hui j'ai décidé d'écrire en français pour tout ceux et celles qui me demandent des traductions...

    J'ai commencé l'aventure en utilisant du bicarbonate de soude et du jus de citron, comme indiqué sur la plupart des sites "poo-free" notamment celui-ci (le seul que j'ai trouvé en français). Cependant j'ai découvert après quelques mois (et après 6 ans en Inde!) que les noix de lavage (la ritha) sont un produit local pour moi, et qu'elles servent aussi bien à laver le linge que les cheveux! Aucun site internet n'expliquait comment s'en servir mais j'avais déjà essayé pour le linge, alors j'ai tenté le coup... Les premiers mois ce n'était pas toujours concluant. Parfois mes cheveux étaient magnifiquement propres, d'autres fois la ritha les laissait un peu gras et je devais les relaver après trois jours. J'aurai mis du temps mais depuis que j'ai compris le truc, et je vais l'expliquer ci-dessous, les noix de lavage fonctionnent à merveille à tous les coups. Aujourd'hui je les préfère au bicarbonade de soude, que j'utilise désormais quand il n'est pas pratique de faire tremper les noix la veille de me laver les cheveux, par exemple si je veux me les laver après une nuit de train ou si j'ai oublié de faire tremper les noix.

    Au final la période de transition (cf. le site) n'aura pas été trop difficile pour moi, d'autant plus qu'en Inde je m'attache souvent les cheveux car il fait chaud, et que la plupart des Indiens s'huilent les cheveux alors l'effet "gras" ne choque personne ici! Par contre cela aura pris 8 ou 9 mois pour que la difference soit visible: je perds nettement moins mes cheveux qu'avant.

    Et donc pour mon premier anniversaire sans shampooing j'ai décidé d'écrire un guide détaillé expliquant comment utiliser les noix de lavage - où du moins, comment je les utilise et comment elles fonctionnent pour moi. Parce que jusqu'ici je n'ai trouvé qu'un seul site internet parlant de la ritha pour laver les cheveux, et il explique seulement comment l'utiliser en poudre. Hors ici je trouve les noix telles qu'elles. Alors en avant pour ma contribution dans le monde sans shampooing!

    Note: Je sais que les noix de lavage sont très chères dans les pays occidentaux (ce qui explique que la plupart des sites "poo-free" traitent du bicarbonate de soude), mais on les trouve quand-même dans les magasins bio si vous voulez essayer. Si elles sont trop chère ou introuvables pour vous, j'ai ajouté en bas de la page une liste de sites expliquant comment arrêter le shampooing en lui substituant le bicarbonate de soude. Désolée, la majorité de ces sites est en anglais, mais comme je l'ai déjà mentionné plus haut, celui-ci est en français.

    (1) Préparation:

    La veille au soir, si vous vous lavez les cheveux le lendemain matin

    C'est très simple, mais il ne faut pas oublier de le faire sinon c'est rapé! Si vous vous lavez les cheveux le matin, faites tremper les noix dans un bol d'eau la veille au soir. On lit parfois que l'eau doit être bouillante, mais je ne trouve pas que ce soit nécessaire si les noix vont tremper toute la nuit.

    - Mes cheveux sont longs et j'utilise de 8 a 10 noix. Il faut absolument que les noix soient ouvertes avant de les faire tremper, car le savon est sécrété à l'intérieur de la noix. Pour ouvrir une noix coupez-la sur le dessus avec un couteau et cassez-la. C'est un peu dur, mais vous pouvez aussi la casser à la main 3-4 heures après qu'elle aie trempé car elle aura ramoli et s'ouvrira facilement. Il y a un gros noyau noir dans la noix, vous pouvez le jeter, vous n'en aurez pas besoin.
    - Ne mettez pas trop d'eau, sinon le savon sera trop dilué et la ritha ne vous lavera pas bien les cheveux. Moi j'ajoute environ 2 cm d'eau dans un bol de taille moyenne, comme sur la photo ci-dessous.

    Le matin avant la douche

    Vous avez besoin de:
    - l'eau savonneuse dans laquelle vos noix ont trempé toute la nuit. L'eau doit être jaune foncée à tendance brune;
    - le jus d'un citon dans une petite tasse auquel vous rajoutez de l'eau pour remplir la tasse, comme démélant;
    - un peigne propre. J'utilise un peigne en bois que je nettoie régulièrement avec du bicarbonate de soude et une brosse à dents.

    (2) Se laver les cheveux avec les noix de lavage:

    Retirez les noix de l'eau et gardez-les de coté car elles contiennent encore du savon et vous pourrez les réutiliser plus tard. Jetez les noyaux si vous ne l'avez pas fait avant. L'eau savonneuse doit être jaune foncée à tendance brune comme sur la photo ci-dessus, si elle est trop limpide elle ne vous lavera pas bien les cheveux.

    Mouillez vos cheveux. Versez l'eau savonneuse petit-à-petit sur votre tête, en la mettant en arrière pour ne pas que l'eau entre en contact avec vos yeux, parce qu'attention ça pique! Versez un peu d'eau, massez, versez encore un peu d'eau, massez etc. jusqu'a ce que vous ayez massé tout votre cuir chevelu et la longueur. C'est pratique si vos cheveux sont longs, car l'eau savonneuse mousse sur la longueur mais pas sur la tête! Moi je me sers de la longueur de mes cheveux comme un "gant" pour masser mon cuir chevelu avec, afin qu'il y aie plus de mousse et que l'eau savonneuse nettoie mieux.

    Après avoir versé toute l'eau et bien massé le cuir chevelu/la longueur, rincez vos cheveux.

    (3) Démélant au jus de citron

    Versez doucement toute l'eau citronnée sur votre tête et sur toute la longueur de vos cheveux. Attention de bien mettre la tête en arrière pour ne pas que le jus de citron vous pique les yeux. Peignez vos cheveux comme après un démélant ordinaire. Les cheveux sont faciles à peigner car le jus de citron les rends doux et soyeux. Rincez bien.

    Et voilà, c'est tout!

    (4) Remarques

    - La ritha ne nettoie pas bien l'huile, alors je ne m'huile plus les cheveux (je ne l'ai jamais fait beaucoup de toute façon, c'est plus un problème pour les Indiennes car elles ont l'habitude de s'huiler les cheveux!)

    - L'eau savonneuse est froide une fois qu'elle a reposé toute la nuit, alors c'est peut-être difficile de se la verser dessus! Je vis en Inde où je me douche à l'eau froide la moitié de l'année car il fait chaud, donc ce n'est pas un problème majeur pour moi, mais en hiver je préfère me laver les cheveux la tête en avant pour que l'eau froide ne me coule pas dans le dos! Dans ce cas faites-bien attention à ne pas vous verser de l'eau savonneuse dans les yeux, car vraiment ça pique, les yeux deviennent tout rouges et ça prend du temps à rincer.

    - A la place de l'eau citronnée vous pouvez aussi utiliser du vinaigre de cidre de pomme (ce n'est pas facilement disponible en Inde!) La procédure est exactement la même qu'avec le jus de citron; au lieu du jus de citron versez une cuillereé à soupe de vinaigre (même quantité que le jus de citron) dans une petite tasse et completez avec de l'eau. Versez le contenu sur la tête, peignez vos cheveux et rincez bien.

    - Il n'est pas absolument nécessaire d'utiliser le jus de citron/vinaigre comme démélant, mais les cheveux encore mouillés après le lavage avec la ritha sont difficiles à manier. Une fois sec cet effet disparait, et les cheveux sont doux, mais je préfère quand-même déméler mes cheveux avec l'eau citronnée car elle les rend vraiment doux et faciles à coiffer.

    - En théorie on peut réutiliser les noix de lavage jusque 2 ou 3 fois. Cependant je trouve que les noix ne sont plus assez nettoyantes après la deuxième fois. Je réutilise alors deux "rations" de noix pour un autre lavage. En d'autres termes, pour 8 à 10 noix nouvelles j'utilise 16 à 20 noix recyclées pour me laver les cheveux.

    - Je lave mes cheveux avec la ritha (ou le bicarbonate de soude) environ une fois par semaine. Entre deux lavages je me les rince à l'eau (il faut bien masser) tous les jours, afin qu'ils restent propres plus longtemps. (Et en Inde c'est une bonne chose car il y a beaucoup de poussière!) A noter que dans un pays chaud comme en Inde, je me douche souvent à l'eau froide, et l'eau froide lave moins bien les cheveux que l'eau chaude! En hiver je rince mes cheveux tous les deux jours seulement (à l'eau chaude) car je n'ai pas envie de me mouiller la tête tous les jours.

    (5) Résultats

    - Mes cheveux sont doux et soyeux (OK, ils l'ont toujours étés!)
    - Ils tombent beaucoup moins.
    - Ils ont plus de volume.
    - Ils se graissent beaucoup moins vite que quand j'utilisais du shampooing, et quand ils sont gras ça se sent au touché mais ça se voit beaucoup moins qu'avant.

    Mes cheveux sales après 6 jours de rinçage à l'eau, juste avant de les laver avec la ritha:

    On ne voit pas trop que mes cheveux sont sales quand ils sont attachés, même après une semaine!

    Mes cheveux après les avoir lavés avec les noix de lavage:

    (6) Plus d'informations sur comment arrêter le shampooing:

    En utilisant du bicarbonate de soude et du vinaigre:
    En anglais:
    Shampoo Free from Now On! - avec des photos à chaque étape!
    En français:

    Se laver les cheveux à l'eau seulement!
    Beyond no poo only with water - j'avoue que je n'ai pas essayé...

    Se laver les cheveux avec des poudres de lavage naturelles, dont la ritha en poudre:
    (Seulement en français)
    Joséphine au natur'elle
    Poudres pour les cheveux

    Monday, 21 July 2014

    PIO card bureaucrazy

    Today I see the end of my PIO card application, finally. The entire story, which lingered at the back of my mind for over 1 year 1/2 is finally behind me, over and done with, for good!

    It might be a tedious read, but I have decided to post a full chronological entry about my PIO card application, because really, Indian bureaucracy is bureaucraZy...


    December 2012: After a lot of phone calling and internet researching, Vijay and I go to Delhi and attempt to deposit my first file at the PIO card application office of the Ministry of Home Affairs. After going through my file the officer informs me that all my documents were complete, but that I can't apply for the PIO card at this stage because I have a student visa. I needed to be on an entry (X) visa (accompanying spouse) to apply for a PIO! After a few attempts during the following months we give up trying to convert my visa from student to X status, and we decide we will try to apply in Paris when we go to Europe in Spring 2013.

    June 2013: We go to the Indian embassy in Paris with a new PIO card application pack, to find out that we can't apply from France because we are resident in India. At least we manage to get my name endorsed in Vijay's passport within a day...

    3 September 2013: I send my third PIO application pack (including a demand draft of 15,000 rupees - valid for three months) to the Foreign Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Delhi by speed post.

    13 September 2013: I receive the copy of a letter addressed to the Varanasi FRO (Foreigners Registration office), written by the senior officer of the Foreign Division of the MHA, Mr R.. In this letter Mr R. asks the Varanasi FRO to send them a report about me.

    20 January 2014: After over 4 months I haven't had any news about my application (despite my vain phone calls to the MHA), so Vijay and I go to Delhi to go to the MHA in person., to find out... that the PIO card application office has been closed to the public! The receptionist says we are supposed to contact them by phone (hahaha!) The only thing we can do now is write a letter and hand it in to the man at the mail counter behind us and he will dispatch it to the PIO card office. My face drops but I write a letter, the mail-man stamps it, I make a photocopy of the stamped letter and off we go...

    5 February 2014: I receive the photocopy of a new letter by Mr R. addressed to the Varanasi FRO. In this letter Mr R. reiterates to the Varanasi FRO officer that he should send a report about me to the MHA!!! This means I went to Delhi to find out that the Varanasi FRO officer had just not been doing his work for over 4 months!!!

    6 February: I phone the Varanasi FRO to ask the officer if he has received the letter by Mr R. He says he has received nothing (!)

    7 February: I go to the Varanasi FRO to show the copy of Mr R's letter to the officer in charge. Before I sit down he takes out the original of the letter onto his desk. This means he was lying to me on the phone, because he was expecting me! He tells me that he did some address checks about me (NB: he knows very well who I am because I have been registering with him every year for the past four years, and he always recognise my voice and my Hindi on the phone!) by coming to my area of town and looking/asking people around if they knew me. He even tells me that he came to my house and my landlord (who is a well-known politician so it has to be the right man) had told him that I didn't live here. Hmmm..... I ask him what to do now? He says I have to get a computerised C-form (i.e. address proof) from my landlord, and a letter from my violin teacher confirming that I have been learning violin with him since 2008.

    7 February evening: I ask my landlord if anyone from the Varanasi FRO came a few months ago to ask about me. He says no-one came...

    10 February: I go back to the Varanasi FRO with a letter from my violin teacher and the computerised C-Form. I beg the officer to send the documents to the Delhi MHA as soon as possible. He says he will do it within 3 days.

    14 February: I phone the Varanasi FRO officer to ask him if he sent my documents to the MHA. He says he did.

    A few days later: I realise that my first 15,000 rupee demand draft (of which I have kept a photocopy) was valid for only three months and so it has expired. I collapse wondering what to do - because Indian officers won't work if there is no money involved do they? And of course I need the original back to get the money back from the bank! I try to phone and email the MHA but I don't get any consistent information from anyone.

    28 February: I write a letter addressed to Mr R. in the MHA (since he is in charge of my file and supposedly he will know what I'm talking about, right?) explaining that my demand draft is expired, and asking what to do.

    8 March: Following a friend's advice I send a new letter to Mr R. with a new demand draft. (My friend said that will probably speed up the application process and somehow I believe her...) I also phone the MHA to inform them that I have sent a new demand draft. The Varanasi FRO officer has given me two phone numbers for the PIO card office of the MHA. Tel no. 1 gets through to a receptionist (I presume but really I don't know) and is relatively easy to get through. Tel no. 2 with an extension number goes through Mr R. or his colleague. That number is just impossible: you have to dial the extension number at least 10 times and you're lucky if you get through to someone... Most of the time they just hung up on you before even answering. I spend time, money, energy mostly to no avail...

    Many days during the month of March: I manage to speak to the same officer of Tel no. 1. He tells me not to worry, my expired demand draft will be sent to me with my PIO card. Another time he tells me that my PIO card is ready and will be sent on Monday. Another time he tells me that it is ready but it is awaiting signature by the big officer. After a few days I start wondering if the officer from Tel no.1 talks bullshit and knows anything, so I decide to phone Tel no.2 again and again. After maaaaaany attempts (miracle!) I do get through to someone who tells me he will look at my file and "please phone back in 30 minutes". "Pleeeeeeeease don't hang up!" I think to myself. It's so bloody hard to get through to someone... Sigh. A few attempts later I manage to speak to Mr R. himself (miracle!), who tells me that at this stage the MHA has only decided to grant me a PIO card!!! I am stunned. This means the first guy from Tel no.1 has been lying to me for days, just to make me happy and to get rid of my phone calls. I decide I will never try to phone Tel no.1 ever again!!!

    25 March: I receive the photocopy of a letter by Mr R. sent to the Delhi FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) which says that they have decided to grant me a PIO card. Mr R. has sent this letter to the FRRO along with all my application documents, including... the old, expired bank draft (aaaaaaargh!!!) and he requests them to proceed with my application. OK. At least, this piece of information is real. Sigh. But shit! He has sent them my old demand draft!

    26 March: I get the Delhi FRRO's number from the Varanasi FRO and phone them. Miracle! That one is really easy to get through, and the guy on the phone is really nice and helpful! After checking my reference number and my address (which means it's all real information, yay!) he exclaims: "Have you not received my letter!? I sent you your old demand draft back! Please send me a new one and I will proceed with your application." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaargh!!!! But "I did send a new bank draft to the MHA a month ago!" I tell him. "Oh oh... you should have sent it to me, you made a mistake." he replies. Cursing my friend for her advise, I tell him "But I thought if I sent it to the man who was dealing with my application at the time it would be fine!"

    A few minutes later: After maaaaaaaany trials I manage to speak to Mr R. of the MHA and I ask him he has received my demand drat which I sent on 8 March. "I never received any bank draft" he answer. "But I checked the parcel number, it reached Delhi on 13 March!" I reply. Blah blah blah. He says he will look for it and send to the FRRO of Delhi.

    29 March: I get the letter from the Delhi FRRO with my expired demand draft! Horray! The following day I go back to the bank and manage to get the 15,000 rupees back.

    After a few days: It's just impossible to get Mr R. to do anything it seems. He hardly listens to me on the phone, and clearly he has not even tried to find my demand draft. So I go back to the bank, get a third demand draft for 15,000 rupees and send it the FRRO...

    Five days later: I phone the Delhi FRRO. The guy has received my demand draft, and my PIO card application will take about 20 to 25 days. Aaaaaaaaaaah........ Sigh of relief. I have nothing to do, he will send me the PIO card to my address in Varanasi (he double-checks my address and is really nice). He will send me back my demand draft no.2 in case Mr R. sends it to him in the meantime... Sigh. At least the application is well on its way (for real!) now! The last issue is I may lose the money from Demand Draft no.2, but at least I will get the PIO card... By the way, my visa expires on 18 June 2014.

    In April: I spend much time trying to get through to Mr R. again, to ask him to find and send me my bank draft no. 2. He doesn't listen to me properly. Vijay tries to phone him too but he doesn't listen to him properly either. One time, Mr R. even shouts at me on the phone telling me he has work to do, and then hungs up on me. I give up.

    Early May: Still not received anything. I phone the Delhi FRRO to ask him where my PIO card is at. He says it will take another 20 days.

    End of May: I phone the Delhi FRRO again. My PIO card is ready and awaiting signature by the big officer. Don't worry, you will get it soon. "My visa is expiring on 18 June" I remind the officer. "Don't worry dear, you no longer need a visa now."

    14 June: I finally receive my PIO card in the post, four days before the expiry date of my visa and 9 1/2 months after the start of my application!!!

    Horrah! Ok, but there's still a lost demand draft to retrieve and I will certainly not give up! Vijay and I are planning to go to Delhi in July anyway, so we shall pay a visit to the Ministry of Home Affairs then...

    A few days before leaving for Delhi, mid July: I try to phone the MHA 7 times, dialling the extension number 10 to 15 times every time and the line dies every time. I waste over 50 rupees of phone credit in the process and give up trying to even speak to someone.

    21 July 2014: In Delhi, I prepare a letter to hand in to the mail man at the counter of the Ministry of Home Affairs along with photocopies of all relevant letters and of course a photocopy of the demand draft. In case we're not allowed to meet anyone in charge I'll hand them the whole lot and we'll see how long it takes for them to find my demand draft... Vijay and I reach the Ministry of Home Affairs. At a first counter Vijay explains the whole story to the receptionist. The receptionist is attentive and sends us to the mail-man at the other counter. Vijay explains the whole story to the mail man. Mail man says something to the receptionist and we go back to the receptionist. Receptionist and his colleague listen to my story again, check out my documents. They're quite helpful actually. I have hope. Then Receptionist hands a phone to Vijay and tells him to dial the extension number - the same one I used to dial 10-15 times to get through to anyone when I was lucky. After 2 seconds Vijay speaks to someone in Mr R.'s office on that phone and tells the whole story again. After five minutes the receptionist hands us a special receipt allowing us to go upstairs to the Foreigners Division of the MHA. Horrah! The MHA building is super sleek and modern and clean; we check our bags at security, ask our way to various people in the corridors. Finally we reach the right office, with "Mr R."s name written on the door... I wonder what he looks like! There are quite a few desks and people in this office. One man who sits doing absolutely nothing in front of his computer looks at our receipt and tells us to sit down at the back of the room. We wait 15 minutes. No-one speaks to us, we wonder if they know what we're here for. Then the lazy man tells us that the person we have to see is coming soon, we have to wait. After 5 minutes a very small and skinny man with an angular face comes into the office. He asks us what we want. Vijay tells our story. Skinny-man opens a cupboard and within one minute he takes my file out to look into it. Then he goes to another desk, and less than five minutes later he comes back to us with my demand draft and the letter I had sent with it! "Is that the right letter?" he asks. "Yes!" I exclaim! He doesn't say anything else. I don't know who the skinny man is, I have no idea if he was Mr R.. But Within 5 minutes he has found my demand draft, which means that Mr R. was bluntly lying to me on the phone when he said he had not received my demand draft back in March. It would obviously had taken him no effort and no time to find and send my draft to the FRRO or to myself. The skinny man said nothing to us because he knew he was wrong all the way, right?

    Anyhow. I had my demand draft in my hands and I was very happy and relieved when I left the Ministry of Home Affairs, because my 15,000 were not lost - sigh.

    And with it the story of my PIO card application ends, finally!

    Saturday, 5 July 2014

    Becoming my mother-in-law's only female company

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

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

    Wednesday, 25 June 2014

    On the TV news!

    Following my first concert with my students in Khajuraho (see previous entry), not only am I in the local newspaper, I was also featured on the news on local TV!!!!

    Below is the video of the television which I made with my camera! The quality is terrible, however it only adds to the "Indian-style" feel of it, huhu... The news reporter did give me a CD of the news report; however I would have to edit it to cut out only my part, and I can't figure out how to use my video-editor... Maybe one day!

    What the reporter says is that I have been living in India for 6 years, that I am learning Indian violin with Pt. Sukhdev Mishra in Varanasi, and that I was giving a concert for the Blue Bank association with my students. During my interview (in Hindi) I repeat the name of my guru, and I say that today is a special day because it's the first time I play with my own students. I also say that Akhilesh has been playing violin for 2 years and Arjun for about 6 months.

    Sunday, 22 June 2014

    First concert with my pupils!

    Yesterday was a big day for me: at the occasion of the German association Blue Bank's birthday, for which Vijay does some work, I was asked to play a small concert for the neighborhood's children. And so I played for the first time with my students: Akhilesh (19) who has been learning violin for 2 years, and Arjun (13) for just over 6 months. We played 4 bhajans, and Akhilesh's small brother Ajay (11) accompanied us on tabla. It also happened to be World Music Day, which made it even more special!

    The concert took place in front of the Brahma temple (just by our house!) in Khajuraho, and although it was mostly an audience of children, I was a little bit nervous because I had to direct my pupils and cover them for their mistakes for the first time! But they were very good and the whole thing made me really proud of them! ^_^

    The local TV was there too (!!) and so we were interviewed after the concert. We were broadcast on TV yesterday but I didn't see it. We will be in the newspaper tomorrow though!!!

    Monday, 16 June 2014

    At long last!!!

    Alleluia!!! Or rather; Har Har Mahadev!

    Finally, nine and a half months after my application and just four days before the expiration of my visa, the PIO card is in my hands...

    Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Sticky hot June in Banaras

    I wrote this three days ago.

    ~ ~ ~
    It took me a while to start writing this because I was just sitting there, inert, by my air-cooler.

    These last two days have been the hottest in my life by far, and according to the Varanasi weather forecast, this heat wave will last another three days. I don't really know if it went up to 50 degrees yesterday as planned; I only have a medical thermometre that below 34 says "low" and above 41 says "high". In the flat itself though, it is usually about 37-39 degrees. I put it outside on the balcony in the sun once and obviously it just said "high".

    Up until three days ago it was kind of bearable. Since two days it has just been crazy. The heat outside is like a hammer on your head, blinding your eyes and pressing on your forehead. But that's not even the worst. At home, underneath the fan hanging from the roof, and even by the air-cooler which nowadays really just spins a whirlpool of hot air, the heat is so sticky that it makes it hard to breathe, and at times it almost makes me feel nauseous. And at night while trying to fall asleep, all you can focus on is that stickiness, that itchy rash that has covered your body from constantly being wet from sweat, your mouth drying too fast before slumber gets a chance to save you. I guess it is not as difficult to handle for most Indians. I don't know why, but I seem to sweat a lot more than most do. In the day my legs sweat inside my loose cotton salwar pants whereas many Indians still wear jeans. I cannot stand more than five centimetre of sleeves on my arms whilst my Indian girlfriend still wears full-long-sleeve kurtas. I cannot stand one single hair sticking to my sweaty neck and so I have to tie all my hair up with pins at the back, whilst most girls bear the thickness of their long plaits down their backs.

    The last two nights were the worse of my entire life:

    Night one: Two days ago the power cut in the afternoon, around 2 o'clock. By evening time it had still not returned, but being used to long Banarasi powercuts I didn't think much of it. In order to save some power in the battery for my life-saving fan, I lit up a candle and switched off the light. Enjoying the dim light I even managed to play some violin. By 10:30pm the electricity had yet still not returned and I started getting concerned about how I was going to sleep, because I wouldn't be able to use fan let alone the air-cooler all night. I went downstairs to knock at the guard's door; there was light! All that time it had just been a problem on my floor! I asked the guard to look at it but he didn't understand what was wrong. I felt stupid for not having checked before because now it was obviously too late to call an electrician. I phoned Vijay, started shouting, whining and crying. Once the resisting stage had passed I went back downstairs and asked the guard if I could sleep in the landlords' house (they are in Australia for two months). As I entered the guestroom where he slept I had a hint of hope that I would spend a good night's sleep, as the air-conditioning was on! He pointed to the sofa-bed and spread out is mat on the floor underneath the fan. I went upstairs to get my pillow and stuff and came back down to lie down. Then unfortunately the air slowly started to become hotter and hotter and I soon realised that the guard had switched on the AC off... I was getting stickier because I was too far from the fan. I didn't know what to do because I didn't want to bother him and wake him up, so I tried to go back to sleep. After an hour though it was no longer bearable. He coughed so I dared to ask him, or rather beg him to switch the AC back on. He did so and I finally fell asleep at 1:30am. Three hours later I woke up, because I was a bit far from the AC so the temperature around me was perfect for the mosquitoes. I went for a pee and when I came back the guard was sitting up erect on his mat. "It's morning time now! Time to get up!" He exclaimed. I thought I was going to faint; it wasn't 5am yet and I was groggy and exhausted. I didn't want to argue about the AC again so when he left the room with his stuff I spread my bed-sheet onto the cement floor right below the fan where he had slept, and I collapsed into relieving sleep until it was a more reasonable time to get up. Thank God the night was behind me. I called the electrician and begged him to come as soon as possible. Until then, I just tried to lead my life as normal. Soaking in sweat I did some cleaning (brooming is the worst because you have to switch the fan off!) and rested underneath the fan between tasks. Thank God the battery had not yet emptied itself out and so I could still indeed use the fan... I devoured some mangoes and water melon, I drank litres of water (my 20-litre bottle lasted 3-4 days) and I had some porridge. Mostly though I sat underneath the relieving air looking at the sweat running down my bare legs, splashed my body with talc powder or smeared neem oil to relieve the rashes that had developed on my back, my chest, my neck, my forehead and all around my mouth. And I read; I read away the fascinating book to forget [Le pèlerinage aux sources, by Lanza del Vasto (Folio; 1943) - about his visit to Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian sages].

    When the electrician finally arrived, at 11am, it took him five minutes to join two cables back together and secure them with tape. A 50-rupee job. The power returned; I ran for a relieving shower - although the water just gets warm or lukewarm at best, as it is delivered to the tap from a reservoir on the rooftop and so heated in by the sun. During the day the water is boiling hot and by morning it is not much better. So I have to keep my two buckets filled with water at all times so the water "cools" down as much as it can - and that just gets down to lukewarm. The rest of my day was sticky and slow. I had no energy to cook because the kitchen is a real oven, and after two minutes in it I'm soaking again and I have to run back to dry by the cooler. I wrapped my upper body in my wet cotton dupatta and walked two minutes to the only restaurant open at this time, grateful for its proximity. It is a ground-floor room and somewhat protected from the sun so it was nice and cool there. My flat is so hot in comparison because it is on the first and top floor of a building with no other buildings surrounding it, and it has too many windows. It is a lovely flat but it is really not well-thought for the hot season. Old traditional houses in Banaras are crammed in narrow lanes so that the sun doesn't reach their downstairs rooms; and they have very few windows, so they are perfect in this season.

    After my slow and sleepy day, at 7pm when the blinding sun had set, I cycled t my Indian girlfriend's. She lives on the ground floor of a more traditional house so I was curious to see how "cool" it would be. We spent a lovely evening. She lives with her father, a friend, and her married sister was visiting with her small baby. We cooked and ate and played with the baby and talked mostly about the weather. I decided to sleep there because it was indeed a little cooler than in my flat. Unfortunately though my friend doesn't have a cooler, and somehow it was still very sticky and humid. The sweat, the itch; I splashed more baby talc powder. I showered. I was not sure if I would sleep in this room or that room. Sakshi spread out the mats to sleep on the floor (it feels cooler to sleep on a hard floor than on a mattress because the more your body sinks into a mattress and so the more contact your body has to its support, the more you sweat.) I tested both to feel which one was the "coolest". I wasn't really sure. My body is kind of confused in such heat. It doesn't know how to react; I'm slow at starting things; I walk around not knowing what to do; I am more clumsy; I sit not doing anything. It's like the body doesn't understand this crazy new environment. And yet the more you resist, the more you refuse to accept it, the more difficult it is to handle. You have no choice but to embrace, to surrender, to accept to carry on with your life, albeit slowly, despite the discomfort of sweat and stickiness, because there is no way out. You have to accept to wear your clothes even if you're all wet inside, you have to accept to go out a bit and do your shopping and things, because if you don't you just end up feeling distressed and depressed. If you surrender, if you focus on your life and not on the heat, there are moments when you forget about the discomfort because you're busy and engrossed with your book, or your writing, or whatever it is you're doing, and that's OK.

    Night two: But that night at my girlfriend was just impossible. Every thirty minutes I had to drink water and get up and take the key to unlock the back door and go to the toilet for a pee. Every thirty minutes I had to go an a small expedition because the toilet was outside, but I was reluctant to go because I was too sleepy. And despite being on the ground floor, and despite the room being slightly cooler than my flat, the fan underneath which I was lying down was too high above my head to dry up the constant run of my sweat. If I lied on my back, after a while the itch became too unbearable. If I tilted my head, the side of my face that was not ventilated got wet with sweat. If I rested one limb onto another they stuck together and sweated more. And I didn't have my handkerchief with me, the one I tie on my head so that small hairs wont fly into my face (because of the fan!) and tickle me. I was so tired that I did almost fall asleep a few times, but before reaching victory I'd be bothered by discomfort and wake up again. A 2:30am I started crying with frustration, because I didn't want to spend the entire night waiting. I hesitated but eventually I decided to go home, because although the air from my cooler is hot, it is stronger than the fan and it dries my sweat better. I tapped Sakshi's sweatless face (with envy) to wake her up. I phoned my home's guard to ask him to open the gate in 10 minutes. Sakshi opened the door of her garage; I took my bicycle and enjoyed the cooling wind caressing my body as I cycled through the empty city. Because as soon as I reached home and got off my bicycle, the air again stood still into choking heat. It was 3am, you stood still outside and you sweated!

    ~ ~ ~

    I am back in Khajuraho since yesterday. I had just three more days in Varanasi to wait for the PIO card to arrive in the post; three more days in the heat. Only three more days but I couldn't stand it anymore. The evening after I wrote this text, I was out in the street because despite the heat, you can't just stay in by your cooler the entire day, and after the sun has set you have to go out and go for a while because that's the only time of day that you can. But I was out, and I was still soaked in my sweat and itching. I was roaming desperate in the street, when my legs decided to take me to the travel agency and book a train back to Khajuraho for the following day... (The heat is less humid here, still blistering, but the house is a lot more pleasant to live in than my flat and so life is a lot easier!)

    Saturday, 10 May 2014

    Varanasi since April & the heat

    So after over two months of confusion and poor violin practice, it's been full-on since April. (I have been in Varanasi all the time since returning from Mumbai on 2 April.) I've been practising a lot; I've had great classes with my guru; I've been to some great concerts including the amazing Sankat Mochan Festival. I've also met some new (Indian) music students; most especially,I was introduced to another tabla student from BHU a month ago, who is absolutely amazing. He plays so, so well that I was really intimidated when my new friend introduced me to him after a small concert. But as my friend told me, and as I do know full-well, I need to play with greater musicians than myself if I want to progress. The best of all with this new tabla player, is that he seems to have time for me! And he gives me advice, and tips on how to practise and play tihais, and he compliments me on how I play and understand things!

    It's a weird thing to try and find tabla players to practise with. With some you are kept in the dark as they don't tell you anything, and you just end up really lost and confused. With others you feel so comfortable that you don't give a shit and play well and have fun. With yet others, somehow the connection doesn't happen and you feel uncomfortable, incompetent and well, you just feel like utter shit. But you don't know it's not your fault until you meet another one who will make you feel fine. With the new tabla player, even though I was super-shy to start with, I have grown to feel pretty comfortable. And he seems to be motivated to help me progress! And he lives really close to my flat! So in April, we practised together every 2-3 days. In May, with the heat hitting us like a hammer on our heads, it was too much for him to practise with me after university so we only sat on Sundays. Oh, and I have also bought some tablas, so that any tabla player can come and practise with me in my flat if they so wish. I am really happy about this; it was something I was thinking about for a while but not doing - now I hope it will be a kick for my own practise with tablas...

    And so the heat is upon us now. It can go up to 45 degrees during the day, and yesterday it was still 39 degrees at 7pm. In the flat it's been up to 38 degrees! When Nahoko (my flatmate for one 1/2 month) left at the end of April, I decided to re-organise myself, because it wasn't going to be possible. The neighbouring restaurant is being done-up so there is an enormous amount of dust flying around, and the flat was getting too dirty and I didn't have the energy to clean everyday. So I closed all the windows (I have 12!) of my room and decided to only live in the hall. The flat is way too big for me when I live in it alone, so the hall is fine, and it's where I welcome guests anyway so I can't condemn it. Now my bedroom is super hot but I don't live in it.

    Since the end of April it was so hot to sleep at night that I had to wet a bedsheet and cover my legs with it to help my body cool down. It was a great discovery actually, because with the fan spinning over my wet legs it really refreshed them. I have a tendency to get heavy legs and it's more pronounced during hot season, so this gives me relief. One day somehow the temperature rose dramatically. It was evening time and I was in my flat, frightened by how hot the air felt on my body. I panicked, wondering how I would sleep, and I started to cry. I didn't know what to do so obviously I phoned Vijay. I wanted to buy an air-cooler right now, but it was 9pm. Vijay was amazing and, on the phone from Khajuraho, he arranged for the delivery of an air-cooler with a shop just across the road from my flat. I didn't move from the flat, and one hour later the shop-keeper turned up with the big iron monster and installed it in my hall. Vijay had even arranged for the machine's 500-watt motor to be replaced by a 200-watt one so that it could be plugged onto the inverter to bypass powercuts! These machines are pretty simple; an iron body, some straw lining up its wall, and a powerful fan. You have to pour water into the machine and it pumps the water up and down the walls so the air that comes out of the fan is cooler than the rest of the atmosphere. Somehow though the shop-keeper didn't install it properly; he put in on a small unstable table that made it ramble and be noisier than it normally is, and it didn't make the air cooler at all. That night I tried to sleep on the balcony bed with an extra mosquito net I have that was too small, and a small fan because it was not much cooler outside than inside. After a few hours I woke up all itchy and went back to my room. With a wet bedsheet spread on my legs, I went back to sleep. (By the way, the bedsheet dries-up within 15-20 minutes!)

    Two days later Vijay arrived from Khajuraho to spend a week with me because he was worried about his poor wife being too hot. He installed the air-cooler properly between a window and the small bed in the hall and I have cool(ish) air to sleep now. Somehow it's not been quite as hot since and there are nights when I don't switch on the cooler. Stll, it is my saviour most of the time. It is noisy though!

    So yes, the hot season is upon us. Once I had to go to the bank at 11am and although it only takes a 10-minute walk, when I got back from the bank after noon, I got a splitting headache for the rest of the day. I had to drink some rehydrating salts and collapse for siesta after lunch. But somehow I am quite excited about the fact that I shall not avoid hot season this year. For five years I was escaping to Europe at this time; I am happy to face reality this year somehow. When I was new to India and to its hot season, 6 years ago, I would sometimes wake up in the night with my heart ponding and thinking it was the end of the world - I used to get that panicky. I really didn't accept the heat. I would think climate change was upon us and we were all going to die(!) I knew my mind was being irrational, but I couldn't get the stupid thoughts out of my head. Today I'm quite happy, and actually so far it's not been so bad at all. You just have to accept to take life slowly, for survival reasons, but life is still beautiful and exciting. And Varanasi is still magic!

    I still go to my guru's house for violin class, although not as often as before, and if I go in the morning I go by cycle-rickshaw. I cover my head and shoulders with a white shawl if I do go out during the day (not far!) Most of the time I only cycle after 5pm. I take rehydrating salts from time to time; I have amazing fruit salad every morning for breakfast (water melons! Papayas! Mangoes!!!). I eat lots of sprouted lentils (they sprout in 24 hours in this heat!!) and I have also decided to take supplements to cope better with the heat: spirulina for vitamins, minerals and proteins, and the ayurvedic triphala (three fruits) powder to compensate for excess of pitta (fire) in the body and to boost the digestive system. I have banished hot garlic, and I add very little spices in my dishes. Once or twice a day I also lie down on my back with legs upside down up the wall to relieve my heavy legs, and often I really feel the need to massage the bowls of my feet.

    I must say I am extremely grateful for the flat I live in Varanasi, with the inverter (the battery that means no-more-powercuts!), the fridge (which means I can cook for more than one meal at a time and I can buy more yoghurt and fruits and veg at a time) - and of course, the air-cooler! Clearly, I would not survive this season in Varanasi if I still lived in my old guesthouse without inverter and without a fridge... Another saviour obviously is the siesta. I don't feel especially tired after my lunch, but I know I must sleep, and within 5 minutes I'm gone for about two hour of slumber! And I take so much longer to wake up! Normally I open my eyes and "poop!" I'm alive and kicking. Now I just lie down on my bed, not thinking, not sleeping, doing nothing, but it is impossible to move somehow... until after half-an-hour, "poop!" I'm awake.

    And surprisingly there are still some really nice (non-Indian) people in Varanasi. Not all foreigners have run away! I even met a young woman from northen France who arrived in Varanasi at the end of April - her very first time in India - and who had planned to stay for just a few days, but despite the heat she loves it so much that she's still here. My Hindi student (a French guy who started taking classes from me in early April) is still here and brilliant company... And there's all my Indian friends, who obviously are still here over the hot season...

    Saturday, 5 April 2014

    Routine resumed & heat approaching

    Mid-March I went to Pushkar (Rajasthan) with M.C. and Vijay for a week and it was fun. Now I'm back from Mumbai where I visited Michael for five days and that too was fun. In fact it was wonderful, as I hadn't seen him since I started my Indian travels with him and B'ee back in November 2007! That was over six years ago... He is in Mumbai to work on an interesting project for a month, and it was great to catch up. Michael will always remain special for me for it was he who introduced me to my violin teacher, thus I wouldn't be who I am today without him. So I played violin for him, to show him what I've learnt all these years, and he discovered the new "Indian Vio". We chatted by the sea, found lots of crazy items at the junk bazaar, recording some Muslim chants, shared ideas and books and meals... We even went to a bouncy nightclub in posh Mumbai (the first time I went clubbing in India!!), which really excited me at first but which really just made me feel like a country-girl and reminded me why I never actually liked (ordinary) clubbing! Still it was super-interesting to observe and to meet some rich Indian clubbers, a completely other-worldly new scene for me...

    And so I'm back in Varanasi and I will be here for the whole of April. After that I don't know, but I presume I shall be in Khajuraho during May and June. The hot season is upon us now, but I still have no wish to go to Europe this year. No energy to plan and no motivation to spend lots of money. So far so good: the weather has actually been really odd this year. It rained loads in January - in Khajuraho almost everyday - and the rain carried on a bit in February and March. We had grey days which made the Ganges river resemble the north see of France up until mid March. And it has generally been cooler than normal, but I won't complain about that! It's already the beginning of April, and although it's very hot during the day (up to 36 degrees), it is still fairly cool in the mornings and evenings. I didn't even sleep with the fan on last night, which feels like sheer miracle, and during the day the flat is still bearable when the fan is off if we open all the balcony doors... Let it last... According to my experience, Varanasi starts getting insanely hot towards 20 April, although thank God the new flat is well-ventilated and has an inverter (battery) which saves us from power-cuts... So let's see...

    Since Jerome & M.C. have left, I've been having a new flatmate who will stay here until the end of April: this is my Japanese friend Nahoko who was my flatmate six month a year for four years in the old guesthouse. She came late this season and for only a month and a half, but this is very good timing for me! Varanasi is indeed slowly getting deserted by its non-Indian population now that the heat is approaching, so I see all my friends leave and I'm grateful for Nahoko's company. Of course I'm happy that I have quite a few good Indian friends now, because those stay here all year round!

    I haven't been very studious on the violin (and even worse with yoga) since Sonam's wedding in February, because I was being confused and busy with other things. My violin teacher is just back from ten days in Germany today though (it was good timing to go to Mumbai) and he will be here up until May, so I have all this month to resume regular classes, and to practise well on my own as well as with tabla students. I have even decided to buy myself a set of tablas so that I have some for whoever wants to practise at home with me (tablas are heavy and inconvenient to carry around)!

    And I have resumed teaching violin to my young Australian student, and I have also found a new Hindi student. Whenever I come back to Banaras after some time away somehow I find a Hindi student again within a day - I take it as a good sign...

    Oh, and Little Blondhead's big brother arrived from Russia last week so the young boy has now been released from the Ramnagar centre, and they can take their father out of the psychiatric hospital... Although, this looks like it will be a lot of hard Indian-bureaucracy-type work for them...