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.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

No shampoo for 6 months & update on going poo-free

It's already half a year since I've stopped shampoo, and I am still really happy with it! I have learnt a lot about my new hair and routine, and so an update is in order...

I have mostly been using reetha since I found out about it. At first though it was not always satisfying and I had to learn a fair bit about how to use it properly. The first time I used it it was amazing, but after I used it the following few times my hair was still a bit greasy - in a new kind of way - they didn't fall very nicely. It didn't really look dirty but it felt greasy, and it was - hard to say - a bit like paper in a way that paper doesn't flow very well; or should I say a bit like straw but not really, and after 2-3 days I had to wash it again. So for a while I stopped reetha and went back to soda bicarbonate followed by lemony water or apple cider vinegar mixed with water for conditioning.

Another thing I noticed was that - obviously I guess! - hot water works a lot better that cold water to clean hair!!! I hadn't noticed this because obviously up until October-November the weather was still hot enough to shower with cold water!! When Indian winter turned up though I started showering with hot water, and wow, my hair was cleaner for quite a lot longer. I still used the bicarbonate of soda every week, but my hair still felt very clean after 5 days of just rinsing. And the odd smell of the end of my hair which I used to get just after baking soda after 2-3 months of stopping shampoo completely left me.

After a while I decided to give another go at reetha because I had bought a lot and I didn't want to waste it. Besides I kept remembering my first convincing time so I thought I should persevere with it! Since you have to soak reetha overnight before using the water-gone-soapy, the soapy water is cold by the time you have to apply it on your hair, so I tried washing my hair by tilting my head forward. It turned to be a good idea because it makes it easier to avoid putting reetha in your eyes, which really hurts. For a few times reetha still didn't wash my hair very well, but then I realised (1) that you really have to pop the nuts open before soaking them overnight because the soapyness comes from inside the nuts, and (2) that I had to be careful not to pour too much water on the nuts otherwise the "soapyness" gets too diluted and it doesn't wash the hair well. I also decided to use lemony water or vinegar/water after reetha as well because it made my hair even nicer and softer.

Another thing I noticed - my hair falls as much when I wash it, but less in between washes.

So now: I (1) cut the nuts open before they soak overnight, (2) I use more nuts (8-10) and I pour just about a glass of water on it, (3) after having applied reetha I tie my hair up while I shower to let it rest and (4) I condition my hair with lemony water or vinegar/water. I reuse the nuts just once for the next wash. If it's inconvenient to soak nuts overnight I just use soda bicarbonate instead. Since then reetha has been great every time I've used it, my hair has been really clean and soft, and I have also noticed that it feels kind of lighter, somehow...

Finally I also experimented with less rinsing inbetween washes. The weather has been very cold this last month and without heating in houses it's more difficult to keep warm, so I haven't wanting to rinse my hair with water every single day. I have just done so every two days. Still I can wash my hair every 6 days only. And most recently I tried the experiment of not rinsing my hair with water at all until I had to wash it again. It lasted 5 days.

So yes, I am very very happy with my new hair routine. It's as easy as shampoo, my hair feels beautiful and soft and it greases far less quickly, it falls a bit less, and I use a lot less packaging too - no more shampoo bottles to throw into India's nature... My hair hasn't changed that much because it had always been very soft and silky, but I absolutely love going more natural and not being a good friend with the cosmetic industry, and my new routine feels right.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Hindu rules I have experienced or witnessed

Below is a compilation of all the Hindu rules I have been experiencing, following or witnessing in India, especially in the Khajuraho house:

(1) You can't cut your nails or hair (no shaving) on Tuesday & Saturday (because those are Hanuman's days (the monkey-headed god).

(2) You MUST be showered in order to perform any religious practice, pray, or go to the temple. If you've had no shower you must be careful not to touch anyone praying, and you won't be served prasad (food offering from the temple or the ritual).

(3) At certain festivals you must not only be showered to attend puja (religious ceremonies, e.g. for Durga Puja during Navratri festival) but you must also take care that someone who already has had a shower takes your clean clothes to the bathroom for you - otherwise if you have touched your clothes before shower, you have "stained" them with your impure body and thus your clothes are impure...

(4) At certain festivals (e.g. Murki after Makar Sankranti) you must be showered otherwise you will not get food that day.

(5) You can't touch/help yourself with chapati and cooked food in the kitchen (because it's sacred) if you have had no shower and if you're from a different cast.

(6) You should be showered to cook chapati, and if you have had no shower you certainly can't cook chapati after having a bowel movement!

(7) You must be barefoot to go for a bowel movement because you have to rinse your feet after it - otherwise you're considered an untouchable and you can't go back in the house.

(8) You MUST shower, wash your hair and wash ALL the clothes you were wearing after cleaning the toilet. If on your way to the shower you walk on a rug you must clean that rug too, and if you touch anyone they must have a shower. And you must have taken your clean clothes to the bathroom BEFORE cleaning the toilet obviously.

(9) Women who have their periods are not allowed to go to temples.

(10) Unmarried girls/women are not allowed to watch the Durga puja at the end of Navratri Festival.

(11) A married woman can eat in her husband's plate and eat her husband's leftovers, but he won't eat in her plate or eat her leftovers. (A married woman addresses her husband formally whilst he addresses her informally.)

(12) A woman shares her husband's bed in her new (husband's) family after marriage, but whenever they visit her family she sleeps with the women and he sleeps with the men.

(13) A (married) woman never travels (by bus, train etc.) alone. If she wants to visit her parents' family either her husband takes her there or male members of her family (father, brothers, cousins...) come to pick her up.

(14) You shouldn't help yourself with a glass of water after you have eaten even if you've cleaned your hands because your mouth is dirty.

(15) If someone or something is on the floor and in your way, you mustn't walk over it (it's bad luck or a lack of respect); you should walk around it.

(16) If by inadvertence you touch something (e.g a book, an instrument, anything) or someone with your feet, you must apologise to it/him/her by touching it/him/her and then taking your hand to your heart - the same respect gesture you do to your elders, your teachers, etc.

(17) If you have henna on your body you are considered as an untouchable - so if you have applied henna on your hair or on your hands and you're waiting to wash it away you aren't allowed to eat etc.

(18) If a cat crosses the road in front of you when you're driving, you have to stop your vehicle and wait until another vehicle crosses your way to carry on your way.

I shall complete this list when I remember or come up with other rules.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Arjun's violin

I absolutely adore my new student. I think this boy is amazing and I love him precisely because he is nothing like most Indian males. He is so sensitive and feminine; he always pays attention to what I wear; if my hair is wet he asks me if I have washed it; he asks me if I put henna in my hair, where I bought my earrings etc. And he is just so curious! He adores learning, and I thought he was mature for 13-14 but the other day he told me he was actually 12. After two violin lessons he had already asked me more questions about the violin than Akhilesh has asked me in a year and a half. Arjun's father used to earn a decent salary but since he's been an alcoholic he's stopped working and so his family struggles. I'm told the boy has to eat at an aunt's from time to time because his mother doesn't have enough food to cook. From what I understand he spends as much time as he possibly can outside of his house to avoid his alcoholic father, and he also works a bit for one of his cousin's shop as well as trying to make money from henna tattooing.

Arjun didn't wait a single day to come for his classes this time round. Just after New Year he came to see me and he hasn't missed a class since. He told me that while I was in Banaras he had been practising "violin" on a wooden stick, and actually when he picked my instrument again it wasn't like last time's mess - I found he had actually made some progress! He surprises me at every class, with his initiative, with his relevant questions, with his concentration, with his dedication, with how quickly he does grab things. I was wondering how he would do with singing this time, but suddenly he's got the hang of it and if he listens carefully the note does come out in tune. It will take time, but he's getting it right! He doesn't have a violin so last week I recorded myself playing and singing his exercises so he could put the files into his phone, regularly listen to them and at least practise singing in his own time. While I was transferring the files from my computer I showed him some western (independent) music; he loved it and wanted those files, too. Really this kid is a miracle and a ray of joy for me. I adore spending time with him and look forward to every class I give him.

Up until last week I was obsessed with the idea of getting him a violin the next time I will be in Varanasi, not wanting to wait until he has the money. I knew I had to be cautious though because I don't want to be over-generous - I'm in India where people can be very jealous and gossipy, and I wouldn't want his family to think I'm doing too much. So first I asked him how long he thought it would get him to find 4000 rupees. It sounded way more difficult than I had initially understood. When I asked Vijay's family what they thought they told me that I would probably not get my money back for a long time if at all. I kept on pondering...

One morning I was meditating when an interesting thought came to me - not one of those silly or non-sensical thoughts from the monkey mind but one of those ideas that seemed to come from a clear mind or from the heart: Why don't I simply buy Akhilesh's first violin, now that he has a violin from Banaras and his first violin is kept useless in its dusty bag?! I knew his father bought it from Bhopal for only 1500 rupees so I could just ask him to get it for 1000 rupees - for all the free classes I give to Akhilesh his father couldn't possibly refuse!? That way Arjun would more chances to find the money back and if he can't, 1000 rupees is just over £10! So in the evening at music school I asked Akhilesh's father if I could buy his first violin for 1000 rupees... Puzzled, he agreed for 1500 rupees but there was no way for me. "This is not a business matter, it is a matter of the heart" I said to him, "to give a poor kid a chance." Eventually he said he would ask his son what he thought, since he was the violin player and the only one concerned. Akhilesh immediately accepted and so I bought him the violin... Amazing! I had found a violin for 1000 rupees, and I didn't have to bother bringing one from Varanasi!!!

The violin is pretty crappy and it looks very cheap but it's so much better than nothing, and especially I think its lower strings are impossible to play mainly because the bridge is of really terrible quality. I might just try and find a new bridge the next time I'm in Banaras. The violin's bag is completely ripped and its zip is ruined, but I haven't thrown the old cover of my violin case because I feel desperately uncomfortable throwing things away in this litter-covered country, so I'm happy to find it some new use: to be a double crappy-case for Arjun's violin...

I was over-excited. I had told Trivedi that Arjun had already given me 500 rupees for the violin because I didn't want to tell him it was a gift, but it was a lie. Arjun knew nothing of my plans... Today I had just finished my own practice when I heard Arjun call "Vio!" He was going to climb upstairs to say hello to the family but I called him inside. "Hey, look at this!" I said. There was a powercut so the room was pitch-black, and I took the crappy bag outside to show him. "Aaaaawwww!" he exclamed with his brightest smile. This rubbish violin was gold for a poor kid in the heart of India! I didn't want to be over-generous so I told him that the violin was mine until he could give me the money, but he could take it home to practise. He was really happy. If he manages to pay me back after a while it will be great, if not it doesn't matter...

Before starting the class I explained to Arjun that the lowest two strings of "his" new violin were a bit difficult to play, but taking a closer look I realised that the problem was that the two strings were too close together on the bridge. With a knife I made a new indent for the G string, and when I tried the violin again it was actually fine! The rubbish violin didn't sound that rubbish anymore! We played violin together for the first time and Arjun was really happy with "his" new instrument...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Harmonious life in Khajuraho and waiting for the big change...

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Sounds of India

My "Sounds of India" blog now has a separate page; it can be found here.