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...
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.