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.


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.

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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!

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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!)