Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy New Year from Sainji Village

Happy New Year from Sainji Village in Uttarakhand, a small village of
35 houses sitting atop a small mountain, which itself is nestled
amoung taller mountains, in the foothills of the Himalayas, about 17
kms west of Mussoorie and about 2000 ft lower down. Tonight the local
folks have put on a New Year's Eve performance consisting primarily of
dance and more dance, from traditional to Bollywood moves. It's cold,
but everyone is sitting on the floor and holding out till the end.
Five minutes to midnight!

Ah midnight came and went and no one bothered to make a big deal about
it. Funny, that. Some young people let off firecrackers without any
regard for who was around or what was going on on stage. Stage was the
cement block surrounded by bits of cloth, quite nicely done up, the
block used earlier that day to sit and play and gossip during the few
hours of bright sun. In the couples dances it was usually men and
women, but every now and then a male would be the female and vice
versa. Traditional Indian theatre, like the Elizebethan age in
England, only has male actors. So it's not a leap for dancers. But the
boy doing the feminine role was in fact super effeminate.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Time and Earth

We hear time is linear, and then that perhaps after some recent very
fuzzy physics, that time is not linear after all, and so I ask what is
it time might look like. I got to thinking one night, late at night,
before dropping off to sleep, or perhaps in the middle of the night,
that perhaps time is circular. That is, that time goes around and
around, repeating all the moments, repeating the history, but on such
a large scale, that none of us can really ever grasp it. I dont' mean
that history repeats itself in the usual way that is said. I mean
literally every single thing happens again because we go all the way
to the end of time, or at least the very furthest we can imagine, but
there is no edge, as it bends back onto itself, joins up with itself,
and starts all over again. I don't know how long that cycle could
be... it could be millions or billions of years, or two seconds, or
some unit of time that is not measurable in our usual way, but
nevertheless quantifiable in some way. There is a precedent. People
used to think that the world was flat, and that at the end you would
fall off, or before people traveled very much, that at the very least,
the world was flat and went on forever. Then eventually it came to be
that we figured out that if we kept going we would find ourselves back
to where we came from. I would like to know if this could be possible
with time.

Monday, December 26, 2011


The Taj Mahal

Having already seen the Taj Mahal a few times, I thought I would be
perhaps blase. But no. Framed by the red sandstone southern gate
archway, I saw a hint of the Taj, like you might see a cheekbone and
one eye through someone's scarf wrapped around their head. The arches,
though they were 30 feet high at least, did not reveal the Taj in her
entirety. I walked along the center line of symmetry, slowly,
deliberately, one foot after another, while tourists flooded in around
me, eagerly, assymetrically, into the opening. The Taj rose, creamy
and pale, and I knew then what Jupiter might look like as it rises
over the horizon of Io, and then suddenly breaking away from all
horizon, hovers, like a marbled dream entirely filling half the sky.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Family theft and lies

I met a lovely young woman, of Korean ancestry, but raised in Germany.
She is taking yoga teacher training here, and she remarked that her
yoga teacher, who is otherwise an impeccable guru, with high ethics
and values, accepts theft from within his own family. He told her that
his brother-in-law regularly disappears with his car, and uses it as a
taxi, and when the car is missing, he "finds" it, and returns it, all
washed and clean. Everyone knows he takes it, uses it as a car for
hire, and then pretends to find it again. The yoga teacher accepts
this as it is considered bad form to call a family member a liar, or a
thief, even though everyone knows it. So where do we draw the line? If
a family member is a thief, liar or worse still, a social criminal, is
it an Indian's duty to say nothing, to protect family beyond the law?
Beyond basic ethics? I find this hard to reconcile. What is it that we
owe our family members? Are we helping them to be the best they can be
by supporting their lies? How is this helpful? Indian families have
very poor boundaries when it comes to asserting their basic rights.
Indian people do stuff their whole lives in order to please their
families, often living an entire life outside their purported ethical
values. This is sad, and confusing for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's the coldest on record for 32 years in Kanpur, Khajuraho,
Varanasi. I freeze at night. These buildings were not made for cold,
but for hot hot weather. I wonder what the homeless people do. There
are so many. The fog is thick and impassable at night. I thank the
powers that be that I have a duvet jacket and extra leggings. And hot
chai in the morning. I survived one night in a cold jeep heading
through the dense fog and the most horrible bumpty mud/sand roads
imaginable, and slept in the jeep when we could go no further,
squished between a pokey seat belt thingie that would not go away and
the steering wheel. And survived. Frozen, stiff, but I made it.

I like to think of myself as a tough old broad, but I sure as hell
don't like getting it tested. Yet, it's amazing how far will power
will take you.

Around 1 am we were barrelling through a tiny town/village and
suddenly out of nowhere a horrible police siren jolted us. They told
us the road was too dangerous and we needed to stop driving for the
night. The girls were asleep in the back under a warm blanket, so I
did not want to wake them up to get into some cold possibly dank
"lodge", so I offered to sleep in the jeep, while the driver took his
blanket and went into the police station to sleep. Also, I really
don't trust police anywhere, but especially not in India, in a small
village, and wanted to stay close to the girls. Hence, I ended up in
the front seat with Hannah's sleeping bag but absolutely no
comfortable position to sleep in. My face was frozen too. But
somewhere in there I got a good-enough nap that I actually felt
refreshed by 6:30 am wihen the dawn broke.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Briefly in Santiniketan

We are currently in Santiniketan, West Bengal, hanging out till 11:30
at the Hotel Emblic, complete with grungy walls and doors, waiting for
our taxi driver, who we have hired for five hours at a cost of $14 to
take us around to see all the sights here. It's a quiet place compared
to Calcutta. No constant blaring horns. The occasional bleating of a
cow, and the constant chirping and/or cooing of birds in the trees.
This morning I saw a brilliant yellow bird in the tree outside the
balcony of our hotel room. It sat and looked at me, then flew to my
window grill, for ten seconds looked at me, and then flew off.

Life is dusty, and slow here. I like it. You can smell the clean air
and it is refreshing. I like long quiet moments in India. It's the
India I remember from my childhood in Kanpur. Quiet, and slow, in the
hot afternoons, sleeping on a mat on the stone floor, and having all
the time in the world. I miss those days. I think they exist still in
pockets here and there, but they are hard to access when traveling,
when the mobile phone calls you with sms or the netbook beckons you to
check your email, filling in the potentially quiet moments with
static, noise, pulling you away from stillness.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Clubbing in Kolkata

Well the girls and I went clubbing in Kolkata and I got a fair amount of attention from the crowd which was young and wanted to know which country we were from etc.etc. A young man asked me if I wanted a drink. I said no thanks as I already had a tall fruit juice complements of another young man who said he had membership in the club and fruit juice was free for him, and since he was making money from outsourced telemarketing to Canadians, it was his way of giving back to Canadians. Then he had a good laugh. So the first young man told he didn't want me to get the wrong idea. I said no, no, I dont' have the wrond idea. Then he added he had offered me a drink because I reminded him of his grandma. ;-)  He meant it as a respectful compliment and I took it like that.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Non-Chalant Defiance

It's wedding season in Kolkata. The bridal car is often decorated
gloriously with flower garlands and other props including styrofoam
cutouts naming the couple and wishing them a happy life together.
These cars, like our cab, get stuck in traffic where street beggars
work the captive cars amidst the brutal honking and diesel fumes. As
one girl, about 10 years old, begging, was being shooed away from the
bridal car, her partner, perhaps a younger brother, broke a large
chunk of the styrofoam center piece of the grill off with great malice
and satisfaction, out of sight of the passengers, and threw it down on
the ground non-chalantly, and went on to the next car to plead for
food and mercy, putting on his masterful hapless victim act.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?