Sunday, October 30, 2005

" Where did you sleep last night?"

Pics taken from the exhibition at 1 Shanthi Road.
Silke Kaestner's show.
In an earlier blog I remarked how, inspite the useless conditions many of us Indians live in... many still show a heart. Well, I just mentioned it in a few words, but yesterday I found a person who has lived it through! And she is not even Indian.

Now, I am no 'artist' ( should I be?) or a critic to write about this with authority. But I am touched enough to feel I got the right to!

Silke, the girl who feels for India/Indians or maybe just people or maybe life alone, is from Berlin in Germany and has been wandering around India. She's been to the Himalayas for sure, I know. And she travels alone. She is an 'artist' for sure too but fortunately she is also a very sweet person!. And yesterday I happened to visit her show, which I hear is called an 'installation'. An installation, termed 'Where did you sleep last night?'.

At first, when I entered the studio, I saw just a few crates piled up on one another. And I said to myself 'that's easy & now what am I supposed to understand?'. Instead, I first went picked a drink for myself, munched on the snacks...

And then I returned. Nervous about revealing my ignorance and even more nervous to make a politically incorrect statement ... I slowly went close to these crates and peeped in. And there I see the picture of Silke sleeping on the pavement midst of traffic. And suddenly the surrealistic nature of the event struck me.

Everyday, I see these scenes on the road. But never did I see a blonde lady in that place. And for a moment my heart melted at the possibility. She was fragile, alone, far from her country and lying there in the middle of local junta. What did people think? Is she making fun of us? Did they think they need to help her? Did they feel shame that they considered her being, while many of our own people pass besides our wheels each day without anyone 'disturbing' them? Or were they already full of their own little issues to bother about it?

For me, the circumstances, made me wonder. When did I put everyone who slept on the road, on pavements, in the cold, in the heat, into their autos into a box? And how often do I peep into it? The box, the contents of which, remain hidden from my other box - my other box, which includes my colleagues & friends and me. All of us who sleep within fourwalls, mostly privately. Who taught me how to store my world into different boxes? Was it a way for me to focus on one single box - defined by those watching me each day?

Should I break these boxes? But if I do that, what? It will only open doors to a world I cannot swim well in or deal with. I rather the doors I open lead into private places only... ones I can handle and which contain nothing that will interrupt my daily routine. Do I have the guts to let go all my wants and learn how to remain happy... as long as I get a place to sleep, eat food and dream? Is that more happiness or is it estrangement?

As I stood thinking all this, without any conclusion or consequence, I felt another sense. The studio was the big box of all of us! General viewers, Artist, critics, conoisseurs, students... Silke had painted the walls in the nice colourful schemes, that seemed to reflect the colours of Indian sarees, quilts, and those we find in shops - so that we could feel comfortable with each other and ourselves.

For our sake she also put the pictures of our ancient stories, so that our faith remains intact.

On the walls she was talking to us, so we could see her smile. But her heart - she had put into another box - into those wooden crates. Her heart and feelings connecting to an India, which she can feel for, wants to talk about... but one which must remain partly covered - until someone tells us how to break the boxes or how to remove those experiences out, without hurting the subject, herself or us.

Well... having said all this, its very possible that Silke is reflecting on the multiple options of living life. A house, car, and ownership of people & land may not be everyone's agenda. And she realises that. As long as you can sleep somewhere... one thing is for sure, the world is still your home. Wherever you may close your eyes.

Well all this is my interpretation only. Probably, far from what she wanted to say or communicate. But does it matter? As long as we have our own boxes to live in... ?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Let's get warm

The city is stranded on 25th, Oct.

My last blog 'romancing the rain' was rather shortlived. Just a few days down the line and the rains took my call for love rather seriously, coming down hard and long... until it managed to jam almost every other car in the city! I rather would have been on foot and without work the next day... wading through the flowing water enjoying the chaos. But no... I have this car and had to find me a place to park it somewhere ... on the road. Stuck for hours!

Bangalore is growing & growing...

I know there is a special reason for so much rain this year ( some depression in the Bay of Bengal) but I am quite certain its rained like this earlier in Bangalore. About over 7 years ago or so. I think since then the number of people have increased many more times over, there are more cars on the road, many many more new buildings. Building built in places, which just 7 years ago would be the 'outskirts'. As a result we have more people who will complain and more people who will be hurt. Simply put, I feel Bangalore has grown without supporting infrastructure or conveniences. Well... anyone living here knows that.

There is no way to salvage this situation but by a complete overhaul of this city. No patch work, no few bridges here or there - but a full blown overhaul of every road, every bridge and every connection and concept. Else, there is no justice to the 'hype' the city carries - as the fastest growing in Asia (or is it the world?).

But for some funny reason the most talked of city of India seems to have no money!

So, all confused, I turn my head to the more simple to understand things. Like these two young stray mongrels. Who probably have passed through at least 5 days of non-stop rains. Survived it and learnt to take care of each other.

So, simple. No? All that rain just seems to carry one message - Guys! Get warm!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Buddhism & more, in Manipur

Image picked from (about Manipur)
Its not neccessarily connected with the content of this particular article.
Manipur is a state in North-East India and like many is not necessarily very happy. Recently, its in the news because of the excesses of some army people. Generally, it seems to me that even thought the British left India, the 'babus' of India have treated every other state (especially those different from their own) like their little colonies. First, not empowering people. Next, not accepting the differences. And then not respecting these differences. Still, people remain rather tolerant (or is there some other word for that response?)... giving space to each other for some solution to our issues. And I hope there is one in the coming future. else, too much time has gone by ... too many people's aspirations confused.
Anyways, I spotted a nice article on the Manipur forum site and summarise it below. More if you click the link at the end.
Buddhism in Manipur , by Prof. M.S. Ningombam
"Buddhism in Manipur has never been well developed in spite of its geographical proximity with Myanmar. The people of Myanmar are of Mongoloid stock, having similarities in the social practices with the people of neighboring country in absence of caste system, agrarian life style, and women's role in society, beliefs and temperament with the people of Manipur. But the elements of Buddhism are found far and wide in the hills and valley of Manipur long before the advent of Hinduism. The Epic narrative of Khamba and Thoibi, the folk tale of a boy who became a king of Burma, Mitay chronicle of Nongpok Haaram (a record of the migration of people from the east), to mention a few are examples of close relationship of the people of the two sides. The migration of the people of Shan origin in large number is also a historical fact...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I love a rainy day.

Originally uploaded by trngam.

I love a rainy day. But it was not always so. Not before - when I used to ride a bike. Many a cancelled dates, many a wet & cold nights, many a lonely evenings. So, one day I managed to buy a car. And was so happy for it. That was 1998. And since then it stopped raining as much! What a pity. Well, it does rain well in Bangalore but not like it used to... until this year.

Its like the old days this year. Its been raining and raining ... day after day. The day starts relatively clear and then the clouds start building up for the evening duty. First its white up in the sky. Then white are joined by shades of grey and of course patches of blue. By close to 4 in the evening its all clouds - big thick white fluffy clouds and typically in the South-west a huge dark looming cloud. All of them like freshly drawn cotton puffs. And by around 5 in the evening its pouring. And I love to take my car out of the office back home. Its real cool.

But now that I no longer ride a bike, but instead a car... do I keep more appointments, meet more friends. Unfortunately not. When I had a bike I had more time and less demands on me. Now, while I have a water-proof car, I have tighter schedules at work which flows non-stop, like a river flowing through hilly days. Days that are indeed big big hills, built up with piles of work that flows in from the opposite direction, and its really hard to tell how much more there is to take on!!!

God... I really miss those rainy nights on the bike. Often parked while I cuddle together with other people under a tree. Making unexpected friends or simply watching the water run over your feet, like its come down to earth with some very urgent work. I miss asking for a lift from others. I miss thinking that rain is actually a medicine that my body needs and God sends down. I miss feeling cold, cold and cursing all cars and trucks on the road for having it so well and splashing water all over us. I miss dreaming of a car that holds me & my friend caught in a lonely road while it pours all over and mist turns the windows opaque.

Still, I am happy, that while my bike has turned into a car. Rain is still rain. Full of joy and bringing the desire for some warmth.

And yes, tommorow I am going to make sure that I drain out all my work and keep myself ready to get wet in the evening. Sure, I must.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Nagaraja - The Serpent God

Originally uploaded by trngam.

Kerala and Malayalis (Keralites) are wonderful & unique! I have meet many interesting people and travelled to the state on my own... again & again. I will soon try to share my opinions of both but before that let me explain these recent picture. The above picture is of Nagaraja.

This is a picture from my friends native home, where they have a temple for God Nagaraja (Naga: Snake. Raja: King). Its in their private land, shared by the entire extended family - a Nair family. This means only they have rights to it and that means me and you just cannot walk into pay our respects unless we know them. For that matter neither can the family themseleves enter the centre of this prayer area unless they have finished taking their bath and then again one must enter wet (&dripping) and for men this means barechest.In this case above the priest is cleaning and setting the place up for the puja to begin.

Anyways, the families have to co-ordinate their prayer dates in the year. Last week, was my friend & his close families slot to offer prayers to Nagarajav here. Offering are made as you see in the banana leaf in the picture and of course through prayers. In the middle of the leaf is a burning piece of long wood. The saffron powder on the leafs is 'haldi' (what do we say in English?.. Turmeric powder).

Of course you see a lot of flowers around too. The priest first sets the place up, cleans it and makes it ready. The prayers also include lighting of the lamps. These lamps are very traditional 'Kerala' and beautiful. Some quite heavy. Someone or the other will always takes care to keep them lit, throughout the year.

There are not many snakes around to see 'live'... at least you cannot see them at will. The forest density has reduced the numbers, but once you could see them around, I hear. Neverthless the temple includes a home for the God Nagaraja's manifestations to take shelter in. See the picture above.

I think this entire practise is so fine. Respecting the snake, a fellow living being and this case the Lord, with its role in the universe, is such a sense of being one with life? And if you do it in an environment that Kerala is, it builds such a nice feeling?

I think, Nagaraja, has been part of Kerala tradition since ancient times. There are numerous temples in his name in the state.

For me, Kerala is the place to visit in India. The reasons 'independent minds'; beautiful country; great & unique traditions; influence by the dutch, chinese, portugese, arabs and very very intelligent people who have huge patience in whatever they do. For me, Kerala is pretty much like Thailand minus the city life. In more ways than that meets our eyes. More about that later.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The heart of the damned.

See these trucks? These belong to the damned of the country. Truck Drivers. Everyone hates them. Almost everyone. But thats a misplaced perception. Most drivers do not own these trucks - vehicles which must be the most outdated, difficult to drive, and offering a poor working place for the driver. Enough, to make you and me a devil on the road - if we were asked to drive them 1000s of kms every week through some very very difficult terrain and roads? Many of us already do it even with the little 1000cc cars and even less powered bikes...

But if you have driven long-distance in India, in my view, you can always trust the truck driver to help you and guide you forward. They are not rash drivers as perceived. Instead, it is the local truck drivers (ones operating within or around the city) who are rash. The long-distance driver has big faith in God and if you ever jump into his cabin area you will see best efforts made to make it a home and keep it clean. Something which all of us driving on the roads miss - intimidated as to why someone else has bigger vehicle than ours? So, we keep cursing them.

These truck drivers have no much say in their working conditions but they travel 1000s of kms across India... seeing places we would never in our lifetime. They probably know India better than most... only they could put their hands onto a blog.

I am always amazed that how much heart and care people show, inspite of their absolutely useless conditions... which the opinion leaders will never take note off.

I think, its the lack of true benevolent leader who can identify or visualise the strength of such people, is where the problem lies. India maybe progressing but a lot of hardworking people are unable to find their road ahead. The least we could do is to respect them... and they would get the confidence to take the next step.

But no, the way our policemen and every other public authority behaves it can destroy any normal person's self esteem. But still, the truck driver stands tall against all this adversity.

Today is a Ayudha Pooja/Saraswati pooja/Maha Nvami. Its the culmination of the Durga pooja. Its the end of the 9 day festival we call Navratri. Wherein some carry out fasting too and in West we have the ever-popular Dandiya/Garba dances each evening. It is the last day of the celeberations where Ramayan is replayed and on this final day, some carry out the burning of the effigy of Ravana, the 10 headed King who kidnaps Ram's wife. However, in some parts of the country Ravana is not viewed in the negative manner its done up North. He is regarded as a learned, wise person with great faith in God. In Tamil Nadu, many pray to the three different Godesses : Lakshmi, Parvati and Durga. Each representing a different facet of the women. Of course, the very deep Brahmins continue the prayers across the spectrum of their faith. Today, a close friend of mine keeps his text books/print material aside while praying to Goddess Saraswati - the Goddess of Education.

Today, everyone has specially cleaned their shops, workplaces, vehicles and decorated it with flowers, garlands.

So, today everyone's house, workplace, and vehicles are shining and decorated.

Of course, the town remains dirty. A paradox that is India today!

The only reason I see - is that a majority of us do not feel ownership of anything beyond the four walls we stay in?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

In the centre of everything?

Maybe I got it wrong about myself. But I cannot help but think that I remain at the 'middle' of everything within these laws of our universe. Its hard for me to take a position on most things, except when it comes to survival issues! Socially, sexually, physically, communally(is that a word?) and God knows what else 'lly. Guess there are many in this 'position'? However, in most discussions it would be called 'sitting on the fence'? Or would it be called ' best of all worlds'?Are there many of us like this?

Its not that I do not argue or do not fight - But only when I need to defend my space & freedom.

When I was in school hostel, we had two groups built of two different streams of communities. They were always at war at each other. Fights, arguments, territories, heirarchies. But all through the 4 years, I never happened to align to either. Both accepted me. And I cannot remember another person that neutral, in that period. Special position?

Now, about the global passion of the taking two roles - the explorers & the explored. This I think applies to most of us. Being a certain Indian, of a certain social class and a certain community, I seem to sometimes see myself in the position of exotic animal in the population - immersed into fulfilling the demands of my little world - regardless of the going ons in the rest of the planet. Where outsiders and also farangs would probably come and see a person like me as the flag bearer of the Indian picture they carry in their mind. So, is the impression I get from some. While at the same time I can often relate with India & the rest of the world, as a first time wanderer would! A relationship where I want to explore, discover and unearth the exotic and unknown. So, sometimes I feel I can see my world from many view points. Sometimes like the software, sometimes like the programmer, sometimes like the user.

Being brown, but yet not dark enough, but still be from a family which is fairly fair. This lets me experience the world in different colors. And my attractions come in a range. Was that why my first attraction was a Nigerian and the last one someone absolutely fair from Kerala? I could feel the specialness in both! I do not mean to be a racist, but I did carry some pre-judged thoughts which following my experiences have been rather ironed out!

While in personal life to be able to see the world from various point of views is a rather exciting experience. Its tough in professional life. I mean, I have dealt with bosses and colleagues who sometimes go round and round the bush before they zero in - in the name of intuition, innovation & creativity. And I have dealt with ones who start by listing each logical element of a plan before it all adds up to the last fraction! I can work both ways, depending upon the circumstances. I personally feel each route can lead to profound results. As a result it often seems to me that I get to understand the road everyone is taking, but not everyone gets what I am upto!!! Either they think I am deep or profound. Or they feel, I have gone of the handle!

And sexually? Do not ask me to describe it here. But beleive me I am at centre of it all! Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it brings down the world the other person held.

And then socially, I got friends who live in 'huts' to those who have big farms in the outskirts. I relate with people who do not share a common language with me and I connect with people with who I discuss the 'superstring' theory! I can never see it is difficult to relate with any of these as such. But often either of these two sides do not see it so. And till date I have not been succesful enough to combine the two together in one place! Which means double time for me...

It is not that I am a great social person. Not that, at all. But the point is that I just feel positioned in the middle of everything. Sometimes its tiring and sometimes it is provides me a feeling of oneness.

For instance, I work in a company which is 50% engineering focussed. And everyone thinks I am creatively aligned. (they think so...) And good for me if they think so. Its a good perception in the marketing field. On the other hand I have personal friends, mostly in the art/creative professions who think I am quite an engineering professional and a nerd.

Sometimes, I feel betrayed by either side. Sometimes I feel like taking them on a wild ride!!

Sometimes, which is often, it is simply so.

Co-incidentally, as I write this blog I come across some tests to show where you mind and disposition lies - > magnoy's samsaraAs for me the last time I checked (one of the older simple tests) I was in the middle of my left and right brain! The time earlier I was on the left side. And the time later on the right!!! Oh poor me....LOL!

Being Indian 2

contd. from part 1...

So, the edifices of my country, I held in high regard, came falling down. It describes a rather meek picture. No? But India is everything and if you know of it, you will also know that this could only be a part of the entire story.

And here are some symbolic events that will now show you the faith & love I have for my country. Well, better time to write, but on the birthday of Mahatama Gandhi? Of course, these are personal experiences and I do not follow him 100%.

  • We went trekking into Himachal Pradesh during college. And took base in one remote village - in the fields, on the hill slopes, equipped with just a few warm clothing & bags. The villagers noticed us, came to us, forced us to move to their village and offered us special food and shelter. They would have it no other way.

  • The next morning when we were ready to leave and we were getting onto a local bus I suddenly experienced a moving force that almost droppped me - like somebody is tackling another in rugby). And soon I noticed I had one of the kids (we talked to the night before), holding me with his arms & legs. His affection (in just 8 hours) was terribly spontaneous that I almost would cry - if he was not already doing so!

  • When I began working in Bangalore, I lost my job (because my company went bankrupt). I had absolutely no money and could not muster courage to ask home for it. But then... every morning I would have a 50 - 1oo rupees in my purse! My rather poor karate teacher ( who earned money as a steward) and who would be staying nearby, was without asking ensuring I survive.
    So, my friendship with this person would grow very strong. And even if he was not rich, I was taken all over his hometown in Kerala. Make many many friends and get an unforgettable experience.

  • Eventually, I paid him back. He fell in love with this girl and it was my house which first became his love nest and later a place they stayed with me for one year!

  • I was involved in a bad incident in a remote village in Tamil Nadu. And we had the whole village on us. Just 3 of us. One keen to pick a fight (how & why do not ask me). And the other two including me, who did not know the local language. When everything seemed lost - came this lady asking me where I was from. And I do not know why I answered this, but I did - 'army family'! And she happened to be a retired army jawan's wife & in a moment she challenged the entire village to touch us and gave them a big lecture. thereafter we were equipped with cool cool water and a guide for us to the next destination!!

  • I was stranded on a railway station during heavy rains on my way to home from hostel. A person whose destination had come and who was in the same compartment as me, offered me shelter in his home. He was a Parsi and I can never forget that house. It was very very old - but very very beautiful. And the most interesting person there happened to be his grandfather who talked to me non-stop all night!

And all these events happen 1000km from my native place. I really feel that the we, Indian people, have enormous benevolence and love in their heart if only we could channel them. Espeically in the rural India, there is so much kindness by nature that we should really not let it go. We need to tap it - so that we learn what we really were meant to be. Else, if we loose it all - we will spend many more years re-discovering it. More years, than the years we were colonised.
I rather India forget its aim to become a 'super power'. And instead focus on ' a high quality of life, progress and togetherness with the world.' For, look around - where is the humanness in being a super power?

Today is Mahatama Gandhi's birthday, and I am sure he would approve it, with necessary changes to his own and my views?