Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy 2007 folks!



Suhail and Shasha have arrived in Prien and are currently cooking up some delicious things in the kitchen while Feli is zooming around with his toy motor bikes, fighting fire breathing dragons, tending to injured knights and generally making a racket. Brigitte and Rupert from Switzerland should be here any moment.

For tomorrow we’ve planned just a small get together with friends over ghoulash soup, salad, chips and dip. The girls who are camping out at their grandmother’s across the road (learning to be “independent” will be back for the New Years Eve party.

Oh yes the big news is that the doc has now said that I’m ready to walk, the bones are all in place and behaving themselves. Marlis has ordered a walker for me from Ebay, which I expect will arrive here one of these days and I can start flexing my muscles again.

In case I don’t get back to this blog in the next day or two, happy New Year all of you and keep in touch.

Oh - for personal reflections on this past year click here

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some pics

Lilly playing photographer on Christmas eve



















Feli's meditation















The crib set up by the girls




Lilly and Lulu setting the table for Christmas dinner






Sammy the perpetual moaner
























Lulu with her guitar







Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Entertainment - not to be read by overly devout Christians

Four year old Felix

Tomorrow is Christmas eve and preparations for the evening variety programme are already underway. Lulu is scripting a play for us in which she and her sister are to play the roles of the three kings who come to visit Jesus while Felix and I are to play Joseph and Maria (Mary). So this morning we rehearsed a bit together and came up with the following impromptu version.


Maria (me) still faffing around in her wheelchair, is padded with cushions to appear pregnant. Joseph wants to know, how do we show Jesus being born? So we mull over the question and he comes up with a soft toy which he pushes underneath the cushion which is fattening me up. When the time comes for Jesus to be born, I whip out the cushion and toss it away while Joseph delivers baby Jesus, who turns out to be ... a teddy bear.


We both gaze lovingly at Teddy Jesus and think about how to hide him from the evil eyes of King Herrod who is out to kill all baby boys since one of them has been slated to be his successor and to rob him of his glory. So finally Joseph shoves him in the oven and (according to his own script) accidentally "turns it on" so that ... lordy lordy, we end up with a baked Teddy Jesus.

Down the line when the time comes to name the child, Joseph and Maria (according to Lulu’s script) have a little argument about what to call him. Joseph wants him to be called Joseph while Maria toys with a number of names like Thomas, Phillip, George and so on before finally settling for Jesus.

Maria: We’ll call him Jesus.
Joseph: No we have to call him Joseph.
Maria: Jesus
Joseph: (stubborn - but trips over the word) We'll call him Jesuph
Maria: Jesooph?
Maria and Joseph start giggling and decide this is not a bad name for their baby teddy who has now recovered completely from his bad experience in the oven.

At some point Lulu, suspecting that Felix might not be able to deal with the complex role of Joseph contemplates taking it away from him and playing the role herself together with Lilly in the role of Maria. That would leave Felix and me to share the role of the three kings. Unfortunately the very idea had Felix in a rage, so we broke for lunch at this point and so far we have not come further.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Spaceman's shoe


Thomas took this pic of me a few weeks back, to show to the officer at the immigration office who was going to extend my visa for Germany. It is much easier to get visa extensions around this part than say in Frankfurt, because there are not too many foreigners here. So when Ariela asked if they should bring me along apparently he was horrified at the thought of me being laboriously carted to his office and said "Oh no no no. That isn't necessary" and it would be enough for Ariela to turn up with my passport.

As for the fractured foot - well these days you don't have the old fashioned plaster any more to keep broken bones in place. They give you a removable splint which is every bit as strong as the plaster and gives as much support. Everybody said it looked like a spaceman's shoe. I am getting so used to wearing it, I can't imagine walking with a normal shoe any more!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Robber Hotzenplatz


Spent the afternoon in the winter garden watching snow falling onto the rectangular skylight. We were listening to an audio CD of children’s stories, about the robber Hotzenplotz who overpowers his victims with a pepper spraying revolver and whose main aim is to rob an old grandmother of her coffee machine. Felix loves this story and we have played it to death with him and me dividing the roles. Sometimes I am the grandmother and he is Hotzenplotz, sometimes he is the policeman Dimpflemoos and I am Karshpal one of the two good guys who fights the robber Hotzenplotz or at other times I’m the dumber of the good guys, Seppel, who is Karshpal’s friend. Then we all change roles and the drama goes on endlessly.

It is cold here and the heating has conked. For a few hours the house retained its warmth but now it is getting slowly colder. Luckily Thomas is back from Munich and we are hoping he will fix the heating soon. Brrrrrr.

Feli’s favourite theme right now around which many games and dialogues are based is “Kaka.” Everything is kaka. I am kaka, he offers me kaka sandwiches to eat, when I asked him what pictures he wanted to see on the net the other day, he said kaka pictures. I actually found some – of a shit sandwich and a shit ice cream cone and he was so impressed that he wanted to see them again and again. A. says he must be going through the anal stage and that boys seem to have it worse than girls. I agree.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas is still roughly three weeks away but the festivities have already begun. In the town centre an open air market has been set up where you can buy all kinds of goodies, chocolates, spiced wines, toys for children and so on. And typical Christmas candies are consumed here by the ton.

In most English speaking countries as far as I know, Santa Claus appears on Christmas Eve whereas in Germany, Santa (known as Nikolaus) comes ho-ho-ing on December 5th or 6th. Yesterday we had planned to have him visit Felix but the individuals who usually play Nikolaus, that is either Thomas or Ariela's mother, couldn't make it. Thomas is still working in his studio in Munich and A's mother lives too far to come at short notice. So A thought she would ask her friend Martin if he would play Nikolaus but Martin was busy reading "Dostoievsky" and said he couldn't.


Finally we decided Lulu should be "it." At first she was reluctant, thinking that Felix would probably recognise her straight away but A and I persuaded her to do it. After an early dinner last night she informed us, including Feli, that she was "going to visit her friend Hannah." A. went up too, to help her get into her costume and I was left downstairs to entertain Felix.
In about half an hour A came down again and said Nikolaus was in the vicinity and would soon be with us. She switched off all the lights and lit many candles to welcome him.

Lulu made a great Santa. She had the usual red robes, a wig of white hair, flowing white beard and was well padded with cushions all over. She looked like a big ball and I really had a hard time controlling my laughter.
We sang "Jingle Bells" for Santa after which he dug into his huge sack and gave Felix two presents and a scarlet stocking with some chocolates in it. Feli was most concerned about the fact that Santa had not brought any gifts for me but A said that it was okay, he could bless us instead, which he did, laying his hand on our heads like the pope. When Lulu "returned from Hannah's" about twenty minutes later Felix excitedly related all that had happened after which the kids were packed off to bed and A and I sat up chatting till midnight.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another peaceful day!

The whole gang went to Munich yesterday - primarily to drop of A. at the airport. She was off to Frankfurt to meet a TV producer who has given her some juicy assignments. Thomas drove her there, the kids accompanied her and everybody returned around half past seven in the evening. I spent a quiet day here catching up on my mail.

We have a new cleaning woman - Linda - from Morocco - a very tranquil and efficient person who leaves the whole house spotless. She cooked for both of us - some Moroccan dish with fish and vegetables. In the absence of the right spices it seemed a bit bland to me but she said she would make couscous for us and get her own spices along.

Right now, watching a Laurel and Hardy film with Felix who accompanies every action and bit of dialogue with his own commentary and action.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Peaceful Weekend


It is nice to be with kids and also nice to be without them. Felix and Lulu were out the whole day yesterday (Felix is still away and will be back with his dad towards evening I guess) and boy, was my day peaceful. Brings back home the need to balance things out - action with rest, interaction with solitude. I was able to do my exercises and to shampoo my hair without any interruption and it felt like a luxury. This life is so different from the one I lead in Bombay and I must say I am grateful to have had the chance to experience something so radically new. Being with kids! Playing non stop for hours with a four-year old! Playing utterly nonsensical games which at some level almost serve as therapy. Been standing up, sitting down, standing, sitting, shifting weight from one leg to another all day every day in anticipation of when I will actually start to move.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Progress

Last week's visit to the doc confirmed that the bones are mending okay, so now I'm allowed to stand and put about 10 Kg weight on my leg. Hmmm. How much is ten Kg? Hard to tell. Ruth had taken me to Munich for the appointment and when we got back home and I saw Ariela I excitedly said to her "10 Kg!" Instead of reacting with delight she looked horrified. It later turned out that she thought the doctor had advised me to lose 10 Kg and she wondered how I would manage that.

Meanwhile it gets dark here so quickly it is incredible. At half past four you cant see a thing out of the window and indoors too you cant manage without lights. Luckily the days are not bad. When the sun shines it gets quite warm and is very pleasant.

Nothing earthshaking in the last few days. But we're slowly gearing up for Xmas. I am making progress with the guitar and Lulu and I practise together almost every day for our special Xmas show. We have made up our own version of "This land is your land" which is half in German and half in Hindi. (For those who know the tune it goes "Yeh rasta mera... yeh rasta tera... Prien lekay Mumbai... Deutschland lekay Indee-ah...etc). Everybody here thinks it's cool and we've named our band "DFI" - Deutsch-Indisch Freundschaft". (German-India Friendship band).


How does that grab you!

website: www.basicindia.net

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lessons from a Flower


"You can learn a lot from a flower - they're beautiful and then they die." I recently came across this quote and liked it. It communicates a truth that is simple, concise and hard to accept - for most human beings. How many of us - who swoon over flowers and natural beauty - accept the laws of nature? How many of us have the humility to recognise the fact that we are no more and no less than a flower, growing in a garden or a forest or by the roadside. That we are born, we live and we die. Mostly our fear of living prevents us from even blooming. That's life. The life of a human being. What a pity.

group website: www.basicindia.net

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fitness All Round

Marlis is back in Prien to help me with a physical fitness programme. So we have been hard at work and I feel I really earned my lunch today.

Transferring the idea of fitness to our mental capacities, I wonder if something similar doesn't happen to our minds. The same way that our muscles get slack when we dont use them, our minds too, after a certain point are not able to respond effectively and quickly. That means we keep doing the same things and making the same mistakes because we are not quick enough to keep up with what is going on.

The more we stagnate, the more rigid we are and the more we stick to known territory, the less our minds are able to “move”. I sometimes feel enlightenment has to do with regaining our mental flexibility back, which I think we were born with, so that we can move in any space we choose and not feel threatened. Even when our bodies (and with it our egos or personalities) go through the doors of death.

www.basicindia.net

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Healing Visualisation

It is rather weird when you find yourself being treated by another therapist, who uses the same methods as you do. Yesterday evening this friend of ours called Kiko turned up for dinner (he is staying with us for a day or two because he is attending a course in Prien). We got talking about my leg and after the others had gone to bed, he asked if he could work on me. I said okay. He did a kind of visualisation exercise with me very similar to what I do with my clients, about feeling and trying to visualise what is within. He made me visualise my connection with my foot which was broken, to see which part of the body connected most strongly with the foot (it was my heart!) and to see the colour connecting my heart with my foot (a kind of silver band) and so on. At the start I remember a heavy feeling inside me but as we went along, the feeling subsided and towards the end I was left with quite a light feeling. This evening he will be back for some more exercises and I am curious.

There is no doubt as far as I'm concerned, about the role played by our minds in healing. It may not be possible immediately because first it seems necessary to clear up a lot of garbage in the mind which makes it difficult to concentrate or rather to pay attention to your body. But then you begin to simply sense how your attitude and general feeling affect your health. And it is not just our own personal health but the vibes in the environment too which are affected.

In the 1990's I believe an experiment was conducted in Washington in which over 100,000 people were invited to meditate over a period of time (I forget how long but I think it was about a month). The persons conducting the experiment wanted to prove that meditations like these could help bring down the crime rate. And in effect the police department helped in this effort. At the end when the checked out the statistics they discovered that the crime rate for the entire period of meditation had indeed dropped by 25 per cent.

What do you make of that?

group website: www.basicindia.net

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekend

Brazilian woman

The weekend with Andrea and the kids was very nice even if a bit wild. Watched the movie "Bleep" a second time and enjoyed it. It's one of those which gives you something extra to think about each time you see it and also the opportunity to catch up on the bits you missed. It really helps you to see a few things, about why change doesn't happen even though we often say we want it. And as we have been learning in Samuel's workshops the makers of Bleep also recommend that to break a habit you have to learn to sit back and watch. In other words, learn to be still.

Well Andrea left us early on Monday morning and now Ariela's mother is with us. She is good fun and we spent the whole morning playing - Lulu, Felix and me. She is good at making up stories.

Meanwhile I spoke to Suhail and Shasha yesterday evening, we chatted for over an hour (one of the rare times when I have been so long on the phone - normally I HATE it). They felt that in many ways Brazil was pretty much like India but over a period of time they began to see the difference as well and the fact that the people there are a lot more free and there is none of the sexual repression one finds in India. In concrete terms that means that as a woman you can walk down the street without being stared at by every man in sight. Suhail said the women also move differently and even the ones who are fat, seem very proud of their bodies, and their entire being shows it. How lucky!

Group website:
www.basicindia.net

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seasons Cross

Autumn had barely begun to unfold here, what with the glorious sunshine and warm weather we had enjoyed till last week, in fact several of the trees have yet to shed their leaves and yet to my bewilderment it has started to snow! Daybefore yesterday when I emerged into the winter garden from my room I noticed that the mountain tops were white. The same evening it started to snow in Prien and by morning the rooftops were covered with icing sugar snow. The branches of the trees, look especially charming with a powdery white crust over the brown.

Indoors of course one doesn't feel the cold but temperatures outside have dropped from something like 25 or 27 degrees last week to minus 5. Today the sun was out so of course it was slightly warmer. From Ute, the woman who comes to help with the chores, I heard about the winter last year which began in November and went on till April, so there was no real spring. It's a strange mix of seasons. The weather seems quite confused about which of its faces to show the world at any given point.


Meanwhile it is bedlam at home. With Ariela and Thomas gone to London to drop Lilly off at boarding school, Lulu, Felix and I are looking after the fort with friend Andrea and her two kids to keep us company and boy! What a riot! The older girls, Lulu and Lisa are in the kitchen, tossing pancakes, their culinary skills interspersed with loud shrieks and fancy dance steps. The younger kids are being slowly coaxed towards the bedroom and I am taking a break from the high energy end of the house in my own little retreat down the corridor.

Group website:
www.basicindia.net


Monday, October 30, 2006

More about the Wheelchair Journey


Last week's visit to the doctor in Munich left me feeling optimistic. The bones are healing and even though the process is a bit slow it looks like it will turn out okay. So after we left the hospital Thomas and I had a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe, spaghetti and giant scampi and beer and caught up on each other's views on various subjects.

Meanwhile, I've been reading more of Andreas Pröve. The guy travelling through India in a wheelchair. In the second part of the book he arrives in Calcutta and decides to wheel himself to the source of the Ganges, which he was unable to reach on an earlier visit. Reading about how he competes with lorries and trucks as he travels in his motorized wheelchair makes one's hair stand on end. Often he ends up spattered with mud and covered with dust. He is familiar with dhaba food and loves samosas and dosas, which he seems to thrive on without a problem.

You get more than a glimpse of how handicapped people are treated in India. For example, Andreas writes about how he is not only constantly stared at by people wherever he goes, but often followed around by children. Mostly they are curious but on one occasion, somewhere near Kanpur, they started to tease him and to pinch him and throw stones at him, the way they would do at a monkey in a zoo. Luckily his motorized wheelchair allowed him to make a quick getaway and after this he always kept a thick club by his side to beat up kids who dared to provoke him physically.

As luck would have it, a young man called Nagender whom he had met on a previous visit, in Calcutta, agrees to accompany him so that although Andreas travels by road and in his wheelchair, and Nagender most often by train or bus, they decide where and when to catch up with each other. They also travel together part of the way by train, which Nagender insists on when they are moving through dacoit infested territory. A close bond develops between the two and I am now at the part where they are celebrating holi and being drowned in colours, and how at the end of the day his camera starts to spew red, blue and yellow powders which indicates that its end is near. Fortunately Andreas has two extra cameras so he can continue to take photographs, some of which are included in the book.

Group website: www.basicindia.net

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Autumn

The leaves on the trees are slowly changing colours. Various shades of green are turning brown, yellow, red and flaming orange. Autumn! One of the most colourful seasons in Europe and in the western countries. The other day when Petra took me for a stroll to the lake we passed bushes fencing houses, which were a startling pinkish red - like huge balls of fire glowing in the afternoon sun.

The sun is taking a rest today, the sky is grey and it has been drizzling since morning. The kids are back from school and the house resounds with their voices. Soon we will have lunch and I will read a bit more from the book by Andrea Pröve which I have had to lay aside for a while. I will do my exercises, maybe watch a movie and get back to some work on the computer. A perfectly normal day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another Birthday



Birthday presents in this household have to be really earned. You dont just get to unwrap presents as a matter of course. You have to sing and dance and solve puzzles and riddles and do all kinds of things. Yesterday Julia celebrated her fourteenth birthday and spent a lot of time rolling around the floor going "I cant believe it, I can't believe it, I'm fourteen years old!"

The presents were opened after a lot of hard work. Lulu had organised a marathon session of quizzes and questions and songs to be sung. The first task she set for her sister was to hop around the floor clucking like a chicken while keeping a straight face. This of course had the rest of us giggling and Julia eventually also laughing. Then she had to expound for three minutes on how it would benefit human being to dress like horses (I suppose she meant the ceremonial horses) - and I must say Julia was extremely inventive and came up with hundreds of reasons including how it would lead to a new industry and employment for masses of people etc.

One of the things Ariela asked her was to give five reasons as to why "Uma should stay with us at least until Christmas in Prien" - and again she gave excellent reasons like "it would give me a chance to experience German culture", I would get lots of presents from everyone and also get a chance to give presents (ha ha). By the end of it I think she had convinced herself that it was indeed a good thing to have me around till Xmas and even came to me for a kiss before going out with her friends - which she had never done before.

Felix has not been going to kindergarten these last few days since he was roughed up by a couple of his classmates. So have been spending a lot of time playing with him.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Temple of Rats

Am continuing with the book "My Dream of India" by Andreas Pröve at a leisurely pace. After Pakistan he lands in India in Amritsar and shortly thereafter - since the train to Delhi is overbooked, travels to Bikaner instead.

Here he decides to visit a famous temple dedicated to the goddess Karni Mata and when he reaches it, finds to his consternation that not only does he first have to contend with a flight of stairs but that the temple priest refuses to let in the wheel chair as that would desecrate the holy ground. He offers to wash the wheels, he bribes him twenty rupees (the priest has no problem taking the money) but he still refuses to let him enter. A couple of well dressed young men then offer to carry him inside. They huff and puff up and when they reach the top it is clear they have no intention of waiting to bring him down again. On top of that since there are no chairs or seats, they dump him on the floor.


To his horror Andreas sees that the black carpet on the floor is actually made up of thousands of rats swarming around. Luckily they have just been fed by the temple authorities (milk and various other goodies) so they are not particularly interested in sampling his flesh. Nonetheless there a few of them torment him, nibble at his camera cases and at his trousers and threaten to disappear up his legs when Andreas decides he has had enough and is lucky enough to find a couple of guys to transport him down again. Now he starts to worry about his wheel chair, and sure enough it is not where he left it. But he finds out that the guard has taken it with him into his shed and when he reaches it, finds the guard sitting in his wheelchair and laughing hysterically.

Andreas describes the tendency of Indians to stare open mouthed at him, their frequent lack of tact and views which he finds hard to digest. Imagine, he says, his wheel chair is considered desecrating but rats are not only tolerated in the temple precincts but actually fed and looked after! Still he loves the country and his inability to understand it only makes it more fascinating for him.


Bad weather compels him to abandon his goal of reaching the source of the Ganges. But that is the first part. The second part of the book is about his next journey to India, which he does almost exclusively on a custom built wheel chair which is also like a motorbike.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

India on Wheels


A couple of days back while browsing through the books at the kiosk at the railway station, Ariela chanced upon one by a German photographer who was confined to a wheel chair after a motor bike accident at the age of 23. (He is now 49). That is about the extent of the confinement because Andreas Pröve in his book on India writes about the route he took to the country. He didn't opt to just sit in a plane and fly over (which is most certainly what I would have done). He took the train to Istanbul first and from then on it was a real adventure, getting onto trains, onto buses, seeing his wheel chair strapped on top of a jerky bus bumping along potholed roads in Pakistan and wondering if it would still be there when he arrived at his destination.

In one of the early scenes he describes how he got onto the train to Turkey, which he caught from Belgrade. People rushed past him to clamber into already crowded compartments. He sat around waiting to be helped up but nobody did. So at the last minute just as the conductor was getting ready to flag off the train he wheeled himself over and asked the conductor to help him but he didn't. So Andreas actually pulls the whistle from out of his mouth to prevent him from blowing it and in that very second a late passenger comes huffing down the platform, asks him if he wants to board, barks at the passengers blocking the way and heaves him up onto the train. It turns out he is a Turk and visiting his family in Izmir for a few days. They spend a lot of time talking with each other and the Turk shares his sandwiches with him and even invites him to spend some time with him and his family in Izmir, an invitation which Andreas declines this time since he is eager to make his way to India. Well this seems to be the first of many such mindboggling events which helped Andreas along the way.

I have not yet come to the part where he lands in India but his adventures in Pakistan are quite something. The cheap hotel where he is staying in Karachi for example, has a bathroom which is too narrow for him to get into with his wheel chair. But fortunately, writes Andreas, there was a Hilton hotel round the corner, with plush bathrooms designed for disabled people and for those in wheel chairs and he just goes over. When the guard asks him a bit suspiciously if he is a guest at the hotel and for his room number he shrugs and coolly mentions a number around 150 and the guard lets him in.

There is a lot of humour in the book and I am quite enjoying it except that I have to read it in German. But then I guess my German is going to improve by leaps and bounds within the next weeks!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Entertaining Felix

Yesterday Felix and I spent the morning in Potato Land, with the Knight who lives in the Potato Castle and his friend, a fire breathing dragon with a tendency to lose his footing and fall out of the castle windows and constantly injure himself. At first we thought the dragon was just dumb and clumsy but then Felix pointed out that it had an eye problem and we realised that it kept falling down because it couldn't see properly.

In addition there was a wizard, Peterselius Zwickenmull who kept losing his wand and special powers and a doctor Krishnamurti who happened to be a dragon specialist. When we had been through about a hundred falls and visits to the hospital with Dr. K. fixing the dragon's wings/liver/stomach /legs, Felix went down with Marlis to the garden to rake the leaves and clean up the courtyard a bit, accompanied by Sammy the cat who ate grass and threw up after that, much to Felix's consternation.


Felix had been left in our charge, mine and Marlis's for the day. The girls were spending the weekend with a friend and both Ariela and Thomas were out as well, she in Hamburg, for a screening of her movie "Maria's Last Journey" and he in Munich, working in his studio. Surprisingly it turned out to be a pretty calm and happy day with no tantrums and no problems (Felix is normally a well behaved kid).

Marlis left for Berlin today and I kind of miss her. But I was quite disciplined and did my exercises in the afternoon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Thoughts from Prien

Marlis landed here on Monday evening and has been subjecting me to a strict routine for my legs, arms and stomach. She is extremely discouraging about me eating sweets or drinking an extra glass of wine and has told me in no uncertain terms that I CANNOT afford to put on any more weight. We have our workout either mornings or afternoons for about 40 minutes. Hope I'll have the discipline to carry on with it after she has left! (She returns to Berlin on Monday).

The last week saw two birthdays being celebrated. 3rd Oct was Felix's and 4th was Lulu's. Both were celebrated differently but had the same excitement level. Felix was showered with presents and Lulu got just one major present - a horse! - to find out which she had to go through a regular treasure hunt with forfeits and singing and dancing for us all, really earning her gift.

When the kids have retired to bed in the evening Marlis, Ariela and I often sit around the dining table and probe into our own and each other's lives. We have touched on various subjects such as how to come out of the closed circle of thought in which we normally live, or recently Marlis and I had a long discussion on the nature of gratitude. When is gratitude natural and good and when does it imprison us in the expectations of the person who has helped us or done us a favour, so that we are no longer able to honestly say what we feel to that person?

One of the things definitely happening with me is that I am being forced to let go of the thought process and to live in the moment. Forced to let go because I see that there is so much I dont understand at all. Eg. why I fell and broke my foot and having done that, the way in which things miraculously came together so that I could be cared for very concretely, and be initiated into a field of loving energy? The way people have mysteriously turned up in the moment when they were needed. For example, Ruth who happens to be a qualified nurse and turned up exactly at the time in my life, when I needed my bandages to be changed every three or four days. Or the fact that Marlis is a physiotherapist and can help me to figure out how to try and keep my muscles in shape during the time that I can't walk. It is like being in a constant state of wonder, of not really knowing how life shapes events and fits us into the general scheme of things. All I sense is that a very different way of looking at things is underway, not only with me but generally with human beings all over the world and that the beings who come long after us are going to be very different.




Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Life goes on

The real problem, Ariela and I have come to the conclusion, is not the problem in itself. Like with me, it is not so much sitting around with a broken foot but rather how to deal with other people’s reactions. It is as if people expect me to feel and to behave in a certain way: depressed. They sigh and they moan on the phone. “Ooooooh. But you must be so boooored.” and I really wonder what they expect me to say. (“Oh yes, I am so desperate, I am so miserable, how nice of you to commiserate with me”) If I am feeling irritable enough I indicate to them that their reaction bores me more than anything else.

Ariela feels that it is simply the fact that people project their own feelings on to you. Or again, she says, maybe secretly they enjoy catastrophes because it spices up their own miserable lives a bit and gives them something to talk about. Hmmm. That isn’t such a foreign thought is it!

Meanwhile, there is a lot of excitement here today because it is Felix’s fourth birthday so since morning he’s been unwrapping presents and whooping with glee and trying to saw my head and various other people’s arms and legs off, with a toy chain saw. In the afternoon both the grandmothers will land up for tea. Lulu has decorated the place with balloons and streamers and to top it all it is a warm and sunny day. I cant help feeling a bit apprehensive about the winter though, which is going to soon set in.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sister Ida

Sister Ida is this buxom bright looking nurse at the orthopaedic hospital where I spent a few days this week. The moment she bounced in to take me to the loo and to help me have a wash, I felt regenerated. I realised that some people "have" it - they have a warm and generous presence which is instantly healing. The way she looked at me and patted me on the shoulder - it was not condescending as it might sound, but rather compassionate and open. I found out that Ida comes from Bosnia and has lived ten years in Germany. In fact quite a few of the nurses and the workers seem to be from former east Europe, from Bosnia and other countries. They are among the friendlier people in the hospital.

The trouble is that there are half a dozen nurses for the whole area and every time you ring for help a different nurse turns up so it is hard to form any kind of personal connection. Yet I did manage with one or two of them like with Ida and with Catherina who I think is also from the east. Catharina was into things like Reiki and different forms of healing and was interested to know that Reiki was also popular in India. I spoke to her about techniques like the Cranio Sacral method which is popular in Germany and one or two other methods after which she refused to leave me (I was in the loo and dying to have a crap) and she kept on chatting about yoga and god knows what else. But these were among the friendlier touches I experienced. But yes on the whole there is something a bit soulless about modern hospitals where you are generally well looked after but there is so little personal contact. I can imagine how one would slowly wither away if one were to spend a long time in such a place.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Back from the hospital

Returned to Prien and to Ariela's place this afternoon after a four day stay in hospital. Finally the operation which I was dreading is over and the bones are in place. The bad news is that the foot specialist identified a bone which the previous doctors had not identified, which was broken, which was worse than the middle foot bones being cracked. It was actually this that required a surgical intervention though having started it the doc also put some pins into the toes to keep those bones straight. The good news is of course that he spotted it at all, because if he hadn't it would have been a major disaster and called for a further operation after the bones had healed and would have endlessly delayed recovery.

It was quite an interesting event because they allowed me to choose between a local anasthetic and a general one so obviously I chose the local. Following Ariela's advice I agreed to having a kind of tranquilliser which would make me a bit sleepy and cut out any panic reaction. It worked fine. I woozily followed the whole process but didn't get knocked out as I had imagined I would.

The stay in hospital was also quite fascinating, the way those guys have everything worked out. Talk about German precision. Every half an hour someone pops into the room to take your blood pressure and pulse and temperature and to give you some pills and generally ask how you feel. I also had a physiotherapist coming in every afternoon to massage my leg. She was a really nice woman who had visited India many years back so we had long conversations about Rajasthan and Mumbai and Sai Baba and various other topics including psychotherapy, Freud and Jung.

Well it feels so good to be back in Prien now, with Ariela and the kids. Thomas has just flown to Spain for a concert on Sunday. He will be back on Thursday. I spent the afternoon playing with Felix, who was showing off his various toys including a telescope and a tractor and a boxful of small motor cars. Now he is in bed, Ariela is making some phone calls and we will soon have dinner.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Day by day

Since the weather has been really good these last few days (and today as well) my parents and I decided to go out this afternoon. Thomas and Ariela helped me down the stairs and onto the wheel chair and we rolled down to the nearby Chinese restaurant where they have a pretty good midday discount meal. Now am back home while A and T have gone, along with my parents to fetch Felix from his Kindergarten.

It felt good chatting with Sharat this morning when he called up from Bombay. We spoke a bit about our project. He wanted to know what exactly it was all about and I explained my views about working on a centre which would provide a safe environment in beautiful natural surroundings, for the work we are doing, in self awareness, in learning about oneself and the world. Many people in Samuel's group in August were interested in coming to India and contributing something to our mutual development - to an east west learning centre. The latest was Danielle who in February will be going to Hampi for her work but now after hearing about our plans for Neredu 2, wants to work with us there. So maybe - depending on how Lallu und Bullu respond - she will hold her own workshop there in 2009 and also a course in Healing, for people in India who are interested in this field.

Am puzzled right now by the fact that I dont have access to rich text in the format on this computer and so, cant play with colours or put in photos. If anyone has a solution and knows what I should do, please write in!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Settling Down

Slowly this is beginning to feel like home. It is as if the memories of my own home are almost fading and this is the only place I ever lived. Thomas has set me up with a laptop, a mac, which is pretty cool. It is right by my bedside and I have it all to myself. Talk about being spoilt.

My parents arrived in Prien day before yesterday and we have been having a nice time together. They are staying in a hotel not far off and they walk down every morning after breakfast. We just lounge around, chat, have a snack and some beer around midday and they push off for their afternoon nap and return in the evening. Ayse turned up this weekend, driving all the way from Cologne. It was great to see her but unfortunately she had to return this afternoon because she is expecting a guest tomorrow.

I miss being able to go out - miss walking around and the streetside cafes which is really the best thing about being in the west. But all in all it feels good to be here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another Day in Prien

Turned into bed late last night after the session was over. This morning after breakfast we had another short session, to integrate some of what had happened yesterday after which Kiko and Maria left for home. Maria is a musician and plays in the same band as Thomas. They will be going to Spain in a few days to play in a concert. Kiko is a photographer and a really nice person. Have tried to sell him the idea of coming to Xanadu.

A long talk with Ariela after Kiko and Maria left, about all that has happened since I arrived here with my broken foot. We are discovering what it means, to love, to accept one another, to care about each other. And it feels good to also be getting to know Thomas better. After lunch Ariela and Thomas went out to do some chores including booking a hotel room for my parents who are arriving in Prien tomorrow evening. Meanwhile tomorrow morning I have an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon in Munich and we will know how the foot is shaping up.

For more check up the basicindia site: www.basicindia.net

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blogging problems

I had actually written a couple of paras more than what showed in the last blog and I really dont know what haappened - they seem to have vanished into space.

Well there were some insights and some realisations, some feelings. Maybe I will write again tomorrow. Today Ariela and I are busy in a therapy session with a couple.

I hear sounds of something being fried in the kitchen. That is probably our lunch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A New Twist

Well, life has its little surprises and this one happened on Friday night when after dinner with Sabine and her team at the pharmacy - I fell and fractured a couple of bones in my foot, just below the toes. Hmmmph. The bad thing about this is that I am now housebound for a while, that too far away from home. Sabine took me straight to the hospital where the docs had a look and put my leg in plaster (just below the knee - it's a cute blue coloured plaster!) and said I ought not to put weight on it. Things moved fast after that. I felt it was impractical for me to stay in Frankfurt because Sabine is up to her neck in work and looking after her own aged mother and so on. She is also away most of the day and being alone in a flat on the third floor without a lift, when you're not mobile is no joke.

I was getting ready to fly back home when Ariela intervened and insisted that I stay with her, that she was used to looking after invalids, that they had anyway been through a traumatic experience two years ago with Lulu (Thomas and Ariela's daughter) so that the house was well equipped for people like me and so on. She made it sound like the best deal I would ever get in life, so here I am and it is true. I couldn't have been better off than I am here, with Ariela and her family.

Although I have been given a pair of crutches I am not keen on trying them out. The left leg is too weak to withstand my entire weight and I dont want another accident. So Ariela has organised a super wheel chair with whose aid I am able to get around the house quite well. Dont know how long it will really be before I'm up and about but it might take a few weeks.

How do I feel? I guess it is very mixed. The feeling most obvious is gratitude and nothing but gratitude. To have learnt something about the nature of love and support. Gratitude to Ariela and Thomas who have made me feel so much a part of their family in the worst circumstances.

Listen guys I wrote a lot more but somehow it got wiped out so I am going to write again tomorrow - today there is little time!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Back in Frankfurt

On my last day in Berlin, Marlis and I walked down to the Ku'Damm which I discovered is not all that far away - the famous street with all the fashionable boutiques and restaurants. Marlis took me to this shop called "Lush" which she said I absolutely must visit. It is a truly intriguing experience - a shop which sells bio products like soaps, shampoos, massage oils etc. It is colourful and the air is filled with really delicious smells. The soaps have the texture and colour of huge blocks of ice cream, pink, green, yellow. Some are in the shape of blocks, others look like scoops of ice cream. Soaps from banana and pineapple and lemon (the real thing, not just artificial essence). I tried on a ginger perfume which Marlis wrinkled her nose at and which I didn't particularly like either. Unfortunately Sabine's computer here is about a thousand years old with no USB port so I can't download the pics. Too bad.

Well, now I am back in Frankfurt after a little over a year. Everything is the same only Sabine is in the midst of shifting so the flat is in a bit of a mess. (Not much more than usual - ha ha - but just a shade). Also because it was her birthday about a week back, there are all sorts of presents lying around, vases filled with flowers, bags, boxes of chocolates and sweets on every table top, birthday cards, in addition to newspapers, bills, and odd notes with telephone numbers scribbled on them.

Sabine's daughter Eva has broken up with her boyfriend Pegi and now lives on her own and seems quite happy. She and Pegi still meet occasionally for lunch or dinner. Julia is expecting a baby in the next two weeks or so, so Sabine is all set to become a grandma.

Being in Frankfurt is like coming home, maybe because I have been visiting Sabine for over 10 years and I am so familiar with this environment. We are meeting for lunch this afternoon so in a while I shall make my way to her pharmacy which is about a twenty minute walk away.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Berlin Workshop

There are about sixteen of us piled together in one large room, on mattresses and sleeping bags with two showers and one toilet between the whole lot of us. The house itself, with a nice wild looking little garden on the side, is on the outskirts of Berlin in a suburb called Frohnau. I dont know what it means to you to share a toilet and bath with fifteen others but to someone used to having her own bath and toilet and spending as much time communing with nature as she wants to, it is sheer torture. To always be on the alert for the next person who wants to use the loo or to brush his teeth or whatever. Not my idea of fun but well, it was all for a good cause.

The Berlin group was meeting for a weekend session so it was all in the name of bonding and community spirit (which seemed to be the main theme) and all these minor discomforts could be overlooked.

It's a pretty big group in Berlin, I think Marlis said there were over 50 people from Samuel's group, although about fifteen or so tend to turn up for the evening sessions which are held every Wednesday at 7.30. The scene is similar to the one in Bombay, with music and being still together and looking at areas of common interest. Except there is no official leader. And it was good to experience what it was like. Quite chaotic I must say and I realised then why it is necessary to have a person to at least convene a group like this because otherwise you spend literally hours discussing topics like how to go about meals, or whether to listen or not listen to music. On Wednesday evening for example, we spent at least an hour or more, trying to decide who would bring what to eat, and the rest of the time we spoke about why we needed to spend an hour talking about who would bring what to eat.

Well then another way to look at it is it is all part our learning process, even the chaos. There were a few people I knew, such as Barbara who had come to the Goa workshop in 2004, and Rosa who was there even earlier, and Ursula who had been there in Madikeri.

The most embarassing thing that happened was that at midnight on Saturday/Sunday, when everyone had already turned in and was fast asleep the alarm on my watch started to beep. At first I didn't even realise where it came from until I turned on my side and the beeping got louder. I managed just about to switch it off but to my horror it started to beep again at one o'clock at night and I had this vision of the watch beeping every hour and me staying awake to catch it before it went off. Obviously something had gone wrong with the alarm function and I would have been happy to throw the damn watch out of the window. I fiddled around for a while and luckily managed to de-activate the alarm after which the clock itself went wonky and it kept showing quarter past nine no matter how hard I tried to set the time.

So today I bought myself a new watch and am still busy admiring it and looking at the date and time every five minutes.

group website: www.basicindia.net

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate

The last time I was in Berlin with my friend Bibsi, around 1990 or a bit before that, the infamous wall had just been knocked down and small bits of it were being sold on Berlin's most famous street, Kürfurstendamm Str. (popularly known as the Ku'Damm) by canny entreprenuers - odd shaped pieces of stone and concrete rigged up with bits of barbed wire to lend it an appropriately sombre look. There was a lot of excitement in the air then, people either complaining about the unification and fearing the worst or bubbling with enthusiasm about starting a new life. The difference between east and west was very obvious at the time. West Berlin, like the rest of west Germany looked spanking clean, and wealthy while the east looked drab and grotty, with broken down sidewalks and grass growing between the huge cracks. Also noticeable was the absence of advertisements - of the huge hoardings otherwise looming over buildings and street corners and the traffic lights.

Today the difference is more difficult to spot. When Marlis drove me around day before yesterday I was amazed at how much has been achieved in such a short time. We started out with a look at the western part of the city with its sweeping avenues lined with chic stores and hotels. And I noticed how the eastern part of Berlin has caught up with the west in the short span of a decade or a little more than that. Today you find huge department stores selling all kinds of luxuries, sweeping apartment blocks, fancy restaurants and cafes. The works. Buildings like the Brandenburg Gate and other monuments, which earlier gave the city an oppressive air with their blackened facades have now been restored and almost sparkle with health.

All the sights were pointed out to me - Brandenburg Gate which marks the border between east and west Berlin, which was the site for all the celebrations when the wall came down; the Berlin Cathedral; the lively square at Alexander Platz, the operas and theatres, various museums, huge parks including the "Tiergarten" - an extensive park in Berlin where Marlis said the Love Parade was held. The Love Parade started off in 1989 as a political demonstration in favour of peace and international understanding in Berlin through music. Earlier it used to be held on the Ku'Damm but after 1996 was moved to the Tiergarten Park which provides lots of open space for the crowds which attend it.

It has been an easy stay here with Marlis and Michael. Every morning at about 8:30, before going to work, Michael serves me coffee in bed, a huge bowl of it topped with frothy milk. It's the first time as far as I can remember, that I've been served coffee in bed. Marlis then goes jogging and I settle down to do my yoga exercises, after which she and I retire to the kitchen for a veeery leisurely breakfast, either of Muesli and cream or bread, cheese, salami and orange juice and of course laced with choice gossip and discussion about the work we do with Samuel.

Today has been one of those rather warm sunny days so we decided to have breakfast in a nearby garden cafe. I chose a Spanish omlette which was stuffed with all kinds of vegetables and even had some chilli and Marlis went for scrambled eggs. For some reason they serve 3 eggs per portion instead of the usual 2. Had a leisurely stroll back home and now she is gone for her sewing lesson and I am relaxing here at the computer.



Love Parade 2001

Monday, September 04, 2006

Berlin


Berlin's Tagel airport is surprisingly small and homely. It takes about three minutes to walk from the aircraft to immigration and then to the baggage section from where the taxi stand is round the corner. The baggage took some time to arrive so we hung around and watched the other passengers and a couple of kids tottering around and trying to clamber on to the carousel, but their protective parents were around to prevent accidents.

We took a cab home to where Michael and Marlis live. It's a beautiful old building with large windows overlooking a tree lined avenue and the beige and white facade of a building right in front. The apartment is very homely and at the same time elegant, with parquet floors and creamy pastel pink walls in the dining room and off white walls in the drawing room.


We talked late into the night over a simple meal of bread, cheese, sausage, olives and red wine about all that had happened at the workshop. An email group is now in the making where we have been invited to write letters to each other sharing our views on our own and each other's personal development as well as where we stand together in the world.
Had a really comfortable night on the sofa cum bed in the living room and this morning Marlis and I chatted till just now, when she is getting ready to leave for her English language lessons and I am working on the computer.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Greetings from Lüsslingen

Hello from the land of Samuel! Here I am at the moment with Jörg and Sabine, in Switzerland, around the corner from the farmhouse where the workshops take place. Today is our last day and it has been a very thought provoking journey with 70 others. The main theme has been to form a kind of global network for the kind of work we are doing. I spoke about Xanadu and our group in India generally and that we were looking forward to participation from others in the "Masters Group".

In a few minutes I'm going for breakfast after which we set off for the session which begins early today. So bye for now. More from Berlin where I'm headed this evening, with Marlis and Michael.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Of Children and Grandmothers

Feli (Felix) - Ariela's son is at his frenzied, active best at the moment. Dashing from room to room waving a silver coloured cardboard sword, driving around in his silver coloured auto, being a knight, a racing car driver, and aeroplane in one. And meanwhile some guests are having tea in the kitchen with Ariela and Thomas. The guy is an actor who features in TV films and serials and his wife apparently used to know Thomas in the old days.

They walked in about half an hour back and we introduced ourselves. "Uma" sounds like "Oma" which in German means grandmother. The actor's wife looked very puzzled when I mentioned my name and asked if I was Thomas's mother. Ha ha ha ha ha. If I didn't have a sense of humour I would have tripped her up when she was going down the stairs. Thomas is only one year younger than me and anyway he looks clearly European and I am normally not taken for anything other than Indian. When I clarified the mistake she laughed and said she had been a bit bewildered and had not known what to make of me when I said I was the "grandmother." Looks like I am stuck with this label in this life.

Monday, August 28, 2006

About the Workshop

25th August happened to be my birthday and at the end of the day I was able to tell Ariela and the rest of the group quite sincerely that it was one of the best I ever celebrated. It was the day of our workshop session. It went off really well and there was a lot of closeness between us, much warmth, which came out of the free space we managed to create between us for dialogue - about feelings and fixed patterns and how to be more in contact with each other.

The theme which Ariela had chosen was "Finding one's place" on earth. In a way similar to Samuel's theme of coming home. Looking at it we found that it also has a lot to do with living in the moment, because to find one's place doesn't mean snuggling into a little box or pigeon hole and remaining there for life. It also means doing the thing that is right for you, every moment.

I think that among the people who changed or benefitted the most, was a woman from Munich called Rumirah. At some point one of the other participants (Petra) asked her what her name meant. It turned out that it didn't mean anything and that it was a concocted name which just made her feel good. The name which her parents had given her was apparently "Ruth" which she hated, because it reminded her of her "peasant" origins which she wanted to deny. Well in the course of the evening it turned out that the name "Rumirah" was a shade too fanciful and that Rumirah herself had realised the need to live more simply, to be more accepting, to refrain from always wanting to be in the limelight - which she tended to do and which purpose the concocted name served, in a way. Towards the end of the workshop Rumirah decided to experiment with going back to her old name Ruth (which all of us frankly preferred to the new name) and so we started to call her that straight away.

Well generally things are fine in Prien. Yesterday Ariela and I dropped off Lulu (Ariela' s daughter) at the farm where she is going to be spending a week and then stopped off at a Greek restaurant for an early dinner. We were joined by Andrea and Petra who lived close by and who had also attended the workshop. (I guess some of you remember those two - they had come to Goa a couple of years back).

That's it for today. Hope to provide more news in a day or two.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Safe Landing!

When we landed in Paris I realised how tired I was. Tired, not so much from the journey which was quite uneventful but more from the tension and uncertainty of not knowing what one is allowed and not allowed to take on board, and imagining the worst - about the hours to be spent standing in a queue while the security goes through every last bit of your personal effects and asks probing questions and makes you hang around for hours and hours. Nothing like that happened. My mother and I were whizzed through security. We didn't even have to remove our shoes like the others. We obviously came across as the very honest and simple people we are. Har har har.

On board the flight to my surprise they not only served wine but I didnt have to pay for it. (Delta normally slaps on a 5 dollar charge on each small bottle of wine or beer). By and large the atmosphere seemed friendlier than usual and fellow passenges actually smiled at us. We would mostly flash what I call a "sympathy smile" at each other. Being in the same boat, battling this cruel world kind of expression. Though there were the usual suspicious looking types lurking around and I'm sorry to say they were mostly bearded. I dont want to sound prejudiced but the bearded types also looked rather shifty eyed. One of them was just before me in the line for the loo, and he took soooo long, I could almost visualise him sitting there mixing some deadly cocktail together which would catapult us straight to heaven. When he came out I discovered to my great surprise that he had left the lavatory spotless. Even the wash basin was dry and clean. My initial feeling of pleasant surprise gave way to the near certainty that that bearish looking fellow with a fifteen day growth had been up to some unmentionable activities considering he didn't seem to have even used the toilet!! Well, anyway when the plane came to a smooth halt at CDG airport (Charles de Gaulle) I had to dispense with my paranoid fears and concede the unlikely. That I had unfairly judged the uncouth looking fellow before me in the toilet queue. He had been more civilised than most.

Paris was great. Being with Shasha and Suhail, and sometimes wandering around the neighbourhood, which is not like the posh, central part of the city but very homely, with lots of bars and restaurants, Turkish, Lebanese, Vietnamese, along the streets. We stuck to the neighbourhood this time, since all of us generally felt we had done enough sight seeing for a lifetime and we just wanted to relax. Which we managed to do quite effectively. Besides chatting from morning to night.

This morning we parted ways. My parents flew to the US and I took the plane to Munich from where Ariela's husband Thomas picked me up. I have discovered that the cheap flights here are very good. The staff is very helpful, the flight was great. They even served us tea/coffee/biscuits/soft drinks, which I had not expected considering how little I had paid for the ticket. And it is actually getting to be cheaper to fly than to travel by train, which is crazy.

So now I am in Prien getting ready for a workshop which Ariela and I will conduct later this week. The weather is cold and wet for August. Most often this is a hot month with lots of sushine but in the past few days we have seen more clouds than sun. Will get back again soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Onward Bound!

Every time I prepare to go off on a longish jaunt I have these tender visions of keeping the last few hours before departure, the last few moments before venturing out into the big bad world, to reminisce about my life and the people in it, and saying goodbye to friends and getting sentimental and making the kind of future plans one is never sure of working out. And then invariably, those last days and hours are spent, not in serenely contemplating the journey ahead or what has gone before, but simply in turning the house upside down, looking for something or other which I desperately need to take with me. Eg an air pillow for the long flight; a light weight shopping bag for groceries; knick knacks I bought for some kids the previous year which I suddenly remember that I should take along at least this time. And then “Where did I keep that damned travelling hairbrush?! What about batteries for my alarm clock? Why has it conked out now? Those batteries are hardly a year old!”

Then there’s stuff to be collected, which I ought to have done ages back but forgot due to the pressures of everyday life, eg. a table lamp which stopped working three weeks after I’d bought it. Of course, now with all the last minute chaos caused by the latest terrorist plot to kill the world, I have been largely occupied with questions like, how will I be able to clean my hands on the aircraft without soap? Will they allow me to carry a pen drive or is that also considered a potential ingredient in the manufacture of explosives? How about ordinary ball point pens? Heck, those terrorists are anyway so smart, some day they will figure out how to make bombs out of spit and other body fluids, so that for each passenger the airlines will have to employ a guard and you’ve just got to hope that the guard is not himself/herself on the payroll of the terrorist faction.

So I leave you for a while with these cheerful thoughts, to join Suhail and Shasha in Paris for a couple of days, who have promised to greet us with the usual assortment of wine and cheese and good things of life. (I feel guilty even thinking about it now, in view of the “serious predicament” the world is in.) Hope to keep this blog and Basicindia going during the journey but in case of long gaps, you will know that I didn’t have access to the net.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Day of The Mosquito

Our lives are being taken over. First the bomb blasts, then raging floods in the state and as if that weren’t enough we are now being invaded by squadrons of mosquitoes! From zero or close to zero count in the last months, the mosquito count in our flat as shot up to several hundreds. They are everywhere, shoving their evil little faces into your skin and sucking your blood like the parasites they are. And whining while they’re about it. Hell. You can’ even sit peacefully in the bathroom any more and commune with nature – unless you consider mosquitoes also a part of nature. (Though not quite the part you would choose to communicate with, I’m sure).

If biting was the only thing that mossies did, well I would accept it with grace. But on top of biting you and leaving you scratching yourself in the most undignified manner they pass on deadly diseases like encephalitis and malaria, which more than a couple of friends have been recently struck with. The latest victim has been my friend Mandira’s sister, Rotna whose new pet Beagle puppy I believe is looking after her and nursing her back to good cheer if not good health.

I don’t know of any truly effective means to keep these damn pests away. Smoke, mosquito repellent – we’ve tried it all but their effectiveness is limited. Maybe someone has a special mosquito mantra that will help to drive away those little whiners? If so please share your gyan.

The joys of mud:
www.basicindia.net

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How To Create A Sensation


Unhappy Psychiatrist (or psychologist?) gesticulating her indignation at the Art Gallery


“Tits, Clits and Elephant Dicks” was the title of this art show presented recently at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay, by artists Vaishali Narkar and Sanjeev Khandekar. I have to say that the subject didn’t interest me enough to actually make the effort to go and take a look but I did read some reviews of it – both good and bad. Even the reviews were not nearly half as interesting, though, as the reaction to the show by a local psychiatrist in her late forties, who goes by the name of Pushp Vhijula. In the photograph I saw of her, she was angrily waving her arms while presumably talking to the press. In one newspaper report she was introduced as a psychiatrist but in the next one, in the same newspaper, she was said to be a psychologist. To Indians it is all the same I suppose. Psychologist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist. All of them are considered “psychos”.

This woman at any rate, was so incensed by what she saw that she actually lodged a complaint against the show at the Colaba police station. The police instantly swooped down on the gallery and ordered the artists to COVER THE PAINTINGS. In spite of their protests and other artists protesting I gather they had to follow orders and maybe it got them even more publicity than they would normally have got because in a newspaper photograph I saw a visitor, a woman that too, lifting the veil of a painting to peer at its unholy contents.

Meanwhile dear old Pushp V. frothing at the mouth, revealed in an interview how, back in school they were rapped on the knuckles for even using slang. She was too shocked and embarrassed by the paintings at Jehangir to even mention the name of the show.

I dread to think of what kind of psychiatrist or psychologist Ms. V must make. Or to think what she must be doing to her clients. Does she forbid them from using any words during the sessions, which are even vaguely related to this unmentionable act which is mostly at the source of life?

I always had a suspicion that a good number of professionals in the field of mental health were themselves basket cases. This incident at the Jehangir Gallery kind of proves it.
Unless of course - god forbid - the artists actually employed the woman as some kind of publicity agent to organise the kind of press coverage for them which they ended up getting!!!

Read about the joys of mud:
www.basicindia.net

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Shopping Spree

Once every few weeks or couple of months the gals and I go shopping. The gals are mainly Saru and Parvati (Paru) who look after the house and Asha who is our Wonder Cook. This time Saru, Asha and I went off to Dadar at Asha’s suggestion. One of the busiest shopping centres in town. These days, I was told, the crowd has eased off, the pavement hawkers have been shunted off elsewhere so that one can actually walk on the pavements. But it is still pretty crowded and the wealth of shops standing cheek by jowl are apt to stun you so you don’t quite know what to buy or what to even look at.

There are shops selling children’s clothes, towels, underwear, ladies garments, gents’ suits, plastic ware, fruit and vegetable sellers and all kinds of stuff. I was looking for some lightweight and handy presents to take with me on my trip to Europe and Asha was looking for a baba suit for her grandson which she finally found after two hours of traipsing around. I zeroed in on a bagful of very colourful scarves which I felt very tempted to keep myself. In fact I often end up keeping presents I have bought for other people - which intrigues Asha no end. When she helps me to clean out my cupboard for example, she will turn a brown paper bag upside down and out pop a whole lot of little brass figurines or carved wooden pocket mirrors or handbags and she says “But I thought you bought these to give away when you went to Germany last year!” So I look at her foolishly and say that I am planning to take them this year and she catches me out with, “But then why did you shop for those scarves this year if you had all this stuff left over?!”

Saru was very amused at the way Asha made me trudge around the place, manoeuvre broken down pavements and hop over ditches and muddy spots. At the end of it all when we were ready to go home the gals went and bought some samosas for tea and decided that for once I deserved to go home and put my feet up and enjoy my evening tea.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

July 30th

Goodies for the deceasedSunday 30th was the anniversary of my grandmother Nalinima's death. Actually we had quite forgotten but Tukaram and Parvati reminded us about it and said they would like to observe it with a puja. We just needed to be there for the ritual lunch. On this day, the dead person's favourite foods are prepared and put on a thali which is then laid out in the garden as an offering for the crows.

There is a small ritual where each of us is expected to show respect to the departed one by sprinkling a little of the red kumkum and some other powders, uncooked rice and water onto the plate before it is kept out. So we did all that and settled down to eat. The lunch was delicious - Nalinima's favourite dishes. There was a dal, some plain dosas with kofta curry, "patrado" which is made out of the leaf of the banana plant, sweet kheer. Quite a spread.



Saru, Parvati and Tukaram

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Back again!

Oh it feels goooood to be able to connect once again with the world - to be able to say what one wants to, to be able to access one's own and other people's blogs. It's like being able to breathe again. Hallo Hallo Hallo!

I am now set up in the study in my grandmother's flat. Earlier this used to be a bedroom but now it has become the computer and TV room. Parvati and Saru who work here are fascinated by what I do and spend hours standing behind me, watching me key in data or fool around with the mouse. It is really testing my patience but I decided to keep quiet and to be good about it. At some point I presume they will tire of gaping at me open mouthed and retire to their own stuff.

The room overlooks the main road and is raaather noisy. Cars and taxis honking furiously as they speed down the road. I am much more in touch with "the spirit of Mumbai" here than I was back home, where we were sheltered from the outside road, cocooned as we were by the sea.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Weird stuff

The blogs are still down but this morning I read about a site, in the Indian Express, which helps you to access blogs which are blocked. This is http://www.pkblogs.com/

I tried it just now and was able to access the laidbackrebel blog (hosted by blogspot) but not basicindia as yet. I’m still reeling from what the government has done to us. The way it has arbitrarily snatched away the basic right to express oneself. It’s a little bit like making sure that the pen with which you write doesn’t contain any ink or that the paper on which you’re writing fails to show up words. I guess our leaders must feel they are mature enough to decide what is good for us and what should or should not be spoken about, even as they shout each other down, plot each other's downfall, throw chappals, tomatoes and rotten eggs at each other in the assembly.

Such weird things have been happening in the past couple of weeks. First the downpour which paralysed transport in certain parts of the city, then the bomb blasts which paralysed our nerves, now our blog sites being blacked out and made inaccessible. According to Mandira who is staying at the “other apartment” at the moment (my grandmother’s which I am doing up) all this has to do with my placing the beds wrong. I have rearranged the beds in a north south direction which M claims is disastrous in every way – disastrous for my body, for my soul and probably for the country as well.

Actually it is the government that should be calling in the Feng Shui experts to place cupboards and tables and filing cabinets and tea pots in the right place so that the country can get back on track.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Modern madness

Enough has been said about the bomb blasts last Tuesday so I don’t want to add to the platitudes with which we have already been flooded. About the “spirit” of Mumbai and how “we will win the war against terrorism” among other things. What is now apparent at least to me is a sort of delayed reaction to the violence. A spirit of despondence. A pall of gloom along with a desperate attempt not to acknowledge it. A denial of any sense of tragedy. This is what is really behind the so-called spirit of the city, isn’t it? True, in the moment of need hundreds responded with gallantry and genuine kindness as they have so often done in the past. Vendours close to the site of the blasts, handed out free cups of tea to the people who had come to search for missing friends and relatives, chemists doled out medicines free of cost, incurring a loss of thousands of rupees. My friend Suresh who lives in Bhayander together with his friends, redirected passengers looking for a way around the mounds of debris on the platforms.
Crises always summons up a fighting spirit but as soon as the moment of crisis itself has passed, the aggression returns, our lives are once again jammed with frenzied comings and goings behind which you sense a fierce resistance to any sort of looking inward, a search for a new lifestyle. Fear of facing the isolation and sense of alienation of which terror and violence is an outcome.

The city is too full of noise. Our heads are filled with noise. Most people here can’t be still for a single minute. The air is filled with tension, a neurotic effort to evade reality. In view of the situation the theme of our last workshop seems to have been just the right one. Strangely we had fixed it weeks before the blasts occurred. Conflict. For more, go on to the basicindia site:

www.basicindia.net

Sunday, July 09, 2006

India - Global Superpower?


“Unfortunately the harsh reality is that if India succeeds in establishing a just and fair society, it can definitely kiss all its dreams of becoming a global economic superpower goodbye.”

The statement above does not reflect my own thinking. I am not making it up either. I actually read it in the Times a few days ago in the Letters to the Editor section.

This was the response of one Diana Pinto, to an article by Swaminathan Aiyar Anklesaria, a commentator on the economic scene in India. In his article, Swaminathan Aiyar put forward the view that unless India first did something to iron out the economic inequalities and establish a higher standard of living all round, we would not get ahead as a nation.

So as you can see, it is possible to look at the whole business of equality and exploitation from quite another perspective as Ms. Pinto (whoever she is) shows us. If we want to become a global superpower we have to overlook the fact that three quarters of India’s population is still scrabbling for two square meals a day, that millions of people are grossly underfed if not actually starving, that millions more are suffering from diseases caused by malnutrition and so on.

Among the views that this reader puts forward is that all super economies are based on the exploitation of the majority and that suffering is good for the soul and encourages people to strive harder. Hmmm. That’s food for thought, no? If we want to be a superpower – and Ms Pinto seems to be all for it – we will have to just overlook thousands of farmers who have committed suicide on account of their failed crops, overlook the gross injustice we see all round us, forget about fair wages and just about everything else that distinguishes a civilised nation from the barbarians.

Even as I’ve been writing this a super idea has infiltrated my brain. If we are talking of destroying individuals and human values to become a global superpower, which is what many businessmen and politicians apparently want – something that will make them feel PROUD to be Indian - maybe we should get someone to help us with a job which our own politicians have started on and so far carried quite successfully – though what they lack it sometimes appears, is brute strength, stamina and the final bit of stupidity needed for the job. Which is why I am thinking maybe they should call on Dubbya some time at the White House and ask him for a helping hand. Having accomplished so much in the department of destruction and injustice in the attempt to retain America's superpower status, he wont mind sharing some useful tips.

Open Space:
www.basicindia.net