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:

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:

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