Saturday, December 24, 2005
Joy of Kathak
The same is true for the two other classical dance forms of northern India, Manipuri from the north-east and Odisi from Orissa. Both have elaborate costumes, makeup and gestures. Kathak is the dance of north and north-western part of India and has been heavily influenced by the different cultures that reached India from the west, including the Mughals.
To be classified as a classical dance, it must have a codified set of rules that govern all its movements, gestures and costumes as well as the music that accompanies it. I think that Kathak was devalued and vulgarised over the past century as it lost patronage of the kings and nawabs. The simple dresses and the apparent simplicity of its gestures, reflects very closely the daily life in the Hindi heartland around Brijbhumi, Delhi, Lucknow.
The distinctive feature of Kathak is the foot-work. Vigorous thumping of feet along the rhythm of music from tabla, that may seem very similar to the spanish flammenco in some ways, is key part of the dance. Expert dancers take that to the extremes with such quick footwork that only the more experienced can understand the nuances and complexities. Yet, even if you don't understand all the complexities, you can always enjoy its simple gestuality.
All the pictures with this post are from guru Birju Maharaj's dance troupe performing in New Delhi in October 2005. Birju Maharaj is one of the leading exponents of this dance.
Tomorrow morning we will leave for Delhi. These will be three weeks of dance, fun, family reunions for us as our son, Marco Tushar gets married. It is very likely that I will not be able to write any thing on this blog for these three weeks, even though I may be able to get some pictures from the marriage ceremony. So to all of you, who come here by design or chance, best wishes for a joyful and peaceful Christmas and new year, 2006.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
It is a kind of love-hate relationship or rather fear-fascination relationship. Instinctively, I am afraid of people in police dress, if I can avoid, I never speak to them. In my mind they are representing cruel and brute force. It is for this reason perhaps, that I like taking pictures of them with small children, so that the antagonism between this mental image and their actual gentleness creates a contrast in the picture.
In 1960 my father was jailed because of some anti-government protest. From his notes, I know that I and my younger sister, together with mummy, we had gone to see him. I was six years old at that time, yet I can't remember any thing about that visit, nothing absolutely. Not only, I don't have any childhood memory of such a visit while I think normally, a visit to a jail would be a very strong memory for a child. Perhaps, that visit is behind my fear-fascination of uniforms?
I don't know, but here is a selection of some pictures of uniforms from my travels. The first one is from Quito, in Ecuador. A tourist-information-centre run by a police woman in the central square of old Quito.
The one below is not a very good picture. It is from Pelorinho, the old part of Salvador in Bahia (Brazil) with the military men taking part in the annual city parade.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Advertisements in Rome
Of course we start with Dolce and Gabbana. The designer couple are very gay, very-nose-in-the-air and some what irritating, but you have to hand it to them that they know their designs. This huge ad right next to the famous Via Veneto seems inspired from Chennai cutout of Jayalalita, that the fans of Amma love so much!
This brightly lit ad is in the beautiful Piazza Navona, I know, I have already told you about it. Actually with those wonderful fountains, I don't think that ads get much attention.
Can you guess this place? Without the crowds it is not easy to recognise it but it is the Trinità dei Monti or the Spanish steps, where Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holidays eats ice-cream. Don't tell me you haven't seen Roman Holiday, 'cause it is kind of old! Of course it is, but once you watch it, you won't forget it.
This christmas tree is in the atrium of the central station, Termini, of Rome. You are supposed to write down your wish list for christmas and hang it on the tree. And the ad? It is about the winter olympics that are due to start in the north Italian town of Turin on 10 February 2006.
This is special ad, for remembering the two Italian volunteers, Simona Pari and Simona Toretta, who were kidnapped in Iraq, asking for their release. They were indeed released unharmed. However, it is the statue on the right that requires your attention. What do you think, that man is holding with his left hand ? If you curious to take a closer look, this pic is from Campi d'Oglio, or the municipality square.
That is Nokia ad on the picture of the Egyptian pillar, surrounding the actual pillar undergoing rennovation in the Piazza della Repubblica. One of the largest squares in Rome, it is very picturesque.
To conclude, just a hint about the long lasting rennovations of historical buildings in Italy. It seems that wonderful old monuments are all in the centres of the cities, wonderful places for advertising. Since tickets don't seem to generate enough income, rennovation gives the opportunity to cover up the monument, and use it for placing ads. Rome municipality is discussing what to do about these never-ending rennovations.
Christmas shopping in Rome
Last night was different, because of the christmas shops. Rows of cheerful, brightly lit, colourful shops.
I was so busy going around and looking at the shops that I almost missed my train. While rushing back towards the metro station, I couldn't resist taking this picture at the Bartolucci workshop, with the craftsman working on wooden handicrafts and the Pinocchios with their long noses keeping him company. He could have just stepped out of the fable, into the dark, narrow, cobbled street.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Dil Vale Dulhaniya
I remember the marriages of cousins, for which preparations started months earlier. Preparing saris and gota on the chunnis. Mataji and Bua making gujhiyas. Relatives coming from Agra, Kanpur, Jaunpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Faizabad, and all kinds of places. Some of them, we only saw on marriages. Singing, gossiping and eating, whole day long.
For us, everything seems far away, as if we are just planning to go to the marriage of someone else. Till now, the only work related to marriage has been putting together all the addresses and sending them to my sister, so that she can send the wedding invitations.
Yesterday, the supermarkets and shopping malls were open for the Christmas shopping, even if it was a Sunday. We went there to look for things to buy to take to India. But in the end, we came back without buying any thing. We are going to have a week in Delhi, that should be enough for the shopping, we said. For a marriage in India, how can buy things in Italy ?
Today, Nadia has started to prepare the suitcase for Marco. "What dress will he wear for the marriage in Gurudwara in the morning? What will he wear for the Hindu marriage in the evening? And for the reception ? And for the civil marriage? And for the sangeet evening? Which shoes should he take with him?" And suddenly the marriage is no longer a dream, it is something concrete that needs planning and preparation. Since there are going to be three marriage ceremonies, so everything has to be planned and done thrice. Actually, there will be a fourth ceremony as well, in a church in Italy, but for that there is time and we need not worry about it now.
We had never dreamt that Marco born and grown up in Italy would decide to get married like this. When he was young he would ask, "Why is my name Marco Tushar? I don't want this strange name. I want only Marco, like all the Italian children."
Yes, he did enjoy a stray Mr. India or Ajooba, and he had learnt to say Dadi, namastey, Pani de do, khana kha lo etc. when we had guests from India, but that was it. He didn't even want to go to India for holidays. When we went to the functions of the Indian association in Bologna, he hardly ever came with us. His Indian genes were all dormant.
Ah, love! and its strange ways! You can never plan, from where it can come and strike you.
And here he is suddenly wanting to learn Hindi, he wants to dress for the marriage in kurta pajama, he is experimenting with masala chicken. Has been to India three times in last two years.
In our generation, we were all "progressives", we didn't want a traditional shaadi, no band baaja, no ghodi for the baarat. We all chose our spouses. Now for his marriage, suddenly we have all discovered our Indian roots and our traditions.
"Of course, there should be a band! We need to dance", I said.
"We need the sangeet evening for the mehndi", mausi said.
"I want the dress like that of Shahrukh Khan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham", Marco said.
Perhaps, it is not really serious. Rites and traditions are not something rigid, to be done because we belive in them for religious or other reasons, but only because they will be fun.
Perhaps it is because of all the Suraj Barjataya, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar films, that make the technicolour NRI dreams for the masses. No illusions thus, we have been massified.
So keep a watch for the next installment of the Dil Wale Dulhanya Le Jayenge soap opera.
While we are on marriages, for nostalgia sake, here are some pictures from our marriage.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Pinter breathes fire
I vaguely knew about Harold Pinter, the British playright. I had not seen or read any of his plays, but I had seen him on the "HardTalk" on the BBC in December 2004, when he had said that both Bush and Blair should be tried for their war crimes. This interview and the episode of HardTalk can still be seen through internet.
His acceptance speech for the Nobel prize is equally hard hitting. He feels that while there has been lot of debate and discussions on effects of Soviet empire and communist rule, similar debate has not touched on american activities of "eliminating people-friendly democracies" by declaring them communists and killing innocents till such countries have despots friendly towards multinationals and american products and at that point, they are called democracies. He gives some examples of Latin America, before talking about Iraq. This speech can be read on internet.
I am sure that Pinter is a wonderful writer and does deserve his nobel prize. Yet, I also feel that Nobel prize committee is biased towards writings in European languages. Otherwise, I can't imagine, how writers of stature of Mahashweti devi can be ignored?
Yet the painful truth is that writers in "local" languages spoken by millions of persons are ignored, till someone can translate them in more "mainstream" languages and then they can be "discovered".
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Notes from London
I know the feeling. Every thing that could possibly have been said, has already been said!
Yet, I did have some new experiences. Reality is supposed to be subjective, so even if everyone else has already written about London, my reality of it will be different and it will be different from the last time I was there 4 weeks ago, since in 4 weeks, I have changed. So bear with me, even if I will understand that you might decide to skip this one and to spend your time better!
Going to British museum in London reminds me of eating a banana split ice cream at Nirula's in Connaught Place in Delhi. In the end, it was difficult to finish that banana split and the sweetness of it gave me nausea. Every time I finished eating one, I would say "For one month, I am not going to touch ice-cream again".
Going to the British museum is like that. So much to see that in the end, it all gets too much. Entry to the museum is free and there is no prohibition on taking pictures. I especially love the Assyrian section.
But even the new dome covering the central space is so beautiful. The christmas lights in the shops in the museum were so beautiful. In the end, my head was bursting with things I had seen and my arm had cramps from the contant clicking that I was doing. I don't think that I will be back there any time too soon.
There was a wonderful new exhibition on death rites and death linked mythology from around the world. The masks below are from our own Andaman and Nicobar islands, some what similar to the Mau Mau in the Toraja tribe in South Sulwesi (Indonesia).
On Saturday afternoon, the meeting finished earlier than the plan. "I want to walk along the bank of Thames", I thought and off I was to the Hammersmith bridge. I had been to a pub around there for a dinner once and it was lovely to sit along the river, sip some beer and chat with friends in the summer. Probably that was not the right kind of memory for deciding about the walking trip in December, but that thought came to me much later!
The Thames path, goes along the river and then at some places, where private buildings block the way, it goes in between houses, waiting for the next point where it can rejoin the river. At one such point, I found myself in Bishop's park with boys/men playing football and american soccer. I like the funny clothes they wear for soccer, with puffed up shoulders and sleeves. I also like the ritual of everyone putting together their heads as the ball is launched. I don't understand the rules of the game but that does not stop me from admiring ther game!
Anyway, I walked and walked and walked. It was lovely. In the end, when my legs were almost giving up, I thought it was prudent to go back. "I will try to find a short cut for going back to the hotel", I told myself. And, so I walked and walked and walked. "I won't ask anyone for directions", I told myself, "that is not good for my self esteem". However, I had to ask someone for directions, since I seemed to going around in circles. My short cut was taking me further away from my hotel, I was told and, it would be better to take a bus or a taxi.
When finally I reached my room, I felt like an old man, in terminal stage of some advanced disease, and I seemed to walk like a drunk sailor on a ship in a stormy night.
Don't ask me about my self esteeem. It is still sleeping.
This above is the lovely All Saints church near the river in Fulham. It had lot of old tombs with some interesting tomb stones. Like, "Here lies Susan Parkinson, loving wife of xxx and mother of xxx. xxx, xxx, left for her heavenly abode on 17 August 1759". I like cemetries.
On Sunday evening, I had apparently forgotten about my decision to avoid museums for some time, and I was back at Trafalgar square to look at National Portrait gallery. Like British museum, it is also free but unlike B.M., here you can't click pictures of old masters like Van Gogh, as I discovered when I tried to do so!
Outside the sky behind the opera house was darkest shade of grey-black, producing a lovely light over Trafalgar square. The statute of a disabled pregnant woman in the square is provocative. With countries and societies often insisting on forced sterlisations for the disabled persons and promoting abortions if you think that your child could be disabled, to put such a statue in the main square makes you question some fundamental beliefs, I hope!
The newspapers on Monday were about the big blast in the petrol depot, 30 miles from London with a 75 km wide black mushroom cloud. I wonder if that black cloud visible in Trafalgar square was because of it?
Saw this funny ad about condoms in an underground station, with digital ducks wearing condoms on their head-plumes.
Reminded me of an ad I had once seen in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil about noise pollution and loud music in cars. "Show your virility in the bedroom, not on the streets. People who can't do it in the bedroom, tend to make more noise on the street".
Sunday, December 04, 2005
When in Rome
As often heppens in the old cities, streets may be narrow with high walls of houses huddling together, yet as you enter tha gates of an old house, suddenly you find yourself in big open spaces, sometimes with beautiful gardens. I had that experience a couple of times in old Delhi. This place was like that. Really huge with different buildings, gardens and a church hidden inside the high walls.
Yesterday (saturday morning), I woke up early, with the idea of going out and doing some sight seeing. Terme of Caracalla, I had already decided that this time I wanted to see to the old spring bath of Caracalla built in second century DC where more than 1300 persons could take bath and relax. I had a hurried breakfast, making plans about how to go there but when I came out, it was raining heavily. Unwilling to give up my plans, I opened my umbrella and set out resolutely. It was cold and there was lot of strong wind. In a few minutes, inspite of the umbrella, I was drenched and shivering. So I had to beat a hasty retreat, literally with my tail between the legs.
In the end I did manage to see some spring bath ruins, from the outside, not of Terme di Caracalla but of Terme di Declezio, right outside the railway station, before I caught the train back to Bologna today. These spring baths were even bigger than those of Caracalla. Till some months ago, they were occupied by poor emigrants, who would squat around, cook food, talk with friends. Now the whole place has been fenced and closed. To enter, you must pay a ticket.
The whole street in front of the Terme was jampacked with vehicles and pavements were full of people from some east European country, probably some part of ex-Yugoslavia. The vans had brought the east European beer, vodka, dried fish and other delicacies from Eatern Europe and had set up makeshift shops on the pavement. All the homesick east European emigrants had gathered around to chat, to smoke, to drink their home beer, to talk in their own language and perhaps, for a few hours imagine that they were back in their homes. I am using the word "east European" to cover my own ignorance. They could have been Polish. It was strange walking in their middle and listening to their Russian like language.
A little further, a woman vendor from Peru was complaining in Spanish to some latin American tourists about people selling counterfeit cheap coke and other drinks. A little ahead, a chinese woman had set up her noodles shop and chinese couples were buying it and then sitting along side the pavement, to eat it with evident gusto. They chattered in Chinese.
Small pleasures for the often denigrated and despised emigrants! Each in the safety and security of their own language, food and company.
In the picture, a bit of Terme di Declezio (with a few chinese couple enjoying noodles) and a lovely Trevi fountain.
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