Posts Tagged Kerala

India Trip – Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra: People, places, possibilities, pant suits & palazzos – Oct-Nov, 2017


IMG_20171109_163518289.jpgThis time my India trip was all about people.  I had many discussions around religious beliefs, stayed in many homes, debated and discussed what needs fixing (and there is a lot and mostly I did not bring this up) and what works and why and of course enjoyed world’s most incredible diverse range of cuisine available; enjoyed gawking at incredible, ever evolving, new fashionable clothing like gowns, pant suits and palazzos, and breathtakingly gorgeous jewellery.  

Kerala: Diversity of fruits, plants and foliage all growing together and jostling for space and thriving alongside each other in Kerala is just astounding... And amidst vast tea plantations, valleys full of cardamom trees, are bamboo, jackfruit, coffee, Cocoa, plantains, banana, cloves, tons of green peppercorns, cloves, supari, papaya, guava, sitafal, mango and more. And all these teaming with equally diverse animal life including taher mountain goats, elephants, possums and vast vast varieties of birds like maina, bluebirds etc. My friend who accompanied me was like a walking encyclopedia on all native plants and pointed out each variety as we passed them by.  Enjoyed chilling in house boat at Alleppey and enjoyed touring amazing Thekkady, Munnar in “God’s own country”, Kerala.

 

 

God-crazy India – Slightly with a sense of alarm and slightly lovingly, I wonder if India has gone God crazy.. I  found that there is a segment of Indian population that has clearly become more secular and refuse to partake in religion fueled divisiveness. Then there is a substantial segment that has become clearly much more religious. In the early morning of the day I landed and went to a small eatery, the waiter went and poured tea on a nearby tree and when questioned by me, explained that first tea has to go to the tree. Gods, rituals, and shrines keep multiplying in India and practically every Indian has a real ghost story. In one city, the government installed artistic statues of deities in the middle of four way streets to beautify the place. Very soon people began to go there and started praying there. I found catholics fiercely differentiating themselves from their closest siblings, the protestants.  A Shiya Muslim cab driver was staunchly asserting that Hindus don’t understand the differences but all terrorist acts are always carried out by Sunnis and unequivocally stated there can never be peace between Shiyas and Sunnis. When my friend asked the cabbie to stop at a spirits store to purchase a bottle of alcohol, he said we should have said it earlier and then he would not have accepted us as passengers because it was against his religion to enable people to drink.

 

A Hindu woman protested the assertion by Jains and Buddhists to be counted as separate religions because according to her they are all offshoot of Hinduism. Jains fear being swallowed and losing their identity in the amorphous and boundaryless system of Hinduism and equally staunchly assert their identity. And finally, as a most interesting experience, a Jain woman asserted how important are the differences between two sects of Jainism. One of the outward difference between the two sects of Jainism is that God keeps eyes open in one and halfway closed in the other. When I said it was a superficial difference, she explained how significant it was that the God kept the eyes halfway closed (never mind, that the statues are made by people).

I came away feeling more like Ron Reagan Junior (an active atheist). One atheist famously has said, “most people are atheists anyway about most religions, I just go one religion too far”.

Clothes Crazy India: Somehow I came away feeling like all of India and not Paris should be dubbed the fashion capital of the world. Incredible innovation in clothing styles and jewellery has made every Indian woman a fashionista, be it a cleaning woman, a beggar on the street or one living in a big mansion. There are incredible styles of clothes available to suit every pocket, everyone’s choice of color, style and size. In amazement, I stared at billboards and loved gawking and people watching at airports, hotels and on streets.

Enormously hospitable and friendly India – During this trip to India, I stayed in many homes, connected with my cousins on mother’s side, father’s side, with friends and neighbors from early childhood and from school and college days and with friends visiting from California and their families and friends in India. My cousins, friends, neighbors, friends’ friends and families and strangers in whose orbit I came, accepted me as their own, and at the same time, gave me the best things, fed the best items. My heart was filled with love and gratitude in each home that I visited, and in each interaction. Even when people held different beliefs than mine, even when I questioned and debated, in the end, I was in their orbit and I was accepted based our similarity as humans.  Over and over people told me that they loved to have me because I was so genuine and adaptable and I responded always that how can anyone not adapt when surrounded by such love and hospitality? I left eagerly for my homeland, but I left my motherland with a heavy heart. As I reminisce, I don’t miss the noise (it seems in India, there is a competition to rise above the din, bells in the temples are loudest, cars and scooters honk for no reason, people burst reams of firecrackers that last full 2-3 minutes when you cannot talk with the person sitting next to you inside a home, and even babies cry louder here). I don’t miss the air pollution (I yearned for a deep breath of fresh there). I don’t miss the dirt and grime (though there is considerable improvement in that). But I do deeply miss and remember people and their love, possibilities that exist, palazzos and pantsuits, gorgeous gowns, sarees and fashionable blouses that I wasn’t able to take my eyes off, the potential that India holds.

 

 

 

 

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2016 Year-end Review – Theme: Devastating Losses & Memories to Savor


Every year, I write end of the year review. However, this year has been for me, a year of devastating loss, and it has been hard to write the review of 2016.  Well now into 2017, I have finally decided to write year-end review of 2016.  As we bid sad adieu, let me first say, thank you Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and team for leaving an awesome legacy to serve as our guide going forward.

The deepest of my personal loss is that of my mother who left this world and went on to explore newer shores, on December 30, 2016.  My mother was my rock, my inspiration, my greatest champion and I miss her so very deeply.  Prior to that I also grieved deeply at the election loss of Hillary Clinton (you may contest my counting her as a personal loss and I accept if you mourn with me). I also lost my love, my jelly bean as I called her, my daughter Neesha who colored my life with many gorgeous hues from the time she was born.  She is gone to study at U Penn and I am proud of her accomplishments.  My son Neil continues to work at Cisco and is thankfully living closer to me. As I write this on the eve of historical impending change hanging in the air, I am however also grieving with many of my friends, the loss of an incredible team of talented, bright, compassionate, good hearted people at the helm of our country. Not just our nation but many in the world will miss Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, Mr. Biden and the entire team.  Adieu and good luck.

The year was indeed sprinkled with many beautiful events, situations, and deep ties that left indelible marks and created a tapestry of beautiful memories.  I spent beautiful 15 days with my mamma in India and just a week after my return, she peacefully passed away.  During my stay, my spunky, adventuresome mamma was in the best of spirits and loved our twice daily outings. Every morning I gave her oil head massage and a bath and then took her in the wheelchair for an hour in the neighborhood. Every afternoon, we went for a car ride and every evening I brought hers and her sister’s favorite ice cream. I will treasure those wonderful memories.  Our nation will cherish the legacy of President Obama, now leaving White House with very high approval in the country and in the world.

Hillary Clinton nearly shattered the glass ceiling, and from the grief and determination is emerging a pantsuit nation of women warriors, committed to preserving her legacy and her memory with the power of action, in favor of respect, unity, and diversity.

In addition to several road trips and other vacations, I also had a wonderful theater filled vacation in Ashland.  My trip to Morocco http://bit.ly/1SXk80T, walking in the markets, sipping mint tea, riding the camel, and holding little goats will be one of the most memorable vacations.  Later in the year, after I visited mom, I enjoyed a vacation with my cousins and their children at Pondicherry and Trivendrum in Kerala, India.

Other bitter-sweet events of 2016 include thawing in US-Cuba relationship and Chicago Cubs overcoming their World Series curse.  In an effort to root out black market corruption and terrorism financed by black money, India took an unprecedented, bold step of demonetization, wiping out nearly 80% of its currency in circulation, giving the citizens only days to exchange the money in their possession. Indians and the world will closely watch its long term impact. Let’s end on an uplifting note – the fact that women of color made history on election night in the US, as the highest number got elected from their respective states. Certainly, all signs point to the coming year being marked by optimism, activism, dynamism, liberalism, and humanism at the grass roots level.

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Vande Mataram – Play Review


Flag adopted by the Indian National Congress i...

Flag adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931. First hoisted on 1931-10-31 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Let me take you back to the year, 1942”, thus begins the play, taking the audience back to August 8, 1942, the day when Gandhi launched the “Quit India” movement, against the British.  Based on real events, the story of Keezhariyur Bomb Case in Malabar, Kerala is adapted for stage by brilliant playwright and director, Sujit Saraf and produced by Gopi Rangan.

 

India, in 1942, was a diverse nation, divided by languages, dialects, caste, class, religion, and loyalties, and divided by the lack of infrastructure, in the analog age.  India’s struggle to rid itself of the colonialism has to be as complex and multifaceted, as its people.  It is even a marvel that Gandhiji managed to unite the nation and helped achieve India’s independence, spearheading the struggle under the banner of non-violence.  But there were various rebel groups and leaders, with their own brand of nationalism, their own value system, their own worldview, and their own interest in future independence of India, that resulted in multitude of little struggles.  Some of these ended in small scale violence, only to ignite a sizeable imperialistic response, some puttered and fizzled out, some joined forces with others, and eventually most gave their support to Gadhi’s non-violent struggle for independence.

 

The characters of this play, tell the story of one group of Indian rebels, in the 1940s, in the backward state of Bihar (at the time), and the superb cast makes them truly memorable.  Led by a Colorado trained professor, brilliantly played by Salil Singh, a small group of rebels discuss the plan to shake up the Brits, with some strategic bomb blasts.  Sujit Saraf, in the role of a renegade Congressman, is equally superb, as he straddles the issue between allegiance to Gandhi’s perspectives and participation in the Professor’s activist stance.  Mukund Marathe and Amol Deshmane, in the role of two brothers at odds with each other, coming together to finance the rebel project, are also fantastic.  Their participation in the project, heals their earlier wounds and they are both in agreement that that their businesses not suffer any harm on account of their participation in this project.  Surender Singh, also fantastic, in the role of the restaurantor, provides the space for the project.  Soumya Chakravorty, plays the role of Banwari, recruited to build and detonate the bombs.  Banwari refuses to work alongside Muslims, he is in equal measure prejudiced, fanatic, stupid, and a victim of his circumstances, who looses his land to land owners but feels compelled to do something, against injustice.  Chakravorty is absolutely brilliant in this role.

 

This group of individuals could not be more different, in terms of their interests and affiliations, their cynicism, idealism, and ambition, and are coming together and uniting in one cause, independence of the nation.  Will this group, so flimsily connected, stay true to the cause and hold together or will it fall apart by betrayal, stupidity, or other self-interests?  Irrespective of whether they will succeed or fail, this is a fantastic play about human endeavors to be free, at the very basic level.  It is a play that brings out the complexity inherent in the task of nation building.  Saraf moved the story to Bihar (from the real life incident, that took place in Kerala), so that it can be produced in Hindi.  Eventual language is a beautiful mix of Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Marwari.  Excellent set design is by Siva Kollipara.  Vineeta Singh and crew have done great job in set building.  Sowmya Ballakur has provided supertitles, so the play can be enjoyed by non-Hindi speaking audience members as well.   And once again, I will say the entire cast is brilliant and the acting is flawless.

 

Vande Mataram is playing to sold out audiences.  Book your tickets early.  For registration, go to www.naatak.com .

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