Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Bombay

at the moment. Got here on the weekend for my dad's book launch which was on Monday. It went off totally fantastically and we are all terribly happy about that - being the first family event since my grandmother passed away so everyone wanted it to be a huge success. It was the first event to be held at the Taj's Crystal Ball Room since November and obviously it was a big event for the Taj staff as well, all of whom were lovely and really went out of their way to put up a great show. It was also the first time a lot of my family were going back to the hotel, since having been stuck there while having dinner on that 26th, so it was emotional for them too. I was sad to see the lovely old building barricaded the way it was, no longer as open and welcoming as it once was. In between all the rush, I slipped into the also newly reopened Sea Lounge for coffee and managed to meet Ratan Tata (who was launching the book) and be suitably excited about it all evening. I have been too busy being force fed all manner of things by my family to have done anything else. Photographs haven't been taken yet, (unless candids of Mr. Tata count), but I am here for another week or so, so that should be rectified.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Curfewed Night

The doctor who treated a sixteen year old boy
Recently released from an interrogation centre asked,
'Why didn't the fortune tellers predict
The lines in his palms would be cut by a knife?'

Basharat Peer quotes Agha Shahid Ali in his book
Curfewed Night

The book has been haunting me since I finished - it is searingly honest and reading it also underlined how one sided a view we get of Kashmir. It reminded me of my time in the valley - all too short and almost five and a half years ago now (where has time flown?).  I visited in December, when the chinaar trees were naked, the skies dull and the beauty heart aching. Tourists hadn't yet started going back then and almost everywhere we went it was like discovering a land that had been lost, forgotten, abandoned. 

Kashmir, known to so many of my generation from old Hindi movie songs. Actually being there was like opening an old photo album - those familiar images tumbled out, except they were no longer bright and new, rather, dusty and faded. Perhaps that made the place more poignant, perhaps I am romanticizing. There were also army personnel, bunkers, guns - sights all too stark and ones I would like to remove from my memory of the place, but can't. 

The stories of torture and destruction Peer chronicles are ghastly. It's an India - brute force, blind vengeance, absolute power - which, those of us who haven't, are lucky not to have seen. But one that raises its head all too often and which I have, shockingly, heard people defend glibly - after all, aren't we as a nation too laid back,  too soft, utterly indecisive? People like S.A.R GeelaniBinayak Sen and countless others are just collateral damage in the struggle to maintain power.

I feel strange writing such a cynical(?), unhappy post when every one is gushing over the election results. I am very happy not to be living in a BJP ruled India, what with their venomous campaigns and agendas. Indeed the Congress is the only party I was actively supporting, but the last five years of Congress rule haven't been much to write about, and I really, really hope that with the mandate they have, the next five are better.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Faces in stone

Bali, Indonesia

Stone carvings and sculptures in Bali are omnipresent. The weird, familiar (and sometimes, not so familiar) creatures from Hindu mythology quietly watch over every street corner, every garden, every road and of course, every temple. The grey volcanic stone used to sculpt in Bali ages fast and ends up covered in moss even faster - the hints of green made everything seem musty, strangely beautiful and even the new often indeterminately old.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Monks in monochrome.

Monk and dog - watching over the road below. Luang Prabang, Laos.

Studying for the exams. Luang Prabang, Laos.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Verde (I)

Verde que te quiero verde.

Green, how I want you green.

This Lorca line (first read over at Verbal Privilege) was a constant refrain during my time in the Vietnamese countryside (and later in Bali, photos to follow). The photos here were taken in Ninh Binh