Friday, March 29, 2013

In India we spent the night on a train, an overnight train, rattling through the darkness, everyone possibly tight in a bunk behind the curtains but me, without a berth, lying on some blankets on the floor.* And feeling a rush of euphoria on the thin linoleum tile because this, assuredly, this is something I have never done before. The flying rush of the new—you have to push yourself to get there, push hard, or be pushed.

Sometimes I feel a need to assess the present—assess the choices I have made that have taken me/us in a wild arc past anything I’d suspected. I didn’t know what the things I wanted really meant. I still don’t. The things I haven’t done jostle against the things I have, creating friction, sometimes rubbing each other the wrong way.

Hearing Tallulah speak Spanish—it’s almost like she’s possessed. A new personality, one I hardly recognize—maybe this is what speaking another language is about, a kind of controlled fall, a productive schizophrenia. This kind of thing is why I live the way I do. I remind myself. That and an inchoate need to have the time to say—to say—just, say it.

* I'm going to out myself here as a floor sleeper, the kind of person who will actually choose to sleep on the floor because I find it more comfortable than a bed. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe a deep-seated, even physiological, conviction that less is more?

Soon after I took this photo, I had a little collision with a larger vessel, but...I learned something!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Visiting the government silk factory, Mysore

Spinning skeins of neon-colored silk onto spools, hundreds, thousands of spinning ovals, the thread thin and bright and somehow strong enough to withstand this torture. The incredible noise of acres of looms, bars slamming back and forth, shoring up inches, and then more inches, of cloth patterned with zari—gold. Patterns form at the edge of the cloth as if they’ve been made out of thin air. Vats of pungent dye in huge, high-ceilinged rooms. The Industrial Revolution is churning all around us, making silk saris.

I’m thrilled by the risk of wandering unfettered among the machinery—the kind of thrill you can have as an American in the context of lavish risk-taking, without waivers or restraints.

Silk and cashmere, shatoosh, pashtoosh—fantasies, rumors, sometimes the real thing—sold by Kashmiri men with penetrating gazes, as if, having seen the top of the world, they’d descended into commerce with a fervor for human foibles. India reminds me that luxury tends to require exploitation. Cashmere embroidered by poor herdsmen, old men who are going blind—carpets woven by children with delicate fingers. (What of the silk worms, killed in their cocoons once they’ve finished them?) While every day, it seemed, even the poorest women make themselves beautiful—drawing beauty out of the noise and smoke simply as a matter of course.

In Hajemoosa, where fine fabrics go.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

India, Part 4

Our new coconut-cutting wakiti

In the auto rickshaw

Adam's 42nd birthday

Tallulah's eye view

Our hosts in Mysore, Amba and Murthy

Giant wooden boatbuilding

"Do you think that was durian?"

Last night in India

Mysore Palace 

Over Pakistan

Saying goodbye in Heathrow

India, Part 3

Grandfather and granddaughter

The monkeys seemed like long-lost relations

Lingams were everywhere

On a lake in Kerala

Organic herbs n spices

From the lighthouse at Kovalam Beach

At the helm again

Pomegranate diet

On the Kerala inland waterway

Dashboard shrine

Bound for Shiva

Urban shepherding

The real Ayurveda doctor lives here

Silk carpets are our new fetish

Vasco da Gama was buried here

Outside the Kathakali performance space

Malabar pirates