Friday, September 14, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 11 - Alanaan

Bollyblog Day 11, September 11, 2012

I'm going to need a 12-step group to let go of my compulsion to consume Naan. This Indian bread marvel magic amazement is too much. It's too much. I can't not eat it. And wheat really messes with me, having decided to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon with the rest of my hippie friends.
            No. There's not a song in it. There's just magic bread and all the varying chutneys, pickles, raitas (yogurt sauces) and all manner of everything creamy and holy to slather on it. I could be talked into being an Indian food critic. No, I have no background to draw on, no sophisticated palate in this realm, and I'm not sure I'd even enjoy the critique even if the Indian people would offer anything other than mildly annoyed amusement at my attempt. Nope. I would just really love to get paid to eat Naan.
           Meanwhile, here's a picture of Dave at the Red Fort. It was astounding. But I used all my good adjectives on the Taj Mahal and the Naan. So you'll have to settle for a visual and imagine accompanying flowery language. (It was spectacular, though. It really was)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 10 - It can't be made of marble

Bollyblog, Day 10, September 10, 2012

Whatever you think about the Taj Mahal - whatever cliche', over-exposed, iconic, yes, among the 7 wonders of the world, yes, but come on, how different could it be than the countless pictures we've all seen from childhood on - thing you think you know.  You don't.
So the point in even putting this picture in this chapter is, well, 'monumentally' stupid. But Great Ganesh almighty, the Taj Mahal is maybe the single most glorious structure I'll ever see. A thing of such concentrated beauty that it almost pulses like a quasar, emanating light for eons..
                  Finished in 1653, it was built over 20+ years by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Granted, she was his favorite wife, among many, which of course left me wondering exactly how many food tasters were in her employ in the day.. but oh, he must have loved her fiercely, because love actually seems to be a living component in this structure. It is made of solid marble.

"How can that be?," Dave the engineer asks.  "The sheer weight of this thing..." followed by his jaw dropping as we both slowly walked the perimeter, gaping like thirsty bird dogs on a Mississippi dirt road in the middle of July.
Of course we couldn't be in Mississippi because our car engine was a camel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 9 - Send in the Cows

Bollyblog, Day 9, September 9, 2012

It's all true. On the long road to the Taj Mahal, there are at least 750,000 cows... lying leisurely in the medians, on the sides of the roads, in the road, on the grass, in the heartbreaking miles of dirt and mud that make up what would be sidewalks, or houses, or beds elsewhere... and they walk down the middle of the road, against traffic even, while cars whizz by unbearably quickly, dodging children, street dogs, motorcycles, tuk tuks (that green & yellow 3-wheeler behind the cow up there) and yes, cows... they're like dogs, tied to trees, walking down the road on thin pieces of rope, led by small children. Cows... Women in beautiful, bright saris and wraps adorn the cacophonous streets.. and the backs of motorcycles. Shoulders must be covered, but not midriffs.  Yesterday, a man wanted money for us to take a picture of a monkey which he led around on a thin rope.

I won't settle in here before I leave in the next few days. How could I? So much sound, smell, color... floating like dust on the rumor that Delhi is a city full of djinns, forever protecting it from permanent ruin...

I want to believe in something today. But the djinns don't belong to me, though I wish I'd found a lamp to rub at Dilly Haat.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapters 7 & 8 - Betel nut, Betel nut, Betel nut

Bollyblog, Day 7, September 7, 2012

The show on Friday was enlightening. Mostly because I realized just how many references I make to liquor, guns and even cigarettes (gasp) in my songwriting. Of course, singing to a theatre full of students (some of them as young as six), faculty and parents, .. well.. really made me take stock of things. In a blushing at first, but inevitably just admitting that debauchery plays a big a role in my imaginary life. Because I don't smoke, even though I own a .22, I tell myself.

 Seriously, I must not be living right. Despite the fact that the audience, on the whole, including the six-year-old contingent of girls dressed in princess garb, found the whole thing hilarious, and I got a curtain call (truly unexpected), I think, for my new happy album, I'll come up with subject matter other than grain alcohol. 

Bollyblog, Day 8, September 8, 2012

Dilly Haat market... the cab driver was a Sihk with a beautiful head scarf.  

The market was a melange of color, music, smells, merchants pushing all manner of silk pasmina, carving, camel-skin wallet, exotic instrument and little statues of Ganesh. It was a beautiful night, the perfect temperature with a light breeze, as the stars came out... and then it wasn't. The rain started, and the tarps were extended, and the humidity rose... so that I was essentially soaked to the skin and beyond... I left with a new wallet, and not much money in it.
The next evening was a visit to the India Gate war memorial.. 
more merchants, with different, lighted wares - LED-lit whirling copters that flew high in the air and down, glow-in-the-dark super balls, neon-colored cotton candy, ice cream vendors everywhere... 

AND an interesting looking treat made of something called Betel Nut.   
You apparently chew the stuff like tobacco, with similar nicotine effect, and it turns your teeth blood red,                                                            and you spit red stuff all over the place, and.. no, I didn't try it in the way that I didn't try stewed silk worms in Seoul. Nope.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 6

Bollyblog Day 6, September 6, 2012

Got a little closer to a monkey. Frankly, up close, they're a tad menacing.. something about the long claws.. still, I risked it and took a photo. He was dozing, but those little eyes were open enough to make me think Ridley Scott was hiding around a corner with a camera somewhere. Like the monkey was feigning sleep, and then he was going to come and eat my head, and Ridley would catch the whole thing in H-D. Luckily, he didn't.

Lodhi Gardens yesterday was beautiful.. mosques and cranes..


And the markings of humanity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 5

Bollyblog Day 5, September 5, 2012

I finally got to leave the compound with a driver and go to Humayun’s Tomb, the precursor to the Taj Mahal. It’s stunning.

             There are street dogs everywhere, 
even here, in the national treasures...               . 

                               The trees look to be wrapped in the souls of dancing women…

Bollyblog, Chapter 4

Bollyblog Day 4, September 4, 2012

Finally!  A monkey sighting. There were many more than this little guy, but we were running late for rehearsal. There were at least 20 of them, climbing up and swinging around the abandoned building that is lovingly referred to ‘monkey house.’ 

Speaking of monkeys, American politics are getting me down, even at this distance. I’m trying not to let it keep me awake at night, but still.. even ‘The Earth is Enough’ isn’t distraction enough. I’m in India, for the love of Mike. THAT should be distraction enough. I’m hoping that the trip to a shrine and a market will smack me into a broader perspective. I feel like songwriting, but my brain is still time-travel mush. Rehearsals every day and edits, edits. Still – this show is going to be wonderful. I’m working with amazing people. I’m luckier than anyone should be… All this and monkeys too? You’re right. Who cares about the donkey and elephant circus when you’ve got monkeys and the REAL elephant, Ganesh, waiting to enchant you around every corner.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 3

Bollyblog Day 3, September 3, 2012

I've been outside a total of 10 minutes. All day spent in the theater of the American Embassy School, working on the new musical. This place and the students are amazing. Here's a clip from yesterday's stab at choreography for one of the ensemble pieces.

On the walk to the theater, my host informed me that the chances are good in the next two weeks that I'll be accosted by monkeys if I'm carrying food. I, of course, am looking forward to the experience, in a theoretical way. Of course I'd give up my granola bar if push came to shove. Maybe I'll see some of the city tomorrow. Maybe the monkeys will show up. In the meanwhile, internet comes and goes with the rains...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bollyblog, Chapter 2

Bollyblog Day 2, September 2, 2012

At departure from Heathrow to Delhi, insecticide was fogged all through the cabin of the plane. I covered my face with my scarf, and then realized the futility of such a thing, in a closed, recirculating-air system. British Airways is now my favorite airline, despite the toxic perfuming (they claim it’s not, but anything that carries the suffix ‘icide’ I generally consider to be less-than-healthy). The meal (curry, with two kinds of chutney and a cardamom and orange ‘posset’ (pudding) was really tasty, the service was great, and one attendant made the trip my best int’l flight ever. Not a lap dance, no, but, I wanted to give him some sort of gold statue. Or a big wad of cash. Instead, I thanked him warmly and fell soundly asleep on my travel pillow of fluffy goodness, in the whole row of empty seats he snagged for me.  I stretched out and slept an amazing 6 hours straight.

Now, I've arrived, and I didn't fall out of the sky. It occurs to me it's a little morbid posting those "psychic" premonitions. Secretly, I wanted the posthumous kudos: "Wow. She could make a decent guacamole AND was a psychic, too!"Ah well. I'll have to conquer telekinesis or something.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Answer #194 - Do a Daily Blog on India, Chapter 1: Bollyblog

Bollyblog Day 1, September 1, 2012

What do you do when you've got approximately 20 hours to kill?

In the Chicago airport, enroute to London Heathrow, I’ve just tried Rick Bayless’ Frontera. It’s actually great, and the sources for all the fare look to be within about a 6-hour radius. Minimal carbon footprint, compostable plastic, and the best guacamole pretty much anywhere. Except my house.

I’m more stressed than I’ve been before a trip, as I head into India on my own. Maybe it’s being alone, without Dave. Maybe it’s that two of my close-in relatives have died in the last couple of months, and these things happen in threes, and my father keeps having worrisome dreams about me…

So I’m scared, getting on this plane to London. Yes, I’m cursed with a wild and melodramatic imagination, but still, I don’t like that I’m scared, despite all of the glorious speeches I’ve imagined at my imaginary funeral, where the football stadium at the university is crammed with people, waving farewell, enmasse, like you do at football stadiums.

Still, the guacamole rocked and now I’ll actually open up the Rick Bayless cookbook my sister sent me last Christmas.