Sunday, May 3, 2009

First montage of India finished

We have finisheda short version of the Live Cinema Project.

Live Cinema is mixing in extra video and audio layers during projection. In this case a documentary about the Camel Fair at Pushkar, India. By manipulating the image and sound live, extra layers come into play and a dreamy quality is brought into the viewing experience.

Seb and Maarten went to Pushkar, India to witness and record the Pushkar Camel Fair. Having heard many stories about it and with high hopes of meeting folk musicians they set out. This video is a view of that first encounter.

This montage is the base track, so without the extra layers (yet). All the audio in this film is recorded on location. Enjoy!

Live Cinema: Pushkar Camel Fair V 1 from IndiVisuals on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rebel Up! Soundclash, 29th of november @ OCCII, A'dam; India Special!

Hi all,

Finally an update on the blog here. Finally we've gotten off our asses and started working on our audio and video recordings. Time to present it and what better than as an India Special night linked to the India festival in Amsterdam? Sure!

Our Rebel Up night will be have a real special thing; a *live Rajasthani music cinema*, in which filmed footage and music from our Rajasthani experiences will be performed together on screen and through the loudspeakers! A story without words, but with music as a narrative and your own experience to grasp.

More special performances should be expected too, keep a close eye on our website!
All night long, we'll play you loads of famous and unheard cinematic pop, tribal folk and folkpop tunes from allover India's vast continent to make everyone jump and jive on the dancefloor!

Back to our charity motivation as always....
The charity of the night is Telluris India, a Belgian help organisation which gives aid to the Munda tribes in the forest state of Jharkhand in Northern India. These tribes are part of the Adivasi caste and are the native inhabitants of this region. Their culture and way of life dates back to before the creation of Hinduism, 5000 years ago. Nature means all to these tribes; they have a natural religion and worship the nature around them.

Surrounded by dominant cultures of the Hindustan caste system and the ever modernising world, they are on the verge to lose their land and culture forever. By the hands of corrupted authorities that favour industrialisation, mining and lumberjacking, the forests have already robbed of 70% of their original size. As a result, their land is plagued by erosion, droughts and the decline of flora, wildlife and trees!

The forest offers ecological diversity, life, medicinal quailities and protection from erosion and because the Munda are small time farmers and therefore need the forest in order to survive. Telluris helps the tribes with planting of new crops and medicinal plants, the digging of water wells, spreading knowledge about organic farming and other projects linked to their direct environment. The tribes can decide for themselves in which facilities they would like to receive aid in by Telluris, instead of such choices being made for them like most NGO's do. The villagers gather to discuss, unite and motivatie each other for achieving their prime goals and Telluris helps them fullfilling these wishes. Nearly all the local employees at Telluris who work with the Munda, are Munda themselves en educated by Telluris. At Telluris, the most important thing is to actively let people take part in the process where at every interaction, knowledge is exchanged!

More info:

Saturday 29th of november @ OCCII, Amsterdam
Amstelveenseweg 134 (tram #1 (stop Overtoomsesluis) or #2)
doors open 22:30 till late,
4 Euro fee. -> Profit goes to charity!

Rebel Up! Soundclash (#18)
Diasporic sounds from the global underground.....
a global culture mashup of rougher world music and visuals,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rapid travel in slowmotion

To start off with an oxymoron: work holiday.

That's what Seb and me were having the first three months (we were doing a project). So it was nice to finally have some time off with our girlfriends and do some unadulterated travelling.

So we travelled like crazy and saw all that we wanted, all that we needed and all that we could see. The list is staggering and would make most travel agencies jealous. I could use some rest after all that in Delhi. Seb and I met Machiec, the Polish guy we met in Pakistan and who took the beautiful pictures of Muharram.

What follows in the coming posts is an account of my travels, from March till now (June). I tried to have the posts out earlier but working on the computer was proving too much: traveling, filming, editing the video... there was not enough time to also write blog posts without being confined to the computer screen totally. One needs to see things too!

So: Delhi. Machiec. He was staying in a cheaper place so we decided to stay there as well. It was located in some alleyway from the Main Bazar (hence it's a 120 Rps price tag for a double room). Immediately Delhi gets a lot more interesting from the back streets and alley perspective.

I stayed a few days longer after Seb headed out to Nepal. I had some business cards made, with the beautiful process of silkscreen printing. Only 120 Rps for 100 cards is a steal. So I had some made for our own project and for Jet as well.

Taking the metro in Delhi delivers a nice paradox. The metros are really clean. I would call them European like, but cleaner. They are spotless, reminiscent of airports. The paradox is that using them gives you quick and clean transportation, but robs you of the experience of India. Haha.

A little run-into
Queues can be a little chaotic in India. Or to put it more graphically: instead of having a linear shape, they tend to have a larger concentration of people on the beginning of the line. Especially in post offices there are two kinds of people: people who stand in line and others who go up front and squeeze in.
I didn't dare to squeeze in up front so I tried to form a line. Being a model of patience and wait. When somebody new would come in and try to cut in front I'd give him a tab on the shoulder and point to myself with a somewhat surprised expression on my face. They always get the hint and go wait behind me, or sometimes beside me (which is a quite annoying). The funny thing is that it actually makes me feel a little sorry, for it creates an extra atmosphere of waiting. Whereas the other method of "people who want to wait; wait - others go" might actually work better. You could argue that some people have more time than others. The reason I don't do it is some culturally European inbred sense of justice. Everybody equal and that sort of thing. Well sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. About the post office I haven't decided yet.

In the train station it is another story. There cutting in front is not accepted. People you see cutting in front usually just need a reservation form. Sometimes you see people with money in hand go up to the window. That is annoying. Women are allowed to do this. This is the culture (it is mentioned on signboards). There aren't a lot of women around so it is acceptable. It's a little more annoying when a man goes in the woman's name (with the woman behind him). (This is not accepted according to those same signboards...) Other times it's men alone. I haven't figured out what gives them the right in those instances. I guess they are either very late for their train or cheer cheeky. I also tried to be cheeky one or two times (when my train was sorta late) but that didn't work: people got mad and told me to go to the end of the line.

In most places there are the sort of lines, based on first come first go principle, but you have to watch your place carefully. Somebody jumps it in a blink.

The metro is kind of a save heaven for all this. Boarding the metro vehicle itself by the way is Indian style: pushing and squeezing in no particular order. But the line for tokens is one orderly experience.

So I was really surprised when I was waiting in line and a young guy just comes in from the side and stands in front of me. I tab him on the shoulder and point to myself. He gets really annoyed and says: "Yeah yeah, don't worry man!" Worry? I don't worry. I ask. If you want to cut the line than ask too. I don't get a chance to say all this, another ticket window opens up. He sees it and takes the free spot. He already has his token as I get up for my turn. He passes me and says: "Haha, I'm first and you are second, I win!" Hahaha, wauw I didn't know we entered a competition. Indians can be very nice, but there is a top layer that is also competitive. But making taking the metro a competition... I think to myself: "You are more like the first billionth to get a token and I am the second trillion." I get my token, and walk up to the turnstile, and I see that his token isn't working, refusing him entrance. Oh karma!

Making travel plans
I wanted to do the Buddha Route and I wanted to travel alone for a while. I like the tranquillity and the intensity of it. And so it happened: Seb went to Nepal, as I set out to Varanasi, Budhgaya and Sarnath.
I wanted to do the Buddha Route. So now I was going slooooooooooow.

The Buddha was born as prince Siddhartha Gautauma, in Lumbini, currently in Nepal. He went in search for the answer to life's fundamental questions, making his way through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, in current India. He found enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, and then when to Sarnath, near Varanasi, to preach his first sermon to five friends that he met on his quest.

But first stop: Varanasi. It is on the way to Bihar (where most of the places are where the historical Buddha lived and taught) and it was a city I was interested in seeing. Going by train I hadn't taken the time to reserve a ticket and so when I came at the train station ('railway station' as they say here, which I always seem to forget) in a last moment spur, the sleeper compartment was already fully booked. Normally this isn't really a problem: you get a general ticket and then see if there are foregone reservations for the sleep compartment to get a last minute place there. And this had always gone right. Well what do you know? Two firsts for this trip: the train was in time, and it was fully booked. No place in the sleeper. So I rush over to the general compartment to get at least a (good) seat there. Because there is no guaranty for sitting even! I've heard stories and seem completely packed compartment. So I was glad to have found a place on a higher bunk so I could have my bags next to me and try to sleep leaning on them. The coach was full but not too full for Indian standards so it would prove a relatively relaxing ride to Varanasi.

I was glad I had a good book with me - bought in Mcleod Ganj: The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep (how appropriate!) - so that I could grow more tired and could practice the ancient art of half sitting half leaning sleeping. The book didn't get me to do dream yoga, but it was a good explanation on Karma and how it relates to dream – quite a recommended read...) Reading till 2 a.m. I could finally catch some sleep till 6 a.m. with the help of earplugs.

Full, but not too full general compartment. This man has found a place in the luggage rack. Good for lying down indeed (impossible to sit in...)! Notice the use of the fan, for placing the shoes when sitting on top. Nifty!

Because sleep-sitting -or is it sit-sleeping?- isn't for everybody, some practice even more ancient art of lying down on the good ol' floor -sleeping. Others forego sleep altogether (for as long as they can muster) and opt for sitting (together) instead.

Yea! Taking photo and being photographed - picture that!

Varanasi - wauw

Entering Varanasi over the Ganges river bridge we enter the city in the early morning. Slowly we crawl in the city as it is waking up, just as I. The river causes differences in elevation in the city and some green (trees) and this gives it a friendly and varied character. Arriving there is the typical Indian mumble jumble at the station with hundreds of rickshawmen looking for customers. I find somebody who understands where I want to go for a reasonable price and we set out. Fifty meter before the Gaths the alleyways are so narrow that no rickshaw can come there. So my driver beckons me to get out and I follow him on foot. After five minutes of narrow streets we come near the riverbank. This is where the Gaths are: the holy bathing places, well known from film and TV every other visual medium depicting the Indians bathing in the Ganges water. Walking until then I was not bothered by any salesman. We walk some more to the guesthouse, walking up and down stone stairways on the ancient slabs of sand stone. As the guesthouse was in the lonely planet and had views on the Ganges river (only some rooms of course) it was very expensive. So I let the driver show me another place near, the one he wanted to show me in the first place (oh stubborn Westerner!). The place was 10 seconds away from the riverbank, with a roof terrace with nice views on the Ganges river and rooms with warm water for only 150Rps (€3). Good deal (oh stubborn western!).

After checking in I went to the roof terrace to have a Chai and to film some of the view. I was a little bit sleepy after the short night. Sitting on the terrace were two Danish guys who were freelance photographers and journalists. Exchanging some experiences from India I found out that there would be a Shiva Festival in Varanasi on 7th of March. Shivaratri is in name of Lord Shiva. I was told that a lot of Bhang Lassi is drunk by people because it is believed to be Shiva's favourite drink. Bhang lassi is made of female marjiuana leaves. Because Varanasi is believed by Hindus to be founded by the deity Shiva, I thought it would be an interesting time to be in the city. But the 7th is still a week away, so it would be a good idea to see some other places and come back for Shivaratri.


Our exchange of stories of India and doing a project here was interrupted by a large black-faced Languor monkey coming on the terrace balcony. I saw nothing special in him except for his size, but the cook was franticly shouting at the monkey trying to scare it away. He was also shouting at everybody else on the terrace to get their things and leave. Whether the monkey was dangerous or not could not really be established: the cooks shouting got everybody scared and the monkey agitated. So the monkey got angry and the last thing you want to do is test your luck with a big monkey, so there we were: five guys and three staff members in the kitchen with the door shut, the cook still shouting at the monkey and a stick waving through the barred window. Hahaha, what a drama.

The monkey leaves soon enough and so do we, ready for some fast city exploring.

Exploring Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the most holy cities in India. It's a city dedicated to the deity Shiva: in the hindu trinity he takes up the role of the destroyer, but this is seen positively. The Ghats along the holy rives Ganges attracts pilgrim bathers who want to wash away their sins in the holy Ganges river. A lot of Hindu's also want to be cremated here - most Indians believe that onyone dying on the banks of the river in Varanasi attains instant 'Moksha" or enlightment.
With these huge importanties Varanasi for the most part feels like a village at least on these ghats: if not friendly, at least no intrusion from people who want to sell you something.

People are also not bothered by you as you walk among the rituals, as Hindus are not quickly bothered by anything, but mostly people are quite inviting and willing to explain what is going on. Some rituals mundane, like people splashing in the water, other less so, like people getting all their head shaven, women too, and other still quite exceptional ones like a cremation. The only thing not allowed is filming the corpses being cremated, but after paying a fee (that reportedly goes to an elderly home for people waiting to be cremated there) filming this is also possible....

The cremations take place during the day as well as during the night. Cremations take place on a few ghats. Walking along these is quite something to see for the first time. It takes you back in time walking on the sandstone pavement and to see huge piles of wood sold by the kilo for burning a human corps.
It's almost breath-taking to see a funeral pyre for the first time.
It takes some time to take in that a human body is burning and it is also quite consoling somehow.

The river is beautiful, with its wooden boats tied to the shore and each other, and the mist clearing in the morning making the waste shore on the other side visible.

The Ghats feel medieval with its sandstone and archaic instruments for ritual burning and it's little food shops - especially yoghurt products like dahi served in one time use clay pots.

Next stop is Budhgaya to come back to Varanasi on the 7th. Next Blog post also!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Last days on Indian soil

-It has been 3 weeks since I'm back in Europe, never having finished my last post properly, so here it is, sorry for the wait-

I didn't stay long in Delhi as I wanted to get to Jodhpur, in search of a rare to find Kamaycha violin. I just had to renew my visa for a few days as I had before miscalculated in booking my flight, overstaying my visa by 5 days.
At the FFRO office, all went swell this time and got my passport stamped within the hour. It is a truly chaotic and over swarmed place, but as me and Maarten had been at the place a few times already, it was less daunting. In relaxed manner I went through all the paperwork, had to wait a bit and talked to 2 immigrant youths from Congo about their life in India, trying to set up a little business . Other westerners (and FFRO first-timers) were not dealing well with adapting to the chaos. At one moment an Israeli guy (no surprise, who else could it be...) started arrogantly screaming to the officials who didn't want to give him what he wanted as he probably lacked paperwork or solid proof for a visa renewal. Yeah, just waste your time with such an attitude and see how you won't get helped.

Now, I don't want this to turn into a bad generalising slur but I need to say that in all our time in India, of all westerners along our trip the Israeli tourists have always been the worst, the most obnoxious and most annoying ones. Thankfully, we also met genuine and openhearted Israeli's like Gil, Roy and several others, but the sad truth is that the majority of Israeli tourists will just haggle hard and harshly for everything and thereby treating the locals like lower life forms. How's that for generic irony?
Really, we've seen it too many times to remain objective on that part and Maarten even once had to intervene in a verbal fight between a clueless Israeli girl and an honestly sincere shopkeeper about some itty-bitty costs.
Because of the abusive attitude of such bad apples, the good Israeli travellers also suffer from this. Nowadays, many Indians are starting to hate Israeli travellers and some guesthouses have already put up signs saying 'No Israeli allowed' as well as that some shops have signs on them explaining in Hebrew script that one should always haggle with respect and dignity. Only time and a hopeful change of attitude can tell how long this will go on.

In the evening I took a bus to Jodhpur for some unfinished business with the Rajasthani folk institute and acquiring a rare kamaycha, the thick stringed violin from the desert surroundings of western Rajasthan. In the Rajasthan institute I met Kuldeep again and had dinner with him and a Ukranian and American project student, who were in Rajasthan for several months now. The next day I wandered about Jodhpur for the last time. Such a nice place, with its busy bazaar and market and streetlife all about, expanding itself. Together with Jaisalmer it is the nicest and most atmosphere filled place in Rajasthan, even for such a big city. Spices, glass bangles, cloth, veggies, fried snacks, old tapes, dusty junk, plastic utensils. Everything there, filling the wooden stalls or spreaded on thick groundcloths, Kabeliya women and teenage girls squating below. All eagerly talkative to get your attention and you just go along with it, to enjoy those last Rajasthani spheres. After all those months in India, you can't be put off anymore by such bustling market action in eye-winkling manner.

In the afternoon back to the institute, seeing the Kamaycha being strung up. I peeked through the immense folk library and picked up a book on Hungarian folk music by Zoltan Kordaly, an authority on music patterns and the history behind it. Interesting read, in which he claims that nearly all gypsy music in Hungary, Romania and surrounding countries has been taken from old Hungarian folk songs. Its melodies remixed by the travellers in their own context. Through comparing patterns he can trace back the gypsy songs to their original Hungarian source and likewise for instrumental compositions. If you have more than an interest in eastern european folk music and/or gypsy music, get your eyes on this book. The Kamaycha was just made ready and I had to run for a rickshaw to get to my train. Only 15 minutes left, oy oy and ushered the rickshaw man to race for it. Made it just on time, the train leaving 3 minutes after, ouff.

Back in scorching Delhi, it was just 2 days and 1 night more for relaxing and buying souvenirs for friends and family home.
That also ment fun like getting stuck in a traffic jam in severe pollution. Or like the bizarre experience of having a few helpfull artist posh boys driving me around in their big mercedes that pumped out the loudest and worst trance tunes while slowly passing streets. That is India; one extreme after the other by the hands of local people who put you into weird situations. Expect the unexpected, that is India's exciting bliss to which one gets addicted to.

I was slowly winding and closing down this 6 month travel. It was a bit weird, having the feeling of leaving India behind and heading back to the West. How would things be there, what was awaiting me, would life become more boring? and so on. Returning from a long travel only gives you feelings of vagueness. At the airport, all was smooth and peacefull in the terminal. Quite different to several months before, when our girlfriends flew back home and the place was utter chaos. I checked all my bags and was told that I had 20kg excess bagage, which would cost me 11000 rupees, ouch! I had no cash on me anymore and my credit card did not want to work in the several times they swiped it. The staff turned a kind eye and let me go with a wink, my baggage unpaid and forgiven. Sometimes it's lucky not to have your credit card working. ;)

Maarten is still traveling about and should now be in Nepal for a few weeks before heading back home, overland or by air?
He has been a quite busy boy and spent two weeks in the jungle somewhere in central India. There he did some filming for a documentary on a Belgian NGO and their doings in everyday life for people in tribal area's. Soon he should post up something about his experiences there and more.

I might write a last post about readjusting to life in the west, comparing it with India and what is (not) missing here.
We will start working on our immensly gathered sounds and visuals when Maarten is back here. I hope to update the blog now and then on what is happening with our material in terms of releases, documentary, collages, presentations, screenings and performances. Who knows what might come from it.
If you want to be regularly updated about our sounds and visuals, please send us an email and we'll add you to some sort of list (see right hand section for our addies)

signing off for now.... (seb)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Monsooning in Kolkata and the blissfully lost in Orissa

Slacking. These last few days hanging about in Rajasthan and Delhi, actually hurrying from place to place since Orissa and Varanasi, it didn't do the blog any good. Nor my motivation could be startled into quick write-ups either by the muffled heat hanging around since I came down from the Darjeeling hills.

Picking it up where I left the thread limp;
Late morning arrival in Kolkata (or known as Calcutta, in colonial terms)
The bus already wrapped me into an immense irky heat and it was no better outside under the scorching eye of the sun. Such hot and humid weather, the concrete and pavement sucking up all the warmth. The cab found the way to the hotel where Miki and I had agreed to meet. So it went without mix ups.

Kolkata as a city was far more interesting and felt nicer than any of the other big cities I had visited in India. Somehow the people were more kind and helpful than say the tedious hawk-and-hassle behaviour in Delhi or other tourist hideouts. Perhaps it comes from the fact that Kolkata is a metropole with a Communist city government and socialism seemed more virbrant in the air than anywhere else. This is just an all-too-quick glance of a 36 hour stopover stay so I don't know if I saw it through rose tinted glasses or took it in with too much subjectivity. For Miki it was her last day in India as the next night she would fly to Europe and travel on westwards for a longer while. It had been so warm all day, that in the evening it started to get unusually dark and grey, windy too. And suddenly, flasssssch. Heavens opened up and down came a power shower for the next hours. Lightning, rumble and fierce winds too. Some thick branches of trees fell down on the road with a moaning crack, some streets were quickly under water and open sewers flowing over.
Early monsoon styled weather it seemed. Like locals said; unusual. They also linked the opinion of the current state of global environment to the result of global warming.

Next day the morning again dried. Walking around the Kolkata streets, I found my way to the Mondal instrument shop, a place famous for making quality instruments, especially the carnatic violin. Since a long while I had wanted one and having seem them being crafted on the spot, I melted and plunged for one of better quality and all included. And at such a modest price too, in like twice a day's wage. More stuff to carry with me on top of all stuff gathered. it makes me my own slave and wagemaster at once, sucker donkeying my way around India. So it shall be then.

I accompanied Miki on her last doings and we visited a colonial graveyard. The only thing touristic that we did in the city. Just for a few minutes where the elderly and chatty custodians wanted us to sign the guestbook twice, and with comments. My comment being that there weren't enough tyrannic ghosts around to hunt the locals. I wonder what they'll make of that.
Miki had to do some sending at the general post office. A parcel. If you have never been in India, this won't raise a chill or hair but to those who know the experience all too wat...yes, exhilarating fun ahead! In we went, by the helping hand of an elderly stoop stitcher. No really, that's their job. Stitching parcels on the postal stoop. Confusion! The 2 middle aged men behind the inquiry counter want to help us oh so good, but the PC won't start up. There is a list that can tell how much a package can cost, but neither looks to it. They quarrel about the methods of shipment; 'air, sea, speedpost, bookpost!' and also about the cost. Hilarious, free entertainment at your own whim, a mental whimsical one that is. Miki gave a few sighs and sang her song in the way she did quite often in likewise situations of compatible masala mix-ups: "Indiaaaa!" All in all, going from one desk to the other, seeing the whole building (which must say is an impressive building in victorian dome style with high ceilings), back to the stoop for stitching. "Indiaaa!"
Finally needing 2 stickers and some writing on the parcel from the same fella's at the enquiry counter. To prevent Miki from collapsing and singing herself into a bittersweet temper, I went up to the counter and only one of the middle aged men was there. The slower one. He was enjoying a game of Patience on the computer screen. Yes, the card game! At least the computer's slowcoming power wasn't wasted for nothing besided our weighing, pfew. The stickers were put on it, as ofcourse, he couldn't keep his glare too long off his game. Ah, the newly found backalleys to motivation! Time, more than an hour. To celebrate it in irony, we passed a shop selling intoxicating liquids, booze. Treated ourselves to a pint bottle of beer of a brand that I otherwise wouldn't be found dead with. Ahem, it was one of my first beers in all these 6 months and likewise for my Miki, so during dinner the it felt weird having this sensation of alcopop bubbles brewing from your stomach into your nerves. This all before I had to catch my night train to Puri, Orissa, so the packing and going went in a rush as usual.
Made it though.

Arrival in Puri. Hot and humid sea air. Hmmm, good smell, but no a fresh crisp salty smell that one is used to on the Atlantic coast. Rather a manky, salty, thickly aired smell. German friend Mischka had given me a good Puri hotel reference back in Darjeeling and soon I dropped all my bags in said place. The Old Sagar Saikate hotel, it was indeed a safe haven of tranquility and shade. Shanti style. That was the word every guest was or started using in the days to come. Yes, everything shanti, easygoing. The building itself had been a small fortress residence of the British about hundred years ago during the Bengal wars. Nice place, funny how the soldier's rooms were now used by low budget backpackers, most of them stoned all day long. That was the peace most came to look for in Puri and easily found, greeted and hugged with. I spent 10 days in Puri as a relaxing daze that still went too fast. Days where you really do nothing, sleep late and fill it by reading or slowly pacing yourself, are the days where time keeps to a different rhythym. The real rhythym of reality! And time thus walks past you while you're creeping at a turtle's pace. Except for visiting the special Sun temple at Konark (thanks for that early tip Winklemann!) and seeing the Irrawaddy (gangetic) dolphins at Chilika lake, other days were lushily wasted. Here a description in nonsensical words;
Kingfish oven dishes crawling your nostrills and yummy into your tummy; bhang chai taking you up and away a full day, bringing you back to your senses; cycling through sand into invisible bambi habituated tropical pine forests that resemble the Les Landes coastal area in France; the spontaneous skinnydipping by some aware of secludedness and wild waves pushing their bodies and faces into the sandbanks topsy turvy; cheerfull Russians playing hiphop, ambient and IDM deeply into the night as nightwalkers, soundstalkers, photoshophoppers and videorodeoriders, all creatively in the tropical beehive of sugared mangopop and ketamine; Japanese, Russian, Belgian and Kiwi folks of allsorts improvising music sessions in the mosquito dazzled and sticky nights; loafing around in a lungi, being most comfortable and integration into local fisherman society; being daily stalked by drunken yet innocent hash pushers lurking about every alley around the hotel and leading to the ever bizarre conversations; hearing the endless oneliners of Kanu, the liberated servant that chains himself to pleasurable chores; the babbling oneliners back at him from the guests; the allmost-fight between the manager and a local on the hotel premises, rumbling through our shanti time, and so forth and so.....

No, to make stories around these little facts of 'life of a Puri saltbowl refugee', that would indulge too much space of this post and hence your affectionate attention. Let them remain folly fiction at best and most unreal, into the unknown black hole that one gets sucked into while on a holiday in an all-too-laid-back spot somewhere in a tropical hemisphere on this globe, wherever it may be. Things could be worse, like trying to translate it into a common context for others to understand, Shiva forbid.

But, Puri honestly was an amazing place, if not my favorite region of India so far. The region was amazing, the smiling people too and same goes for the coast! How many times we have had, or me alone has had, so much empty beach at our disposal without another soul in sight. Many a headturn; one km to the left, one to the right. Nope, nobody. To waste time time with the least worry, the Orissan coast is the place. That alas, also means that I never made it too the tribal parts in the north and south. They all were quite far away (up to 15 hour busrides and no guarantees of admittance) and hearsay said that you can only get into the jungle villages of the 62(!) different tribes if you have a guide and thus have paid a hefty sum that exceeds the 100 dollar mark. Better to plan a next visit in the future and arrange it with people on the inside and stay in said jungle spot for a reasonable time and not through a hopsack-quick-glance breeze by the tourist winds. On the last night I met Elena from Italy who had been living in Orissa for nearly a year and who spent a few months in the Northern jungle communities where she did social work in a project. Needless to say, she saw a lot of ceremonies and was part of local jungle life in a way a 'tribal package deal' can never bring.

On the day before I left, I rented a motoped and went to Chilika lake. 50 km's riding through small coastal roads, men and women standing hipdeep in water, browsing for shrimps and shells in the nets below. People who are half jungle and half cultivated into village life, a life that to them already is ├╝ber-urban. Seeing them look to you, wave to you, smile from a distance. Ofcourse you stop and make contact. Smiles around, shared laughs about pigment and hair colours, different pierced ornaments on both. And all without the slightest hassle nor nervous hands stretched out with the 'paisa' slogan.
The Irrawaddy dolphins, yup nice animals the few pairs of them, jumping up and down, squirting some water. It's a fun deal, just on time to catch the boat and joining a Kolkatan family layered with several generations. 3 hour ride on the lake, stopover to drink palmnuts, chew their white sallow fruity flesh, nibbling on the namkeen of the generous family. Sure the boat ride was nice, but the ride on wheels through those people's fields, watery patches and their villages was way more rewarding than sitting still on a boat and peering for light grey mammals.
Damn camera gave all of its last power and the snapshots of the 50km ride were the last to be taken.

I left Puri and Orissa as it was unavoidable. Back westwards towards Delhi, but first stopping at Varanasi. The city of the dead. Not ment in a sardonic or dark way, but in the famed way of the non stop human barbeque, 24 hours a day at the ghats of the Ganges.
My hotel was just behind the main ghat, the main place where the ritual burning was done. First sight from above; a man burns and the cloth around his bodies has all burned up, right to the face. His head lies back into the fire while the face stares up as if looking to the sky for the last time, the mouth open as if making a final grimace. That's just my imagination running loose, but you make up stories to make it more bearable and understanding for yourself. In a pile next to this one, just a half corpse lies in the flames, one leg curled up by the sheer heat and sticking into the air. Bizarre. All other limbs have burned up already. I explain it like this as photographing is not allowed there, very understandable and utmost respectfull to the mourners, so all you can make of it is a mental note inside your head. A dog next to one of the ashen heaps has snatched a tasty piece of something and drags it off. After chewing on it for a little while, he leaves it be and the piece of bone remains there till a worker casually kicks it aside.
I could go on giving descriptions, but that would either bring out gruesome feelings for some of you and this symbolic poetry doesn't live a long life anyway.
You would think that it stinks there, but it doesn't. Local ghat burning workers explained me that they used special sandal and bunyan tree wood that overruled the smell of smoldering human flesh, plus that special herbs and perfumed powders were thrown onto the bodies as well every so often. The worst is when the wind turns, you get all the stark flaming smoke in your eyes and that seriously bites. As if you were crying for the dead. It reminded me of a "fisherman's friend moment', those coughing pastilles. More explanation: the chest of a man does not fully burn so this stays behind in the ash heap. Same goes for the hip bone of a woman. Those bones are plainly thrown in the Ganges river together with the ashes. Children, animals and saddhu's (baba's) do not get burned, same for pregnant women, as they get heavied with stones and into a watery grave in the middle of the river after a boat ceremony. So the river is filled with corpses in the middle and rib n hip bones on the sides, but locals of the lower castes still wash themselves into the river every day, just right next to the main ghat. Same goes for children who endlessly play in the water. I wonder how many times the joke of throwing bones at each other has been played by them.

I had shared the nightly train ride from Orissa with Italian Elena of the night before and her deeply gentle Spanish partner Carlos and I catched up with them later near the ghats. More like bumping into each other, as we had predicted and Varanasi is just a small city in that respect as everything of interest happens on or around the ghats where everyone is bound to be at. Spent some time with them and their Spanish friends in the evening and the next one. Good to brush up my Spanish a bit for a little mediterranian trip down south next month. Also met their baba, as Carlos lives in Varanasi when he is not involved in social project work and knows his baba for a long while now. The baba speak good Spanish and his wise words are given in comical slogans of enjoying life.

On the last night, just before I have to catch by train to Delhi, a big ceremony was starting at the ghat, with none other that the famous and rather quirky yoga figure Yog would appear. Bah, I had to walk away in order not to miss my train, but I almost saw him. Almost ;)
My dear Maarten, wherever you are lost right now, I was so close, yet I missed to gaze at our uncelebrated hero and applaud his virtue of not being perfect, that being the source of his Indian hero status! At least I now know that his real name is Swami Ramdev, ah wisdom gained in the absence of vision. Alas, and missed his tricks too, see!

Not the last post yet, even on this first-to-last day in India. The last few days I went up and down to Jodhpur in search of a rare Kamaycha violin and more talks with Kuldeep Kothari at the Rupayan Sansthan institute of Rajasthani culture.

Big shouts go out to the Puri folks; the mad Russian bunch, Japanese motohomeless, Kiwi and Brit laughter and the ever providing persons (of anything) that was Kanu. Same for Elena, Carlos, Daniel and the couple from Alicante and whoever I blissfully forgot.