Saturday, October 29, 2005

Families

October has been so hectic, full of travels. Coming from somewhere, unpacking the bags, only to pack them again with clean clothes, and going some where else. Five cities in three countries in last three weeks. The travel to India, just ten days ago, seems like it was last year.

In all this running around, there is big family new, Marco's marriage is fixed. He will get married in Delhi on 2 January.

It seems he was born only yesterday. To think of him as married makes me feel relaxed, as if an important milestone has been reached. Perhaps that is why, I found the photo exhibition of Uwe Ommer in Geneva (Switzerland) on 60th anniversary of United Nations so moving. Uwe lives in France and she had travelled to large number of countries around the world to take pictures of families. The exhibition is along the left bank of Leman lake in Geneva.

India is represented by two families. The family of Phoolwati in a village near Udaipur. She is a widow and lives with her brother's family. And Lucky's family from Delhi, a sikh businessman. Lucky's son proudly holds a bat with name of Sachin Tendulkar in their picture.

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Invisible India

GK II and Alaknanda are among the posh colonies of south Delhi. Every house has cars, some have guards outside and the houses are big and beautiful. There is an army of invisible persons, running around like ants, opening doors, collecting refuse, cleaning cars, taking out the dogs to walks, cooking dinners, selling vegetables, repairing all kinds of things, etc. that holds up this world of well to do. If you stay here long enough, you stop seeing them too. I am here only for 5 days and I see them all around, these invisible Indians, with hope in their eyes, an occasional envy and a rarer anger.

***
I was at the Bookworm in Connaught Place, when I saw her. She must have been fifty. Slim, her eyes lined with kajal, her greying hair in a single plait, a tatty worn out purse in her hands. She seemed to be speaking to me. I looked around, I didn't know her. "Pagal hai saab", the boy at the bookshop told me.

"Buy me something", I think that is what she said, in English. "She is educated", the boy in the shop said. She started to dance, moving her hands gently, nodding at me, listening to the music coming from the shop next door.

I came out and she came forward, "Come on, buy me something. It is festival season, everybody is buying something, I also need to buy. I need some shoes. Look at these, these are completely worn out."

I was afraid of her and I hurried away.

"It is disgusting, every body can buy and I am left like this. No one to help me", she called after me.

While I walked away, I was talking to myself. Stupid. Why can't you help her? It is so little for you. Offer her an ice-cream, perhaps? I turned back, but she was gone.

***
I was in auto-rickshaw on Barakhamba road. The construction of metro line is going ahead furiously and the traffic moves in bits and pieces, getting stuck after every few meters. At one such stop, she came. Light blue sari, middle aged. "Please help me buy medicines for my child." She held a paper in her hand. "I am not a begger. I work here but I don't have enough money to buy medicines", she began to cry, "my child will die."

I gave her a ten rupee note. "It is not enough for buying medicines", she said,"I don't want money, help me buy the medicines for two days."

"That is all I have", I said, lying. 10 rupees is just 20 cents. May be I can ask her to come in autorickshaw and go to a chemist shop. The traffic starts moving and the auto moves. Her face streaked with tears looked at me.

***
At Purana Kila (old fort), there is a festival of dances called Ananya. Delhi's chief minister, Mrs. Shiela Dixit and a young minister, Mr Lovely are there. Birju Maharaj's troupe presents "kathak yatra" and the dancers include Saswati Sen. The dances, the lights and the backdrop of the old ruins is wonderful. Birju Maharaj must be seventy if not more, but in the end when he demsotrates a few steps of the mayur dance, he is transformed. It is a memorable evening.

***

Friday, October 14, 2005

Burning Ravan

Saw the burning of Ravan in Delhi this time after I don't know, how many years. I think that the last time I must have seen it was when we used to go to DCM Ramleela grounds near Rohtak Road, 30-35 years ago. After that I had seen it in the TV. But to be there in the middle of the crowd, feeling the excitement and the anticipation, the first wave of heat as the effigy takes fire, the deafening noise of the fire-crackers... is some thing else. Mika was there with me and we cluctched each other's hands when the flames suddenly engulfed the effigy.

On the way back, near the temple, trucks with the Ramleela actors was passing. Ram and his sena were on one truck and Ravan and his sena were on the second truck. Even these kind of processions were such old memories and I felt thrilled in spite of myself.

The days are rushing past so quickly. Today I hope to go and see Anita. Rajouri Garden, where she lives seems so far away but I am hoping to travel by the Delhi Metro.

Took the metro for going to Delhi university the other day. The train is exactly the same as they have in Rome - they must be buying it from the same source! And the travel is quick.

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Back in India

I arrived on 10 October, three days ago. Explaining the way to the taxi driver, a young man who has come recently from Bhagalpur in Bihar, made me realise that my memories of Delhi are getting rusted. I was confused between Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar. As the taxi passed through the Mehrauli road, it was clear that if India is indeed shining, its light has yet to reach certain parts of the capital. May be cellphones and satellite TV and digital cameras have arrived even here but the signs of old smelly confusion, narrow roads, shops encroaching on the streets, heaps of garbage, wandering cows, horn blaring traffic, brash and aggressive car drivers, poor asking for alms, etc. are all still there. Mahipal Pur, the village where I used to come for my preventive and social medicine posting in the village health centre in 1976, is now an unending length of houses, shops and traffic.

As the taxi turned towards Munirka and the flyovers of the outer Ring Road, it was good to feel the changing face of urban India, even if the quality of roads, pavements and railings over the new flyovers seemed to be bad. The two Indias, the shining one and the one still in the dark, live close to each other, at times mixing together.

****
While people in Tamilnadu have forced actress Khushboo to apologise for her "insult to the Tamil womanhood" by talking about pre-marital sex, on the TV screens a girl shows her backside, moves it seductively and then slowly enlarges her buttocks with her hands while singing a remix version of the old Rishi Kapoor-Jayapradha song, "Daphliwale, daphli baja..", and I am flabbergasted by this unexpected meaning to the old song. How naive I must have been not to see the dirty meaning of the song before! Or perhaps, all songs are dirty, all words can be bent to give them another meaning. Every thing is about sex!

The promos of a new film are even more shocking. It is a new film by K-lady Ekta Kapoor, the lady who makes all the serials about Bhartiya sabhyta like "Kyonki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi" kind of serials. The promos have yesteryears' star Jeetandra's face spashed on them. One scene has the hero, Aftab Shivdasani, standing up with his bleeding finger held in front of his crotch being licked by a girl on her knees, another girl looks at them from behind and thinks that the girl is sucking something else. This promo is repeated about 15 times during the day, without any warning that it is for adults or any such thing.

The sexually liberated India coexists with Bajrangdal-Shivsena-controlled "no sex please, we are Indians" kind of India.

****
There are pandals every where for Durgapuja. For Dushehra, big Ravans are standing in each park, full of loud crackers, waiting to be burnt. In one park, I curiously watch the puja being performed at the feet of Ravan's effigy and at the end, people take turns to touch Ravan's feet and hold their hands in prayer in front of it.

I have been to Ramleelas all my life and I had never realised that there is a puja in front of the Ravan also and people ask blessings to it before burning it!

Isn't Ravan the bad one, why are you touching his feet, I want to ask but then I stop myself. May be that is the American or western way of thinking. We know that Ravan was a great vidwan, perhaps, it is good to pray to him and then burn him to glory?

***

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Gaping hole in my being

On Sunday I am going to India. For 8 days. Meetings and appointments will eat away most of the time, and the remaining will go for shopping and chatting in the family. It is the prospect of the journey and my own ambivalent feelings about it, that I am thinking about.

Perhaps, I have completed my journey of being a stranger to my own land? The excitement of going back in the initial years, I still remember it. Waiting for months, counting the days, thinking of all the things that I was going to do. Call Munna, call Rahul's home, call Naresh, call Devender, see Rajkumar,... calling up on all the friends was high up on the list. So what is Ravi doing? Did you hear from Anil? Have you any news of Narayan? There was so much catching up to do.

Last year I saw Munna after 8-10 years. Rahul I had met him after ages. When we meet, all the words come out tumbling and rushed, in the beginning. And then they start to dry up. Perhaps, it is because there is no continuing dialogue, no exchange of things happening in our lives.

To visit old houses, old streets, is the same as meeting old friends. They have changed. Some times there is a completely new building. In Rajendra Nagar, all the old houses have gone, in their place there are 3-4 storeyed buildings and streets choking with cars, blocked with iron railings and no one seems to know me any more. The old shops are gone, along with the shopkeepers.

The circle of things that included familiar persons and places gets narrower each time. In the end, it is just an anonymous city with anonymous people and I am a stranger in my own town.

And there is hardly any excitement, no counting of days. Perhaps, it is because I am not spending enough time there, all these short trips, running around for work and not having time to spend with people? May be it is just this day, the rain and the autumn leaves falling down, and tomorrow, it will be all right once again.

This gaping hole in my being, I will close my eyes and it might go away. A bad dream.

***

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Feeling low

When we had just come to live in Italy, I found that clouds had a different effect on me, compared to others living here. They would say, "What a pity, it is cloudy" and I would say, "Lovely, it is cloudy today!" People asked me if I didn't like the sun and I would answer, "No thanks, I have had enough of sun to last me a life."

I was not right. After about two decades, I share the gloom around me when summer ends and autumn comes with its lovely colours, cold winds and rains. The joy of listening to thunderstorms, waiting for the hard pitter-patter of the rain drops, I haven't forgotten - they are like words read in a book, there and yet not so real.

I haven't been depressed ever. I mean, there are days that I feel low but I have never experienced that bottomless pit of gloom that is depression, where nothing seems to touch you. Yet it is one of those things that make me most afraid. Pietro, our neighbour has that. His whole body changes. Becomes kind of stiff. He doesn't look up or move, remaining in the same position for hours, gazing into nothingness. He feels guilty to be alive, that he did not die when the Germans killed his sister. He had run away in the forest. His sister wanted to come with him. "No you go back to home, you are safe there. Here you will slow us down", he had said. Germans won't kill young girls he had thought. Maria, 17 years, was shot dead in the village square with 34 other persons, as a reprisal for the Italian Resistance's attack on German soldiers.

Today is the anniversary of that massacre. It was 4th October 1943. Pietro will go there for the ceremony. Hopefully, after a few days, he can come out of this depression.

So many persons around us have to take anti-depression medication, I can't believe. It is as if there a silent epidemic all around us. It waits behind comfortable houses, perfect marriages, smiling picture postcard families.

Perhaps we human beings have not evolved enough? We are still the hunter-gatherer-fighter needing challenges and if things go too well, if we don't need to run and rush, we get depressed?

***

Sunday, October 2, 2005

In-tubed in London

Once again, I was back in London. Travelling up and down the city in the tube. Saw an ad sticking on the tube wall about "Paternity testing", advising women that if they had any concerns about the paternity of their child, DNA testing is now possible to identify the father. For a company to put an ad of this kind and to invest money on it, it means that there is indeed a market for it and sufficient number of women (and men) are interested in finding out if the child is indeed of that particular man. Seems like a commentary on these times!

I can bet, that such an Ad would never be accepted in India. Anyone stupid enough to put such an ad in a public place, is likely to be prosecuted for corrupting the impressionable public, if not already lynched by angry mobs. In India, we don't have adultery, do we? Or worse, women having multiple partners. It is against our culture!

***
In London, they have this nice initiative of putting up poems in the tube. Read a lovely poem by Chamon Hardi there.

I can hear them talking, my children.
Fluent English and broken Kurdish.

And whenever I disagree with them
they will comfort each other by saying
Don't worry about mum, she's kurdish

Will I be the foreigner in my own home.
***
In the tube, I saw a man, white and very English, wearing a jacket with a lotus designed on it's pocket, underneath it was written PUNJAB. On both the sleeves of the jacket, there were stripes of the Indian flag. Probably he did not know what the colours of those stripes meant? Indian made jackets are nicer and cheaper. Boys in Punjab, stop asking friends to bring you the jacket from UK, get it from Ludhiana!

***
In Europe, only in London, you can get away by carrying an Indian take-away dinner. It's smell is so strong. Yet, no one looks at you in London. The curry restaurents are so common and so full. Found a new Sagar with only vegetarian food including nice dosas on King's street. Yet even this was full - I had to wait to get a table.

Here in Italy, neighbours complain about the strong smells coming from Asian kitchens. May be they need to eat more curries and get used to them!

***

I was pushing my camera in through the railing around Buckingham palace to click the picture of the royal guards, when I saw this policeman point at me. Perhaps, he thought that my camera was a gun? Then he walked towards me. I was so tempted to put away my camera and walk away but I forced myself to stand there and continue clicking. He came closer in front of me, bent down and picked a green-coloured paper wrapped around the bottom of the railing, went back to the guard and smilingly put it in his pocket. The guard did not move. Perhaps, it was a message from guard's girl-friend and the policeman was only playing cupid!

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***
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