Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Jaipur – Rajasthan

Simply sweet !

We went for a long week-end to the North of India, in Rajasthan. To the colorful Jaipur like everybody says around here. It was just a good time to go and my boss kept pushing me to travel before we are too busy at work. So you don’t need to push me too hard with these things and so off we were.

In 4 days, I learned how to drive a rickshaw, had traffic jams with cars, camels and elephants mixed up together, drank street chais and samosas to make my belly hurt, saw how they hand-print the saris, how they polish and handcraft the gemstones jewels, hiked to places there are more monkeys than humans, wandered around palaces, forts and gardens that compel to amazement and meditative states, has inherited a new family member since Lucky, our rickshaw driver, has assured me he was my indian brother, tried to find fear and tension unsuccessfully in the tiniest street and dark corners of Jaipur, avoided a rush by 80’000 out-of-town’ers coming into the city to interview for government jobs, took photos and portrait of people with their complete acknowledgments and smiles with no hassle, bought some real kashmiree scarfs and accumulated blankets to keep us warm at night during those cold February desert nights and tasted good rajasthanee “thalies” (big plates containing various food for you to taste and discover) and their famous sweets !

All in all, 4 days that felt like 40, so intense and diverse the emotions were. Go to Jaipur in February ! Yes, It’s tourist season since the temperatures are nice but completely worth it. We loved each minute of it.

Ok back to work now !

First Hindi movie.

So, this week-end we attended a very special event. Our first Hindi movie and pardon me, not subtitled ! But actually it was an experience way broader than that. An orphanage for girls located in-between where I work to where I live in Mumbai has been invited to my workplace to spend the afternoon there. Part of the social good the 3D animation/vfx studio I work for is doing. These 40 some girls from I would say 4 to 10 years old came to have lunch in the facility and had a brief tour of the place. It was quite a sight. Seeing all of them being served food in the pantry and not touching their plates until everybody was served. A little thankful prayer and the feast could start. Smiles all around the place, cameras flashing, young volunteers from work going around making sure everybody was fine, happiness was flying all over the room.

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Everybody had eaten well so now we could walk next door to the gigantic Mall and its movie theater. Eh yes, malls have emerged in India in these last few years. Every time we mention it to people who have visited the big cities of India 15 years ago, their stupor is grand. They are probably thinking the places they visited at some point in their life are locked in time and should stay the way they have it in their memories. We all do this. But yes, India has Malls and the middle class is growing like the medias are saying but this will be another topic one of these days.Now we are walking to the mall and the next thing we don’t know yet, is that an escalator could be a quite daunting piece of equipment.The little girls are gently pushed one by one onto these massive malls escalators with one person on each end to help them. But for a moment, from the top side where I’m standing overlooking it all, the scene becomes memorable. Small little girls like suspended high in the air, alone in a glass surrounded escalator, making a face of either pure delight and enjoyment of a first experience or of absolute fear and vertigo. Everything turns out ok and no hands stay trap in the metal teeth of the end steps. We can proceed.The movie we are going to see might not have been chosen for the best reasons (an hindi movie in hindi so the kids could understand it versus Alvin and the Chipmunks, a kid’s movie but in english !). But nonetheless we are going to see the latest written and directed movie by the academy award nominee (Lagaan) actor superstar Aamir Khan ; Taare Zameen Par – Stars on Earth.

Stars on Earth

And what a good surprise. Yes a long movie, way too long and too ‘adult’ for the kids we were with, but what a finale. Hindi movies take their time to build up a story it seems (most of them are 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours long, i am told) and by the time you hit the third act you bloody CARE for the heroes. And this time it was not a cheesy hindi video clip, it was pretty special. That dyslexic kid Ishaan (a not really well understood syndrome in India) and that art teacher relationship is quite powerful and really well portrayed. I mean we were letting go little drops out of our eyes at the end. Everybody in the theater was. Even the little kids from the “crayon” orphanage ! The music is also really really helping carrying the emotions and supplement the senses. We bought our first hindi movie soundtrack two days later. Another soundtrack by Loy, Shankar and Ehsaan.We finished the day going back to the office to have a 5 o’clock cookie time and some improvised dancing session with all the children. Very high energy.The day ended with all the girls back in the bus, arms hanging out the windows supplicating the promise we would reiterate the experience and bring them to the theater again ! We couldn’t resist but to nod positively.That day was probably very special for them but equally if not more powerful for us. A lot to reflect on and to take in for a single Saturday in Mumbai !-P.

In India for a year !

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it’s been 3 1/2 weeks we arrived in Mumbai/Bombay, India. It feels like a month ! In a good sense, I mean. We have been in touch with so many aspect of the life here in such a short time. But let me start with this little story from the Jain people which illustrate completely how little we will be able to grasp the extent of this huge country and its people in just a year ! I am borrowing it from Culture Shock! India: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Gitanjali Kolanad.

The Elephant story :

Five blind men wanted to find out for themselves about that marvelous beast, the elephant. When they were led to the animal, each one approached and felt with his hands that part he found within his reach. The man who felt the trunk said, “Ah, now I know, an elephant is like a snake.” The one who felt the body said, “Not at all, it’s like a wall.” The man who felt the tusk disagreed, declaring, “The elephant is like a pole.” The other two, grabbing the tail, and the leg, shouted, “No, the elephant is like a rope,” and “The elephant is like a pillar.” And so they argued, each one sure that his own limited experience was the reality. Finally, a wise man enlightened them : each one was right, but expressed only a partial truth; a full understanding of the elephant (or India) comes with the perception of the whole beast as the unity of disparate elements. A country full of contradictory images, full of mystique and elusive ideas that seem to attract many people.

We realized that each time we were announcing our departure for this remote land. People where ecstatic for us and attracted to the idea of going themselves. The opposite is true too, we had gazes that meant, “Wow, I’m happy for you but also happy it’s not me…going !”. Generally though, the reaction was pretty incredible. People seem drawn to this place. The place where it all began or where the people did not forget it all yet, maybe. Where you can find 5000 years old history, myths and medical recipes. This time not in search of the ocean passage to India with its golden spices reward but perhaps to the more renowned wisdom of the East.Whatever reason we are here for subconsciously (surely a little bit of all those above), we need now to start talking about the day to day routine we have in working in Mumbai in 2008. So, let’s stop blah-blah-ing and tomorrow you’ll have a street story, I promise.