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Archive for September, 2007
I am lying in bed trying to recover some sense of calm after a truly awful day.
I have spent all day labelling boxes of clothes. 33 large cardboard boxes were delivered yesterday, and I decided it was best to tackle it as soon as possible.
It is stock that was due at the end of July. More than 50% has still not arrived, and I am feeling truly stressed by the whole experience. Angry and scared would also be appropriate words.
I think what made it scary was how awful everything looked all squashed up in plastic bags. At least I have had samples and they are really good, so I can breathe a bit there, but still my mind plays out the worst scenario at the first opportunity. It always has.
I am trying to get back to a semblance of calm and humourous but am really not doing well. Isadora is lying in bed next to me with her arms crossed looking huffy because I am not my usual charming self. It is tiresome how easily one gets knocked off the perch.
There are several things that really wind me up. One of them today has been the pricing machine. It takes itÄôs place next to pushchairs, child car seats and automated answering systems. I guess the reason that the universe has decided that I should be so short staffed for so long is so that I can be 100% hands on with the entire experience, and using one of the ticketing guns is a real slap in the face.
It is an experience I have vowed I will never repeat.
So now I have to find a better system before the next load arrives.
I look forward to waking up and having a good day. I intend to sit alone in the shop pricing clothes. Oh Joy.
I love this time as autumn comes. The cold nights, the warm colours and the real sense of change. It must be a left over from school days.
We have a big street market today in Balham. The whole road is filled with stands, barbeques and an air of excitement.
It is early now, but the buzz is an attempt to bring the market energy back to the street. Something that I feel is a great idea.
I thought ahead and asked not to have a stall in front of the shop. This was agreed, but they have put a butchers right next to us. Fortunately the wind is blowing his odours away.
Mary, Queen of Shops is filming here, too. So I hope it will bring excitement and prosperity to this delightful little street.
Otherwise, managing the Jet Lag is going quite well. I think having had a really good holiday before I went, helped a lot. I came back tired, but nowhere near as worn out as earlier in the year. The trip was a success in terms of jewellery etc.. For the first time I really designed from scratch and I am happy with the results. Now it is a md time, getting everything photographed, priced and out there.
Shows are looming, too, and workshops. I am back in the teaching chair as of October, and really looking forward to it.
We drove through the dusty, glittering heat, to the factory today, depositing the ownerÄôs plump, pale wife at a friendsÄô house on the way.
Where we stopped there was a man ironing clothes in the shade of a tree. It was one of those old, old irons that need to be filled with charcoal. He had very small children playing in the sand around him and tied between two trees was a squiggling, brightly coloured and sequinned sarong. It took me a moment, and then I saw it was a very small baby in there.
On the other side of the road, under another tree, a barber was cutting a young manÄôs hair. He was showing him the back in the mirror. It was so still and organised. A whole hairdressing salon under a tree. Young men waiting their turn drinking chai on the side, a cow munching itÄôs way through someoneÄôs discarded breakfast.
Yesterday I saw a man whom I can only imagine had rabies. We was writhing and screaming, lying next to a water butt, one of those long ones for cattle. He had long streams of foam coming out of his mouth and the whole thing was startlingly awful, but no one was looking at him. No one was staring, but me, and the traffic kept roaring past, and the women carried on selling her vegetables from a cloth on the ground nearby. I did not stop. There is nothing that I can do. I know from prvious experience that I would be held responsible, in some way, and then police, bakshish, nightmare timesÄ¶.
A motorbike drew up beside us today at a traffic light. The man wore a crash helmet and his wife, riding side saddle had a new-born child in her arms. She swayed sharply as the bike roared off and I watched my mind spiral in alarm at the sight of the the child so vulnerable. Again, I am just a spectator watching my own reactions to all that I see.
I have been thinking about how much I have seen, learned and changed over the past 16 years of coming to India. It is unquantifiable, but what other experiences could have moved so much out of the way? How else could I have learned the wealth the is humanity that I now begin to understand? I am not sure, but I am so grateful for all that I see and feel here. Please do not, for a moment, think that I consider myself good, whole or finished. It is a dusty and tarnished mirror that I present to the world, constantly aware of my imperfections but longing and striving to be moulded in the fires of experience.
I just wish that sometimes it was easy. I come back to that awful adage ÄúGod did not save you from drowning to beat you up on the beachÄù. I suppose it could be down to perceptions. I want things to be easier, softer, financially fuller, sweeter. But I make all my choices, so why fight the consequences?
It seems that the rains have moved on and it gets hotter every day here.
I went through Amber yesterday, it is a small town just outside Jaipur, with a very beautiful, majestic fort perched high above a lake where the 150 Jaipur elephants go for their daily bath. The water has been diminishing on every trip I have made until it has recently been nothing more than a black puddle.
I expected it to be filled to the brim as I passed and it was not. The news of the flooding in Rajasthan has been all over the news, and I have seen the rainfall in Jaipur at first hand. It seems it never made it past the hill.
I learned more about body image yesterday, and from such a surprising source: the Mayor of London. Some ridiculous new H & S drama over a nose piercing and some person sacked for having one, it turns out that there are 16 signs, on a Hindu woman, of marital status. It appears that men need none, but she must have a great long, and highly visible list, the nose ring being one of them.
My tasks here are nearing completion. The last few days are a flurry of sizing, colours, collections, reminders and the occasional spark of anger. I am learning not to let it show so much. A good training ground, here, and lots of opportunities to test my resolves.
I make lots of resolves and am currently loving my most recent. I have taken back my yoga practice. Early each morning I have done a full set with meditation and it really does make such a difference.
I know, I could be so judged for putting it down, but frankly I donÄôt do it for anyone else but me and have no need of prizes for fortitude. A long break, and this has been a long break, makes it such a delightful reunion. I find that the experience is deeper and I go further.
I have also set up a list of workshops that I am teaching and between now and then I want to be fully immersed in my personal journey.
Nothing is lost in the breaks, but suppleness, and the breath and a strong intention bring it roaring back.
I have a friend who is revered as a saint in India. She has always said that nothing is lost on the spiritual journey. It is all a journey forward, the breaks are a moment to catch your breath. I feel I have gained so much from the holiday in France and now I am sparkly and raring to go.
On the way here this morning there was a funny sight. A small, long glove clad woman in a sari with her face wrapped up (all to protect against the sun making her skin brown because white or pale skin is important here), she was driving a moped. Behind her was a huge man sitting pillion with his hands on her shoulders. Neither were wearing helmets and it was a funny sight. I was told that as they were on an electric bike there was no need of helmets. They moved forward with the traffic and there was no sound. The electric motorbike is totally silent. I was amazed. I have never seen one before, and to travel alongside a silent motorbike is a very strange experience with all the other sounds still happening. A rather surreal moment.
Baptiste and I designed a pin for shawls. A beautiful, sleek and delightful thing that is being made here.
I saw the first few attempts and made the changes, and finally was presented with a sample, so pretty and shiny. Unscratched silver is a wonderful thing.
I went to see the makerÄôs new factory yesterday. Factory does not describe the setting at all, but it is the word used. Land backing onto a beautiful mountain with a temple atop, ruined temple stones in the grounds, birds, maize growing, and stillness only broken by the hammering of metal and the roar of the furnace.
I lay on a charpoy drinking bharia (good) chai and talking with the driver about forts and the price of land, not really taking in the small man a few yards away. I was early for the meeting and my friend had not arrived. When he did finally come the sun was setting and everything was golden. He went to one side, rolled out his mat and did his prayers to Mecca. Then he asked what I thought of the pin.
I looked suitably blank and he pointed to the man I had noticed earlier. A low stool was brought and we all sat and watched a wonderful, 350 year old casting technique.
Using molasses and sand, the man was making a copy of the finalised pin. He made a bed in a metal ring, pressed it with his feet, powdered it and then carefully lay the pin onto it. The way his hands moved was so beautiful. Quickly he then worked more sand with this rich sugary smell and filled the top of the ring and then stood on it, pressing down with his toes and feet. A hole was made in the top and the furnace heated up. The roar was wonderful, the colour of the flames pushing up was a bright orange. A tiny, wiry, dark skinned man in a sarong, working amongst the ants and weeds, he had us all transfixed.
He pulled a white hot crucible from the furnace and poured liquid silver into the hole on the top of the sand. It cooled instantly and turned black. Within a moment the cast was open and there was the pin. Black, rough and so exciting.
By the time we left he was casting 6 at a time.
I remember living in an artistÄôs studios when I first came back to London in my late teens. There was a bronze foundry in the block and it was all thermometers, masks, heavy boots and dangerous.
By contrast, here it was barefoot, bare arms, calm, sun setting, ants busy, no insurance, no health and safety, no helmets, goggles or fuss.
And then to change to subject slightly, I get the Times of India on my tray each morning. Unasked for and never before this trip, but there was a great piece about off-setting carbon foot prints.
There is an uproar here because a firm in London is offering tourists travelling to India the chance to appease their guilt over the aircraft pollution by paying for hand pumps to replace the diesel pumps used by village farmers.
How fabulous. Tourists can now restore Indian rural life back to the manual labour of hand pumps. No need to see the belching fumes of the motor pumps, you can see the sweaty backs of children pumping water by hand instead. And then you can ask the supermarket if it is fair trade and whether child labour was used.
I reserve comment. I do. I do.
There are things that I see that I totally do not digest. I just see them and move on, but yesterday I learned lots of little and unknown things.
It started with a trip to a shop in the walls of the City Palace. I watched two aging village woman, resplendent in jewels, colours, big bundles on their heads as they walked along chatting.
Their legs are always very thin, and these two were no exception. They both work heavy silver anklets, but one had hers wrapped, probably against the heat. I had just been aware of my neck being burned by my own silver chain, and I suddenly wondered what do they do about the jewellery on the legs after death.
I asked the driver who said that they cut off the feet to get the leg jewellery, but as the bracelets are quite thin they cut them off rather than the arms and all is melted down to make new pieces.
ÄùDo they cut off the feet before or after cremation?Äù
I had not taken in that tuk tuk drivers always wear khaki. I have seen them here for 16 years and never seen it as a given. I just thought it was the dirt. And then I was told that all taxi-car drivers have to wear epaulettes. Again, I have never taken it in.
The marital, family, religious and work status of everyone here is totally visible on their person. There is nothing that cannot be read about them from how they tie their turban or their sari, what type of bhindi or tlak, their jewellery, beard, moustache, shoes and smile.
I need to buy some particular saris here to change the way the Devotion stand looks at shows. I can get them in London, just near the shop, but I like moving through towns with a purpose.
I was taken to the street of sari whallahs yesterday. It was an interesting experience in good boundaries. The assumption is that I do not speak any Hindhi, (which I donÄôt, really,) so it becomes a wall of young men, (as one never deals with women here,) who just hurl insults and filth with gay abandon. Of course all their friends around them laugh and join in and me, the white skinned one or gora munda, has to resist the temptation to retort. It is just like working in the film industry but in another language. At least one is spared knowing what they are actually saying. Madge has done us white girls no favours at all out here.
But it was a Hindhu market and I think I have to go to a Muslim market. I wonder if it will be the same run of fun.
And the last piece on body image is the flash of anger that I feel rises up in me when I am told here that I am huge. Of course I am, I am three times the size of most of the women here, at least 9Äù taller than most men, I am strong, healthy and scary. But I still flash inside. Time for a change.
Must learn not to. Hell is my resistance.
Rats, snakes and mice, yes, but it has been a while since I have had a close encounter with a cockroach.
One rode into my room last night on the supper tray. I did not notice at first, it was being discrete, but suddenly an overwhelming desire to swim in the dhal gave it away.
I remember being in a hotel in Bombay where there where so many of the little beasties that I had to sleep with the light on to keep them hiding. Another time, under a mosquito net, very carefully tucked in, in Mahabalipuran, I woke to find a very large one sipping from a pool of perspiration in my belly button. Yummy! Such fun.
I have not named last nightÄôs interloper, but for the sake of better writing letÄôs call him Bob. Bob was difficult to dissuade from launching into the hot, soupy mixture, but a little nudge, (I will only kill mosquitoes) got him to wait patiently by the tray handle.
I finished my supper with a sense of urgency but no real flavour of disgust and then had to find a way to open the doors and get the bloody thing outside without holding the handles. I did it, leaving the tray next to a hastily discarded rat dropping.
Funny what becomes normal here.
Once, in the South of India, we stopped at a beach restaurant for dinner. The table was being cleared of itÄôs previous occupants waste by a thoroughly efficient team of cockroaches who gathered up the last few crumbs and left.
We sat down under the thatched umbrella over the table and had a delightful meal. It was only when the ice cream came that I noticed Baptiste was being a trifle odd. He was eating the pudding, but keeping his head up.
A rat in the thatch had peed onto his head and he did not want it to drip into the bowl.
Seemed perfectly reasonable to me.
I am surrounded by garment samples, pattern samples, colour charts, drawings and endless decisions.
I lie awake at night thinking about what I am doing, will it work, is it enough, are the colours right, the sizesÄ¶. Questions, questions.
I have really nothing else to do here but this and it goes so slowly, leaving me so much time to mull over my choices, and I spent all of Saturday sitting and working and did the same yesterday apart form a brief sortie out for lunch which was dire and awful.
I had been invited by the man I had met the few days before. I was extremely na?Øve in thinking he had no designs on my person. Lunch was with his wife, and I painfully and quickly saw that I was a trophy and being used. She was chilly and rude in the extreme which was understandable and unpleasant. Added to that, the lunch was disgusting, so I made my excuses and left, spending the rest of the day and evening moving between soothing my damaged ego (because I had been so stupid,) and trying to make choices about styles, colours, patterns and numbers.
There was a monsoon deluge yesterday. The sky was dark and heavy and then the weight burst it open. The rain fell in huge, wet drops. It always seems so much wetter that UK rain. We drove with the window open and a car passing at high speed threw are great curtain of water over both the driver and I. It was very funny and luckily we both had our mouths shut at the time.
The hotel where I stay is at the lower part of Jaipur and the road up into town is really badly rutted and broken. Last night I saw why; it was a river of water. So deep and fast flowing it was great fun to see all the rickshaws and bikes making their way through it. Anyone on foot or on the rickshaws was totally sodden, water running of them in rivers. The entrance to the hotel was a swollen lake.
This morning it is all bright, innocent and clear.
Profound meetings one after the other at the moment. The longing with in myself to change stress into vitality, to become more present, has opened a door into realms of experience that begin to feel like a twilight zone.
First the beautiful, radiant, dying woman who is nailed into my thoughts like a sharp needle. I do Ra Ma Da Sa almost constantly, but who am I to attempt to change the needs and desires of the divine? Does that existence need to be lengthened, imagining that I had even the faintest possibility to do so? Does she need any more acceptance and healing into her processes? I think not, so I turn the mantra whilst questioning why I turn it. Questions without answers late into the night.
Then the very peaceful and still man on the plane who told me all that I need to know about letting go of my desire to be stressed. I think about him in the spaces and wait to see how I will respond next time the tightness and the turning starts inside myself.
And to yesterday. Sitting in the office of a friend, I was introduced to man who was so alive, vibrant and huge in his utter commitment to here and now it was quite startling. He was funny, spiritual, intelligent, generous, kind and like no one I have met before.
His personal philosophies came out in the length of the meeting and I came away longing to be able to be so dynamically present to all that is around me, to be so open and willing to experience all that comes my way. It was a wonderful experience.
So I have much to think about.
I am back in India. I arrived yesterday and slept well. I brought a sage stick with me and thoroughly saged my room and then slept really well. Occasionally I opened my eyes to see if anyone was floating around the place but there was nothing.
I met a delightful man on the plane. We were sitting next to each other. We talked very little as I went straight to sleep, but in the morning the ice was broken and chatting started.
He was older and had such a calm and cantered feeling about him. We started talking about business and stress. I talked about not having felt that horrible sensation for all the time on holiday and how much I hated it now that I am back at work and three times this week I have felt the tightening inside that rises up into a sense of fr`ught anxiety. .
His response was that he decided a few years ago that he did not want that sensation anymore and an interesting discussion followed about self-perception, self-control, separation from old behaviours and putting things in perspective. It was so helpful because I really felt I was talking to someone who had done it. Who had made the choice to change and was talking from that place. I have thought about it a lot since last night.
I have also given much time in my mind to the young woman who is dying of cancer. I can see her face so clearly, lying on the sofa in the garden, lit by candle light. I have been trying to describe her radiance to myself and finally I recognised what it was, last night.
As a child I was very influenced by Salvador Dali. He painted wonderful images falling apart in perspective. Great illusions of depth, light, and space. There is a head of a smiling woman done in this way. A copy of the head of the Da Vinci Madonna on the Rocks. This is what I saw the other night. Light radiating out as though the woman is dissolving into it, or out of it. It is so exquisite and clear, yet so hard to put into words. I wonder if she realises what she brings to people as she moves through the world in this way?