04 January 2014

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Last Looks.

My last day at the compound consisted mostly of me packing. It was boring and I was moody because I was sad to be leaving. But the compound was busy with preparations. Sunday is Sanskriti founder O.P. Jain's birthday. So everything was getting a makeover: the clay sculptures were being polished and the mud ground--where there was no grass, like pathways--was wet down and gently wiped in a u-shape so that all of the ground had this same, gentle texture to it; table cloths were folded and laid out to be placed and gardeners were out and about in full force to make sure everything was just right. I was taken with the Rangoli painting that was happening on the smoothed-out mud ground around the Banyan tree. Three ladies were there painting from very early in the morning until the sun went down at night. After running some errands, I finished my packing and decided I was bored (but probably more lonely). So I walked over to where the other artists were working. Anil (he's on the right in the last photo above) was in front of his computer and said to me, "Sometimes I like to play Indian songs over Western music videos to see if they match up."Um, hello?! Does he not know that I absolutely love videos more than life itself? So I sat down. And much to our surprise, we found out that quite a lot of Beyonce's videos line up rather well with Indian tracks. I want you to play both of the videos above at the same time. But enlarge Beyonce's video and turn the sound off so that you only hear the Indian song. What do you think? We loved it. This went on for quite a while. And--I think--might have the makings for some sort of cross-world collaboration of sorts. We shall see. Our last dinner together was a cold one, but really nice (just 5 of us around the table). I'm so thankful that I got to meet all of the artists that came through the compound over the past three weeks: 10 people total. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Everyone kept making fun of me over the course of the 3 weeks because everything that I participated in or visited, I always described as: the greatest thing I've ever done or the absolute best thing in the world. I tend to speak in superlatives quite a lot when I am happy. But it was true: up until the next moment that I would experience, what I was doing in that very moment was, in fact, the greatest or best thing I had ever done. (Riding the camel might still be up there. Just getting on and off of that hilarious animal was a trip!) There were so, so many great things about my trip to India that I think it's only fair that I mention the things that I had a hard time with. And let me preface this by saying that I will not spend a lot of time in this headspace. I don't do well wrapped up in negative thought. But I think it's really important that I don't gloss over this magical city that I came to visit by mentioning only the most amazing parts of my trip. I don't like seeing kids in the middle of the street barefoot on very cold days trying to sell things to the cars. Some of them even wearing make-up and doing circus tricks to get attention. These children were not always elementary-aged. Some of them looked far younger, maybe 3 or 4 years old. One of my friends in India told me that schooling is free there, so when a young boy approached us she told him in Hindi that he should be in school. Apparently the government is trying to crack down on this, but I'm not sure how. Some of the families where the children were coming from were actually living on medians of the roadways where the kids were working. There are also suspicious organizations that pay children to go out and ask for hand-outs, which is the worst. School vs. money. It's a crazy, seemingly no-win situation. I also saw an abnormal amount of stray dogs. Hundreds of dogs on the streets, puppies everywhere. They were sleeping right on the highway next to cars racing past. No food. People would kick them and hurt them to get them away from their property. Working animals like camels, donkeys, elephants, cows, etc. seemed to have a hard life, too. Perhaps I am speaking as an over-sympathetic United States citizen. I've seen this before in other countries, so when I first got to India it wasn't as startling. But it was more the sheer amount of animals and blatant abuse that I was taken by. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, non-injury, in thought, word and deed. And with Delhi being largely Hindu, I was really surprised by the treatment of both people and animals. The city is the second most populous in the world at just around 22 million. There isn't enough water for the residents, which means there surely isn't enough food. So how can animals be put first (or even at a close second) if the people aren't having their needs met? It's just one of those crazy catch-22's. I asked several of my friends about this situation--with both the animals and people--and at first they sort of acted like they didn't really notice the dogs. But then they talked about how some of the residents of the city have lost their way and belief is down, which makes poor treatment of animals and people up. They also mentioned that there is an organization that is now starting to go around and spay and neuter the animals. But it is not on a regular basis and there are just so, so many dogs. With this many residents, the demand for electricity is also quite high. Everyone has a generator because the lights go out often. One night at Sanskriti, the power went out--I think--3 or 4 separate times. It got super dark, too, because we were quite a ways away from the hub of the city. I think that's what is so incredible about Delhi. There is just so much happening all at once: people rushing around, people sleeping on the ground, the crowded streets complete with public urination, the empty streets complete with older ladies knitting on the stairsteps, people in love, people out of love, the old, the new, multiple types of animals, cars-rikshaws-auto rikshaws-bicycles-carts-motorcycles, things falling apart, things being built up, everything. There is just so much coming at you all the time. You have to keep your guard up, know your history, be able to read a map on your phone, and stay out of the way. It's challenging and exciting and heartbreaking. There's no other way to describe it then to say it's just everything all at once. And there will be people who read this and say, but all of those things are happening in the US. Sure, you're right. There are children on the streets in the US. And there are families without enough water and food in the US. And there are animals not being cared for in the US. These things are happening everywhere in the world. But I've never seen numbers like I've seen in Delhi. This was a life-altering, art-changing experience. A transformation of my sense of self. I will see you in April, Delhi. Until then . . . 

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