All photos taken with a Nikon D90. Western Railway, Haji Ali Shrine and Bandra Fort, Mumbai.
A Well-Worn Story
In April, in April,
My one love came along,
And I ran the slope of my high hill
To follow a thread of song.
His eyes were hard as porphyry
With looking on cruel lands;
His voice went slipping over me
Like terrible silver hands.
Together we trod the secret lane
And walked the muttering town.
I wore my heart like a wet, red stain
On the breast of a velvet gown.
In April, in April,
My love went whistling by,
And I stumbled here to my high hill
Along the way of a lie.
Now what should I do in this place
But sit and count the chimes,
And splash cold water on my face
And spoil a page with rhymes?
a poem by Dorothy Parker
grateful slice: history/ies and surviving to tell the tale
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again.
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
I overheard some of the vendors in Colaba a few days ago talk about the monsoon coming exactly on the tenth of June and well, here it is. Pouring, cooling the earth, clearing the streets and cleaning the air. I wondered then how they could be so sure, so confident that the rains would come today and be correct. I see now that this confidence is the same one they have on the streets — where one rick knows that zooming into a small space between two huge trucks won’t mean imminent death. I mean, the rain has been coming and going for an hour or two for days but nothing like this. It would tease us sometimes, especially on days we didn’t bring our umbrellas and surprise us with a sudden downpour while in a rickshaw, dressed and on our way to a night out with friends. Today, as we decide to stay in to pack and just chill before we both leave (me to go back home to Manila and S to NYC to meet her love), the rain is like a gift from the heavens. Even if everything is gray, the awareness of a season ending is also healing in a way. It, of course, does everything to nurture and feed my ennui right now. Just the thought of leaving Mumbai makes the tears well up in my eyes. I feel like an open wound exposed to saltwater. The sting is sharp and almost unbearable but I know the sea will make it all better if I persevere. And S is spot on…the sadness can only be appeased by the promise of return. I have no choice but to make sure I come back to this magical place. S and I burst into laughter every now and then to stop me from crying and from enabling my melodrama. Maximum feelings for this maximum city.
Suketu Mehta, the author of “Maximum City” talks about how his currency is stories. “Stories told for stories revealed…stories from other worlds, carried over the waters in caravans and ships, to be exchanged for this year’s harvest of stories. A hit man’s story to a movie director in exchange for the movie director’s story to the hit man. The film would and the underworld, the police and the press, the swamis and the sex workers, all live off stories; here in Bombay, I(author) do too.” I feel like writing about Mumbai (prologue) when am back home will keep me afloat and sane for awhile. Thus, the writer’s delay. That’s how I will pay. With poetry and photos and stories about my trip, but from a distance. Photographs have been saving me these days too. Thank you, decisive moment. Here are some favorite snaps that reveal some of these maximum emotions.
Actually, seeing past the melodrama, S and I already have a plan: Next time I come back, I will invest in the old cameras that they sell in Colaba.
S and I will visit an Indian village, do more heritage walks and see Juhu during the day. Then there’s the rest of beautiful, complex and schizophrenic India which I intend to visit, photograph and write about. Perhaps when the sun is not so treacherous. Yes, in the land of NO, this is definitely not goodbye. Until then, Mumbai, see you in my dreams and my mind’s eye.
I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Such is life, imaginary or otherwise: a continuous parting of ways, a constant flux of approximation and distanciation, lines of fate intersecting at a point which is no-time, a theoretical crossroads fictitiously “present,” an unstable ice floe forever drifting between was and will be. The Adventure called and I followed with my thumb like a character being written by an intractable author. Which, of course, I was.
– Sol Luckman
grateful slice: Knowing when you are leaving a place, returning and the currency of images and text, traveling
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
A complicated, intertwined blob of ideas and feelings are swirling amok in my head and my heart right now. Like the intricate maneuverings of a hand with a loom patiently stitching together a unique pattern for a silky Indian shawl, I can’t think or write fast enough to capture the vocabulary fit to describe what India has been like for me during this trip. Only until the pattern is done and the shawl is ready to be purchased as a piece of art by an unassuming traveler and storyteller, will the experience fall into some state where discernible articulation is possible. Amidst the heat that has snuck up on me and has felt like concrete on my skin, flavors and textures that have not ceased to burst in my mouth, the architecture and history porn, and the bedlam and mayhem I face and accept everyday since I’ve been here, I am once again, categorically and unquestionably smitten by India. Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu was unforgettable. And now, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, especially South Mumbai, have carved their special corners in the cavities of my heart.
It’s not easy though, to write about India while still in India. G knows, I’ve tried. And it’s not a problem of not having anything to say as senses feel like they are on steroids. In fact, my extreme and exag ways interlace and lock quite nicely in this maximum city as the overstimulation goes on overdrive. The problem really is where and how to begin …How do I begin to write about a place so chaotic, so crowded and full of contradictions; a place so colorful, and jam-packed with flavors that just won’t quit? How do I explain the intensity of the Heat I thought I already intimately knew growing up in Manila? Where do I begin to describe the ebb and flow of the streets where the willing, surrendering soul can eventually meld with the anarchy , just as long as he/she learn the ways of the inexplicable pace and movement of the waves to not get killed on the road?
Words are too limited and incomplete right now to describe the first moment I laid eyes on The Gateway of India. My body reacted for me and I got a nose bleed instead.
In the middle of taking a photograph of a man in green blowing bubbles, and after a postcard salesman tried to slip me some weed, blood started too ooze out of my nose and on to my favorite scarf. I wiped the blood with the back of my hand and memorized that Mumbai moment as onlookers stared at me, the nose bleeding voyeur who stuck out like a sore thumb.
And what about the people I’ve met…where do I start when it comes to talking about just how great they have been? It’s both an exciting and daunting task, to write about how their stories and lives have moved and inspired me, to aptly pay homage to their significance (I see you) and to express my deep gratitude to them and to G, for making this trip exactly what it is. Amazing and unforgettable.
From my best friend, sister and gracious host, @sacha_wc; Jiten and Jaya, the coordinators at The Calorx school in Ahmedabad; Viren, our brilliant guide during the Taj Hotel Tour, who can speak a gazillion languages; plus all the strangers I bumped into, smiled at and asked for directions, I am extremely grateful for you today.
So Eat, Pray, Surrender. An up and coming three part post of my (mis)adventures in India: Ahmedabad and Mumbai legs. 🙂 Stay tuned as I let the pictures tell the stories today. In the meantime, I need to live the questions, I need to live everything right now so …”perhaps I will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” I am hoping, at some point, I will find the way and the words to write about my experiences in this truly maximum part of the world. Hope is a good word and memories catch up with us rather quickly.
grateful slice: India, Mumbai,Ahmedabad and Rilke.
Frankly, I have more photos of letters and words, it’s true; and that probably comes with the territory. But numbers, I find, do come in handy (*wink wink Joey Tandem). Math is a language and what would trains, planes and automobile moments be like without them numerals?
Photos taken with a Nikon D90 and Canon Ixus 750 (New York City, April 2010 and Mumbai, June 2011)
grateful slice: numbers and people who get them
Let me take a moment to say, OMG, I am exactly where I need to be. Right here, sitting on Sacha’s couch, in her apartment in Mumbai, IB papers scattered all over, laptops on our laps, being totally ADHD (which means, she is checking cards while tagging photos on Facebook and making random cuento about this or that; And I am working on my workshop keynote and writing this entry, while commenting on other people’s blogs, chatting with Joey Tandem, packing a smaller suitcase and taking photos…you know, ADHD). It has the shades of a perfect Sunday spent with a good friend. From time to time, we both stop mid-sentence or mid-task to say just how stoked we are that I am here/that we are together in another country. This is because a little over a year ago, before she packed all her things and moved to Mumbai, we were sitting on my couch in Manila, doing the same ADHD things while munching on cheese, chocolate and cereal but declaring wishes of my coming here to visit her somehow. Also, amazingly enough, just a year before that our wish of traveling to NYC together came true just like that. So for the synergy, for the opportunities, for travel and for dreams coming true, I thank you, G. You really deliver a bazillion fold. You are the ultimate collaborator and sacred moments maker.
The kids are still playing cricket outside. The sun is blaring hot, we just had lunch and it won’t be long until I need to catch another flight. For now, I take it all in. Breathe in. Breathe out. Paying attention requires gratitude, vigilance and humility. So before anything else happens, the little or the lot in the next few days, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart,G (and well, the IB), for bringing me here. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons…17 hour layovers never looked this awesome.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
Now, to finalize the work that needs to be done to do well in Gujarat tomorrow. Am off for now.
grateful slice: The IBO, sacred moments, traveling and good friends who are also ADHD.
It’s official. Am booked and will be heading back to India in a few weeks. Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Mumbai this time around. Will fly out the day after the last day of school to first conduct a two-day in school MYP Assessment Workshop in Ahmedabad. Then I get to visit S in her new home in Mumbai until the tenth of June. It feels a little overwhelming right now with all the work that still needs to be done before the arrival of May 28 but am optimistic it will all inevitably fall into place. Like always.
Anyway, aside from a little healthy anxiety, there’s also the excitement and the feeling of immense gratitude coursing through my veins right now. I’ve said it before, I will say it again. I am a lucky, well-loved schmuck. To be given these many opportunities to travel, teach, share, learn, experience and visit good friends in different parts of the world, has been a real treat from G who is ever faithful, generous and constant. Thanks again for this, G. You must really love S and I. First, the 8 weeks in New York with my sister in 2009, now ten days in Mumbai! Win.
There are a lot of plans in place. A market tour. The slum tour. A missions thing. Prayer walks. Working out and running together again and visiting S’s school. G definitely has big plans. I am convinced that’s why He is making this happen. 🙂 Right now though, I need to focus on everything that needs to be done: I have the Poetry Fest on Friday, papers to mark, report card narratives to write, grades to finalize and workshop preparation to attend to. It’s going to be a wild ride this May and damn boy, am hanging on real tight! Wohoo!
grateful slice: traveling, India and awesome, humbling opportunities.