It will probably take me several blog posts to get caught up, so much has been going on since the last post. Perhaps I should learn the art of shorter, more frequent posts.
The past month in brief:
— I have made several trips to printers in the area, and have begun sketching out some ideas for block prints. I took a trip to a natural indigo printer in the countryside, as well as to check out Sanganer, a printing town that features a sort of “block carver row,” in which every other storefront is a guy sitting and carving his little blocks.
Mostly, I got followed by kids who find Westerners endlessly fascinating, and giggle with delight if you so much as glance in their direction. They also like to practice their English phrases (How are you? Where are you from? What is your name?), as well as shout out, a propos of nothing, “Harry Potter!”
— I have also made contact with a handloom dhurrie producer who is willing to let me do a custom order, meaning I can give him a design and coloration, and then several months later there will be a rug! I am quickly realizing that this could become a costly and addictive habit.
— Jeff and I took a trip up to Dalai Lama-land and meditated for 8 days straight at a Tibetan Buddhist semi-monastery. There were some bona fide monks and nuns, but then also some laypeople looking for a quickie spiritual trip (ourselves included). Mostly, we watched the monkeys. We also didn’t speak for most of that time. I met a lot of great people, or at least got to semi-know a lot of people by not speaking and projecting my discursive mind in their general direction. When we were finally able to speak, here’s what emerged from our innermost minds—from me, an idea to make a t-shirt that says: “I went to India, and all I got was this lousy enlightenment.” (I think it could sell like hotcakes at the Delhi airport.) Jeff came out with a pun: instead of “Om Mane Padme Hum,” he was limping and chanting “Oh My Knee Oh My Knee…”
In all seriousness, it was pretty mind-blowing, though I had a lot of pain and agony in my body that took many different forms. I think I was still recuperating from a low-grade version of the same godawful virus that Jeff had. I looked it up, I think I may have solved the mystery of our illness: it’s called Chikungunya. It doesn’t have anything to do with chickens. Its distinguishing feature is a lingering symptom of painful and stiff joints (wikipedia says it can last weeks, months, or in some cases, YEARS!), and a disturbing body rash as well. What with sitting for days at a time, I became intimately familiar with every ache and pain, and therefore the Buddhist First Noble Truth: suffering. We were taught some of the specifics of Tibetan Buddhism, and though I agree with many of the principles, I can’t wrap my head around reincarnation. I just can’t. That said, we did have an amazing guided meditation that lead us through our own death and re-emergence through a series of lights and smoke. Good times! One of my favorite quotes from the teacher: “The cause of death is birth.” It reminds me of one of my favorite Zen sayings: “Life is like getting on a boat that sails out to sea and sinks.”
— I took my first couple of miniature painting lessons with Ajay Sharma, master painter and lovely person. The artist Julie Evans, who did a Fulbright here in 2003, put me in touch with him. They made some collaborative work for a New York show that just opened – check it out! Gorgeous.
— We celebrated Diwali, sort of. Diggi Palace-style. There were elephants, fireworks, folk dancing, puppets, and delicious food. Diwali is the Festival of Lights, in which you light the way for the god Ram from his 14-year exodus (from where I’m not sure), and to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Next post: COTTON!