Calendars, Conductors, and 31 Dosas

So many rabbit holes I want to explore today. I am procrastinating. The laundry needs sorting and washing, the atelier needs de-cluttering, and my bookshelves are chaos.

Thursday was the first day of spring in the Hindu calendar, and I missed it. Saraswati is honored on that day, with lavender, saffron and turmeric. I wouldn’t have “celebrated”, but I would like to have known. There is something life-affirming in rituals, regardless of belief. There is something I envy.

A moment of envy can be an awesome thing. It is an admission – a recognition of desire. It’s humbling. It situates you clearly outside of the center of your own subjective concepts of meaning.

I just learned about the goddess Saraswati last month while talking to the theater director and artist Anupama Hoskere. (I am working on an article for Drama magazine, and will link later.) She explained the connection of education through the arts to the universal. She talked about means and desire, and about Dharma.

I am still letting all my thoughts bump up against each other. I don’t really want to put them down as sentences yet. Poetry, maybe. Poetry at the moment is an expanse of dark, open water.

Anupama’s husband is something of a philosopher and I heard him tell a story to children about how water is essential for life. How it is the necessary conductor and filter for all things.

I loved India in a way I didn’t think I would. The aesthetic appeal is obvious. I joke sometimes that if I had a former life it was there. But really, I am quite certain my emotional connection is rooted in the early 70s’ flowing fabrics and paisleys. Incense and flowers and vibrations. The barefoot summers, the criss-cross legged dinners at low tables. Love beads and elephants. Candles and flowers.

Cultural appropriation is a complex subject.

These are my earliest memories. My earliest impressions – even Jesus wore long robes and walked barefoot on palm leaves. And I am not going to lie: at the festival we ate our meals off of palm leaves and I felt a deep-sweet tug coming from flikker-dim rooms. It felt okay to “come home”. These dark, umami memories are mine. And (as Anupama brought up in our talk) duality doesn’t really exist. Certainly not in these memories. They just are. It was much later that any of these things were picked apart and named.

There is a reason we eat yogurt with chilies, not one after the other.

It is what it is. We are more than our parts.

I know it is absurd to say that I felt at home. But then, I am accustomed to feeling at home where I don’t exactly belong.

Years ago, in Egypt the locals badgered us to take photos with them, then demanded money. We were naive about the tourist industry there. In Cubbon Park, two teenage girls asked to take a selfie with me. Look! An old, white woman wandering the park. I hesitated, wondering what I represented to them. I was wondering if it was all the things I wanted them to be free of? The plastic, shiny West? I felt uniquely ugly. And my turkey-neck had nothing to do with it.

And yes, I have read Orientalism by Edward Said.

I have truly given up now of believing I will ever find the “correct” way to view the world. I have let go of the desire to chase that moving target to please anyone. I question myself, and I know my intentions.

As travel notes: I spent only ten days in Bangalore, but I’ve seen more people sleeping rough in London. I have seen as many shantytowns along a single canal in Berlin. And in the city where I live, I have seen the well-heeled (and likely myself), snub the people who sweep the floors in public spaces.

That first day, I felt my body tense when I walked down the street. Yes, I am afraid of cows with horns, but I didn’t lie to myself – it was run-of-the-mill xenophobia. It was knowing you can’t blend in no matter how hard you try. But it seriously didn’t take much of a personal confrontation to let go of it all. Right? Let go of it. Let go of it…

like dough sticking between your fingers.

One of the puppet shows was done by children. They told a story (31 Dosas) that included a recipe for dosa batter. It was repeated by the characters several times, so everyone could learn it.

All of the ingredients need to ferment in a bowl. Together. (Emphasis my own)

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