I spent the past few days in Puri, Orissa. I've been wanting to visit Orissa ever since I read Gopinath Mohanty's Paraja in 12th grade. While I didn't get to visit a village the way I wanted to, I did get to speak with a few village artists.
The people of Orissa are simple, friendly and artistic. When a person gets married, their house is painted on the outside with the local tribal art called "Shora" (I'm unsure of the spelling/pronunciation). It's very similar to the Warli art of Maharashtra, which is absolutely gorgeous.
One of the artists handed me a brush and a piece of parchment the colour of clay, and told me to try out the unique art style for myself. I enthusiastically dipped the brush into the coconut shell full of white paint, and proceeded to make what I thought would turn out to be a cow. Needless to say, it looked like nothing like a cow. It looked nothing like any animal, for that matter. At least the artist had the decency to turn away while chuckling. I didn't bother to take a picture of it. Just imagine a cross between a donkey and a tree. Ah well.
Moving on. I had the opportunity to visit the famous Konark Sun Temple -- one of the most famous historical sites in India. Some people claim that it rivals the Taj Mahal itself. I've seen both, and while I feel the Taj is more awe-inspiring, I was still absolutely floored by the experience.
The Sun Temple is the main building out of four on the premises. It is also the only one that is almost completely standing; the others are pretty run down. Right in front of the Sun Temple is the Dancing Hall. The statues on either side of the entrance are of a lion on top of an elephant on top of a man. It depicts one religion conquering another. The man is Hinduism, the elephant is Buddhism, and the lion is the return of Hinduism.
The carvings all around and inside the Dancing Hall depict hundreds of dance forms and positions. Each one is unique. A somewhat surprising and amusing revelation was that our female ancestors used purses and high heels! A number of sculptures showed accessories like those -- things we would otherwise consider to be 'modern'.
The Sun Temple itself is modeled after the chariot the Sun God rides, with 24 wheels and 7 horses.
Each wheel is a sun dial, and is divided to represent time. The carvings in this particular wheel tell the story of a woman's day. Things like: waking up, taking care of children, going to the market, and sex at night.
The Sun Temple is divided vertically into 3 unequal parts, to represent the 3 phases of a human's life: childhood, youth, old age. Children are fascinated by animals and enjoy playing, so hundreds of tiny elephants run along the bottom of the temple.
To represent youth, most of the temple is covered with hundreds of sculptures related to sex. Not only are all of the Kama Sutra positions carved into the stone, different scenarios and various fetishes are depicted as well. It seems my ancestors enjoyed group sex and even relations with animals... There are carvings of women with snakes and dogs, of infidelity, of same-gender relationships and anything else you could possibly imagine -- even things you could not. I was pretty taken aback at the amount of detail put into these carvings.
It's interesting that people were more open about physical intimacy hundreds of years ago than they are now, in this country. I do wonder how we went from writing the Kama Sutra to freaking out about a single kiss in a movie...
The third phase in a human's life, that of old age and wisdom, is represented by spirituality. Towards the top of the temple there are carvings of the Sun God and other gods in different meditational poses.
I've included only a few of the pictures I took. The rest can be found here.
I'd never thought that the word 'cricket' would make me feel anything but repulsion, for 'cricket' was first and foremost a bug, in my head, and I hate bugs with a passion. Ever since moving to India, however, the word stirs up a great deal of excitement in me, and at times I forget that it refers to anything besides an awesome sport.
I'd heard of cricket when I lived int the US, and arrogantly thought of it as wannabe baseball, simply because it contained a bat and a ball. I knew nothing about it, and moreover, didn't care to know about it.
The 2003 Cricket World Cup was played a year after I moved. That's when I learned the rules, and that's when I realized just how embedded into the Indian soil this sport is. It's not just a sport. It is part of the culture here, as natural as eating rice for a meal. It's a glue, something bigger than the wretched caste system, something that brings both the educated and the illiterate together, something that quiets politics even if only for a few hours. There is something incredibly touching about passing by a small village and seeing little children play with tiny, worn bats and balls that have been passed down to them, using bricks as stumps. The passion is contagious, the patriotism is remarkable.
Even people like me, who don't follow sports, can't help but know when a big match is taking place in which India is playing. It's a common conversation starter; an ice breaker. People take off work for important matches, like last week's match against Pakistan in the Cricket World cup semi-finals. Rich and poor alike crowd together in front of public television screens situated in malls and pubs and even small stores along the road, and cheer together when the opposing team's wicket falls.
And the excitement and patriotism has skyrocketed now that India has won this year's Cricket World Cup! Yesterday was the final match. It was unbelievable! Both India and Sri Lanka played EXTREMELY well. But my purpose here is not to describe the match, but to share just what cricket means to this country to those of you who scoff and say cricket isn't a 'real' sport.
Additionally, I have compiled here a list of videos that I liked, related to this year's World Cup. They are mostly ads.
The Pepsi ad campaign was fantastic. They named each of the characteristic moves that some of our cricketers make.
Dilshan's Pallu Scoop:
Dhoni's Helicopter Shot :
Sehwag's Upar Cut:
And finally, two old ads, that still bring out the beauty of cricket in India:
Someone - I don't quite remember who, but I'd like to say Shahid Kapoor- broke some bad news to me, which I don't remember either, and, to make me feel better, grabbed my hands, twirled me and started singing. We were in a mall, and suddenly all the mall-goers joined in. Somehow, they knew all of the lyrics and dance moves, and did flippity-defying-gravity stunts that would have made Rajnikant proud! There were, in fact, no trees to run around, but they *did* run around food stalls, and appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.
However, this dream of mine was lacking some Bollywood essentials.
Now that my brain has randomly switched from its normal weirdness to Bollywood directorship, I feel the need to pass my knowledge on - and hopefully improve my own Bollywood themed dreams.
Five things a Bollywood song needs to be a hit:
1.) A larger than life background. Preferably shot in random places that have no connection to the actual movie plot whatsoever.
2.) At least 1 instrument that the hero can randomly pick up and start playing, which magically continues to play even when he sets it down.
3.) Extras who play the role of highly intelligent mind-readers, who just happen to be around the hero/heroine when they break into song and just happen to know the choreography. They should portray people who have nothing better to do in their lives than to poke their noses into the hero/heroine's affairs.
4.) At least 15 wardrobe changes. At one point, the heroine must wear a trailing saree. Or a short skirt. If it's the first, then the hero must grab it and pull the heroine towards him. If it's the second, then the heroine needs to walk down a road swaying her hips, while 10 or more men sit on motorcycles behind her, checking her out.
5.) Last but not least: trees. The songs that do not have at least one shot of someone running around a tree are, in my honest opinion, second class. See this clip for inspiration.
I was born in America, moved to Chennai when I was 16, studied in Agra for 5 years, lived in Kolkata for 2 years and now I'm in Delhi. I mean, can you get more diverse than that? So, yea, plenty of ABCD moments.
Disclaimer: My Hindi sucks. I'm even worse at writing Hindi with English letters, as Hinglish (or whatever it's called) spellings are beyond me. You are not allowed to laugh. At all. If you do, I will immediately smack you with a belan. Don't tell me that I didn't warn you. Also, all translations will be written in GREEN.