Thursday, 22 December 2005

Strange obsession

I can't resist taking pictures of people in uniforms - especially policemen and police-women. It is a kind of obsession. If I am visiting a place and I see police personnel, I always try to take their pictures. Some times, I am a little afraid that they will get annoyed but that hasn't happened so far.

It is a kind of love-hate relationship or rather fear-fascination relationship. Instinctively, I am afraid of people in police dress, if I can avoid, I never speak to them. In my mind they are representing cruel and brute force. It is for this reason perhaps, that I like taking pictures of them with small children, so that the antagonism between this mental image and their actual gentleness creates a contrast in the picture.

In 1960 my father was jailed because of some anti-government protest. From his notes, I know that I and my younger sister, together with my mother, we had gone to see him. I was six years old at that time, yet I can't remember any thing about that visit, nothing absolutely. I don't have any childhood memory of such a visit while I think normally, a visit to a jail would be a very strong memory for a child. Perhaps, that visit is behind my fear-fascination of uniforms?

***

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Christmas shopping in Rome

I was in Rome yesterday. By the time, I finished my work, it was already dark and I still had an hour for my train. I decided to use that hour by going to Piazza Navona, the Navona square.

Rome is full of beautiful squares but this is perhaps the most beautiful of them all. Shaped like a big boat (Navona literally means a big boat), the square has beautiful fountains, and during the day, artists, musicians and tourists throng it, so it is difficult to walk around.

Last night was different, because of the christmas shops. There were rows of cheerful, brightly lit, colourful shops.

I was so busy going around and looking at the shops that I almost missed my train. While rushing back towards the metro station, I saw the Bartolucci workshop in a small street near Piazza Navona, with the craftsman working on wooden handicrafts while the wooden Pinocchios with their long noses kept him company. He seemed as if he had just stepped out of a fable, into the dark, narrow, cobbled street.

***

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Pinter breathes fire

When I first heard that Pinter has won the 2005 nobel prize for litterature, I thought they were talking about Luigi Pintor, an Italian writer who had died earlier this year. Pintor, a rebel, was ousted from the Italian communist party and established his own newspaper and magazine, il Manifesto. He wrote simple, small books, that are a real delight to read with their profound insight into human psyche.

I vaguely knew about Harold Pinter, the British playright. I had not seen or read any of his plays, but I had seen him on the "HardTalk" on the BBC in December 2004, when he had said that both Bush and Blair should be tried for their war crimes. This interview and the episode of HardTalk can still be seen through internet.

His acceptance speech for the Nobel prize is equally hard hitting. He feels that while there has been a lot of debate and discussions on effects of Soviet empire and communist rule, similar debate has not touched on American activities of "eliminating people-friendly democracies by declaring them communists and killing innocents till such countries have despots friendly towards multinationals and American products and at that point, they are called democracies". He gave some examples of Latin America, before talking about Iraq. This speech can also be read on internet.

***

I am sure that Pinter is a wonderful writer and does deserve his nobel prize. Yet, I also feel that Nobel prize committee is biased towards writings in European languages. Otherwise, I can't imagine, how writers of the stature of Mahashweti Devi can be ignored?

Yet the painful truth is that the writers in "local" languages spoken by millions of persons are ignored, till someone can translate them in more "mainstream" languages and then they can be "discovered". Till then they do not exist.

***

Sunday, 4 December 2005

When in Rome

When I came to Rome on Friday, I was telling myself, this time I must go out and be a tourist, and not remain closed in the meetings. But when I arrived it was raining. Our meeting was in a place run by nuns close to the circular road, la circomvallazione, that runs all around the city, not too far away from the Vatican city.

As often happens in the old cities, streets may be narrow with high walls of houses huddling together, yet as you enter the gates of an old house, suddenly you find yourself in big open spaces, sometimes with beautiful gardens. I had that experience a couple of times in old Delhi. This place was like that. Really huge with different buildings, gardens and a church hidden inside the high walls.

Yesterday (saturday morning), I woke up early, with the idea of going out and doing some sight seeing. Terme of Caracalla, I had already decided that this time I wanted to see to the old spring bath of Caracalla built in second century DC where more than 1300 persons could take bath and relax. I had a hurried breakfast, making plans about how to go there but when I came out, it was raining heavily. Unwilling to give up my plans, I opened my umbrella and set out resolutely. It was cold and there was lot of strong wind. In a few minutes, inspite of the umbrella, I was drenched and shivering. So I had to beat a hasty retreat, literally with my tail between the legs.

In the end I did manage to see some spring bath ruins, from the outside, not of Terme di Caracalla but of Terme di Declezio, right outside the Termini railway station, before I caught the train back to Bologna today. These spring baths were even bigger than those of Caracalla. Till some months ago, they were occupied by poor emigrants, who would squat around, cook food, talk with friends. Now the whole place has been fenced and closed. To enter, you must pay a ticket.

The whole street in front of the Terme was jampacked with vehicles and pavements were full of people from some east European country, probably some part of ex-Yugoslavia. The vans had brought the east European beer, vodka, dried fish and other delicacies from Eatern Europe and had set up makeshift shops on the pavement. All the homesick east European emigrants had gathered around to chat, to smoke, to drink their home beer, to talk in their own language and perhaps, for a few hours imagine that they were back in their homes. I am using the word "east European" to cover my own ignorance. They could have been Serbian or Polish or Czech or Romanian. It was strange walking in their middle and listening to their Russian like language.

A little further, a woman vendor from Peru was complaining in Spanish to some latin American tourists about people selling counterfeit cheap coke and other drinks. A little ahead, a Chinese woman had set up her noodles shop and chinese couples were buying it and then sitting along the side of the pavement, to eat it with evident gusto. They chattered in Chinese.

Small pleasures for the often denigrated and despised emigrants! Each in the safety and security of their own language, food and company.

***

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Winter Talk

It is winter finally. I had been hearing that it was going to be the worst winter in the last twenty years but the temperatures in Bologna had continued to be good. It felt more like spring than winter. Then, ten days ago, finally the winter came. Still I was going out with a light jacket.

Acquaintances from our apartment block would slowly shake their heads and complain, “It is so cold”. Actually, I didn’t think so, but I played along and said, “It is time now for winter. Almost the end of November. It won’t be right if it was not cold!”

Talking about the temperatures with casual acquaintances is like a game. In the summer it goes like “It is so hot you know!” “This heat is unbearable.” “I wish this heat would end. I am tired of it.” And then it becomes, “It is so cold you know!” “This cold is so tiring and depressing.” “I am waiting for the spring.” Like steps of valtzer. Predictable. You say this, then I say this and then you say that and then we will shake our heads, smile at each other and go away happy, that we played our parts well.

***

But now real winter has come. Before going to Geneva, I looked at the expected temperatures in Switzerland on the internet. Minus sixteen! I almost felt sick. Must have taken those temperatures outside the Algida ice-cream factory, I thought, but I was afraid. So off went the light jacket and out came the thick winter overcoat. It was a wise decision as it turned out. It was very cold and it snowed. And it was so windy, almost like London, with cold gale brushing over the bumpy waters of lake Leman, pushing hard at you.

Katarina!”, I told myself. I was making joke of John Grisham when he had been startled with a frightened expression during a thunderstorm  during a meeting in Bologna some time ago. But every time, there was some wind in Geneva, it was the first thing that came to my mind, Katarina. Wonder what do all the Katarinas of the world think about the idea of giving names of girls to typhoons. Must have been some unhappily married man or a tormented father, who had come up with idea?

The journey back from Geneva was very eventful. I was coming through Munich, that looked like a big white wedding cake with lovely icing on the top. Actually more like a big thick white blanket that the town had pulled up to save itself from cold. The flight to Bologna started late and on the seat next to me, there was a grumpy man, who made faces when he had to get up to let me pass on to the window seat.

What injustice, I have to share this row with others” he seemed to say. Said something in German, that I didn’t understand and perhaps it was better that way. When the flight started, he bullied the air-hostess to go to an empty row in business class. Good riddance, I thought.

I had my camera ready but the Alps were lost under the clouds. Bologna too was lost under the clouds and after going around in circles for some time, the pilot announced that Bologna airport was closed due to heavy snow and we were going to Pisa. The grumpy old man started fighting with the airhostess. “We should go to Rimini, that is closer”, he insisted. This time in Italian.

The airhostess smiled at him and told him nicely to sit down and put on the seat belt. “Ignorant bitch” he hissed, loudly enough. To punish him probably, the pilot started to rock the little aircraft, up and down it went.

God, I am going to miss Marco’s wedding, was my first thought. Probably they will cancel the marriage, I consoled myself.

But we didn’t crash. And it was raining in Pisa. It took us three hours of bus drive to reach Bologna, through the snow and all. And, all the time, I was thinking, we were in Pisa, they could have organised a small trip for us to go around the city. A picture in front of the leaning tower! That would have been lovely.

***

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

All creatures small and big

I know I have this thing about a role for all creatures of the God including bacteria, viruses and ants. I am kind of obsessed with it and I don't like the indiscriminate use of ""antiseptic" products for killing bacteria promoted by the industry. But today, I read something that did warm my heart. And that proves my theory.

A scientist from Nottingham, Mr Pritchard believes that hookworms can prevent asthma and allegery and links the rise in asthma and allegery problems in the developed world to the use of clean water and deworming treatments.

According to him, hookworms in the intestine, affect the immunity mechanisms and thus reduce the chances of having ashtma and allergy. He has a research project that will give people a limited dose of hookworm larvae and measure their immunity and the effect on asthma episodes.

In poor communities hookworms are responsible also for anaemia and malnutrition so even if he proves his point, how are we actually going to apply this?

It also reminds of a scene from a book called "She was called two hearts" about a white woman going through Australian outdoors with a group of Aborigine people. In this scene she tells about feeling dirty because of not taking baths and constant travelling in the dust. And then they encounter a swarm of small insects that surrounds them. She panics but then sees that the Aborigine people are facing the flies calmly, letting them do what they wish. The flies enter her ears, flutter inside and clean it and then come out and fly away.

So next time you are ready to kill a cockroach or a mosquito, think first, what its role can it have in the nature?

***

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Along the way

"Do you mind if I sit here?"

I looked up at her. I was really engrossed in my book, the glass of tomato juice almost forgotten on the table. It took me a moment to understand her question. "Sure", I nodded, moving my bags to make place and removing my jacket from the other chair, putting it at the back of my chair.

She seemed to be around thirty, a big round red bindi in the middle of her forehead and wearing a crumpled pale chicken kurta. She took off a big black bag from her shoulder and then removed the big ruck-sack from her back. Sighing deeply, she sank onto the chair. I went back to my book. She sat there cupping her chin in her hands, her elbows on the table, looking at the queue in front of the cash counter, persons waiting to give their orders. I couldn't concentrate on my book but tried to go on with my reading, forcing myself to not to look at her.

Finally I looked up and took a sip of the juice from the glass. She was still sitting there with her chin in her hands, looking at the queue, lost in her thoughts, unaware of every thing else. Then her telephone rang. She moved slowly, bending down to pick up her black bag and searching inside for the telephone. By the time she found it, the telephone had stopped ringing. She looked at the telephone screen, pressing some buttons and her lips tightened. She put it back in the bag and closed it, placing it on the ground.

The telephone rang again almost immediately. This time she did not move. After a while it stopped ringing. I was suddenly embarassed. As if I had trespassed into her privacy. I looked at my watch. Perhaps, it was time for me to move. My flight was from the northern terminal and I had to take the shuttle train.

I picked up my jacket and the bag. Then I nodded at her but she was lost in her own world. As I walked away, her telephone started ringing again. I stopped briefly to look at her. She still sat there with her chin resting on her hands, her eyes closed.

******
I had put on two shirts, one over another but I was still shivering. I was almost tempted to wrap the woollen blanket in the room around me as I went out for dinner, but I resisted. Outside, it was still raining.

In the dining room, I was looking around for a place when I saw him. He smiled at me and nodded, pointing to the empty chair in front of him. I vaguely remembered him as we had waited at Bologna airport for the flight to Paris and both of us had missed our connecting flights.

Air France had put us at a hotel inside the Astrix resort, about 20 km from the airport. He seemed happy to have found an "Italian" co-passenger and was a little suprised when I told him my name, that was clearly not Italian.

I slowly sipped a glass of red wine, hoping it would warm me up. It was July and yet so terribly cold. In the mean time, he was gulping down big sips of a dark liquid, that was surely stronger than my wine. Emtying the glass, he raised his hand at the waiter for a refill.

I am not much of a drinker and after a little wine, I tend to become silent, if not downright sleepy. He was the other kind, the type who opens up after a few glasses. Soon he was telling me about himself. He lived in Reggio Emilia, about 30 km north of Bologna and worked for some factory that exported machines.

He didn't ask me any questions and I was content to listen to him, feeling the wine take away a bit of that chill that seemed to have seeped down to my bones. Soon he was telling me about his wife. She was anorexic and refused to eat. She was worried about gaining fat and in the process, thin as a skeleton. She had been admitted in hosiptal twice but nothing seemed to work. He said that he was stressed and not too sure if he could continue much morewith this life. In front of him, she tried to eat but he was sure that afterwards she went to the toilet to vomit.

I was horrified. I knew about anorexia but I had never thought about living with someone anorexic.

Soon he was crying. Big tears coming down on his cheeks. He was catholic he said, and divorce won't be right. But he had no other way. It was destroying him and he couldn't bear it any more.

We walked outside and the rain drops probably helped in stoping his crying.

"Good night, I am really tired, must go back to bed now!" I said. "Good night" he mumbled after me as I walked towards my room, thankful that it was in another wing of the hotel.

In the morning, when the airport bus came to pick us up, he didn't even nod at me. It was as if we were strangers.

***

Crumbling papers

I am transcribing old articles in Hindi. Articles written by papa, when he was alive. Or, written about him, after his death.

Mummy collected all of those and made neat packages. Mankind articles here, Kalpana articles here, stories here... All the life cupped into yellowing, crumbling papers. His and hers. He did it for living and she did it for him.

She is retired, let her do it. She will keep busy, I'd thought.

Then she wanted them to be printed. Collected works of ... all the essays on student movement of Bihar ... all the articles on the famine, on Gandhi, on socialism... She made the photocopies of the files, sending them to this or that person.

An old friend of papa said, "Why don't you pay to get them printed? Two of you are living abroad. All of you earn good money. What does a little money mean to you? Pay to get them printed, they will be useful."

Pay to get them printed? I felt a little offended. Print it because only you want it, no publisher wants it because it won't sell any way. It hurt because I thought it was true.

And mummy, her memory is becoming RAM, gets erased quickly.

Give them to me, few at a time, I will transcribe them, I offered. And then I will put them up on the web at Kalpana, I thought. We went together to the old cupboard, that once used to hold the medicines in my clinic. It is full of rotting papers. Old files smelling of crumbling papers. She hardly remembers, what is there in which file, and gets worked up. Can't forget watching her sitting there on our old sofa with old papers strewn all around her, the pain in her eyes.

And so I sit here at the computer. Slowly transcribing in Hindi. Writers, journalists, socialist leaders, friends and colleagues of papa. It was his world, that I knew about but I hardly stopped to look at. I was there, but I was too busy living my life. Now I read about them and fragments of memories come back slowly. Kishen Patnaik, Ashok Seksaria, George Fernandes, Jay Prakash Narayan... names and faces.

*****
There was a comment yesterday.

I treasure them since they are so rare. It is from Arundhati. Could it be ... for a moment I thought of the fleeting meeting at Delhi airport, a few years ago. No, it is not. The name of her blog is almost an answer to my "Jo Na Keh Sake" - "Leave it unsaid". It is another Arundhati, who writes about silences to answer declarations of love, and about becoming one, merging together with her loved one.

Huh!

I prefer being myself and her being herself. That way it is more fun. I suddenly think of how little time we actually spend together, we are too busy in running all the time. Or in writing blogs (only me!).

She will wake up soon and come smiling for the first hug. And then she will bring me coffee. That is how we do it, I sit in front of the computer and she brings me coffee or prepares sandwich for taking to work. And the day starts.

And she doesn't like silences for answers. Nor do I, while I come to think of it.

******
Children working, their eyes hard and wry. The ones sitting next to their mothers and fathers, asking alms, they have the toughest job, I think. And the worst.

***

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Blogging Blues

How many persons read, what I write? That was the question, I was asking myself. I mean, is it worth spending time writing things if no one reads it? There are hardly any comments to what I write in English or Italian. In Hindi, there is a close network of persons encouraging each other to write in Hindi, so my Hindi blog "Jo Na Keh Sake" (That I was unable to say) is most satisfying since it gets me lot more feedback. So I finally decided to link all these blog pages with an Italian tracking programe to see how many persons read these blogs.

After a week, I am surprised about the results of this tracking. The Italian blog has been read just once by one person this week. The English blog, this blog, has been read by 139 persons and only 8 of them are regular readers of this blog, means they come back regularly to look at the updates. The Hindi blog has been read by 85 persons though 28 of them are regular readers and overall they look at more pages and spend more time reading what I write.

This morning, while walking in the park with my dog, I was trying to reflect about these results. Does it mean that I should not waste my time writing the Italian blog? I mean, I know the one person who reads it regularly and why not send her an email? When I started to write, I used to think that I am writing for my pleasure and it does not matter, if someone reads it or not. And, now I am thinking that perhaps it matters? If I start worrying about who reads my blog and why, etc., is it not going to influence the way I write and the things I write about? I am still reflecting!

***
There is an anonymous comment about the post about Ramlila written from Delhi in October. The post asks if I can explain "what is written above". I am still wondering what does it mean? Does it refer to the sprinkling of Hindi words used in that post? Or is it asking I explain the comment in Italian?

I don't want to explain the occasional Hindi words I use in my posts. I think that I want people from India to read these and if others can't understand these words, too bad for you. Then I think of our Indian association in Bologna. With members from Karnataka, Kerala, UP, MP, Maharashtra and Delhi, often we end up speaking Italian since many of those who came here long time ago, do not remember English so well. So I ask myself, am I writing only for North Indians? I am still reflecting.

***
I hardly spoke to my father about so many things that interested me. Fathers and sons didn't have that kind of dialogues once. Respect and obedience were important qualities of father-son relationships! I prefer todays fathers and sons, who can be less bound with the chains of respect and obedience, and have a good time together. I love seeing fathers with their small babies or playing with their children.

***
It is a bit sad to see places that were once happening places and that are almost forgotten now. Like the Antica trattoria (old eating house). Not very far from our house, on one of the old tracks that leads to the river and an abandoned old port, this place was in once a key location, right next to a busy port, where travellers and boats carring goods crowded it. Now it is forgotten except for some old persons who still go there for their glass of wine.

***

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Iraq documentary on the TV

This morning I saw a documentary done by Italian news channel Rainews 24 on the use of chemical weapons in the attack on Falluja in November last year. The documentary showed satellite pictures of use of napalm like phosphorous bombs called MK77, interviews with american soldiers confirming use of chemical weapons, a letter of someone from British defence ministry to their labour party MP Linda Riordan saying that it was true and such bombs have been used and finally, shots of burnt up bodies with their faces contorted in ghastly rictus smiles of agony. I almost puked.

My first thought was, how can they show such pictures when people are having breakfasts and getting ready to leave for work? A bit later, I could appreciate that without those pictures, it would have been just another story on "false accusations" against the "pro-liberty and pro-democracy liberation forces" of Bush and Blair.

OK, so you can say that I am a tubelight and that so many persons had been already saying it for months. So, wake up and welcome to the real world. Yet to think that USA did use chemical bombs on a city where it knew that lot of civilians were present, and that are banned by Geneva convention (though americans never signed that convention), was like a sobering cold shower. Of course, they were cynical, they were selfish, they were doing it all for their personal gains but they would stoop so low?

A colleague who had seen that documentary this morning said, "Even if Berlusconi government was perfect for everything else, just for this thing, for having dragged Italy into this war and for making us all accomplices to this shame, I won't vote for this government."

Another colleague said that this means that there is no difference between Bush and Bin Laden and terrorists are justified. I don't agree. I don't think any terrorists are justified, whatever their name, nationality or cause. At least the american soldiers who spoke during the interviews, or those who must have passed the satellite images for the documentary, did not agree and could act. That is much better than the dictators on the other side, where no voice of dissent seems to come out. But that credit goes to individual Americans and certainly not to those in power.

Yet, Indian news papers on the internet are still talking about the concern of some american commission about the atrocities against minorities in India, the role of Al Qaeda in the chemical attack in USA, ...

In the end, I ask myself if killing twenty or twenty thousand makes any difference? If killing by gunfire or a sword or a chemical bomb makes any difference? You are dead any way. It is just that your dead body is more hideous and puke-provoking and so people can't easily forget your image and salvage their conscience by saying "it is just collateral damage"?

For me, killing even one person for war or for terror, is one person too many.

***

Friday, 4 November 2005

Geneva days

For so many years, I went to Geneva for work. Usually it meant short trips, reaching the hotel late at night, going for a meeting at WHO next day and take a train back to Milan as soon as the meeting finished. I hardly ever went out and Geneva seemed a clean, orderly and dull Swiss city.

Every thing changed in 2001, when I was working at WHO and stayed there for five months. The first month was passed in a hotel, but it was very costly so I looked around for a room. Almost all the weekends, I would travel home to Italy as my son was in school and my family had stayed back in Bologna.

I found a room in Rue Sismondi, close the central station. My American landlord, had an apartment at the top floor. She had occupied the stairs going to the top floor, putting there her book-racks and knick knacks. So the only way to go to the apartment was through the elevators, that opened in a small corridor. On the right was the part where my landlord lived with her Tunisian boyfried. On the right we were three guests in three rooms, sharing the bathroom and the kitchen.

I think of those days at "days of not talking". You respect the privacy of others, you don't look at them or talk to them, was the rule of the house that I quickly learned. If by chance I ever met the other guests, I would mumble a slow Good day or Good evening, the other would nod and that was it. In those four months, I saw only one of those other guests, a sad man in worn out clothes. The other guest's presence was felt but I never saw him. Some evenings, I heard him through the wall, talking on the telephone in German. He sounded like a young man. And, I heard his alarm clock in the morning. It would start ringing every morning at 4.45 AM. It went on ringing for about 15-20 minutes. The first few days were really traumatic. In the quiet of the morning, the alarm bell seemed to be ringing just under my pillow and it made me wake up with my heart thumping. Evidently, his sleep was deeper, since it went on and on. Then, I too got used to it. When it started to ring, I would get up, eat some yogurt, read some book, listen to the old man in the other room wake up and shuffle around. When finally our neighbour woke up and the allarm stopped, I would switch off the light and go back to sleep.

I had heard that Swiss are very particular about noise, pollution, order, etc. but no one ever said any thing to that guy about the allarm!

Rue Sismondi is the area of the sex shops and prostitutes. I was very curious about the things in the sex shop but I was also embarassed to go in and look at them properly. The use of some of the sex toys was easy to understand, but there were some strange looking things as well, and I would look at them from the corner of the eyes and wonder how they were used!

The prostitutes lived around there, and after a few days, I was mumbling "Good evening madam" to them also. Mostly the prostitutes left me in peace, hardly bothering to stop their chatting and laughing when I passed. Once I did have a closer encounter with two of them. I was coming out of the supermarket, when one of them, tall and dark, wearing a flaming red gown, that was open on the side to the top of her legs, she raised up her leg in front of me, stopping me in my tracks. Raising her eyebrows, she smiled provocatively. I panicked. "Je suis marieé", I blurted out, I am married. She laughed loudly and said that she didn't mind. Thankfully, the other girl standing next to her, said something to her and they allowed me to walk away.

One of the prostitutes on our street was an old lady of about seventy. Loud gash of red on her lips, blue colour around her eyes and snow white hair, she looked like a witch, in her spindly legs and leather mini skirt. Who would ever go with her, I wondered but perhaps elderly men preferred her? One early morning, I was supposed to catch a train and it was snowing and really cold. I saw her in her miniskirt, standing under a doorway, shivering and yet, hoping for a client in that terrible cold morning. It was one of the saddest things that I have ever seen.

That stay in Geneva has changed my relationship with the city. Walking along the lake, the science museum, the wonderful botanical gardens are my favourite activities in every visit.

***

Saturday, 29 October 2005

Families

October has been so hectic, full of travels. Coming from somewhere, unpacking the bags, only to pack them again with clean clothes, and going some where else. Five cities in three countries in last three weeks. The travel to India, just ten days ago, seems like it was last year.

In all this running around, there is big family new, Marco's marriage is fixed. He will get married in Delhi on 2 January.

It seems he was born only yesterday. To think of him as married makes me feel relaxed, as if an important milestone has been reached. Perhaps that is why, I found the photo exhibition of Uwe Ommer in Geneva (Switzerland) on 60th anniversary of United Nations so moving. Uwe lives in France and she had travelled to large number of countries around the world to take pictures of families. The exhibition is along the left bank of Leman lake in Geneva.

India is represented by two families. The family of Phoolwati in a village near Udaipur. She is a widow and lives with her brother's family. And Lucky's family from Delhi, a sikh businessman. Lucky's son proudly holds a bat with name of Sachin Tendulkar in their picture.

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Families - photo-exhibition by Uwe Ommer, images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Invisible India

GK II and Alaknanda are among the posh colonies of south Delhi. Every house has cars, some have guards outside and the houses are big and beautiful. There is an army of invisible persons, running around like ants, opening doors, collecting refuse, cleaning cars, taking out the dogs to walks, cooking dinners, selling vegetables, repairing all kinds of things, etc. that holds up this world of well to do. If you stay here long enough, you stop seeing them too. I am here only for 5 days and I see them all around, these invisible Indians, with hope in their eyes, an occasional envy and a rarer anger.

***
I was at the Bookworm in Connaught Place, when I saw her. She must have been fifty. Slim, her eyes lined with kajal, her greying hair in a single plait, a tatty worn out purse in her hands. She seemed to be speaking to me. I looked around, I didn't know her. "Pagal hai saab", the boy at the bookshop told me.

"Buy me something", I think that is what she said, in English. "She is educated", the boy in the shop said. She started to dance, moving her hands gently, nodding at me, listening to the music coming from the shop next door.

I came out and she came forward, "Come on, buy me something. It is festival season, everybody is buying something, I also need to buy. I need some shoes. Look at these, these are completely worn out."

I was afraid of her and I hurried away.

"It is disgusting, every body can buy and I am left like this. No one to help me", she called after me.

While I walked away, I was talking to myself. Stupid. Why can't you help her? It is so little for you. Offer her an ice-cream, perhaps? I turned back, but she was gone.

***
I was in auto-rickshaw on Barakhamba road. The construction of metro line is going ahead furiously and the traffic moves in bits and pieces, getting stuck after every few meters. At one such stop, she came. Light blue sari, middle aged. "Please help me buy medicines for my child." She held a paper in her hand. "I am not a begger. I work here but I don't have enough money to buy medicines", she began to cry, "my child will die."

I gave her a ten rupee note. "It is not enough for buying medicines", she said,"I don't want money, help me buy the medicines for two days."

"That is all I have", I said, lying. 10 rupees is just 20 cents. May be I can ask her to come in autorickshaw and go to a chemist shop. The traffic starts moving and the auto moves. Her face streaked with tears looked at me.

***
At Purana Kila (old fort), there is a festival of dances called Ananya. Delhi's chief minister, Mrs. Shiela Dixit and a young minister, Mr Lovely are there. Birju Maharaj's troupe presents "kathak yatra" and the dancers include Saswati Sen. The dances, the lights and the backdrop of the old ruins is wonderful. Birju Maharaj must be seventy if not more, but in the end when he demsotrates a few steps of the mayur dance, he is transformed. It is a memorable evening.

***

Friday, 14 October 2005

Burning Ravan

Saw the burning of Ravan in Delhi this time after I don't know, how many years. I think that the last time I must have seen it was when we used to go to DCM Ramleela grounds near Rohtak Road, 30-35 years ago. After that I had seen it in the TV. But to be there in the middle of the crowd, feeling the excitement and the anticipation, the first wave of heat as the effigy takes fire, the deafening noise of the fire-crackers... is some thing else. Mika was there with me and we cluctched each other's hands when the flames suddenly engulfed the effigy.

On the way back, near the temple, trucks with the Ramleela actors was passing. Ram and his sena were on one truck and Ravan and his sena were on the second truck. Even these kind of processions were such old memories and I felt thrilled in spite of myself.

The days are rushing past so quickly. Today I hope to go and see Anita. Rajouri Garden, where she lives seems so far away but I am hoping to travel by the Delhi Metro.

Took the metro for going to Delhi university the other day. The train is exactly the same as they have in Rome - they must be buying it from the same source! And the travel is quick.

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Dushhera, Delhi, India - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Back in India

I arrived on 10 October, three days ago. Explaining the way to the taxi driver, a young man who has come recently from Bhagalpur in Bihar, made me realise that my memories of Delhi are getting rusted. I was confused between Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar. As the taxi passed through the Mehrauli road, it was clear that if India is indeed shining, its light has yet to reach certain parts of the capital. May be cellphones and satellite TV and digital cameras have arrived even here but the signs of old smelly confusion, narrow roads, shops encroaching on the streets, heaps of garbage, wandering cows, horn blaring traffic, brash and aggressive car drivers, poor asking for alms, etc. are all still there. Mahipal Pur, the village where I used to come for my preventive and social medicine posting in the village health centre in 1976, is now an unending length of houses, shops and traffic.

As the taxi turned towards Munirka and the flyovers of the outer Ring Road, it was good to feel the changing face of urban India, even if the quality of roads, pavements and railings over the new flyovers seemed to be bad. The two Indias, the shining one and the one still in the dark, live close to each other, at times mixing together.

****
While people in Tamilnadu have forced actress Khushboo to apologise for her "insult to the Tamil womanhood" by talking about pre-marital sex, on the TV screens a girl shows her backside, moves it seductively and then slowly enlarges her buttocks with her hands while singing a remix version of the old Rishi Kapoor-Jayapradha song, "Daphliwale, daphli baja..", and I am flabbergasted by this unexpected meaning to the old song. How naive I must have been not to see the dirty meaning of the song before! Or perhaps, all songs are dirty, all words can be bent to give them another meaning. Every thing is about sex!

The promos of a new film are even more shocking. It is a new film by K-lady Ekta Kapoor, the lady who makes all the serials about Bhartiya sabhyta like "Kyonki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi" kind of serials. The promos have yesteryears' star Jeetandra's face spashed on them. One scene has the hero, Aftab Shivdasani, standing up with his bleeding finger held in front of his crotch being licked by a girl on her knees, another girl looks at them from behind and thinks that the girl is sucking something else. This promo is repeated about 15 times during the day, without any warning that it is for adults or any such thing.

The sexually liberated India coexists with Bajrangdal-Shivsena-controlled "no sex please, we are Indians" kind of India.

****
There are pandals every where for Durgapuja. For Dushehra, big Ravans are standing in each park, full of loud crackers, waiting to be burnt. In one park, I curiously watch the puja being performed at the feet of Ravan's effigy and at the end, people take turns to touch Ravan's feet and hold their hands in prayer in front of it.

I have been to Ramleelas all my life and I had never realised that there is a puja in front of the Ravan also and people ask blessings to it before burning it!

Isn't Ravan the bad one, why are you touching his feet, I want to ask but then I stop myself. May be that is the American or western way of thinking. We know that Ravan was a great vidwan, perhaps, it is good to pray to him and then burn him to glory?

***

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Gaping hole in my being

On Sunday I am going to India. For 8 days. Meetings and appointments will eat away most of the time, and the remaining will go for shopping and chatting in the family. It is the prospect of the journey and my own ambivalent feelings about it, that I am thinking about.

Perhaps, I have completed my journey of being a stranger to my own land? The excitement of going back in the initial years, I still remember it. Waiting for months, counting the days, thinking of all the things that I was going to do. Call Munna, call Rahul's home, call Naresh, call Devender, see Rajkumar,... calling up on all the friends was high up on the list. So what is Ravi doing? Did you hear from Anil? Have you any news of Narayan? There was so much catching up to do.

Last year I saw Munna after 8-10 years. Rahul I had met him after ages. When we meet, all the words come out tumbling and rushed, in the beginning. And then they start to dry up. Perhaps, it is because there is no continuing dialogue, no exchange of things happening in our lives.

To visit old houses, old streets, is the same as meeting old friends. They have changed. Some times there is a completely new building. In Rajendra Nagar, all the old houses have gone, in their place there are 3-4 storeyed buildings and streets choking with cars, blocked with iron railings and no one seems to know me any more. The old shops are gone, along with the shopkeepers.

The circle of things that included familiar persons and places gets narrower each time. In the end, it is just an anonymous city with anonymous people and I am a stranger in my own town.

And there is hardly any excitement, no counting of days. Perhaps, it is because I am not spending enough time there, all these short trips, running around for work and not having time to spend with people? May be it is just this day, the rain and the autumn leaves falling down, and tomorrow, it will be all right once again.

This gaping hole in my being, I will close my eyes and it might go away. A bad dream.

***

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Feeling low

When we had just come to live in Italy, I found that clouds had a different effect on me, compared to others living here. They would say, "What a pity, it is cloudy" and I would say, "Lovely, it is cloudy today!" People asked me if I didn't like the sun and I would answer, "No thanks, I have had enough of sun to last me a life."

I was not right. After about two decades, I share the gloom around me when summer ends and autumn comes with its lovely colours, cold winds and rains. The joy of listening to thunderstorms, waiting for the hard pitter-patter of the rain drops, I haven't forgotten - they are like words read in a book, there and yet not so real.

I haven't been depressed ever. I mean, there are days that I feel low but I have never experienced that bottomless pit of gloom that is depression, where nothing seems to touch you. Yet it is one of those things that make me most afraid. Pietro, our neighbour has that. His whole body changes. Becomes kind of stiff. He doesn't look up or move, remaining in the same position for hours, gazing into nothingness. He feels guilty to be alive, that he did not die when the Germans killed his sister. He had run away in the forest. His sister wanted to come with him. "No you go back to home, you are safe there. Here you will slow us down", he had said. Germans won't kill young girls he had thought. Maria, 17 years, was shot dead in the village square with 34 other persons, as a reprisal for the Italian Resistance's attack on German soldiers.

Today is the anniversary of that massacre. It was 4th October 1943. Pietro will go there for the ceremony. Hopefully, after a few days, he can come out of this depression.

So many persons around us have to take anti-depression medication, I can't believe. It is as if there a silent epidemic all around us. It waits behind comfortable houses, perfect marriages, smiling picture postcard families.

Perhaps we human beings have not evolved enough? We are still the hunter-gatherer-fighter needing challenges and if things go too well, if we don't need to run and rush, we get depressed?

***

Sunday, 2 October 2005

In-tubed in London

Once again, I was back in London. Travelling up and down the city in the tube. Saw an ad sticking on the tube wall about "Paternity testing", advising women that if they had any concerns about the paternity of their child, DNA testing is now possible to identify the father. For a company to put an ad of this kind and to invest money on it, it means that there is indeed a market for it and sufficient number of women (and men) are interested in finding out if the child is indeed of that particular man. Seems like a commentary on these times!

I can bet, that such an Ad would never be accepted in India. Anyone stupid enough to put such an ad in a public place, is likely to be prosecuted for corrupting the impressionable public, if not already lynched by angry mobs. In India, we don't have adultery, do we? Or worse, women having multiple partners. It is against our culture!

***
In London, they have this nice initiative of putting up poems in the tube. Read a lovely poem by Chamon Hardi there.

I can hear them talking, my children.
Fluent English and broken Kurdish.

And whenever I disagree with them
they will comfort each other by saying
Don't worry about mum, she's kurdish

Will I be the foreigner in my own home.
***
In the tube, I saw a man, white and very English, wearing a jacket with a lotus designed on it's pocket, underneath it was written PUNJAB. On both the sleeves of the jacket, there were stripes of the Indian flag. Probably he did not know what the colours of those stripes meant? Indian made jackets are nicer and cheaper. Boys in Punjab, stop asking friends to bring you the jacket from UK, get it from Ludhiana!

***
In Europe, only in London, you can get away by carrying an Indian take-away dinner. It's smell is so strong. Yet, no one looks at you in London. The curry restaurents are so common and so full. Found a new Sagar with only vegetarian food including nice dosas on King's street. Yet even this was full - I had to wait to get a table.

Here in Italy, neighbours complain about the strong smells coming from Asian kitchens. May be they need to eat more curries and get used to them!

***

I was pushing my camera in through the railing around Buckingham palace to click the picture of the royal guards, when I saw this policeman point at me. Perhaps, he thought that my camera was a gun? Then he walked towards me. I was so tempted to put away my camera and walk away but I forced myself to stand there and continue clicking. He came closer in front of me, bent down and picked a green-coloured paper wrapped around the bottom of the railing, went back to the guard and smilingly put it in his pocket. The guard did not move. Perhaps, it was a message from guard's girl-friend and the policeman was only playing cupid!

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Around Buckingham Palace, London UK - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005
***

Monday, 26 September 2005

Fascinated by Motorbikes

I am fascinated by motorbikes. I am also afraid of them. I love to watch them. I like the idea of speeding on them with the wind flattening my hair. Whoooooooooom. But since I am afraid, so I'va never actually driven one. I am convinced that if I get on one, I am going to have an accident and end up with broken legs or worse.

Yesterday, we were in Como. Manish had come from Delhi for an overnight stay and was going to catch a flight for Spain from Milan. So we accompanied him to Milan and then went on to Como for a walk along the lake. It was wonderful, cold in the shadows, barely warm under the sun, with crowds thronging the path going along the lake.

Laura told us that George Clooney has asked the permission to clean the beach in front of his house (or rather houses, since he has bought three villas).

They say Bard Pitt is going to get married to Angelina Jolie in one of those houses of Clooney in the next spring (if they manage to stick around till then!). Any way, Clooney is a favorite with the locals - he brings all the tourists from USA, they say. And tourists, may be noisy and dirty, but they mean business. Plus people can brag about meeting Julia Roberts or Madonna, buying apples and organges at the local subziwalla.

Along the river, in one of the villas, there was an exhibition of old motorbikes. Tha villa had a lovely sculpture called Medusa, dedicated to Giorgio Armani. In between the old statues there were old bikes. Bikes from fifties, sixties and seventies. Old Harley Davidsons and Ducatis. With men walking around as if in a dream, looking at the bikes with such wonder and rapture, sure to make their girl friends jealous. Perhaps imagining themsleves as Jeames Dean or Marlon Brando.

Bikes have that power. Even prince Williams had got himself photographed with a motorbike a la Marlon Brando for his 21st birthday. Last week in London all newspapers had that picture.

Here are some images of the lakeside in Como, including some from the vintage motorbike exhibition.

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

***

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Back to London

Came back yesterday evening from London. I was curious to see if the bombs have changed the city. Yes, almost everyone I asked, agreed that the city has changed, but I couldn't see the changes.

They said, there is no night life, nobody goes out in central London. Perhaps, Hammersmith is too far away from the centre but at 10 PM the restaurants seemed full, people were there in the bar inspite of the typical English rain. Even the tube was full as usual. But the train and tube services seemed to have worsened. Stansted express was a scandal. The publicity is hyperbolic as usual but the train seemed like a local train in Mumbai. Stopped every five minutes. The whole tube system seems to be coming apart at the seams. Bomb scares, maintainance, staff shortage, all the possible problems seem to plague it.

Yet outside on the streets, people were rushing around as usual. Tourists speaking different languges with their cameras clicking furiously seemed unchanged. I walked in the Banks area, and it seemed much nicer than when I was there 10 years ago. There were flowers every where. Sparkling new buildings with strange shapes, futuristic pubs in glasswalled structures, it looked wonderful.

I always stay in the same place. Must have stayed in that hotel for fifty times at least. The old staff knows me very well. It seems to have worsened too. Must be cutting costs. The breakfast is a pale shadow of its past and the timings are restricted. In the room, the hair dryer and pants-pressing machine are both out of order. The telephone does not work too. May be someone else would buy that hotel and improve it? It changes names and owners, the prices increase and services improve, then slowly, every thing comes down. Perhaps, its location is not good so that it does not get enough clients?

I remember the time there when they had found an IRA terrorist staying in that hotel. I had woken up during the night after a noise and switching on the light, I had looked out of the window. The hotel was surrounded by police with guns in their hands. They must have looked at me with amazement, nude with just wearing my undies, standing near the window, lighted from behind! My heart thumping, I had switched off the light and crawled back into the bed, waiting for the guns to start shooting.

Or the time when a car allarm had gone off around 11 PM and gone on and on for 4 hours, till its battery had exhausted. Couldn't believe that in London, there was no police or someone to trace the owner of a car to make it shut up and it had continued to make terrible noise in a thickly populated residential area for four head-aching hours. Worse than all the jagratas combined in Delhi.

This time, there was a fight. It must have been from one of the houses at the back of the hotel. Woke up in the morning listening to the women shouting, "Leave the house, leave, ....leave". Seemed like an old record stuck on the word "leave". At first couldn't hear the man. Then slowly the fight heated. 'Fuck offs' and 'sons of bitches' flew around till the woman started shouting, "Get off me, let me go. I don't want you. Leave me. Let me go now." Then suddenly there was silence. Probably he had strangled her. Or may be, he had picked his things and left. Who knows. Or, may be she had hit his head with a broom. I hope they don't call me as a witness.

My last image of London is that of a banner at the airport. It was the publicity of a bank. "24 hours service. Real people from UK answer you." Means, no Indian call centre here!

***

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

A sterile world?

Growing up in India, you automatically learn that you are a small part of a large world, where all beings have a place.

Jain munis with clothe on their mouths, women giving food to the ants, Nandi bull sitting in front of the temple and the cows sitting in the middle of the road, all give you that same message. Perhaps that is why, I get disturbed when I see publicity that seems to imply that if you really want your home to be clean or if you really care about your child, buy this detergent powder or this floor cleaning liquid, because these will kill the bacteria.

I can't understand, why do we need to kill bacteria? Don't bacteria live inside our own bodies and are necessary for life since they produce important vitamins? Don't bacteria surround us every where and can they be actually killed just by washing your clothes or cleaning the kitchen floor with antiseptic lotions? Perhaps, I should not worry since these are only publicity gimmicks?

I think that this kind of publicity gives a wrong message. Improper use of antibiotics, has given rise to resistent bacteria, and there are some that can't be killed by any thing. But worse than that, this kind of publicity gives the message that it is all right to manipulate the nature because somehow we would be better off in an artificial world, controlled temperatures, controlled environment, artificial every thing.

I would say that we need to boicott these - not to buy products that say they kill bacteria. Sales and profits is the only language companies and marketing experts understand.

***

Monday, 12 September 2005

Four years ago

Yesterday, I didn't even remember that it was 11 September, anniversary of the New York attacks. I had a board meeting yesterday morning and I was thinking about that. It was also a friend's birthday, so I was reminding myself to send her greetings. And I was thinking about the peace march that covers 28 kms from the city of Perugia to Assisi.

It was only after the meeting, after lunch and after the afternnon nap, that Nadia told me that they were showing a Chinese film on the TV. I love Chinese films. She said that it was about children lving near a brick kiln.

I had immediately hoped that it was the film where Gong Li plays the mother of a deaf child. I had seen it on TV in China but since it was in Chinese, I hadn't followed it properly. But the film on the TV was about a teacher wearing a chador, trying to explain to nursery kids about bombings in New York and when children could not understand the meaning of "tower", she took them out to look at the chimney of the brick kiln.

It was that film where different directors have made short films on the theme of 11 September. The Isreali film was about a suicide bomber and a journalist who wants her story.

Mira Nair's film is about Salim, an American born in Pakistan, and the film was called "Terrorist".

"The exiled man" from Chile, was bitter about the American double standards.

The director from Lebanon has made his film about a dead American marine, his lebanese girl friend and a Palestinian suicide bomber.

The dream of boys in the film from Burkina Faso is to catch Osama Bin Laden and get 24 million dollars' award.

But my favorite film was about the deaf French girl, who has a fight with her boyfriend in New York, and is hoping for a miracle.

My own memories of that 11 September 4 years ago, seem an episode from the same film. The waiting at Milan airport, shopkeepers suddenly closing their shops and running away, the unbelievable images on the TV in the bar, my cancelled flight to Beirut, the journey back to Bologna and all the while, thinking about my mother who was travelling to Washington DC that morning. Her flight was diverted to somewhere in Canada and for few days, no body could tell where she was.

***

Saturday, 10 September 2005

John Grisham in Bologna

The well known american writer, known mainly for his legal thrillers, John Grisham was in Bologna yesterday, to receive a special award from the mayor of the city. The function was organised in Santa Lucia hall of the Bologna university. The thousand years old hall, that looks like the dining hall from the Harry Potter films, was an ex-old church.

It must have been a rare experience for Grisham to be surrounded by accademics, including the dean of university and a professor of American literature, talking about his "writings". Even if his books have sold 200 million copies around the world, including 10 million books in Italy, no one pretends that he writes "literature". I don't think often people take his name next to Mark Twain or Charles Dickens like it happened in Bologna!

His new book, "The Broker" is based in Bologna. It is the first time Grisham has come out of the American counties, placing his book outside America. He explained that he needed a small, not too touristy town, where his spy hero could hide and the decision to make him come to Bologna was just by chance. He came here for the first time in July 2004 to look for places where his novel will be based, and fell in love with the city, its people and the food.

It must be admitted though that Grisham was suitably modest and ironical in a self-deprecating manner. "I was the best selling author in the world", he said, "till Harry Potter came along." He was asked if the fact that most of his books are turned into films, has affected the way he writes his novels now, he answered, "My writing was always simple, straight forward, one scene leading to next, no complexity, that is very similar to films. I haven't changed that. When I start writing, I already know what is going to happen in my book, from beginning to the end."

About the movies based on his books he said that not all the movies are good and he can't have the control over those movies, at least not as much as he would like. He also mentioned about the screenplay he had written about a minor league of basball (he is passionate about baseball) and when he did not find any producer, he produced it himself. "This film was never released properly in USA nor in the world, no body ever saw it", he said, "it came out in DVD and no body is buying the DVDs. It was a foolish decision."

He did not seem very enthusiastic about Mr. Bush and lamented the increasingly shrinking space for freedom of expression in America. While he was speaking, thunder broke out and he gave a start and then laughed saying that ever since Katerina in New Orleans, he is worried about thunderstorms.

In the pictures below, you can also see the Mayor of Bologna, Mr. Cofferati, giving the special recognition award to John Grishem for basing his new book, "The Broker" in Bologna.

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

***

Saturday, 27 August 2005

Street artists

I like buskers, the street artists. While sitting in the train or in the metro and having someone play music, I love it, and sometimes they do play wonderfully.

Growing up in India with the strong class mentality does not help us to relate with persons easily and I think that, to appreciate street artists, we need to get over our classist way of looking down at persons. I don't like it when people are rude to them or when they treat them as beggers.

My favorite town for the way buskers are treated, as almost "official musicians", is London that has areas marked for them at some underground stations, (though with the bombs and terrorists, perhaps that won't last very long!).

Last night we went to buskers festival. This annual festival is held in Ferrara, about 50 km from Bologna, and it brings street artists from all over Europe and sometimes from beyond, to be treated as artists and not just as persons trying to earn a living. Ferrara is a beautiful city and the Estense castle in the city centre is a jewel. The whole central part of Ferrara has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

For four hours we went around the city centre. Every ten meters, there was a different artist playing music and the city was teeming with tourists. A mother and daughter duo from France, a group of Spanish girls singing and dancing flammenco, magicians and clowns, dancers from Brazil, trios playing classical music, jazz artists, tarroc card readers, and even a girl who claimed to tell your future by looking in your eyes and had a long queue of persons waiting for her to look in their eyes - there were so many street artists. It was impossible to see all of them, there were so many!

The pictures below are from Ferrara visit yesterday.

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Buskers strret artists' festival, Ferrara, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

***
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