Here’s a little artwork I had made yesterday. It is my little tribute to the great movie director, Satyajit Ray who had his birthday on May the 2nd. He was born 1921, and he received an Oscar award for lifetime achievement. In this sketch, I have merged two of his best movies, Charulata and Mahanagar. Both have the actress Madhabi Mukherjee play a pivotal role. The dialogue is from Mahanagar, where Madhabi’s work colleague asks why she doesn’t use a red lipstick. The visual is from Charulata, where Madhabi plays a lonely housewife who entertains herself by uses her binoculars to spy at people down the street.
Due to family obligations I have to spend the next two months in India. I am living in a big city called Kolkata that is inhabited by people of a particular community called Bengalis. However, Kolkata has a big mix of people from all over India.
My current move to Kolkata had me a little anxious right from the beginning when plans had been made to stay here. Since the big rape news in India 4 months ago, and the subsequent deluge of news of horrific rape attacks from different parts of India, I have been mentally preparing myself to constantly remain wary of men, and protect myself the best way possible. From what I understood of the various attacks, any group of men seen being together in the late hours of the evening, is a sure sign to stay far far away.
Luckily for me, I live in a neighborhood that has a good security system. There are security guards all around, watching with eagle eyes, and I am satisfied when I see them so alert. However, my own guard is always up high. In the dead of night I wonder sometimes if I remembered to lock my front door twice and the three latches to it (no, I am not paranoid, this is a Kolkata thing, and most people usually do have many locks 🙂 ).
Since moving in, to my new and bare appartment, I had to keep myself busy buying the essential items to fill up the house. For all bulky objects like TV, fridge etc, there are a set of men who come deliver it home, another set of men who will arrive to explain to you how it works, and if there has been any part missing or found broken, they schedule another appointment with you the following day to come fix the problem. My front door- bell rings a minimum of 10 times a day with the comings and going of such men. (The only time women enter the appartment are the help).
Since I occupy the appartment with female family members, I am quite cautious. When I look at the men who come with various reasons, I have a tiny bit of fear wondering what might be going on in their heads. One time, I was alone at home. I had a freaky experience. The door bell rang. I peeped through the peep hole and asked “who are you?” The man replied saying he’d come to give a demonstration of how to use my new fridge. I looked at the man, and finally decided I would take no chance. I politely explained to him that the owner of the house is out and would you please not mind but return later? The man looked surprised and a little annoyed, and kept persuing to be let in! I was glad I hadn’t let him in at all, his attitude just seemed a bit wrong!
Another time when the doorbell rang, I decided not to have any conversation at all, so I silently padded about the house doing my things. About a half hour later, just out of curiosity I peered through the peep hole, and was appalled to see a different man still waiting for the door to be opened! I told him to come back later and he went away (thankfully!)
When I told my family of what had passed, once they returned home, they just looked at me incredulously. And seeing their attitude, it was rather me who was taken by surprise! After all that has been in the news lately, should not a woman in India be ultra careful of who she opens her home to?!
Yves and I had been to the Dubai Miracle Garden, which is home to over 45 million petunias, petunias and more petunias, on a land area of 72,000 sq m. After having read information on this garden prior to coming here, superlatives like “The world’s most beautiful and largest garden in the world”, I was surely expecting to see more than one variety of flower. If any other type of flower had been indeed used, then my untrained eye could not identify them, everything looked like petunias, not that I have anything against it, I grow them on my windows! The landscaping had been done cleverly to attract attention, with flower decked cars, hearts, stars, pyramids, igloos etc.
After being done with the Miracle Garden (we covered the 72,000 sq m under an hour), Yves and I took the metro later in the evening. There was a big rush of passengers into the train and the train was already a bit crowded within. Yves and I pushed our way in, and there was a man standing near the entrance who clearly seemed to be making use of the opportunity to brush against many of the women passengers, including me. I made an immediate mental note of this man. Yves and I weren’t standing too far from this person and I looked to see what other mischief he was upto.
I noticed he was standing next to a girl, in fact close enough to her to be touching her and watching her with a fixed stare, while this girl was blithely chatting with her friend oblivious to the presence of this man so close to her. I was getting a bit angry seeing this pervert knowing that that girl could have been me! I told the story to Yves and he too noticed the man’s behaviour. I couldn’t really make a scene about this because I would have failed to make the girl understand what this man was doing. Instead I waited for him to look at me.
Soon enough, he relaxed his eyes and looking around saw me, and before he could get on his X-ray vision on me, I gave him my penetrating stare and shook my finger at him almost under his nose letting him know “I know what you’re upto and I won’t be standing that nonsense”. I could see he was visibly taken aback seeing me. I am pretty sure he may have tried many such acts before without having any women daring to do or say anything about it. He looked at me amazed, turned around, looked back at me still beetling my brows at him, turned around and saw Yves giving him the same treatment. By then, a few other passengers who were watching what was happening started staring at this man. This man took a step back from the girl he’d been almost squashing against, and kept looking at the ground. After a while, he walked away far to the back of the train.
I felt a little elated knowing that through his thick skin, he understood at least that his acts had been observed and not tolerated at all. Perhaps he would think about it and decide to be more careful in the future, and hopefully start respecting women some day! I also realise that in this country of the UAE, if a woman feels harassed, she will be heard if she raises her voice, and knowing this, offenders feel powerless when she speaks up. I’ve had another occasion in the past where I hit a man on his head with a book, in public, when I discovered something he had been doing very naughty. Women should dare to be more bold and speak out, the police are on the side of the women, that’s one of the better things of living in the United Arab Emirates.
For any of you who has experimented smiling at a complete stranger, then watching the person view you suspiciously and walk away quickly, but instead you see the person radiantly smile at you back, you would have to be in Bali to see this happen!! Yes, this is possible, humans smiling at each other without knowing each other and without ulterior motives. It’s possible to experience that in my favourite holiday destination, that’s the little town of Ubud, Bali; a place made popular by Elizabeth Gilbert for her book, ‘Eat Love Pray’ (Julia Roberts stars in the movie of the same name).
For a long while I considered Thailand to be the land of smiles, but now, after my trip to Bali, I have to admit I’ve changed my opinion. The people of Bali (especially Ubud) know how to smile at you warmly, disarmingly and Genuinely. I know I sound like I’ve flipped! 🙂 But I love smiling myself and it was such a pleasure for me to smile at nice people who I know would smile back at me readily! 🙂 (Though I did notice that the Balinese smile at tourists and also among themselves, but the tourists would smile at the Balinese but not amongst themselves. )
Below is a pic of a mother and her baby girl. We’d walked into a shop and we saw this mother trying vainly to make her baby stop being cranky. The little one had a little angry face and was threatening to bawl. My husband Yves is excellent with kids. He asked the baby politely (using sign language) if she would allow him to take her photo. The baby became unsure and stared at him, letting Yves do what he wanted. Yves took her photo and then showed it to her on our digicam. The little one stared at herself quietly in amazement, and then suddenly started gurgling in happiness and soon she was laughing and squealing! This is the pic of her looking happy!
I found the older ladies in Bali particularly charming. They always seemed immaculately and elegantly dressed, and I was often left wondering that they must have looked very pretty in their younger days. It was funny asking them to pose. When I’d ask them permission for a photo, they’d agree readily and with a big smile, but when the time to strike a pose came, they’d sober up and look very serious! I’d had to stretch my fingers across my mouth and mime a smile, and they’d smile looking at me.
Now that I am back to a normal world where things are different from the ways in Bali, I do quite miss Bali a lot. The smile fever that I’d carried across from Bali has quickly been snuffed out I’m afraid, but these pictures help relive me of the Free Smile Therapy I’d received in Bali along with a Feel Good Therapy! 🙂
My husband and I spent a glorious 16 day holiday around Bali. Bali is beautiful!!! Even at the risk of sounding completely awe struck, I will describe Bali to be a magical place still existing on earth, with demons, gods and beautiful exotic flowers and plants all around.
For this post, I am going to dedicate it to the frangipani flowers that I saw growing all around Bali. It’s amazing how a flower can get so entrenched into the lives of people. I saw it being worn by both men and women on their hair, I saw it being an important component of their traditional head dresses, their works of art, their offerings to their gods, the very tree growing in profusion in their back yards, the design of the flower emulated in their food presentations, and even the tiles fitted on the roofs would have some frangipani decorations on them!!
Go ahead and do enjoy the gentle frangipanis! Here are some lovely paintings with the frangipani figuring prominently on them.
Frangipani is part of their everyday offerings in their rice fields.
A desert of fried bananas with vanilla ice cream, in the shape of a frangipani.
A tourist, copying the delightful custom of the Balinese men of having a frangipani tucked behind the ear. (I just never got around to taking a proper photo of a real Balinese man with the flower in his ear!!)
Gods wearing the frangipani around their ears. These idols are sculpted with holes around their ears for the frangipani to be fitted in!