Saturday, November 3, 2007

in baroda

Baroda is now Vadodara -- a thing I learned, initially, when the Indian Railways website offered no "Baroda" station. This follows the trend of major metros [as they call big cities here] toward de-Britification of municipality-naming: from Bombay to Mumbai, from Madras to Chennai, from Bangalore to Namma Bangaluru, from Calcutta to Chennai, and (as said) from Baroda to Vadodara.

Debarking from my 14-hour "sleeper-class" train bogie [car] just shy of 4 a.m., I thought I might walk to one or another of the couple of nearby hotels whose names I had jotted in my pocket notebook -- the little blue volume a gift of my English student in Beijing, "Lisa" Xiao Ying -- a bright young English-major whose English was more fluent when typing then when conversing; she would prefer sending me detailed text messages rather than answer a mobile phone call and face the problem of figuring out my audible words. We wandered some parts of Beijing for a couple of days, the conversation growing a bit surreal on my part when, sharing a late-night repast at a well-lighted diner not far from lake Hou Hai, I related to her the conversations between the eggplant and the dofu (the eggplant, I think, was the philosophical optimist, the dofu the pessimist -- warning of impending eating). Finally the chopsticks chimed in with additional thoughts. This comprised my most concentrated English lesson. But Xiao Ying also helped me understand the remarks (mostly in Chinese, though with some in English) of the Tibetan beauty, De Qing Wang Mu, to whose "Made in Paradise" botique, adjaent Hou Hai, chance or destiny (depending on whether your view is more eggplant or dofu) had delivered our wandering steps. Before reaching this happy merchantile niche, we first heard the notes of gu zheng played by a musician whose hand-scrawled (Chinese) placard announced his wish or need to sell the instrument. I played a few notes, having first noted I didn't plan to buy the fine instrument. But all this is a half-formed digression into recent Chinese memory . . . jumping off from the blue notebook in which, still, my important daily notes are being entered, including two (so far) lessons from my Vadodara vichitra vina teacher. In whose neighborhood (Ellora Park) I'm internet-cafe-ensconsed at the moment, with 45 minutes to spare before today's (my 3rd) lesson in the astonishing, challenging, endangered-species of an instrument.

"Would you like idlies? We are going . . ." remarks the proprietor of this electric-fan-cooled mini-shop with its 5 terminals (presumably on offer at the local-standard rate of Rs. 15 per hour). No, no idlies required here . . . but I assure the chap I'll watch his shop while he steps out. He's soon back, tuning the radio to filmi music, jury-rigging a USB port for another customer. Such is life in Vadodara.

The shop is on a side street, some 4 meters wide and 8 meters deep, painted bright orange -- usually Hanuman's color; normally, if you see this color by a street mandir, you can expect to see the monkey-god's image therein. Yesterday, I sat in meditation before one such image, up another side road, across the main road from here, -- that image (in enjoyably gaudy colors of orange, green, and a kind of chartreuse) showing the hero lifting the fabled mountain . . . a hagiographic exploint I recalled in one sher of a ghazal, added to the still-growing, prolix poem on my blog:
for the healing herb you   in time's nick   carried the mountain
love reveals such tactical force   in winning & losing
Such, too, is life in Vadodara.

[incomplete & in-prog notes]

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