12 April 2006

jamnagar reprise

mangolandia is moving fast. three types of mangos in the market and i've only had the financial gumption to try two of them. the 50 point ones are small (slightly larger and more oblong than the brasilian 'cocktail mango') yellow-orange, and delicious. the 30 point variety are a little larger, greener, less sweet, more stringy, and mainly for juice. i like them both. one of these days i'll try those alphonsos.

i'm heading to the south in a couple of days (with neilu, mangolandia's newest anarchist rockstar, arriving tomorrow at 2h30 please do not leave her stranded in the indian airport to face a vertiable army of indians: one batalian of sobbing aunties and another of trickstar rickshaw drivers, neither of which take no or any other kind of answer). we're still waitlisted on the train but krishna or the west wind will see us through.

a one day trip to jamnagar to sit at the feet of chanoor, my bansuri guru and friend. i learned some things.

1. chanoor is in the middle (thirteen days?) of a forty day music meditation, where you're supposed to sit in your practice room from 7h00 to 15h00 each day and practice fully focused. it's the only time i've seen indians turn their mobile phones off. there is a list of alankar (scale excercises) he follows -- forty excercises and ten minutes for each one. it's orginally for the sitar and written by ravi shankar. he also has some special bansuri exercises that hariprasadji chaurasia gave him, so the great spirits of indian music are somehow with him in that mosquito-ridden (ritten?) chamber, it's only decoration a long and beautiful poster to/of sarasvati, goddess of knowledge and music (who plays the veena).

he taught me a couple songs/lines in raga bhupali. bhupali omits the 4th and 7th notes of the scale and uses the other 5 in both ascension and descion. i don't know any of the deeper structural notes.


[ o is the 9th beat (kali) of the table and x is the 1st (sam). the taal is teentaal ]

o x

SSdp | grsr | g-gr | gpdp

rakhali jyo laj dayalo prebhu

o x

ggpd | SdS- | dSRS | d-p-

me agyani balak tero


i think the song takes the first line twice, then the second line, then the first line again, then improvisation


o x

grsg | rsds | pg-p | grs- ( use the low dha )

o x

gggp | -pdp | g-gp | grs-

o x

ggdp | SdS- | pdSR | GRS-

o x

GSRd | spdp | g-gp | grs-


i think you take each line twice, then the 1st line twice, then the 3rd line twice, then some other stuff i haven't learned yet

the end should be

o x

pg-p | grs- | grsg | rsds (use the low dha )


pg-p | grs-



2. i told my friends here about the march and there lukewarm response included a denial that gandhi was "a god" and a remonstration not to be impressed by anyone. i tried to communicate that my m.o. is more along of the lines of trying to be impressed and to learn from Everyone (which in the belly of the snake biting his own tail is the same damn thing) and the eventual conclusion which i overheard in gujarati was that "ankur just doesn't understand". which is probably true.

3. chandrikaben (who is married to chanoor) called her sister (w/husband) over to discuss their son. their son is studying some sort of engineering at a college in maharastra and they're thinking of sending him to america for a masters program. the way it works is they pay someone (or some company) 25 lakh rupees, which covers the two years of university fees (including books, but not housing) and visa process. the son is taking the GRE and TOEFL but the name of the actual university is unknown. sounds like a scam to me -- i'm sure there are a host of third rate universities in the US that have shitty masters programs just as an excuse to help immigrants get visas and extort lots of money. 25 lakh means 2.5 million indian points = 50 US dollars. they want to pay 50,000 us dollars to send their kid to a masters program in the states, as an investment. it's a purely financial matter with a college sized human as the medium.

i asked if he had any interest in american culture, travelling to the states, etc. i forget the words but the meaning was "this is an investment for us". my take was that it would take him 3-10 years to pay back such a loan (they say they can get an educational loan at 6% interest) depending on how american his consumption habits become. those years, on top of two years of study, could be pure hell for a nice indian boy who has no desire for cable tv, black music, mexican food, protests, pornography, etc. their other option, which i suggested from the "my son as a financial instrument" point of view, was to get him (them, really) a masters degree in india and then market him abroad.

there was an article in today's _times of india_ about if anything was more important than


2) the status of telling people how much MONEY

when looking for a job. as if there was any question. these (my!) people are obsessed with MONEY and every single person to whom i've told i'm a computer programmer (i don't always say that) has immediately asked how much money i make. they quoted an actress as saying she would only take interesting roles and everybody else was in it for the MONEY

so that's a little note on the details behind all those dudes in fremont with H1B visas in their pockets who look vaguely unhappy as they contemplate the options at the indian buffet. it's not what mom makes, of that be sure.

3. everything happens for a reason and yesterday a man with horrible teeth walked into the music class. chanoor ordered a young tabla student to fetch him some tea (the students are the servants, the servants are the students) and introduced him as the World Record Holder for Floating. this man of rotting teeth has floated for 36 hours straight. he's floated in the (incredibly dirty) lake of jamnagar, in the bay of kutch, and the indian ocean. he's floated in swimming pools and for charity. he can float standing, lying down, reading a newspaper, and smoking a cigarette. chanoor relayed this to me in part, i think, to justify getting the guy a tea. indian culture takes the cyncism out of the grade school "oh you did something special, do you want a cookie?" by actually offering you the mythological cookie.

as rama said, in india, reality is a dream and only the myths are taken seriously.

i had no idea as to the reason behind this particular corner of everything so i'm passing it along to you.

4. rupesh was empty of gas on the way to get dinner so we stopped at the station. there was a long line of bikes in front of one pump and an attendant filling each one in turn. you didn't have to tell or ask anything -- each person got 1 liter of petro and paid 50 points. each person entered the station with their gauge on empty and left with the same. i have no idea why this is but everytime somebody's given me a bike ride in this country, their tank has been just about empty.

the best was one brother krishna who offered me to stay in his house on the dandi march. i was at least two weeks in, walking to a big city, and happy for the offer. later that night as he took me from a 2500 year old shiva temple to the dharamsala where gandhi stayed (now crumbling and inhabited by drunks) he explained that he hadn't worked for money in the last three years and everything came to him directly from god as a result of positive thinking meditation. he just asked for whatever he needed, hypnotized himself into focus, and the universe provided. that's how he had a big house (his house was certainly big) -- he spent months thinking

"big bungalow"

"big bungalow"

"big bungalow"

until he got a major contract (i dont know for what) worth 35 lakhs. this was 3 years ago and since then krishna has been taking care of everything -- food, utilities, petrol. his gas gauge, to no surprise, was well below empty.

5. street food last night and mild diarrhea this morning:

a. pani puri:

small puries deep fried until they are hard flaky wheat spheres the size of a golf ball.

take a dirty indian thumb and punch a whole in the top, fill with steamed cut potatos, raw onions, roasted peanuts, and boiled kabuli chick peas.

fill with water (pani) -- there is a green pani (watered down cilantro mint chutney) and a red pani (red chile and tomato base with lots of sugar added)

pop entirely into your mouth, chew, look up to find another one headed your way.

im not sure if youre charged by quantity or time eating, but <a href="http://intothepudding.wordpress.com"">cholmes</a> and i once did this for 15 minutes straight.

b. cold samosa:

take an old samosa and mash it up with

tamarind/date chutney (made with sugar, not dates, and a lot of it)

cilantro/mint chutney (on the runny side but not watery)

tomato/garlic chutney (blend together tomato paste, salt, red chiles, garlic, and a little oil. it should be thick)

not really recommended

c. dahai vada

vada might as well be the gujarati word for falafel. these are made from urad dal (a white split lentil usually used for idli or dosa), that's been soaked and ground together with ginger and green chile, then deep friend. if they don't hold together use a little flower or, middle-eastern style, cooked bulgar.

take the yogurt you made this morning and add salt, fresh ground roasted cumin, and red chile powder

make a tamarind chutney (tamarind, pitted dates, red chiles, and salt blended together)

make the green chutney (it's in the cookbook)

after frying the vadas, let cool. arrange on a tray and spoon yogurt over them all. let sit (chill, even) for an hour or two so they soak through.

serve with the two chutneys on top. indians will mix white poision into the yogurt (dahai) for some added sweetness.



before i left jamnagar i saw a movie with some new friends called "Shit". it was 26 minutes in tamil with english subtitles and the magical projector suffered from food poisoning half way through and the film screening turned into a discussion. it was about a low-caste woman in tamil nadu whose daily job was to scrape up tons of human shit from one street (across from a temple) where all the neighbordhood would shit each morning, afternoon, evening etc. the discussion was pretty funny, but only to me. lots of righteous people who thought we should teach people how to shit, take responsibility for their actions, bring in the government. give more money for sanitation workers (instead of the military) or abolish the jobs altogether (because people should, quite literally, take care of their own shit).

the practical upshot for my life is that this dude i met, rahul brown (there are probably 700,00 ankur shah's, he told me -- there is only rahul brown), was incensed and ready to do something about this shit. so he's going on saturday to a similar street in ahmedabad where pepole are accostomed to shitting in large quantities with a video camera and the intention of shaming people into shitting somewhere else. i think i'll tag along with my flute in tow to provide some sort of soundtrack or moral support -- both to rahul and the shitters.

during my Fever on the dandi march, a soft cool morning on a nice country road, leaving bhatgam and heading to aarthan, i discovered the peace and wonder of outdoor shitting. just dropping trow on the roadside and letting it all flow. the birds and sugarcane fields are with you and there's a direct sense of what jayeshbhai calls "the power of the earth". so i'm not sure where i stand [ hahaha ] around this issue but it's good to know that people care.



www.somethingconstructive.net | mangolandia.blogspot.com


MrA said...

Ank, keeping up wid you on your blog, with you in spirit if not in frequent exchange of wordage. I love your fucking cookbook (Mego has one in the kitchen at camp that I've read whilst eating my brown rice veggie stir-fry during the winter) and I will figure out how to purchase one soon(I tried already and something screwed up either with the site or with my browser). Just wanted to give the shout-out and love. Missing your presence in the nargilah circle.

cholmes said...

You like dolphins!

I love mangos. I think I had the same cocktail++ mangoes in Zambia. They were amazing.

Also, ank, if you have 6 separate thoughts, blogging lends itself quite well to putting each in its own post. And then people can link to just one thought, and talk back at you.

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