21 August 2006

san jose kaman

it's all a test. and everybody wins. all the time. except the board
exams. speaking of which, last week in the great golden state of
california, as part of my Circle of Grand Reconciliation, i spent a
few hours at my father's house in south san jose.

there could be a lot to delve into but the most memorable of the
ephemera was the cooking, as always. his wife, apu, who has been
working hard for the last twenty years, taught me a quick version of
kaman --


[ a delightful indian snack or breakfast, spongy goodness with
titilating flavors and wheat free at that ]

for the 'cake':
1 bowl of besun (check pea flour)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ENO
2 tsp of sugar

for the 'icing'
chopped cilantro
shredded coconut
sesame seeds
mustard seeds
green chiles
2 tsp of sugar

1. the first and most important question is "WHAT IS ENO". and, just
as naturally, im not really sure. it looked like a small bottle cost
25 rupees in the motherland and the only decipherable characters
spelled "fruit salt". in apu's word, it was a "chemical ferment" like
"soda" but whereas too much soda ruins the flavor, "too much eno and
no problem". in the altogether likely event that you dont have ENO, i
would use a smaller quantity of baking soda. if you're aversa to soda,
i would add a bit of yeast and let it sit for 12 hours. which is
probably the original recipe anyhow.

2. you'll need a steamer. a steamer is a pot with water in it, a metal
ring or someother device to gain lift, and a metal plate to place on
top of the ring. so whatever is in the plate will be steamed. heat the
water before proceeding.

3. mix together the besun, salt, sugar, ENO, and a wee bit of turmeric
for the color. slowly add water, constantly mixing, to produce an even
batter. you want the batter to be thick but mobile, closer to muffins
than pancake.

4. when well mixed, light, and airy, pour/scrape the batter into the
metal plate (greased!) and set it to steam. it should take exactly 7
minutes and 40 seconds. if not it will be RUINED so be careful. hah.

5. as it steams like a happy and vegetarian mollusk, chop your
cilantro and shred your coconut. if you have another burner, toast the
mustard seeds in oil, add the asofetida and green chiles (trisected).
fry for a bit and add a cup of water (10:1 water:oil) and the sugar.
simmer until sugar has absolved itself of any prior sins.

6. when it's steamed, test it for rigorous completeness as you would a
cake. switch the steam pan for another one (you'll make at least two,
i'm sure). let the first kaman cool.

7. as each kaman cools, sprinkle sesame seed, coconut, and cilantro
liberally on top. after it cools for a few minute, poor the spicy
syrup over the top, letting the greedy risen besun soak up all the
watery goodness.

ready to eat. great breakfast food. thank you apu.

on its way out

i hear the mangos are going out of season.
and it singapore its not even considered the king.

so we're at the sunset lap of this fateful weblog, with just one
meditating musketeer in the wild infinitudes of the motherland.
there's a lot to catch up upon, personally and pubicly, and i'll be
damned if i do it now.

yoyo ma is yodling thanks to brasil (in the other room) and i'm
recovering from a reintroduction to gasoline, consumer culture, social
drinking, (they might as well be) naked women, and free internet.

and the land, the gorgeous infinite depths of beauty of the land. of
my own barn -- collapsing in on itself with a universal right. i can
feel the pull, the energy that drew me here. and now, three days
later, i'm almost ready to flee.

13 August 2006

Chennai Highlights

Since Ank is probably having too much fun being back in America to write, I will share some highlights since I am still in India. Finding myself in the big city of Chennai for a week, it is all about getting ripped off. Which I can handle at this point since most of my other travels in India have been of a different quality completely. But here are some ways I have been able to find some good people in the city.

After my first steps into Chennai, I still think that I can find my way to the bus station and travel cheap. Let's remember that now I have a full backpack and a hug bag with a tabla. Not only do I stick out as a TOURIST, but I quickly realize the bus idea is not going to work. I am just staring at the guys that have one foot and one hand barely on the bus, the rest of their bodies are hanging outside the door and being pushed out by all the other bodies hanging on with only a prayer that some other vehicle does not get too close to the bus. So I ask a rickshaw, how much to the Shivananda Yoga center. I have some address written down and have no idea where it is. He says 150 points. I ask, do you know where it is? He says yes a little too quickly as he talks to his friend. So I turn to another rickshaw, an older guy, and say do you know where this is? He says he thinks so. How much? I don't know exactly, we will have to ask some people on the way. I am at least getting a real answer, so I look at him longer cause I gotta get a ballpark range, so he says maybe 40-70 points. Okay, at least he seems more honest. The ride was easy, we talked the whole way there, he pointed out things to see, he talked about his two children and how he loves his daughter too much and she loves him too much. We make two u-turns trying to find the Food World, which is the only land mark to find the yoga center. I get out, with him feeling bad that he keeps on passing the Food World and I have bags to carry. I tell him not to worry and give him 100 points. Still wishing I gave him more, but he was happy.

Then, after being at the yoga center for a day, I had to go find the beach and mangos. So I ask some guy on the street for 2 kilos of mango. He has a huge set up with signs identifying the 20 to 30 to 40 pointers, I went with the 30 pointers. He weighs the two kilos on the balance that you don't even find in american classrooms any more cause it is such an ancient way of measuring. But it just reminds me of Iran, and I love it. Anyway, the mango side hits the bottom, so he puts a mango on the other side with the weights. Nothing budges. Now we are both laughing and he still gives me all the mangos. So I got one mango for free and then some. Life is good.

After being in the nice beachy yoga neighborhood, I have to move to the real part of the city. Now I am in the middle of it all and looking for mangos again. At the end of the road, there are a couple fruit stands. So I try one guy. He is an older, skinny guy. His wife is sitting to the left of the stand, very quiet, depressed, overweight. He is in your face, and we start bargaining. I get two kilos. Suddenly he turns to his wife and yells at her to get a bag quite violently with his hands flying in the air in disgust. Of course I don't speak the language, but it sounds like, "you piece of shit, lazy, good for nothing woman, get a bag and do something for god's sake." My heart drops and I just put my bag out cause I do not need a bag. I have my own bag. And then we argue over the price of some bananas. I just can't take it any more. So I leave saying maybe tomorrow I will buy bananas. Will you be here tomorrow? No. He wants to make the sale now. I look at him and say again, you will not be here tomorrow? What about the next day? No, you have to buy now.

Tomorrow arrives, I go back down the street. And I make a point to buy two kilos of mangos from the other lady just two stands down from the old man. He can see me buying mangos and is waving. I ignore him. As I walk by him on my way home, I acknowledge him. He tries to get close and touch my hand, which I forgot to say that he did yesterday. Do I even need to say that if I was Indian, he would never touch my hand. I move to avoid any more contact with this slimy man. He says, "my customer!" I just look at him and say that he told me he would not be here. I leave and still just feel horrible about the wife situation. I just know she is getting beaten at home. And the thought just still sickens me. I want to just give her enough money to get out of that situation. But money can't solve all the problems. At least we can make a statement with where we decide to buy food.

04 August 2006

notes for the future ashram

1. from ankur in abad:

i spent the morning at the ESI (http://www.esi.org.in/) today, where
"mr. toilet" has his offices. an inspiring collection of shitter and
they gave me books on how to build my own, all varieties of composting
toilets, with and without "biogas" collection facilities. so,
basically, we're all psyched. and as jayeshbhai likes to say, "we dont
just invite people to come for lunch, we invite them after lunch as

2. from neilu in tamil nad:

tonight will be my last night at ramana maharshi's. learned many
things to do and not to do at lost mountain, unless you are into
almost naked, life size, photos of yourself up in every room. of
course i was thinking we could compromise and just put up life size
photos of dolphins up everywhere?!? but life is good.

03 August 2006

im coming home

august 8th at happy hour ill arrive in san francisco.
i have some family engagements to take care and will likely be free the persuing weekend for all kinds of amerikan trivia.
see you soon.

stop this train / i want to get off

august 2nd. wednesday?

what an amazing and ridiculous day. starting with the welcome to gujarat series and quickly blossoming into a suite of Manav Sadhana miracles and meditative chats with (the one and only) rahul brown. and how do i feel? pretty shitty.

i showed up to meet rahul at jayeshbhai's house around noon. jayeshbhai is a personality in Manav Sadhana, this amazing (really its the only word) organization (too good, too real, too true to call an NGO) which has dozens of projects in ahmedabad all based in god and gandhi, giving and giving and giving, helping organize women workers and teach slum children and give away awesome food to the middleclass and set up fair trade boutiques and build toilets and basically All of It.

for his daughter's 11th birthday they invited all the ragpicking (trash-sorting) women from a nearby slum to have a sumptuous meal. we, the volunteers and foreigners, did the cooking and the cleaning. so i helped wash 100 thalis and just basked in the warm glow of thanks from 100 women to whom this meal was a straight-up benediction. with jayeshbhai playing the role of saint (id cast him every time) introducing me in the middle of lunch (late as always) as the boy who walked in gandhi's footsteps and though i may not be capable of blushing having the adoring gaze of 100 women who have worked and suffered more in a day than i perhaps ever will (excepting always my tortured postmodern career angst) certainly gets me close.

the fun never stops with manav sadhana and before the afternoon was over rahul had divulged to me the secrets of his personal meditative path (he started when he was eight) culiminating in some special members-only yoga cult and wild praise of a certain deva known as amaji, in whose mere presence he said five minutes of meditating got you as high as 3-4 hours of meditating, otherwise. this is the same woman whom a sprightly dreaded diesel mechanic once told me about -- while saving our truck's mechanical ass in the parking lot of the Port Towsend Food Co-op -- "amaji, man. she's throwing the best parties in the solar system right now".

even before the climax, shit was way too good and intense -- im still reeling from 40 hours of train overmind procesing and having just left matt, neilu, chandrabose, suharata, kanavu, kuppadi, and coconuts -- and i had to get out. like when i'm dancing for two hours and there's four more to go but so much of the ego wants to leave because... well, shit, i don't know.

jayeshbhai floated by at some moment and drafted me to cook an american breakfast for 170 people the day after tomorrow. a momentary drift of english and somehow written into my consciousness as if in stone.

the last download from this go(o)dly forest of benevolence was a conversation with heena about smilecards, a situationist kitch technique of getting people to Be. every story she regaled us with was better than the last until we were all on the point of tears at the goodness and vulnerability of (wo)mankind, sitting there amidst soft and gorgeous bedspreds and handicrafts manifest by women artisans in the dusty villages of gujarat.

a little much. a little awesome. so why am i not breathlessly ecscatic? why did i leave the party after the combined om/happybirthday singing to come home to a family with whom i can share approximately nothing, where i contribution nothing at all save more work for the servants?

these people, i think, are doing god's work. exactly was the situationists and marxists and psychadelicians and all my other teachers and guides and intellectual influences inspire me to do. women's collectivies. smiling at strangers. extraordinary acts of kindness. and i'm shocked by it, into silence, retreat, and even refusal.

of course, it must be the go. there are no other doors at which to lay this blame. my ego can't handle it. perhaps, though i enjoy and eagerly anticipate its predictable and immediate abolition in the psychedelic voyage, i can't quite handle the presence of people doing and being i want to be and do. maybe i feel shitty, puny, insignificant. a failure. a waste of potential. a cog. a robot. useless.

it's bizarre. have i been avoiding these friends and teachers, who look upon me as an equal and a friend, for years? i have no idea and it makes me want to stop, once and for all, the ceaseless whirring of my brain. sometimes i feel like the only use i have in the The Social Wiggle comes out of my intellect, helping people understand the difference between the structures of capitalism and the dynamics of a market economy, the dangers of the dualism in separating altruism from selfishness, and another purely intellectual concerns. and here i am trying to make music and do reiki and be love and maybe i should just Turn Around once again and start reading. which i really want to be done with. but, you know?

in a twist of self-referential trapping, indulging in these thoughts and words only furthers the conundrum. and the only other live option is to go downstairs to dinner. which i feel i don't deserve.


reintroduction to gujarat (part two)

you can't beat india. an especially not gujarat. it's the fundamdentalist heart of the indian experience. of mine, at least. in all its beauteus and terroible, tasty and disgusting, divine and profane ways. i tried to fast on the train train and was forced delicacies i had dreamt about for weeks. i tried to take the bus, avoiding _scores_ of autos looking for an easy fix, and eventually capitulated to a guy offering a ten point ride (the bus is six) closer to my uncles' house. unbeatable. if on principle, to stand with the common man (or collapse, writhing, perhaps) i wouldn't have budged for less than five points, the gods would have made it happen. just to spite me. or to teach me, rather. my principles are so small compared to their reality.

i arrive at 8h00 to my uncles' cool living room. he is barely awake, huge, and kind. the family took a four day trip to goa, for 3700 points per person. free cocktails and mocktails from eleven to eleven. swimming, dancing. breakfast of eleven items. lunch of twenty-two itms. afternoon breakfast of four items. evening meal of twenty items. five star. AC rooms. very good time.

i find myself regretting not being there, though it would have obvsiously been hellish. instead i was meditating and practicing music ten-twelve hours a day with my best friend. free cocktails and mocktails eleven to eleven (dude).

"what is your program next?"

i tell my uncle, slowly, about my plans. the words come down to me from the ether, as if i had been beyond them all this time and just now could exhale, floating through a stratosphere of pure thought, ossifying into concept, to the realm of clunky verbal symbolism once again. the malayalam was gone. i was truly back in gujarat, in gujarati. surrounded by urine, pollution, and truly massive cows.

"i'm going to start a farm, an ashram. plant 108 fruit trees on my mother's ten acres of land. provide a space for meditation, yoga, art. where people can stay"

"VERY GOOD!" he's only lauded me once before, when he read "bar" alongside "restaurant" on the "o bigode" business card and discovered i too took part in the illcit pleasures of the sacred vine.

no, not that sacred vine.

"you will stay in one place, develop your mother's land. you can travel 15-20 dayseach year to the world that remains to you, but now you are stable. and you will finally make money. all this time you have been studying and spending money, we have been investing in you, and now you will make money."

he pondered a bit more, grew in felcity.

"before you were some selfish. always traveling, studying, for yourelf. now you can give back to society, share what you have learned, and take their money. in your own style. you like these mental [mansic] things, this meditation. good! now you sell it!"

one can only nod. nine months in the mothers womb. one can only nod.

"you must understand, now. you can't go anywhere without money. you have to pay for train tickets. now they can pay! it's not that you must think about money or focus on money, but you always need money and you must have money always. that is all."

i nodded.


nb: im planning on perhaps using the above as a sort of epilogue to my stories about the salt march privelege, the gandhi march, which i walked last march/april. it seems just about right.

reintroduction to gujarat (part one)

after twentyfour hours of silence and fasting on my part -- and no one else's -- relegated by some kind of luck to a chilly AC compartment, i'm finally Thrown. back into contact with myself, my past, my family, my culture: the gujarati uncle.

three months and countless coconuts into my recessional memory and, no, my dear, they are exactly the same.

[ all translations are my own ]

"so, you don't have much happiness in talking?" as we are making our beds. "umm, i don't know much words"

everything comes to mind in malayalam. i need to let go. of that which i never had. i'm translating their gujarati into malayalam to understand it, filling in the gaps in my knowledge of each langauge with wild fantasy.

my confusion, obstinacy, and reluctance to be traveling so far northward, so fast, and so far from my pastured jungle are lost on the trio of moustached uncles. they laugh and i fall asleep to typical mercantile conversation of capital investment, rent extract, interest rates and commodities prices. i am born to be a merchant, a peddler, a middleman. to travel across deserts in search of damascan steel. to swap futures options of corn and soybean, sight unseen. it's all been written in character sets i've stopped trying to decipher. all of it.

by the morning we had crossed the border. i dreamt violently of mycology and cocktails, interminable millipodic spaceship teepees and the peace of cancerous growth. i could face them. homecoming is an infinite series. first the imaginary border shifting my imaginary comprehension of indiankind's imaginary tounges. then these three unknown men, to each other equal as to me, full of gruff and caring words, ordering eachother to tuck away their shoes (before the chaiman cometh) and move eachother's bags (where the much anticipated breakfast would be stored). their terse tone becomes harsh and forceful in english, losing the sweetness of dharmic duty in rough programmatic translation. if you could translate all the information, the tonal semantics, it would be closer to "oh dearest brother upon this wild and luxuriant planet, dosoever move the duffel bag of your humble servant so our well-coiffed companion may lower the intermediate bunk" than "now, you move my bag". te juro.

they drank from my water bottle without asking -- water is a public good -- and i loved them for it. overcoming the manliness of it, the resemblance towards my estranged father, the habitual rawness and angularity i immediately feel upon facing a middle-aged indian man. a future self, as it were.

they want to know my work, from where i'm coming and to where i'm going, my qualifications, how much money i can make, how much my land cost and how big is my house. and nothing else. they are not concerned with my opinions on daniel pinchback's latest book nor how much of ken wilber's true insight comes straight out of sri aurobindo. they certainly aren't interested in post-capitalism, reusable plates, sexual liberation, or gandhi.

they ask --- obviously joking, they are the princes in paradise -- if i can take them with me, to amerika. but they really want to know my caste.

"ah yes", a smiling approval i always get when revealing i'm "vaishnavaya" and my grandfather lives in ambavadi (a middleclass hindu suburb. the same questions and the same answers, the words flood back to me. i've played this part so many times before and seldom with such relish.

anything i attempt to communicate outside their pointed queries is ignored or forgotten. i am back in gujarat. i am not the director. i cannot shape the discussion. this not a language, country, or culture where i have that kind of Power.

Inevitably, it is breakfast. in a miracle of charismatic power -- perhaps the only testament to what i've learned in nine months (feels like ninety) in the hypercontinent -- i successfully avoid being purchased tea. now, at the end of the long voyage, when i could use some sugar and spice and milky nicety, i deny it.

i accept freshdates from uncle's farm. i don't ask how big it is or how many laborers he owns or how much he pays them or what the minimum daily wage rate is. the dates are cruncy, slightly astringent, and excellent. i know better, now. there is nothing to make me happier than fresh organic fruit, save frisbees and dolphins. and how could they know?

they ask about my pants, all at once, the three of them. i mumble something about gandhi and kadhi, my own design, to justify the mixedup patterns and mango stains. the alugh and pronounce gandhi in the country dialect, "gone-dhi", and i love them for it. there's a short -- perhaps obligatory, im beginning to suspect -- diversion into how nobody cares anymore, obviously including themselves.

"you know, my parent are in USA but my mom is coming back. _see_. it's not like television there. she's been there 35 years and now she's coming back, to live in india." this decision -- to quit her job and move back to india, to take care of her father, was a joy and a revelation to me. my mom unplugging from the matrix. to uncle #2 it's totally self-evident. "yes of course. she must have made a lot of money. maybe 10 crores? naturally she'll come back" he's only thinking, "35 years, what took her so long?"

two divorces. but i dont say that. and a son who failed her every expectations. but i dont say that either.

uncle #3 opens the tub of thepla. thepla is my favorite gujarati cooked food. it's a rotli with fresh fenugreek leaves (methi) and spices rolled into the dough, cooked with oil until firm but pliable. spicy and indepedent of condiment. the ultimate train food. i eat one and note it's enough. im made to eat another and note its something More than enough. but, of course, we must finish the tupper. "oh, thank you, but i have to eat breakfast at my grandfathers! and ahmedabad is only twenty minutes away!".

laughter all around dipping into vague threats. dont worry about your fucking grandfather kid. if you dont eat these greasy floured leaves youll join the rest of those young revolutionaries under the tracks of the 6801. if you know what i mean.

its hard to tell the fantasy from the hallcuination from the weirdness of india so i ended up eating three more halves just to be sure. we're finished and i note it's quite more than enough, or even healthy, as we reach ahmedabad. "you've arrived". thanks. i gather my bags.

"no mobile phone?" no. "because gandhi didnt have one?" yes. or i lost mine in sri lanka. i smile, shake their hands, and leave to the tune to the tune of what went wrong with gandhi and india in general. i've heard it mostly before, senility and stubborness in old age, appointing nehru instead of sardar patel, etc....

august second, update from mira

i'm torn between the need to persue my future and the love of lebanon .....the warm sun ..the cool breeze ..the peacefull mountains ..the sparkling waves of the lebanese sea ..the crusader castle,the vibrating colorful souks of tripoli ...my home, my warm room , my mom's cooking,my familiar faces and roads ....i miss it already anyways now coz even those things have lost its colors....and life ....

now i'm not sure if i can get away coz the situation is getting worse,8000 soldiers going in lebanon ...a bridge was bombed today in the north of tripoli..who knows they might hit the way to syria too ...nobody ever knows with isreal ......we r so fucking depressed in here ,fighting it with every drop of energy but it opresses us in a way no one will know unless he is lebanese and living here ..its a nightmare we cant wake up from ...i walk in the dark streets with no electricity and loneliness invades me ... the air is packed with dead and injured spirits .....i can feel them everywhere around me .....

i try to smile ,eat and live normaly but we r all half dead ....

                         mira love peace