Arriving in Calcutta
India’s energy crisis spread over half the country Tuesday when both its eastern and northern electricity grids collapsed, leaving 600 million people without power in one of the world’s biggest-ever blackouts.
Nirad: “I was buying chutney in the bazaar when a thug who had escaped from the chokey ran amok and killed a box-wallah for his loot, creating a hullabaloo and landing himself in the mulligatawny."
— Hobson-Jobson: The words English owes to India
One of Varanasi’s distinctive doors:
“Varanasi is a city where Hindus hope to die. It is believed that a person cremated at the city’s river ghats will achieve moksha – release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth – and the widows and Brahmins that make their way through the streets can seem spectral, like otherworldly shades, which you will pass by only once. The old city’s doors are different: solid, purposeful, unmoving, stained by the traffic of passing generations. They are landmarks in a labyrinthine world, decorated with painted fish and pictures of palms, protected by idols in a niche; they are the narrow membrane between personal and public worlds, in a country where a separation between the two can be a privilege hard-won. Chai wallahs and garland sellers conduct business in the recesses beside a door, and itinerant workers and vagrants, forced to sleep outside, still choose to lie down close to these markers of indoor space.”
Dusk in Varanasi, a triptych
Daylight in Varanasi, a triptych
Part III: The Memory Vault
The idea of a conscious rock – a rock with an atma, or soul – became a way for me to think about Gokarna’s past and future. It was a kind of memory vault, which emerged every sixty years to assess a disorienting present, and a way of taking a long view of the village and, by extension, India’s progress though time. The Atmalinga was last unearthed when Dr Shastri was a boy, in the late seventies or early eighties. Isolated by its lack of infrastructure, Gokarna was parochial and poor. Sixty years before that, in the 1920s, India was a British colony, experiencing the first stirrings of an independence movement that would mark it as a place apart, a place where a great soul – a Mahatma – was a better leader than a great general. The Atmalinga was unearthed during or just after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, and several times while Gokarna, like most of India, was ruled by Muslim sultans and the great Mughals in Delhi. The period both enriched Indian culture and destroyed a great deal. The Atmalinga played witness to the worst of the destruction. It was dug up within a few years of 1565, when a Muslim army reduced the sophisticated capital of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire to ruins, destroying a political entity with borders that encompassed Gokarna. And so the backwards progression went on, until history was conflated by myth. The Atmalinga was never dug up by the same people and has never emerged into a completely familiar world. Viewed like this, in a series of snapshots taken every sixty years, India looked a dynamic but unpredictable place.
Dawn in Varanasi, a triptych
The city that dreams us all
this just made me fall in love with beijing all over again.
by OCTAVIO PAZ
news today and...
The Ten Commandments of Beijing
1. Thou shalt not praise Shanghai, nor move down to it, for Beijing is a filthy jealous mistress.