Thursday, April 29, 2010

Task 12: Shanti/Ashtangi, Day 6

On our last two nights and one day in Delhi, we just did some more shopping and crammed ourselves full of food. The waiters at the Oberoi Hotel were pretty tickled at the gusto at which we ate their food and the chef even came out to say hello and let us fawn all over him. He was happy to give my mom his recipe for daal makhani and I discovered the delicious and medicinal effects of combining cinnamon ice cream and ginger tea (cleanses the palate and good for the stomach).

We didn't see any elephants except the butt of one walking away this year which made Mina and me a little sad. We adore elephants, love them and last year, because we were in Ranthambore, we were just swimming in all sorts of Indian animal life. Though, it was called the tiger resort and we saw oh, zero tigers. Delhi, in the last three years, has gotten so cleaned up. There are no cows wandering within the city, no hair-cutting on the streets, and barely any beggars. Though it's admirable to see how much effort is going into progressing the city, I kind of miss that, "Whoa, we're not in Istanbul," feeling we got when we first went there. But, there are always new places to see and that's the good thing about India, it's huge.

We came back home and embraced little Miss Egglet who apparently had missed me a lot judging by the way she clung to my neck and wouldn't stop nuzzling me. The flight back was uneventful because it was at 5am and consisted of me and my sister totally and completely passing out from the moment we sat down till the second the plane touched down. Though, we were awake enough to read the Turkish Airlines magazine because it had an interview with our mommy. We smuggled copies into our bags, bickered over who was edging onto the others' side, and then fell asleep. Bye, bye India, we'll be back soon.

I think I'll post some past pictures from our other trips and talk about them in future entries. It'll be fun to revisit those memories. Trips really make the best stories. Elliot and I went to Japan last year (worth another blog post maybe?) and I hope, well no, I know, I will take him to India one day. Preferably with my family so he can get the full effect. Hey, he's survived them for the past five years, as well as a trip to London, I think he can take it!

Task 12: Shanti/Ashtangi, Day 5

"Um Abla?"
"Yes Mina?"
"...Your butt is purple."
"I KNOW. It won't come off! I'm going to soak in the tub for another hour."

an hour later

"Um Mina?"
"Yes Abla?"
"...I think I broke the tub."

They both contemplate the pink-watered tub that is absolutely not draining.

* * *
Our hotels in India have the most opulent, mammoth tubs that I have, just have to, test-drive every single time. This tub eventually did drain but Mina and I still had traces of paint on us for the next couple days.

The next morning we went to my mom's friend's recommended jewelry place. Our guide wasn't allowed in because he has no deal with them/wouldn't get commission and we, after we identified ourselves by our relationship to my mom's friend, were quickly ushered into a back room. Let me just say this, Mina, my mom, and I are all females. We are Turkish, and in my sister's and my case Turkish and Iranian. Now when you add female affinities with two cultures that revolve around beauty and arts and adornning oneself, you get us. We love jewelry. Hell, we just love accessories. Less is more? Fuck that, I will wear my ten earrings (I have ten piercings) and necklaces, and rings, not to mention show off my tattoos (that's art and adornment too you know) and still load up my arm with bracelet and bangles and all manner of jingly things. My mom is very tasteful and my sister has her own awesome style but yeah, I err on my Iranian grandmother's self-proclaimed motto of, "If it sparkles, by God it will be on me." But we didn't go crazy. We all had our certain items we wanted and we got them (as well as the cheaper bangles and pendants we'd loaded up on earlier). The proprietor was the sweetest man and very proud of his shop, his wares, and his clients. He actually asked us not to spread of his business because he took care of his reputation. He served us Masala tea and showed us Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's signatures (they shopped there too) and my mom got her daughters each a bracelet we will treasure forever. It might sound odd to put so much worth into material things, especially silly stuff like bracelets but no. This is our tradition. The women i our family are the ones that buy each other jewelry and gems and they all have meaning.

We also went in town to the Sardar Market to a special spice store. This actually happened the day before Holi because we go to see the town getting all prepared for it and wishing everyone Happy Holi, but I'll just put it here but I'll just put it here. This store was run by a lovely girl named Nikki and it had a couple branches in Jodhpur and she said she and her seven sisters were hoping to open even more. Her mom's dream was to have a store per daughter. We drank masala tea (we can't get enough of it) and stocked up on masala spices, Darjeeling tea, and a few other teas and my dad got chili powders and various curry mixes. While we were walking around town our guide cautioned us to stay away from the cows, and we politely nodded because oh, we thought he thought we were just some gawking tourists. Well, on the way to the spice store this stubborn heifer was heading right at me so being the polite girl I am, I stepped out of her way. No no that wasn't enough. She looked at me, swung her head and bashed it into my hip throwing me off balance and on top of my sister. We almost went flying over. I think being gods and considered sacred have gone to their heads, silly cows.

But coming back to our last day, after stopping by my mom's favorite clothing store Anokhi, we headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff and bid farewell to Umaid Bhawan, Jodhpur, and Sting.

Oh did I not mention? My parents sat next Sting and Trudie Styler at breakfast. My sister and I came later and though I didn't care, Mina was pissed. The hotel manager said he was in town for the Sufi music festival. You see how everything fits together? SUFI!

Bye bye Umaid Bhawan.

Task 12: Shanti/Ashtangi, Day 4

Before we left for India, we realized we were going to be there in time for Holi and I got so very excited. I've always wanted to witness this festival when the entire country takes part in what's basically one giant paint-ball fight. All the pictures I've seen show such gorgeous pinks and purples and greens and I'm a sucker for color. I might not veer too far off from my uniform of black, white, grey, and blue but I abolsutely adore surrounding myself with color and Holi always looked so magical and wonderful, I just wanted to take part in it. And I got to! The hotel organized a small get together on the grounds for guests with food and drinks and live music and dancing and everyone wore white so we could smack each other with the colored powder. This little boy was having so much fun pelting everyone and when my mom chased him and "played Holi" he was so overjoyed that someone was actually indulging him. It was really fun and the Maharaja, his mother, his son, and his daughter even came down and greeted people and played too. It was sort of a bittersweet moment watching his son, this handsome 35 year old man, smiling and enjoying the day though. We found out he used to be the nation's polo poster boy and would even coach national teams but an accident left him paralyzed and it's only recently that he's started making public appearances again. He had to re-learn how to do everything and it really hit my mom and dad hard I think. We bought a coffee table book all about Umaid Bhawan and the Maharaja's history and family and just pored over it. It's really cool though, several Maharanis of the state of Rajasthan were Turkish!

We even got interviewed by the local news. Hah, the reporter said I had a pretty name and asked us what we thought of the whole event. Well, we of course told him we loved it and when he observed that we weren't quite covered in paint my mom smashed a handful of pink powder in my face. On camera. Yes, we Hamedis vacation with style. The first time we all came to India, my parents had a Sanskrit wedding ceremony and got published in the newspaper.

I abolsutely loved Jodhpur. It was hot and I don't do too well with heat (it bothers me more than others and I just get cranky and miserable) but it was just a dry heat and I felt I could sit under that tent and watch everyone play Holi all day. And as a bonus, I finally was able to go to the bathroom! Not to be too crass but for some reason I had certain, um, bloackage and man, finally unleashign my bowels almost had me singing that Flashdance song, "What A Feeling."

It's funny how things sort of come together isn't it? I re-discovered my love of Madonna and suddenly she was everywhere from a new CD and DVD to having an episode of Glee dedicated to her. I'm writing my India entries now and I find out about this great opportunity to write a script about it. I love when the universe just lines up like that and it seemed to do it perfectly right as I got off the plane in Delhi and just listened to "Shanti/Ashtangi," as we drove to the hotel. I felt it was appropriate as it was going to be the title for these entries without a question. But there were two other things that also lined up for me during this trip. One was listening to Iron Maiden and the other, reading Elif Safak's, "The Forty Rules of Love: A Tale of Rumi." Listening to Maiden's, "Blood Brothers," as we drove towards the fort and as I took in the blue city and all the colors of Holi getting set up, not to mention the ever-present cows (on the six hour car ride to Ranthambore last year, my sister and I played punch cow instead of punch buggy and we got up to over 400 cow sightings) it just reminded me how much I love that band and how much some of the lyrics just resonate with me. I won't get all high school girlish and write them out but eh, it was just a nice feeling; this content, I am where I'm supposed to be doing exactly this, kind of moment. I might not be the typical metalhead and I might have other tastes that clash with my love of heavy metal but it is a genre that will always be close to my heart and Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was my first metal CD I bought at 15, after all. I recently ordered the patch for a vest I'm working on, I wish it would arrive.

Now the book. "Ask" as it is called in Turkish, simply, "Love," is about a literary reader named Ella who, dissatisfied with her life, gets sucked into a book she's assigned which traces the life of the poet Rumi and his companion Shams. Through this book she meets a convert to Sufism who changes her life and inspires her to reach beyond her stagnant life. Yes, the literary reader part kind of hit very close to home (especially since at the time I had also finished reading a quite poignant book at my internship about death and overcoming fear and as that is an issue of mine it kind of affected me) but the entire point of the story did too. It's about religion but not religion in the, well, religious sense if that makes any sense. It's about a spiritual connection that transcends anything tangible; love. It's simly about love and it moved me to the point where I decided what I want to do later/with the rest of my life. I want to learn about Sufism, the very soul of love as I believe it to be. Not love like soppy, puppy love, or crushes or anything like that. This is the kind of love the reaches beyond the ordinary and just envelopes you. It made sense to me even if I'm not explaining myself very well. Let me put it this way, ever since I was little I would just get overwhelmed by feelings over the smallest things. Not just feelings, but this aching tug at my heart. The clearest one I remember was for this boy Mustafa. On another family trip, we all ventued to Eastern Turkey with our good friend and her son. In Urfa, this boy Mustafa kind of attached himself to us and guided us around and took us to stores and lunch and he was so smart and so helpful that I felt this pang, violently so when we were saying good bye. That's the love that's explored and illustrated in, "Ask." Simple love for another being because they touched you so. I want to study Sufism. If I go back to school that is the subject I want to study and I have people to help and guide me on this path. Mercan Dede, the artist who helped launch our Music House, has become a very good friend of my mother and he is Sufi. I think when my mom emailed to tell him I was interested in Sufism, he got more excited than I did! He's good friends with the author of this book, they're doing performances together this month in Belgium. My mom and I watched an interview of hers on TV recently and she is such a well-spoken, personable lady that her energy practically vibrated off the TV. You know how there are some people wh have a certain vibe or aura or energy that immediately warms you to them and makes yu think you know them even if that can't possibly be true? That's what I felt with Mercan and even a little with Ms. Safak, as I watched her speak.

India is the cliche land of enlightenment but I think for us, for my family, it just seems so familiar and so thoroughly enjoyable, we just see it as home and home is where you're the safest and most comfortable. That's why I think I could see these things clearly there because more than it just being this "entity," India is my happy place. It's my family's happy place. It becomes this cocoon of carefree joy so much so that we can all just be us. That's why we've now travelled there three times as a family (and more for my mom and dad), and have plans to go back. Home is where I'm happiest and India is my third home because my family is with me. I will never share this though that Americans seem to have of dreading home and visiting parents because my family is my inspiration and without them, I wouldn't be me. Now enough of that saccharine crap, I'm afraid I've droned on for quite a bit with this entry so enjoy some of our pictures.

Shots of Holi preparations in town.

On our way to the Holi festivities on the palace grounds. Those figures are me and my mom.

The prince getting dunked in paint.

The Maharaja playing Holi!

Us hahaha.

My anne.

My baba.

Happy Holi!

Give It 2 ME!

A craigslist ad my friend forwarded to me:

Local Film production company looking to hire a screen play writer that knows about Indian culture very well ...Great opportunity to show case your talent!!!! We are making a film. Short with potential to a feature. We will be working with professionals in the industry. Only SAG actors will be hired for this job. A professional crew from NYC is aboard for this project. Film will be submitted to many film festivals around the world with big chance to bring this film to Bollywood.

I applied for it online and I called and talked to a lady in charge yesterday who said they got a lot of applicants and will be getting back to everyone who applied. She said they were looking for someone exactly like me (I mean; loves India, has a masters in screenwriting for God's sake, has been to India, has written a script that takes place in India...).

Come on universe, COME ON UNIVERSE. Help me out here. I want it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Task 1: Reinvention

Looking through the photos on my computer I realized how many different colors my hair has been in the last few years. I mean, the style doesn't change too much but hey, look at me reinvent my mane over the course of my college and grad school years. These were pretty fun to look at. In no particular order:

From an earlier trip to our India.

Task 9: Live to Tell

Task 9 was to cut my cat's nails. Yeah, that's not going to happen. She is so used to seeing me as her pet instead of the other way around that she knows she can bully me and I'll still love her. We have an extremely emotionally and physically abusive relationship. My cat plays with my heart when she rubs up against others but then only let's me rub her belly sometimes. But then she'll snatch that privilege right back and maul my arms if she's had enough. We love to annoy each other and piss the other off but we always snuggle up together and my little Egg is the love of my life. She was found with her front paws declawed so whenever she tries to scratch me with her front paws, she ends up just hitting me and we have our little game where I go, "high five," and she gets annoyed and tries to eat me. She looooves to eat. Fatty loves her food. And sleeping. And she also snores and snorts and makes hg noises. She is the best, most eirdest cat ever. But I'll let the professionals take care of her nails, hell I let the professionals do mine, and I wouldn't want anything less for my baby. Plus, her claws are really long right now and she already drew blood from me on one attempt. But ah, I love her. She kisses me you know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Task 12: Shanti/Ashtangi, Day 3

We arrived in Jodhpur around noon and were quickly whisked off to our hotel.

Holy. Shit.

The hotel was actually the palace of the Maharaja with half of it donated to Taj Hotels. Umaid Bhawan only had 60 or so rooms and the current Maharaja and his family still lived in the section not open to tourists. It was also connected to a museum and the grounds were absolutely breath-taking. It's this little oasis of greenery and vivid plant-life right smack in the middle of the desert. The palace, sorry hotel, was pretty much left in its original state and had all the fancy couches and chairs and lounges open to guests. It also had some, well let's say questionable, choices in decor as my sister and I stood, mouths open, staring in horror at the several stuffed tigers and jaguars around the grounds. Of course, they're all very old as no one hunts anymore and Indian tgers are actually endangered and it was the heigh of fashion at the time to go hunting and return with trophies but still. On our last day, when I gathered the courag to furtively touch one of them just to confirm that it was (once) real, I pretty much yelped and ran out. Come on, they're all poised to attack with teeth flashing and eyes wide, they were scary!

Oh and we lost my dad on the way back to the lobby from the rooms. Yep, he got lost. We could hear him going, "HOW DO I GET THERE," over and voer as he could see us but couldn't figure out which door led to us.

After we were reassembled (and choked down the complimentary papaya juice I think it was) we went off to see the Mehrangarh Fort. It was pretty similar to some other forts we'd seen on previous India trips though not as lavishly decorated. But what separated it from all others were the gorgeous views of Jodhpur, the Blue City.
Catching sight of Umaid Bhawan.

One of the entrances to the palace/hotel.

View of the palace from the fort.

Various shots of the fort.

The view from the fort.

After stuffing ourself to the point where Romans, inventors of the vomitorium, would've told us, "Whoa there," we headed back to our delightful rooms where we quite literally went thump! on the beds and lay there until morning.
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