Chennai to Bangalore

Will there ever be a time when I can look at a blank screen/page and not be overwhelmed by where and how to begin? What to tell and what to omit? What to save for teatime stories on the couch? A singing nun once said, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start". It wouldn't be the first time I took advice from a nun, so here goes...

Ouch, mama that hurts!
This man is piercing my nose. It was as painful and awkward as it looks.
The best thing about Chennai was that it introduced me to the warmth and smiling faces of the people of South India. What a difference from the intensity of Varanasi and Delhi - and a much welcome relief. I got out of the noise and traffic pretty quickly and on the advice of a friend (thanks Brig!), I made my way to Mammalapuram, a beach town 2 hours south of Chennai. I meant to stay a couple of days but
stayed almost a week. It was super chilled and I was made to feel so at home by the lovely Swami at Bob Marley Cafe. He took me in and introduced me to all the gang there. His hospitality and sincerity was truly supreme. While there, Tom, Eyal, Ori and I headed out for the day on two wheels to take in some of the lush green scenery. It was an introduction to dodgy Indian bikes, but no worries, there's always someone handy to fix it when you breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Ram was our man that day. He got that chain secured in no time and we were on our way.
Next stop: Sadhana Forest You know how sometimes it's those spontaneous nights out on the town that turn out to be the most fun? Well Sadhana was like that. When Tom told me about Sadhana the decision was instant. I knew I had to go there. In recent years, some of you may have been on the receiving end of my rants and rambles about the need for people to return to "community" and my conviction that our self imposed urban isolation was only impeding happiness. During the last couple of years working in television, a strange and nagging feeling of emptiness in my stomach began to expand and my passion for the medium slowly began to erode. Questioning my motivation each day on the 45 minute bus ride into town, the reason for the gaping hole began to emerge. I realised that television was one of the greatest distractions keeping people away from truly connecting with themselves and with eachother. Was it Public Enemy that sang "Television: the drug of a nation"?, I can't recall, but it rings true. Numbing our senses, tricking us into thinking it's connecting us to the world when in fact it's only keeping us on the couch. I can't help but fall into a rant every time I think about it... but I'll stop right there. Actually, I'll just say this: switch it off and see what happens. Right, so where was I...aah Sadhana. We stayed for 3 weeks. We worked making bunds from 6.30am to 11.30am each day. Or sometimes it was kitchen duty, preparing breakfast and lunch for around 50 people. Work was never more gratifying, even the toilet duty. This involved transferring the crap from the dry composting toilets over to a great big compost pile which was to eventually end up in the vegie garden. It was smelly and dirty, but most of you know how much I like being smelly and dirty - so let's just say I was in my element - ha!
Evenings were often spent hanging out in the communal lounge area chatting and more often than not being serenaded by the sweet sweet tunes of either Tom or Jacques & Dorothy. Spontaneous jam sessions erupted at any given moment and it was as a result of one of these that a few of us ended up heading into Morattandi village to do a little workshop with the kids there. Palani, the village school & yoga teacher, had asked me to come and do a bellydance workshop and with an abundance of talented musicians at hand, the kids would be treated to some
fab live music too. There was Moriah on the sitar, Alesh on the didge, Tom on drum and Elke on the cymbals. Word spread quickly through the village that we were coming and soon enough the tiny hut was packed out with about 40 kids aged between 3 and 13. Their beautiful faces beaming with the novelty of it all and their excitement was out of control to say the least. I was torn between wanting to watch them go completely nuts and keeping them a little in line. It was all so easy though and felt completely natural. I felt like we'd done it all a hundred times already, that's how strangely natural if felt. It gave me much food for thought anyway and I'm still carrying around the warm, fuzzy feeling from it all...
One of the other many great things I've taken away from the Sadhana experience is a teeny tiny lesson in the science of green thumbery. I can only hope to expand on it more and more in the future, but I'm so grateful at this stage to have seen just how do-able the dream of sustainable living really is. Here's to a greener pastures!
Next stop: Bangalore Traffic, noise and air polllution, neon lights and pushy crowds, I wondered what the hell I'd stepped into and why I'd left the peace and clarity of Sadhana for this mayhem.
Fortunately I was welcomed into the lovely home of Nithila and Sanjay (and Flash the Dog) - what an oasis! It made re-adjusting to big city madness so much easier and Amsa's home cooking was spectacular.
Looking back on it, I feel like Bangalore opened up and swallowed me whole. (I being a willing subject, of course!). So many people, so many invitations, social gatherings, new ideas, new projects and of course, what I'd originally gone there for: bharatnatyam and yoga. But first, I needed a place to stay. I decided to try couchsurfing. (
Just cos I reckon I'm one of the luckiest and most blessed souls around, I found myself at Maaya, in the company of Manju, Sabitha, Sumit and others.

It's amazing how when you're on the right path, all the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.
And that's how it was with meeting this lot. The library at Maaya had everything I needed at the right time. I had wanted to read more of Krishnamurti, and lo and behold, volumes of his work manifested before my eyes. I couldn't get enough of it. And from there, other great reads emerged.

The other day I was thinking about how comforting being in the presence of books is for me (something to do with endless hours spent at the library in childhood no doubt) and how living in a library for a month meant that I could feel totally at home and secure in a city that was overwhelming at times.
But it wasn't just the library, it was the people. Like-minded peeps, whose conversation was always stimulating and whose souls were warmer than an Indian summer. I will be eternally grateful for having met them and for everything they shared with me: creative ideas, philosophy, laughs and CLOTHES!!!

Check out this fabulous skirt:

Four out of seven days I went to class. It was the first time in my life that being a student
sn't a bore or a chore. Mondays was yoga and my group dance class in the afternoon. Class consisted of anywhere between 30 and 50 girls aged between 6 and 33 (me). There I was with my 2 left feet and unco hands being shown the ropes by 8 year olds. I soaked up their knowledge with gusto and can't help but smile still in the lesson they gave me in humility. Bharatnatyam is complex and multi-layered. It is rich in both format and history and often times I was somewhat intimidated by it's depth. Originating as a devotional dance to the Gods and performed in ancient temples, at times I found myself feeling unworthy of the dance. But my teacher,Yamini, through example, taught me that I didn't need to be devoted to the Hindu gods as she was, but that I just needed to honour the dance. Fair enough. And so I do.

Also while in Bangalore, I was inspired to begin the monthly Spark Up. (See previous blog entry.) Here are the original Sparkettes having a dance and a giggle.

To say good bye and thank you to all the fab people I met in Bangalore (and to show off my fabulous new costumes!), we put together a little show. I had planned to do my usual two track, 9 minute performance, but when I was done, nobody moved and I was forced to keep dancing! Not that I minded of course. All my love always, xxbarb

Here are some shots of the mystical, magical Hampi. That place has serious wow factor.

chao, xxb

PS - Ok, just one more thing about television... don't get me wrong, I do believe it's a great and powerful medium with huge potential for good, especially when it comes to storytelling. But do we need all the crap in between? I seriously doubt it. Alas, if only there was more of it like Six Feet Under... but that's just another rant. Hehehe... I make me laugh!