Mesmerising Mandu

Do monuments tell stories? Or is it simply that people who have stories buried deep down their souls can hear them like a symphony when they are in the presence of these monuments?

Jahaz Mahal (c)margieparikh

Jahaz Mahal (c)margieparikh

Whatever be the case, one must agree that not all the monuments echo the same story.

If Mandu has one, it is of sanguine love that had enough time and space to find a life of its own. Love that was realized. Love that could mature and find its manifestation.

Remains of complexes near Jahaz Mahal (c)margieparikh

Remains of complexes near Jahaz Mahal (c)margieparikh

And it has all the necessary ingredients: heights of mountains, mirrors of lakes, glory of vast structures, beauty of architecture, eternity of love story, common thread of music, and the historical lineage running several centuries back.

Viewing balconies made for Roopmati: viewed from Baz Bahadur's palace, Mandu (c)margieparikh

Viewing balconies made for Roopmati: viewed from Baz Bahadur’s palace, Mandu (c)margieparikh

They say that Baz Bahadur was an ardent hunter. Once when he was on his hunting trip, he heard captivating music sung by a woman in the middle of vast wilderness – and that is how he found Roopmati, singing the praise of her revered river Narmada.

It took me right back into the times of Kadambari, the first Sanskrit novel by Banabhatt. In the novel, beautiful Mahashweta was found just like that by Chandrapeed who was out hunting. Kadambari spans three life-times of its characters.

I decide to contemplate before- and after-life later and begin to savor the symbols of love in one life of Roopmati-Baz Bahadur. For those short of time, the trip doesn’t permit leisurely roaming the town and randomly picking the sites. the first one to see is Reva Kund, made at the orders of Baz Bahadur, get water from Narmada. Roopmati was a great devotee of Narmada and she didn’t eat until she had first offered her prayers and done the Darshan of the river each day. She agreed to come to Mandu at the condition that her ritual continue unbroken, and Baz Bahadur delivered it.

Reva Kund at Mandu (c) margieparikh

Reva Kund at Mandu (c) margieparikh

Gentle slope takes one up the hill at the foot of which stands the palace of Baz Bahadur. For a moment you might lead yourself to believe that you were on your walk in Rome, because of the broad line-up of steps, the arches and the sharp angles of the walls that still stand. What will bring you back to Mandu are the Mughal shapes of Spade-like upper points of the arches. And you join Baz Bahadur once again.

Steps to palace of Baz Bahadur (c) margieparikh

Steps to palace of Baz Bahadur (c) margieparikh

Why does one seek out the era bygone? Why does one allow the charm of music to work like witchcraft? Why would a glance at ruins actually convey to one’s mind the image ‘as-if’ the ruin was in its prime time? I have no idea.

Water filter at Jahaz Mahal, Mandu (c)margieparikh

Water filter at Jahaz Mahal, Mandu (c)margieparikh

One oddity of Mandu is its multitude of Baobab trees. I didn’t see any once I left Mandu, and our guide attributed it to one of the rulers of Mandu who introduced the tree there. According to him, Baobab is known as ‘Khorasani Imli” [lit. Tamarind from Khorasan].

One of the many Baobabs at Mandu (c) margieparikh

One of the many Baobabs at Mandu (c) margieparikh

But the trees look young compared to some of their African cousins. So I am not sure. I get distracted by its fruit, and chew on the powdery white, tangy flesh around the seeds.

One more element that Mandu is in love with is water. Palaces have numerous ponds and pools inside. These green gardens, enchanting Chhatris, and the water inside the palaces… this must have been the Mughals’ inspiration as they shaped Delhi.

Palace of BAz Bahadur at Mandu (c)margieparikh

Palace of BAz Bahadur at Mandu (c)margieparikh

… and then, here is the place where the mid-wives lived, with a hospital nearby. Messengers of high-placed people came on horses and shouted from this point. The call would be echoed, and there was no way the Dai could miss it. The story has it that the messenger would shout the address and the Dai would reach there – to deliver the bundle of joy.

Echo point, the Dai's hospital at Mandu (c)margieparikh

Echo point, the Dai’s hospital at Mandu (c)margieparikh

The place has enchanting arches lined up in a constantly unfolding arches. One would lose the count of such series..

Roopmati's palace at Mandu (c)margieparikh

Roopmati’s palace at Mandu (c)margieparikh

And there is sombre Nageshwar temple. You have to climb down the slope to come to the shrine. The Shiv-ling is located at a basement-level depth and a small spring sprinkles water all around it. I had no heart to take pictures there. You just feel at peace and chant whatever shlokas you remember. A tiny blade of tulsi comes up in a bed lined by stone.

Blade of Tulsi at Nageshwar temple, Mandu (c)margieparikh

Blade of Tulsi at Nageshwar temple, Mandu (c)margieparikh

Before I realise it, it is late afternoon, and there is so much to savor. I forget photography and just drink all of it in. I promise myself one more visit – may be two days net.. and hurry back.

Sunset on way back from Mandu

Sunset on way back from Mandu

 

 

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Day -2: Ahead of delving into the lived experiences of Artisans

Boyhood of Raleigh, source: http://bit.ly/1WFznz6

Boyhood of Raleigh, source: http://bit.ly/1WFznz6

Michael Toolan says that every narrative has three elements: the teller, a tale, and an addressee. Look at the power of the tale above: the arm of the teller is fully stretched towards the sea, but the boys are intent as their gaze is fixed on the teller. What is he telling?

Generation to generation

Generation to generation

Grandma

Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it is not that difficult at times.

However, that doesn’t make all things told, narratives. For example, a running commentary on a game that you are watching in a stadium, is not a story.

Hawthorn (1985) says that a story is a sequence of events, directly mediated by telling. We stare at and through it. While our eyes are fixed at the telling, our minds are at that which is being told.

About ...

About …

Narrative is different from conversation, and hence in a way describes the narrator. Though there are narratives that are stand-alone. You can take them or leave them. They are not necesarily linked to their authors or the contexts.

Tete e tete

Tete e tete

Further, there are three crucial element of a narrative.

  1. Fabrication: Not as spontaneously as a conversation. Some thought and effort goes into planning, arranging, and choosing.
And then Buddha said...

And then Buddha said…

2. Trajectory: Narratives are expected to, and usually they do, ‘go’ somewhere with some development, towards some conclusion and resolution.

Lines1

Lines1

3. Prefabrication: All narratives may be unique. But they also have some bits common with many others.

Fingers

Fingers

… and so, here I am, getting packed and ready to leave to meet my narratives and the narrators thereof!

Day -3: Ahead of delving into the lived experiences of Artisans

So, it was the time to work in the direction that would prevent me from squandering this opportunity of being with people very different from who I am and where I come from.

When that happens, it is so easy to ‘see what one wants to see’ rather than seeing what is there before one’s eyes. We all judge. We all are selective. We all … are so imperfect when it comes to dealing with reality different from our world-view.

Day: -3 task was to finalize my orientation, and I chose what is known as Narrative Inquiry.

A narrative is a story, and in so many ways, a story is what we all are interested in. We live them, act in them, both – as individuals, and as communities. We understand lives – ours and others – as stories. We learn through stories. It is a good idea to use stories as a tool of research as well. The general idea here is to enquire into stories, their content, their nature and come out of it with insight.

So, why not a survey questionnaire?

To so many people, good research, or any research means a survey-based research.

One huge limitation here is one assumes one knows everything about the research topic, makes it in the form of a construction of reality, knows how different parts of it  related to each other, to ultimately work together as a cause-and-effect mechanism.

Well, does it *always* work  that way?

Reality has so many different forms, that we may never be able to not only fully understand it, but also know accurately, how much of error we are about to make in out judgment! So, the p value of regression, and all, is not of much help to topics such as mine.

A narrative inquiry is a study of lived experiences. it studies people’s lived experiences, starting with one’s own. A lived experience is a storied phenomenon that may be told, written, photo or video graphed, observed or collected from a combination of such sources. One is free to analyse, criticise and retell such stories, including myths.

Four ‘switch points’ are interesting when one moves from quantitative approach towards research to Narrative Inquiry:

  1. The relation between the researcher and the researched
  2. Turning away from numbers to words as data
  3. From generalized, universal truth to local and specific reality
  4. Widened acceptance of alternative ways of knowledge

How Dewey (1981, p. 175) puts it:

“The inquiry is not a search behind the veil of appearances… instead, an inquiry is an act within a stream of experience that generates new relations that then become a part of future experience.”

Thus, the first point above. A narrative inquirer is not separate, aloof and carefully detached from the people she collects data from. In fact, they relate to each other. The new relationship spans time, spaces and social structures.

The analysis of narrative may be within and between narratives. It aims at common themes, metaphors, plotlines and such in order to identify general themes and concepts.

It is a descriptive research: it does not claim to represent the ‘exact’ truth, but instead, aims for ‘verisimilitude’ – that the narrative appears realistic enough, that is significant. And somehow, knowing and sharing it makes things less overwhelming and less oppressive (Dewey, 1981).

The approach, again, is not to cut down reality into pieces, but rather holistic – the one that is prepared to confront the complexity as well as subtlety of lived experiences, and is fascinated by it.

Read more if interested:

 

  1. http://benjaminbolden.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2008-Narrative-Inquiry-Sage-encyclopedia.pdf
  2. http://benjaminbolden.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2006-Clandinin-NarrativeInquiryAMethodologyforStudyingLivedExperience.pdf 
  3. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EgimAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=critical+Narrative&ots=yR6P_twiQt&sig=r35h7qytvTBPkvoNrPilNAVyQJQ#v=onepage&q=critical%20Narrative&f=false

 

 

Day -4: Ahead of delving into the lived experiences of Artisans

It has been nearly two years, give or take a couple of days.

It was in May, 2014 that colleagues and I first visited the Rajasthan in order to study hand-woven carpets, the company that gets them manufactured in the fair-trade manner, and how they do that and still manage to be the largest exporter of the hand-woven carpets from India.

Source: Jaipur Rugs Foundation

Source: Jaipur Rugs Foundation

In recurring email/phone/skype interactions and iterative visits, I get bigger and bigger glimpse of the lives and work of weavers and other artisans. And I want to know more.

The root of my motivation is in their happiness, seeming comfort with their lives, and generosity. Touched by those, I want to go for more. A deeper, more substantial understanding: not just fleeting images.

  1. Smile:

When I visited them last, they were warm (their children were curious), slightly shy, but welcoming, and smiling – always smiling in a way that took the unfamiliarity out of the equation.  At that time, my purpose was to see first hand, how a carpet came into being, right from the form of bales of wool.

There are wool sorters, carders, spinners and more before it actually gets into the hands of a weaver. These people make something like Rs.200-400 per day. That, with unstable pattern of their working, and disguised unemployment because of micro farming would put them now-in-no-out of poverty line. Yet, as I saw them, moved among them, talked to them, they were going about their business – no one complained or expressed dissatisfaction, or any such thing. As I talked to a number of artisans, I felt that they knew I was there to learn about their work, and they let me understand, by taking time off their work to let me in.

Farewell!

Farewell!

So, my first question was, ‘what makes these artisans happy?’ I am fully aware that my interaction with them was short, superficial in a way, and we had no relation: they had no reason to share their deep anguish if they had one. So, the best way to find out was to spend more time with them.

Stay-at-home mother works and earns!

Stay-at-home mother works and earns!

2.  Acceptance of life as it was:

I saw the artisans in their different settings in my first and second visit. The ones I talked to               were: a lady who was a friendly quality inspector who helped weavers, a hand-spinner of wool,          and another friendly quality inspector who helped the wool processors.

As they showed me how they worked, they also talked here and there, which touched me as                 sense of looking forward – or optimism, what seemed to me to be their natural sense of                         direction that built on what was yesterday, flowing into where they were, going on into what               would be. That gave me my second, third, and fourth questions: ‘What is the meaning of life to           these women? What is the meaning of work to them? How does work fit into their life?’

Okay, as it is

Okay, as it is

 

Invite for home stay

Invite for home stay

3. Generosity:

I would be naive if I simply use cliched expressions such as ‘I was welcomed with open arms’ by the artisans in my first two trips. the fact is, I do not know. At the same time, no Indian would be surprised at the fact that in rural India, generosity and hospitality have nothing to do with the family income. I saw that generosity. To be specific, when the friendly inspector of the wool process took me to her place and emphatically invited me to stay overnight. For her, if I was visiting the village, I could stay for the night, do some more of observation, and then go the next day at leisure.

Or, another lady who was spinning wool at her home, and she insisted that I at least take tea – or something – since I had visited her home. More than them, I was conscious of the fact that they averaged about Rs. 300/- per day in earning. That’s less than six US dollars a day. How could I cost them by accepting their hospitality?  So, that question took me back to my questions on the meaning of life, work, and how one fitted into the other.

Plenty of space in hearts

Plenty of space in hearts

Additionally, if I could gather some more understanding about their values, it would be great.

That’s my log for the day-4.

Tomorrow is Day -3, and I am going to post some summary on conceptual framework that would guide my three-week stay-cum-study.

 

Images of the present past

This time it is not a travelogue, exactly.

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

The past, man-made is not dry. It is vivid and longs to tell you its tale if you wish to pause and hear.

Question is, will you sit down and hear what the past has to say?

Question is, will you sit down and hear what the past has to say?

It is scattered all around you. Like in this switchboard that makes you wonder why the king never touched some switches. It propels you into his world of light, liking, and command. The reality of its despair is the fact on the rocks of which one small peg of your imagination clinks in the glass of a moment.

Past: a perfect blend of fact and imagination

Past: a perfect blend of fact and imagination

These are the moments that introduce me to the past that is still present. Sometimes tarnished,

Is there any gilt for the tarnished past?

Is there any gilt for the tarnished past?

Sometimes patchy,

Can you patch up with the past always?

Can you patch up with the past always?

sometimes aimless,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Sometimes motionless,

Do wheels always suggest movement?

Do wheels always suggest movement?

In great despair and need for repair,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Imprisoning its visitors: antagonists and sympathizers alike, showing its cracks to some and colors to some,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Gripping everyone firmly alike,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

At distance,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Showing window to the window to the door,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Always sprouting from the dry, tough places,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Coloring everyone, yet remaining free of even a dot of color itself,

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

 

… just like a room filled with memories of someone who is no longer there.

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

…making do with whatever is handy and drawing comfort

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

The truth is, it is past. The hope is, it is not completely gone. Yet. The wish is, to put it either this way or the other. The pain is, it will never happen that way.

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

Until then, each encounter fills a bit of one’s heart with longing. Longing to extend my hand and enter it, touch it, fill it, live it.

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

It touches me so, because perhaps I am also a past that is still present.

(c) margieparikh

(c) margieparikh

How do you see it?

 

What it takes to commit to Solo-Drives

If you have been solo-driving, I think you will see my point. Well, the theory is not mine. I have just fitted the phenomenon of solo-driving to an existing framework.

Driver's life cycle (c) margieparikh

Driver’s life cycle (c) margieparikh

Phase-1: Learner

Rookie state. One takes lessons. If in India, one can take lessons from anyone. Rules, conventions and driving guides are to be expressly ignored.

This phase is critical, because you *need* *someone* to start driving. You can start solo, too; but I must mention a couple of people who turned the ignition on and rammed straight into the garage wall or the pole at the back when they decided to give maiden solo ride a go. Now that prevents future access to the vehicle. So, expert advice is recommended.

Crisis-1: But soon, the advice turns into constant nagging, depending on where you are looking at it from. Nevertheless, the driver becomes desperate to find freedom and self-expression (may include lots of honking, gear shifts and abrupt turning and braking if in India), and shut out nagging, which launches them into the next phase.

Phase-2: Desperate

Indiscriminate state. One takes, welcomes, even hunts for anyone and everyone who cares to hop on. Those sought-after people eat, drink, and heap junk in the car, are dangerous to one’s psychological well-being, and compel the driver to approach any and every destination: religious ceremonies, social gatherings and trips to parlors at one’s own expense (of food, fuel and mental exhaustion, not to mention the constant bargaining between company versus tolerability of the same company).

Crisis-2: But soon, in this phase, too; there dawns a day when the driver realizes that they had been carrying worthless jerks – nay, jerks carrying negative worth – just for satisfying their own compulsive, morbid need for company. On the other hand, they have come only this far in the driving life. So, there is a struggle between one’s need for social company and the need for sanity. Effort to balance the two propels one to the next phase.

Phase-3: Selective

Here, one begins to assert for ‘quality’ of company. Benchmarks begin to appear. One refuses to go to unpreferred locations. One stops the car and asks the jerks to get off and catch a rickshaw. Moreover, one begins to recognize who the ‘good company’ would be. Incidentally, those are the people who appreciate the same or similar things as you do, and you can actually have a good, meaningful dialogue with them, even through silence.

Crisis-3: However, good company is rare. And scheduling issues are involved. So, one doesn’t want jerks on board, but they are plentiful; and one wants good company, but they are not available when you want them. That struggle pushes one towards a new awakening, which awaits in the next phase.

Phase-4: Solo

Realization dawns somewhat like a song without any of its bitterness or moping sadness, “You came alone in this world, and you will be departing alone: without a fellow traveler, without a company…” It is actually quite philosophical, but rather than sedating you, it pumps the adrenaline because there is something adventurous about it. You need to know your vehicle, its basic repairs, and need all the emergency contacts plus the driving behavior that would mostly render all those contacts useless.

You have company of yourself plus all that you have internalized including the voices in the head. You can do some cleansing there, while driving. The vision unfolds ahead. The music walks with you, and your destination is open-ended. You can change it, not change it, and just…. BE. It is so meditative that you want nothing less. And you want to do more, and more, and more of solo driving. Yet, if need be, you will do the previous phases, too – sometimes at the request of the experts and jerks, sometimes by the need of the hour, and sometimes for the joy of good company.

Until, of course, the old age hits and you cannot drive by night, feel body ache or feel the sheer loss of guts.

So unless you find a higher orbit, just drive solo!

Realize that:

  1. Solo-driving is an advance phase of life cycle involving one’s driving competency.
  2. There are pitfalls at every phase. But so are the escapes to the next ‘higher’ plane of being.
  3. In fact, the more one has various crises in phases 1, 2 and 3, the more propelled does one become towards self-realization, which is the harbinger of phase-4.
  4. That one has advanced to the ‘higher’ phase does not mean that one doesn’t engage in the bits of past phases. For example, Solo drivers can become desperate for company and take jerks on as co-riders. Or they may still perform social duties and take nagging riders and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ for constant ‘music’ that is not music at all.
  5. At the same time, there is a danger of ‘getting stuck’ to a phase and not being able to advance irrespective of the number of cars you change, years you drive for, and opportunities you pass by. Therapeutic help may be needed!
  6. You need to write back to me about what has been your experience, especially, if you have discovered the contents of the ‘?????” phase.

The Maritime Provinces of Canada – and a bit more (1)

To many people, Toronto is east of Canada. To some, parts of Quebec. Many expats and permanent residents of the country have yet to visit its beautiful Maritime provinces in the East – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Add two more Atlantic provinces – Labrador and Newfoundland – and you have the complete picture of the lovely East of Canada.

Work was already taking me there and I decided to explore a little bit more. The season was just right – although the peak usually starts from Mid-June.

Well, my choice of dates was limited as I had work to do as well. But then traveling in the shoulder season before the peak saved me money. Here is what I did in something like three weeks:

Here are some highlights about Toronto:

Explore Toronto:
The Economist rated this city as among the safest, most livable, food-wise secure, democratic and business-friendly cities in the world.

Safe cities

Even if you are not the Economist reader, walking around in the city will give you that feel. The city has a nice blend of modern and traditional-looking architecture.

Toronto City Hall at the Nathan Phillips Square

…or, a hundred-odd year old departmental store.

Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

If you grabbed the bull in NY, then it’s time for change: grab an elephant in Toronto, no matter how strong the wind:

Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

 

Of course, I had the family of my friend who made sure that I would see all the interesting quarters of the city. Here are some highlights:

There is this incredibly huge Niagara Fall.
Niagara Falls

.. Strangely, the view from the Niagara river and the deep, constant sound of waterfall fill the heart with peace rather than fear:
Niagara river

Meet the Eagles:

Meet the eagles

Meet the Eagles

 

Toronto, like many modern, developed cities have a department looking after their urban forests and preserves. These spaces have a number of trails that hikers and walkers take. Kelso Conservation Area is one such place for a nice hike:

Kelso trail near Toronto

The area overlooks a very refreshing – looking water body which must be fun to swim in during the warmer times of the year. When we visited, it was still late spring and Toronto was oscillating between 7-12 degrees and light showers.
Start of a hike at Kelso Conservation Area

The woods were very tranquil and soothing. I had seen some photos of this place, showing huge line up of cars. The day we went, we had the place to ourselves. And we enjoyed every bit of it:

Late spring at Kelso Conservation Area

.. and a number of locations meant for one to reflect, think, rest, and enjoy the nature around:

Kelso trail

or this one:
Kelso trail

The weather was just perfect, we were a good company and wanted to do more. So, the host family decided to go onward to the Lake Crawford Conservation Area. Another space dedicated to scenic beauty, quiet board walk and a re-created village of the original residents of this place:

Lake Crawford Conservation Area

Lake Crawford

Nearby, there is a village re-created from the scattered remains found by the archeologists. It seems that in this settlement, people lived communal life in ‘houses’ – huge huts, which have symbols of turtle, deer and such at their entrance. There is a resourceful information center for all the answers you might want.

One of the Wendat long houses at Crawford Lake Conserve

Long House Collage

Enjoy at Scaddabush:

 

Then there is this nice little center island for soaking the Sun in, gazing at the limitless sea and cycling:

Near the Entrance: Center Island, Toronto

Near the Entrance: Center Island, Toronto

 

 

View at the center island

View at the center island

.. and the gulls, of course

Spot Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Spot Jonathan Livingston Seagull