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Monday, January 27, 2014

Day three Jaipur - flying my kite

 It is the day of the annual Kite Festival. I woke up and drank my chai on the hotel rooftop. Hundreds of children were flying kites over layers and layers of houses in the distance. The sky looked stitched with string and paper.

I took some pictures and found a couple of kites on the roof. I tried to fly one, using lessons learned from watching the kids. It turned out to be more difficult than it looked.
There was one boy on a roof close by who tried to help me by showing me the arm movement but, alas, flying a kite requires skill and experience, like everything else in life. Especially painting. 

Today, I felt overwhelmed by the path of being an artist. Traditionally, miniaturists spend their first eight months rubbing natural stone on granite to make natural colours. My guru told me this practice of rubbing stone loosens the wrist, which helps with flow and makes it easier to use the fine brushes.

I was skipping so many steps in order to get a taste of what this art form entails. My teachers recognized this, and assigned me the task of painting a simple flower. 

I started my day feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated because of how long it takes to become a skilled artist, and how much longer to be the kind of yoga teacher I imagine. To think, I am just beginning… at the age of 29. I made my way to the Palace. Its magic and charm no longer enveloped me. I wondered if this was inevitable. You get used to a place and how easy it is to take it for granted. 

I watched the birds, hundreds of them, giving way to the clear blue sky. Everything is temporary. I need not get attached or feel lost. I have to practice keeping my sense of wonder and curiosity about life and people. I am where I need to be. These peaceful thoughts formed the mantra for my day. 

Luckily, I was working again with Hamuji, whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The more I spend time with him, the more I see him as a little boy stuck in a man’s reality. He told me how much he loves flying kites and that he is quite good at battling other kites. The purpose of the battle is to intersect other kites and cut their string with yours, which explains why there were kites on the hotel roof; they were the casualties of kite warfare. The kite festival was meant to celebrate the awakening of the gods. They too fight sometimes. 

It was during this conversation that Hamuji asked me if I “eat non-veg” (which, in India, means “do you eat meat?”). I get asked this question a lot and also whether I drink wine or whether my marriage was arranged or a love marriage. In the places I visited in India, the norm is vegetarian, with non-veg options not often accommodated. In my hotel, a small family-run place that has been feeding me well, there was only vegetarian food, which I have gotten accustomed to and have grown to really enjoy.  Hamuji told me that he used to eat non-veg but that he never felt good afterwards due to the guilt. After his mother passed away he made a promise to never eat animals again. His mother believed that the vibrations of the animal that was being killed transferred to the human eating it. Those vibrations are negative, as they’re connected to fear or anger. I intuitively understood what Hamuji was talking about. A part of me believes in this too, but for the time being I seem to accept the negative consequences of those choices. 

It is clich√©, but I feel that India is a place of possibility for change and spiritual transformation. Maybe the energy of this place is nourished by everyone’s spirituality and daily prayers, which surround me. Artists in the Palace pray together every morning and again at the end of the work day. Around every corner in the old city is a little shrine for prayers. They are never empty. Everyone prays and I have not met anyone who feels superior for not believing. 

Today’s painting session was enjoyable and time flew by.
I went back to the hotel and sat on the roof again. As the sun set and the evening Muslim call to prayer echoed from half a dozen neighbourhood mosques, fireworks began. Light, kites, fire-propelled lanterns, music and joyous celebrations continued for hours. The happiness of the little figures captured in my camera lens filled my heart with joy and warmth. Those kids know how to party. So do their parents and the families who continue these traditions, which create joy and happiness for themselves and those around them. Tradition, customs and religion can be so fulfilling, joyous and enveloping. For better or worse, Westerner tourists have been coming to India for years to experience something more than just remains of old castles and forts. No one can deny the living magic that abounds in these parts. .    

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