Saturday, June 30, 2007

lunch is served

At Deepak’s upanayanam (thread ceremony, see earlier entry), he and his cousins sat down for his first lunch as threaded Brahmin. On the traditional plantain leaves, you can see idli (a steamed , lenticular rice cake), vadai (a savory doughnut), pieces of badusha (coil-shaped savory snack), and coconut chutney (yum). There’s a sweet, orange-colored appetizer, too. From left to right: Rajesh, Deepak (Jayaganesh), Balaji (Indresh), and Vignesh. There’s a priest squatting behind Deepak holding his hand, and you can just see a little mahendi design on his palm. Water is served in little plastic tumblers.


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Thursday, June 28, 2007

henna body art

One custom that’s popular at Indian marriages is the decoration of hands (and sometimes feet) with henna (aka mehndi). Below is a snap of Gayatri’s hands. The feet at the bottom of the picture belong to Krishnan. Judging by the floor and its place in the sequence of photos, we are at the groom’s family’s house. Krishnan, Sandhya, and I delivered the bride to her new home in Madhurai. She had already stored the phone number on her mobile weeks before labeled “my home”.


As a bonus, here I am being given a dhoti in exchange for the bride and the wedding night mattress which we transported from Trichy on top of our car. The groom’s brother-in-law is on the left.

post wedding gift

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Has the mummy of Hatshepsut (fifth Pharaoh of the XVIII dynastyand whose name means “foremost of noble ladies”) been identified by her tooth? (Read this article in the International Herald Tribune.) Dr Zahi Hawass made the discovery.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

going native

That’s Krishnan, the bride’s younger paternal uncle, and your humble blogger (I’m the frazzled looking guy on the right) in Room 2 on the bride’s side of the marriage hotel in Trichy. You’re supposed to wear new clothes to a Hindu wedding, and the family who has invited you buys it. Krishnan and I discussed coordinating our outfits the day before in Srirangam. For the formal reception of the groom’s family on the morning of the first day, we decided on white shirts, bleached dhotis, and those little scarf thingies you see draped over our right shoulders. One of the nephews said we looked like Tamil village politicians. Note the ribbon holding the closet door closed and the packaged water bottle that is never far from my thirsty grasp. What you can’t see is the rattling but functioning air conditioner which is keeping the room cool.

krishnan and jim

The groom, Haresh, told Krishnan on the second day that he was impressed not so much by my wearing a dhoti, but by the fact that I managed to keep it on without a belt.

problems in lesotho

I’ve heard from Rethabile Masilo of the Sotho blog that his homeland, Lesotho, is in trouble again. A curfew has been imposed in Maseru, the capital city, after some attacks on politicians’ homes.

Thabo Thakalekoala of Seapoint in Maseru, a vocal and prominent freelancing investigative journalist, was arrested on Friday morning (22 June 2007) and charged with high treason. He is appearing in court today (25 June 2007) to be formally charged.

On the day of his arrest he had just read a letter over the air on his popular morning programme “Rise and Shine” on Harvest FM. The letter was supposedly given to him by a group of army men and requested to read it on his show. The soldiers vehemently denounced the rule of one Mosikili in Lesotho who they say is a foreigner and therefore is not eligible to hold such office. This comes after it was discovered that the PM holds a South African identity document (a fact he has publicly admitted), no wonder the rampant looting of state coffers by way of the 84% salary increments and the M4000.00 Kompressors and the M2000.00 Camrys.

Some links:

  • Original entry at Rethabile’s Sotho blog.
  • Article at Protectionline.
  • Story about the curfews at allAfrica.
  • Article in The Star, a South African newspaper.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

old-fogeyish doubts

From Danny Postel’s interview with Richard Rorty [1931–2007] in The Progressive:

D[anny] P[ostel]: Would it be fair to say that you’ve moved a bit to the left over the past few years?

R[ichard] R[orty]: I’m not aware of having moved to the left, and am curious as to why I might seem to have done so. When I heard the news about the Twin Towers my first thought was “Oh, God. Bush will use this the way Hitler used the Reichstag fire.” I have never thought of the Republicans at any time since Reagan’s election as more than greedy, unscrupulous scoundrels. In regard to the “war on terror” I have described the same trajectory as a lot of other leftists: in favor of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against invading Iraq. In regard to domestic policy, I am still in favor of soaking the rich and redistributing the money to the workers (though not of nationalizing the means of production). On “cultural” matters, there was a time when I had old-fogeyish doubts about gay and lesbian marriage that I no longer have. But that doesn’t seem much of shift.

[via Ron Silliman’s blog]

Saturday, June 23, 2007

rewriting pierre menard

Miladus Edensis over at Ad Usum Delphinorum posted a link to an exhibit at the Bibliothèque nationale de France on French photographer Eugène Atget [1857–1927]. I was unacquainted with him, and I immediately fell in love with his photographs. At the bottom of the Wikipedia article, linked to above, was another link to an article by a contemporary photographer, Christopher Rauschenberg, who had rephotographed some of Atget’s Parisian locations.

I was immediately reminded of both Chris Marker’s film, Sans Soleil, and the Vertigo, Then and Now website, both of which mulled over the current state of some of Vertigo’s locations. The former had been on my mind since being reminded of it recently having read a lovely blog entry on Marker by Michael Blowhard over on The Two Blowhards site. The latter since having picked up a copy of the dead tree version at a local used bookstore which in turn lead to the website. Wikipedia has a nice list of the Bay Area locations used in Vertigo.

This sort of thing doesn’t always work. I’m thinking of Gus Van Sant’s limp remake of Psycho in 1998. Jim MacBride’s Breathless (1983) was only slightly better, but, to be honest, I don’t remember it as well as the Psycho remake. I’m not sure if Rauschenberg was familiar with the Atget Rephotographic Project at the University of South Florida started in 1987, but a moment or two on Flickr shows me that others have redone Atget.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

bad poetry

I suppose one of the problems is that the words good and bad are overloaded with aesthetic and ethical senses. Yesterday evening, Maestro Erling Wold, some other folks, and I read some bad poetry on the DJ Bunnywhiskers show on Pirate Cat Radio (MP3 of the broadcast). I chose two poems by two poets laureate: Death of a Toad by Richard Wilbur, USA, and Slough by John Betjeman, CBE, UK. Erling went with unicorn poetry, some Nazi song lyrics, and Bunnywhiskers provided many examples found on the Web by googling.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I learned a new word in Udhagamandalam (or Ooty as everybody called it): banian. It’s what the British call a vest and we a t-shirt. The sleeveless kind which I have also heard called a wife-beater. The etymology offered in the OED1 is: “a. Pg. banian, probably a. Arab. banyān (16th c.), ad Gujarāti vāṇiyo man of the trading caste, ad. Skr. vaṇij merchant ‘The terminal nasal may be taken from the plural form vāṇiyan’ (Col. Yule)”. From its primary meaning of ‘a Hindoo trader, especially one from the province of Guzerat’ to its later meaning of ‘a loose gown, jacket, or shirt of flannel, worn in India’. And, it yields banyan tree, its fifth meaning. So, its meaning changed in India. It went from a kind of dressing gown to a sleeveless undershirt. The first a is pronounced as a short a or schwa, per its Hindi or Sanskrit value, in spite of its length in Gujarati.

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post claiming the blog

Part of signing up for a Technorati account and claiming one’s blog invloves posting the following link: Technorati Profile.


Monday, June 18, 2007


The simple reason I went to Tamil Nadu was to attend two weddings and a holy thread ceremony (aka upanayanam, think rite of passage à la bar mitzvah for Jews or first holy communion for Roman Catholics). Here’s a snapshot I got at his aunt and uncle’s apartment in Chennai (formerly Madras).


Things to note: first, the weird lighting is not my camera’s pathetic little flash, but the scorching white-hot glare of the videographer’s camera-mounted light. Second, this is a good closeup of what pretty much goes on ritualwise in both the Upanayanam and the weddings. Four priests attending to the liturgical side, while dad (Gopal) wonders, and son (Deepak) tries to remain engaged. Third, the largish TV reminds us we’re in the 21st century. Fourth, the platter of offerings (e.g., plantains, garland, and assorted other stuff) sitting casually on the bricks (complete with kolam) of the hearth. There are also some mangos on the floor, along with flowers and a brass water vessel with dipper. My personal memory of this apartment was the fact that there was a computer with broadband connection in one of the bedrooms, and all the friendly folks who watched me sweat and drink lots of packaged water.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

view from a room

view from the room

The view from the apartment I stayed in in Tiruchirapalli. Well, OK, it's really the former temple town of Srirangam which has since been absorbed into Trichy. As far as signage in Tamil Nadu goes, this one is rather professional looking.

Just above the roof of the buildings you can see a red brick wall that encircles the old town itself. The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple itself is not visible but easily accessible by foot a few blocks away. The street is clean since the ragpickers and garbage collectors have been through earlier. (It’s good to live on the same street as the deputy commissioner of police.) What you can’t see or smell is the fish market next to the school. Whoa! The two trees on the left are coconut trees. There are some cow patties drying on the roof near the bottom of the picture.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

back from India

I was in India for two weddings and a thread ceremony. I only had limited connectivity, and it was just too hot to blog, but now that I'm back, expect daily updates.