Saturday, May 24, 2003

Everest base-camp trek

Today, I leave for Kathmandu, Nepal. A friend of mine and I are going on a 14-day Everest base-camp trek. I will NOT be blogging for the period (internet cafes, satellite- and radio- phones and audio blogging notwithstanding.) Here's our itinerary:

May 26 Arrive Kathmandu

May 27 Fly Kathmandu - Lukla (2,880m); start trek to Chumoa (2743m)

May 28 Chumoa - Namche (3,445m)

May 29 Namche - Rest/acclimatisation day

May 30 Namche - Thame (3,801m)

May 31 Thame - Khumjung (3,791m)

Jun 01 Khumjung - Thyangboche (3,863m)

Jun 02 Thyangboche - Rest/acclimatisation day

Jun 03 Thyangboche - Dingboche (4,412m)

Jun 04 Dingboche - Rest/acclimatisation day

Jun 05 Dingboche - Loboje (4,931m)

Jun 06 Loboje - Kalar Pattar (5545m) - Loboje

Jun 07 Loboje - Phortse (3,847m)

Jun 08 Phortse - Namche

Jun 09 Namche - Lukla (2,880m)

Jun 10 End trek. Fly Lukla - Kathmandu

This is a flexible itinerary. We might break journey at Gorak Shep, and take an extra day to trek around in the region.

Monday, May 19, 2003

115 degrees, 2003, Ahmedabad


Unconnectedness means that I'm reading by the foot (if you don't get the reference, I wouldn't worry about it, and neither should you.) I just finished Poisonwood Bible - by Barbara Kingsolver. Spectacular. Bought a bunch of books from Crosswords, including a couple of collections of short-stories -- now that I am of the short-fiction bent of mind. BTW, the collection at Crosswords was very impressive. Tons of Indian authors writing in English, the usual Grisham, Jeffery Archer, Ken Follet shelves, PG Woodehouse collections, books on atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh and elsewhere, Life of Pi, Steinbeck, Italo Calvino (even an Italo Calvino bookmark), the immortal Anurag Mathur and so on. Incidentally, I'm also reading "Penguin's Collection of Indian Travel Stories" (or something like that), plushed recently. It has some very well-written pieces of eras by-gone (you know, idyllic Bombay of the 60s, of promenades and happy, rich families with candy-sucking children etc. etc.) and equally well-written timely pieces (on xenophobia in Cherrapunji, the Kutch that was, before the earthquake, an incredible piece called "The City of Widows", on Vrindavan, UP, written by the guy who wrote City of Djinns, I forget his name.)

Gujarati Literature
I have also been reading Gujarati literature. I know, surprise, surprise. It's actually coming quite easily to me. All those years of Gujarati-tuitions from my PE teacher, finally paid off. Maybe a Hindi-Gujarati combined vocabulary does the trick. Anyway, so far, I've been from an anthology of Gujarati essays written in the latter half of the 20th century, which includes works by my great grandfather Kaka Kalelkar (or, Acharya Shri Kakasaheb Kalelkar ;) and my grandmother Vinodinee Neelkanth. My goal is to read creative short fiction by my grandmother or maybe some of the longer works by my other great grandfather Sir Ramanbhai Neelkanth ("Rai no parvat") and translate them into English. Maybe I'll read the recently (and posthumously) published "Kadleevan" by my grandmother, which is reputed to be the first novel written in Gujarati by a woman author.

Incidentally, the standard of reporting in the Gujarati-language newspapers is apalling, and approaches that of tabloids.

The pools here are spectacular (as they always have been -- but I never had the appreciation for a clean, warm, 18-ft deep pool of the crystalest blue before.) My swimming is improving, but mostly because I sprained my ankle playing Basketball.

Repertoire Theatre

Saw a MOST amazing play in Gujarati called "Dost, Ahin Chokkas Aik Shaher Vastu Hatu" -- which lossely translates to "Friend, there was definitely a city here..." It was an "experimental" play at Mallika Sarabhai-run "Natrani" (see note on etymology below) at the Darpan Academy. The play, the production, the acting, was bar-none! And I thought I could come to Ahmedabad with some ill-formed notions of infusing a culture of socially-conscious "performance poetry" here! Ha. I'll get concrete details about the play (eg. play-wright etc.), but the plot lines are: Two young archeologists from the distant future excavate what turns out to be Ahmedabad. They want to discern the cause of the city's demise. They bring to life a character that happens to be "Nehru Bridge" that connects the Eastern and Western parts of the city, and looks on as one side of the city burns, while the other celebrates. It had elements of Greek tragedies, with choruses and refrains, had some incredibly done musical pieces (a capella, harmony!), some vividly brought-to-life market scenes, some incredibly graphic in-your-face scenes of violence, some incredible metaphors for the perpetrators, and just a sheer "tour de force" (?!) by way of the best of Gujarati play-writing. The theatre was a small repertoire amphitheatre on the banks of the Sabarmati. Just amazing.

Lesson in Etymology

Natraja -- is another word for Shiva when he does his terrible "Dance of Death". Thence, Natrani. Get it? Raja. Rani. King. Queen.

My McDonald's Basket: PPP

Okay, none of this is economically sound, but just to give you an idea of prices in India: A "chuttak" maid-servant charges about Rs. 900 ($18) per month, do dust, sweep and wipe your floors, clean your clothes, and wash the dishes. A mason earns about Rs. 120 ($2.4) per day, while an unskilled laborer earns half that. A loaf of brown bread costs Rs. 20 ($.40). A movie ticket at one of the city's spectacular (and thoroughly western) multiplexes costs roughly Rs. 100 ($2). An entree at what is considered an expensive restaurant is about Rs. 200 ($4). By contrast, an entree at Bombay's very hep (but so-so) Indigo (Italifan fare) was about Rs. 400 ($8.) And so on. Next time: commentary on the culture of tax-evasion, and corruption.


Today's headlines read: "Narmada water reaches Kutch". And that Medha Patkar will have to find a new cause. All I can vouch-for, is that the Sabarmati is full, bank-to-bank. Meanwhile, I hope the characters from Franny Armstrong's "Drowned Out", did not drown. I hope they are not forgotten, those who cannot leave and will not swim.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Like Salam Pax, I arise, again,

In the tandoori oven that is India

To cool, AC-cooled, mornings

And s   l   o   w lines;

To a new Quit India Movement.

But indefatigable, I am, in my unconnectedness.

I will write more, I promise. Meanwhile, I'm convinced Baghdad has better internet connectivity than this. BTW, a taxi-driver claimed that this year's "unusual" heat-wave (which it is not; just the usual 115 degrees in the shade), is because of the "yuddha" -- the war in Iraq. All those bombs, where do you think the heat went? It's been blown over into India. Let me tell you, it's believable.

Actually, I've adapatped to the heat particularly well, and I'm not really complaining, it's just that it's an easy topic of conversation, and I think I'm expected to complain, so I thought I'd oblige.

I have also been told, categorically, that Mughlai food is sweety sweety.


Ps: Coming soon -- the price of bread, masons, a film-actor turned driver with business cards that say: "All India Roots Guids", bumper stickers on Rickshaws, and much more.