4:00 am, Dec 12th, 2013 – last Thursday – after a sleepless night of packing and finishing up administrative details, I jumped in a car for JFK to catch a flight to India. 24 hours later, I arrived at my hotel in the Paharganj neighborhood of Delhi.
Delhi was a big shock. As I was driven into the city center from the airport, I thought that I was unprepared for this: the dirt and grim, the noise and overcrowding, the scores of people and animals living on the street – unparalleled to anything I’ve seen before; and, I felt vulnerable, destined to be a permanent outsider. However, I knew there was some stability I could fall back on – like hotel reservations (I hoped) and gas-combustion engines, which operate by the same rules of physics everywhere; the earth still revolved around the sun, people walked upright (mostly – physical ailments, everywhere) and liquids were liquids and solids, solids, I just had to watch what I consumed of each. I flew into Varanasi 3 days later, which was yesterday morning, and had another eye opening experience as I was driven past hovels and squalor and dilapidation for two and a half hours. I have not explored Varanasi yet, but if it is anything like yesterday’s drive in from the airport, Varanasi is 500 times more … I don’t know if “intense” and “extreme” are the right words … Varanasi is 500 times MORE than Delhi … I’m still kind of speechless. There is an order and structure to India; I just don’t know what it is, yet. I’m glad I spent three days in Delhi first, because that eased the culture shock.
This morning – just to explore my surroundings – I walk out of the residency on to the road that is as wide as a Western two-lane street, but functions as one of Varanasi’s main four-lane arteries. It is a dirt road with no marked lanes and plenty of potholes and piles of rubbish everywhere, and harbors a constant flow of bicycles, trucks, trollies, carts and cars, all honking and weaving to get the best position and to avoid the pedestrians and wandering animals. There seemed to be no boundary between the traffic and the camps, sleeping dogs and commerce (like bamboo presses, coconut salesmen, and gravel depositories) that packed the sides.
To negotiate all this, I followed a herd of cows, because it was the traffic that flowed around the cows, not the other way around. It was a short walk.
This India project was conceived of over a year ago after a friend introduced me to a sculptor from Calcutta, and it has finally begun. I am scheduled to be at this residency in Varanasi for about three months, and I have a flexible itinerary to continue to travel south in search of granite quarries to make new sculpture, to travel north to see the Himalayas and to travel east to visit my friend in Calcutta. And, I bet I’ll find a reason to travel west. I am grateful to have a home base and a community of people who can guide me while in Varanasi.
Among my goals are to work with Indian Granite and to create a new body of work using all the skills, methods and media I’ve accumulated over the last twenty years as an artist.
I created this blog to find more things to be curious about and
I’m sure I’ll find a few things while in India and
I’ll definitely let you know….