Monthly Archives: January 2014

7 seconds and Hanuman Strikes Back

If you’ve been following my Monkey saga, you know that Monkeys
gain their power from Hanuman, the Monkey God of Hinduism,
and that – even so – Round 3 went to me …

Shortly thereafter, Rain poured down upon Kriti. As I sit watching the storm, I was overtaken by the urge to understand why even the rain feels different in India.
I grab my video camera and go out to my covered balcony. I need to get closer to the rain they call the retreating monsoon.
I think, “I mean it’s wet like in North America and falls from the sky down to the ground like in the Midwest … Yup …
the law of gravity functions here, but … something … just different ….” My thoughts trail off.

I fumble with my camera, not even sure what I’m doing or where I am going to point it.
I press Record and … I was shown the power of Hanuman

I’ll give you one guess what Hanuman’s traditional symbol is …

I have experience with lightning, but still …

Round 4: Monkeys.

Drats … HAAA…NUUU…MAN!

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Monkey Lockdown

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, IndiaSamuel Nigro, Varanasi, IndiaSamuel Nigro, Varanasi, IndiaSamuel Nigro, Varanasi, IndiaSamuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

We had a Monkey Lockdown early one morning last week at the Residency … well … er … less dramatically … really … I heard monkeys clamoring on my roof early in the morning, rolled over and fell back to sleep … and in this vague sleep-state before one finally decides to get out of bed, I heard some clamoring outside that I later found out was Olga and Navneet doing some vigorous “Shoo … Shoo-ing” It was about 6 am.

Half-hour later, I exit my second floor doorway and … there he is: the Alpha of the troop, just sitting on my banister, contemplating his next move of trickery. Two steps closer and we could have groomed each other … but we’re just not at that stage, yet. I freeze in a ready position. He turns his head. We lock eyes and I let out a battle cry that would have made Vin Diesel’s eyebrows turn white. Alpha jumps up on the wall and scurries up to the roof of the building, out of sight. I think, “Ha. Monkey. I’m ready for you this time. That’s right: use those opposable thumbs to scamper away … At least I can carry a stick … Who has the prefrontal cortex NOW.” Self satisfied I walk to the kitchen to brew coffee and eat some bananas.

Monkeys are so deeply imbedded in the Indian culture that Hinduism has made it into a God. His name is Hanuman, and he has done all sorts of heroic, magical deeds, including leading monkey armies across the sea to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita, his master’s wife, and picking up and moving whole mountains. (a skill I admire). Hanuman is the servant of Rama, who is an incarnation of Vishnu, who is one God of the Hindu Trinity and the preserver of the Universe. Quite a lineage. (FYI: Shiva is another member of the Trinity and he is the Destroyer/Protector; and Brahma is the third and the Creator).

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5 observations of Gratitude, a Storm and a Pig of Consequence

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

An enormous amount of rain dropped yesterday (which I talked about here), and flooded our compound. Instead of sloshing through our new pond like Amber (another artist at the residency) is doing, I decided to used those three bricks to slowly walk myself across the water to get to the kitchen, and I stayed as dry as an Indian spiny-tailed lizard basking in the sun of the Thar Desert … or … um … I wish – my hands got wet and muddy from moving the third brick for a new step as I stood on the first two and, besides … it was cold!

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

I’m not complaining: the storm, yesterday, was amazing and different and lasted most of the day! Off-On; Off-On. Besides, it was fun figuring out a solution to keep my feet dry. Getting to the street and out of the compound was another matter. You had to drive to get out dry.

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

I was told we would get a few days of rain in the Month of January during the retreating monsoon, and this wasn’t the first time it rained since I’ve been here. However, I was also told that the amount of rain that fell yesterday was out of the ordinary and this retreating monsoon was about 2 weeks late. (I’m going to research the retreating monsoon more, but it is connected to the Jet Stream, which is weakening because of global warming, a condition that contributed to the recent cold spell, or polar vortex, over North America.) My understanding is that during the monsoon season in the summer and fall, the rain doesn’t fall as hard as yesterday, but goes on much longer, like days and weeks longer. I’m told the flooding is worse, because the ground gets saturated and it takes longer for the water to retreat. Flooding doesn’t usually happen in the winter. If I stay for the monsoon, I’m making stills.

Stilts-Having-Stirrups-That-can-be-Set-at-Any-Desired-Height

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

When I woke up this morning, the water receded and left a lot of fresh mud and gave me much to be grateful for…

  1. I am grateful that I walked toward the front gate early this morning and saw a Sow, whom I’ve seen on the streets dozens of times, scurry out of the compound. This brought WONDER to my life.
  2. I am grateful that I looked at the tracks that the pig made, because it brought CURIOSITY to my life.
  3. I am grateful that I tracked the pig’s entrance into the compound for about 40 yards, because it brought DISCOVERY to my life.
  4. I am grateful that I lost the trail of the pig but was able to see it’s exiting tracks, because it brought a sense of MYSTERY to my life.
  5. I am grateful for bacon, because it has given me SUSTENANCE in the past.

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4 am … wide awake … raining in Varanasi … starting the day with a smile …

… that’s what I wrote on FB this morning … (at 4 am!)

and it is cold here, in India in January! This weather is part of the retreating monsoon (more later on Indian weather patterns) …

I went into the kitchen, cut up some papaya, drizzled it with honey and prepared to brew some coffee, but thought again and did not start the burner. I walked out to the main gate. It is dark, dark and dark; oh, there’s a street lamp as well as a light illuminating the guardhouse. I thought I’d walk on the road a bit because it would be deserted this early in the morning, but the gate was chained and I decided not to wake the guard to unlock it who was sleeping in the guard room. I stood at the gate and looked out on the street that is filled with a constant flow of honking traffic during the day. I breathe and feel the rhythm of the area: no traffic, no horns, light drizzle, everything damp, cold and wet and thankfully no dust; on the other side of the street, a dog trots in between makeshift vendor stands. That’s enough contemplation. I walk back to the kitchen to start the coffee.

As I read and eat the papaya, the rain increases to a proper downfall: it is calming, rhythmic, soothing. I put my hat back on and tighten my scarf (“it is cold in here!”). I sauté the few, leftover spoonfuls of last night’s dinner – a spicy potato, carroty, root-y, oniony, tasty(!) thing – and crack in two eggs.

I sit at the table and read and drink coffee and finish my eggs. It is still pitch black outside and, as I continue to read, the rain continues to fall. “I’ll make a morning of this and finish my book,” I think.

Then, the lights go out: it is darker than dark. I smile and let out a chuckle. See, the electricity goes out frequently, sometimes the auxiliary generator kicks in, and sometimes it doesn’t. This time, it doesn’t. I’m not afraid of and I’m happy to function in the dark. I’ve done it many times before and under more duress as well as a few times while at Kriti. I decide not to bother to let my eyes adjust (“Who needs rods! My hands will do fine. Cones: get ready on stand-by”) and walk over to the corner and feel around for a matchbox (I’ve done this before). I wonder if there are more candles, because they were running low. “Ah Ha … Someone bought a fresh package!” I put down the matchbox and feel around and open it like one would a bag of potato chips. I light the candle and I try to be clever and drip some wax into the bottom of a candleholder so the candle will stay upright. The flame crackles and goes out. Hmm … now, it’s darker than the dark of before since I’d been staring at the flame. No worries: I feel for the matchbox, strike and … nothing. “it’s the humidity.” In fact, the cardboard matchbox feels damp. I try another. Strike. Light. Success. I am now sitting back at the table reading my book. My cones are working fine. I will not be deterred.

About a half hour later, it is still dark outside and I decide to go back to my studio to write about my arrival in Varanasi. It’s been about a month and I still haven’t been able to write about it. I‘ve done a lot since then, and I’ve made good progress on finding Indian Granite to work with and even feel that I have changed a bit in the process. I hope these posts about my arrival in Varanasi don’t turn out to be anticlimactic, but that’s the creative process: wondering, wandering, plotting, plodding, continuing.

Back to the issue at hand – I have a decision: do I just go back to my studio and start writing, or do I do my dishes by candlelight? I do the dishes and get them out of the way. I reread a sentence about the formation of deuterium (I will make it clear why I’m reading about deuterium later, but I will say it is important for how I thought about my arrival in India and is, in a broad and distant sort of way, related to granite and my art work). I think, “Man, do I understand this? Can I write about the formation of deuterium,  or am I going to sound like a DooFuss?” See: one of the reasons I think I’m putting off writing about my first day in Varanasi is because I have a lot of connections I want to make. I know that I won’t make them all in one essay and I have time and I don’t have to do everything. It’s just that I’m afraid to describe and link together hydrogen, helium, deuterium, heavy water, my arrival in India and the appearance of Granite on our planet all together, all at the same time. There. I said it. Now, I get over it and get on with it – this blog is about curiosity, that’s it.

So, I rise from my seat, determined to knock out these dishes, go back to my studio and start some writing.

I reach for the candle, and knock it over. It’s dark, again: the darkest it’s been all day. Ha! This is comedy. I reach for the extinguished candle and feel wax that has spilled all over the table.

Forget it: I’ll do the dishes when the sun comes up…

… which it now is and it’s still raining … but it feels fresh and new and maybe even a little heavy (*wink*).

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a different species of homesickness

Samuel Nigro, India, Varanasi

A Two-Way street in Afternoon Traffic, Varanasi, India

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

Sidewalk in Varanasi, India

I write this post because I am experiencing a different species of homesickness. I know this because I keep on checking the weather in various cities in North America. New York went from a warm winter day in the 70’s to a long blast of arctic cold hovering around the single digits. I feel for everyone bracing this cold spell, as I still feel like a stranger in a strange land … pursuing a unique dream.

I’ve been in Varanasi for less than a month. Still observing and exploring… I continue to find it hard to know what I’m looking at. Describing my first day in Varanasi, which was really a continuation of my adjustment period that began in Delhi … well … it will have to wait – still too much to process.

Here’s another picture of the streets. I’m becoming quite attached to this herd of water buffalo.
I see them everyday.
More later…

Samuel Nigro, Varanasi, India

Water Buffalo in the Streets of Varanasi, India

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