Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kabaddi Kabbaddi Kabaddi….



We are playing what?


Any other name for this sport?

No! its Kabbaddi….Kaa—baa—deee… Its called that in Catalonia, Bucharest and Turkey too!!!

We are given a quick demo of this sport by some 10 yr olds and then thrown to the sharks---the 18yrs olds, our opponents! We tackle and tag, scratch and slide, scream and mumble Kabbaddi in so many accents…even as someone thinks aloud….getting trashed at Kabbaddi isn’t part of this day of giving, or is it?

Young girls run at us then spin our of our tackles, boys throw their best Bruce Lee kicks at us, they drag us backwards just as our fingers claw at the white chalk line, they gang tackle us as we try to run back, they corner us as we exhale ‘kabbaddi’ and try not to inhale.

Chants go up from the home crowd, “Asma Didi....Asma Didi!”. ”Wwwwwwwhat?”, my brain says, ‘she’s here?’. My wife? Asma in this remote orphanage with no air-conditioning and Turkish toilets? As I process this deviant data point, this incomprehensible possibility…I am elevated, I travel skywards…wow a beautiful rushing breeze and then BAM...cough, cough, spit, yell...get off me, Ouch. My thumb, arre hato yaar (get away from me), abbe easy lo yaar (take it easy friend)….I can’t breathe. I am on my back and all of the above is simultaneously happening. Newsflash: Old people don’t play kabbaddi with 18yr olds even if or specially if they are named Asma!

They win 3-0. We win 0-3. That was awesome. The sand in my shorts, shoes and toes, my lithium depleted camera, my dirty shoes, my redecorated hair and my aching thumb fortunately still attached, all stumble back to the locker room…….er…to the bathroom with the Turkish toilet. (Note to self: Have to ask Erman if this is how toilets are in Turkey).

Later, as we drink tea we take inventory and complain…yellow oil paint on black pants, new tan lines, sand sand everywhere, problems with contact lenses, ripped shirt, dead camera….and one broken thumb!

Three weeks later I still nurse that sore thumb and think wistfully of that wonderful evening of kabbaddi.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hello from the balcony

I write this as I await breakfast on day 30. As I came to sit on this favourite 2nd floor balcony of Giridadan where the morning sun holds the Reliance building in its halo....Lanka follows me here and puts down an ashtray. I dont know if its force of habit for him or if this is a smokers-only balcony ....but he must've been sleepy as he loaded Leen's bags into the car before dawn. The smoker has left the stadium....
Erman headed out with a Morarka bag slung over his shoulder...I can almost hear the transcontinental sigh of relief between him and his new bride as readies to board the plane homeward. 5am and Jen was smiling as only Jen can ....the pregnant and masterfully packed-tight backpack ready for an ascent of mount kerala! He husband is in Mumbai and even as his car broke down from the airport to the hotel.
In the other car Julian was already checking off the calls he has to make before he lands in Melbourne...this guy is a pro. Fay came down with her cool and why-is-everyone-rushing expression ...I wonder if the coolness is cultivated or a result of living the consultant's life.
Last down was Sandra to meet the staff that is now our family and the Captain and his wife who have been our gracious hosts for this last month..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

... almost the final curtain

Jaipur will be home for only three more sleeps as we get to the tail end of this assignment. Two teams have all but finished their work - final presentations done, results well received and just the inevitable wrap up questions to follow. One team has travelled to Delhi today to provide their final inputs.

Our final presentation is tomorrow - we have been lucky to work with the founders and drivers of Vatsalya on a daily basis, so we are really just putting finishing touches to our work before a final handover and goodbye tomorrow. It's been a good journey, an interesting and challenging one, and driven by the passion of two individuals who are trying to do something remarkable for India's urban poor. I trust that some of this passion has flowed on to Sandra and myself, and in turn I hope that we have managed to provide some insight that will benefit Vatsalya in the long run.

Tomorrow night is reserved for our 'end of term party' - an early flight on Saturday morning for most of us will mean no opportunity for a late one on Friday night. This has been a rare experience - working with a talented, multi-faceted, cohesive and dare I say, funny, team. Together we have shared the assault on the senses that India has brought on - fireworks, food, festivals... and especially with our partners we have made friends.

Has it really been four weeks since we arrived ?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The all to familiar concept of a looming deadline beckons as we enter our final week of this CSC assignment in Jaipur.

We've gained a high degree of familiarity with Jaipur and the local area around our homestay. No longer are we threatened by the apparent recklessness of the local drivers weaving in and out of the roundabouts and driving down roads against the flow of traffic. There may be a sense of disorder - but it works, and we appreciate the ease of jumping into a motorised tuk-tuk to get to our places of work, or to get into the city.

We've become regulars at a number of places - the local Indian/Italian restaurant greets us as friends of long standing as we mix our cuisines and cultures with a starter of bruschetta followed by paneer cooked in every way imaginable served with lots of naan.

The local fast food joint/sweet shop offers variety from dosas through to pizza... but this is not the main game here. The sweet shop on the ground floor is where the action is... and 'sweet' is definitely the name of the game here. Whatever concept we may have had of a sweet tooth, it has been redefined and taken to a new level here with cheesecakes, sweet dough balls bathing in cloyingly sweet syrup, and our new acquired favourite, Barfi made from condensed milk and sugar which has been cooked until it solidifies and can be cut into small (and deeply addictive) squares. To eat just a single piece of Barfi is impossible.

With our individual projects - we are all well progressed, as we should be, and we are all busy finalising material and getting ready for the final delivery to our partners. As will all projects, some change is inevitable towards the end as ideas get firmed up and finalised.
For a month Jaipur has become our home, the team our extended family, and our partners good friends who we have worked with but who have also welcomed us and shown amazing hospitality.

And... finally, we appear to have come up with a name for CSC India 13... in homage to our favourite sweet - we are the Jaipur Barfi Cowboys !

Thursday, October 27, 2011

….Deepawali in Jaipur


::This report filed at 2000hrs Jaipur time by blogger Mir Ali embedded in the CSC unit at Camp Girisadan:
After a 24-hour barrage, the smoke is starting to lift and the explosions and rocket fire in the background are starting to get less frequent. As we duck and weave and make are way around the outlines of smoky buildings toward the fast food store we see silhouettes in dark doorways waiting to ignite fuses. Flash…rat-a-tat…in the next alleyway a ladi is triggered…the 1000 or so little firecrackers strung together start to go off in concert…a violent rain-like sound with dancing flashes and embers that instantly turn the alley into a disco. Like marines, we move onward…gotta make the Kanha restaurant before the chicken-corn soup runs out. Out to my left behind the tower a sharp whistle as a rocket ascends into the sky. Ahead of me an auto-rickshaw ominously barrels straight for us, its driver looking heavenward…
As Deepawali approached, earlier this week, we went out to the local arms and fruit market and stocked up on firecrackers and custard-apples. I bought rockets (so many turned out to be duds but I guess you can return burnt rockets to arms dealers…besides they don’t come with serial numbers) and stocked up on firey spinning chakras. I acquired a mix of red sparklers and white sparklers…of little bombs and big bombs. My prized acquisition is the whistling rocket that bolts out of the bottle, ascends into the sky, explodes in a shower….and wait wait wait…now you’ll see it….little mini-explosive shrapnel that got dispersed by the first big bang explode in a second more deliberate, delayed and colorful orchestra of pyrotechnics. That was the best explosive in my arsenal until my fearless Australian friend Fay went to a different dealer. She bought the 10-hottest-bombs set, complete with original carton showing the 10 bollywood beauties: Kareena kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Priety zinta……Raji Mukerji….!!! Bollywood does everthing better…
Last night at the stroke of Diwali, team India13 headed silently up the stairs to the 4th floor landing and then crawled up a second narrow stairway to the roof. All around us were beams, beats, single explosions, eruptions, circular trajectory rockets, sudden intense explosions that storm the ribcage, brilliant showers of red and green, golden and purple, rapid fire sequences and beautiful soundless pictures with far away specks of light giving birth to umbrellas and canopies.
It soon became obvious, there are certain neighborhoods that are better prepared for the battles of Deepawali! Militias of kids patrolled certain rooftops, setting off sequences, planning the next sky dances, synchronizing the sound and light shows.... On the rooftop due north of us it appeared at some point that a decision had been reached…”lets show them everything we got… Yessir!!”. For the next half hour I stood mesmerized as the showoff rooftop was transformed into a veritable launching pad….rockets were ignited non-stop and ascended in swarms, beacons of interrupted light flashed as bomb sequences ran their course, kids scurried purposefully, maybe fearfully, mostly triumphantly.
Not to be outdone the A-team off to our left mobilized. Maybe their plan all along was to let the others’ ammo run out. Now they were in the ascent…their rockets soared overhead, their pinks, yellows and reds painted the night sky and their drumbeat ruled the neighborhood. Yiiiiiihaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!
We unpacked our loot…laid it all out, selected what we wanted and went to work. It was wonderful, at once adrenaline pumping and calmingly beautiful! Writing names and letters with sparklers…multiple movements being captured by slow-exposure cameras, silly teenage celebrations of joy witnessed by handycams, the fun of indulging, the instant attainment of gratification, appreciating the art, creating the art, of being multiple artists creating and restoring one fleeting celestial mural, participating in this magical interaction between fire and smoke, darkness and light!!!

Happy Diwali!


Happy Diwali,
CSC Jaipur

Shubh Deepawali!

Jaipur's Diwali look

Pooja for Lakshmi at Agarwal family's house
(Lakshmi - goddess of wealth)

Impressive 56 dishes Pooja for Krishna called
Annkoot at Gupta family's house
(Krishna - god of love and divine joy)