Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Secret History

I took 'The Secret History' with me to India and surprisingly, fell in love with it. Like many things in life, my dad told me that I should read it about 3 years ago and I only decided to read it this summer. This pattern occurs quite often, like how I hated chickpeas and cous cous and now obsess over hummus and tagine. But back to the book. Perhaps it was the sympathy for the protagonist's agony in memorising verb tables or the sporadic mentions of the 'Upanishads' that appealed to me. The unexpected changes in the plot had me hooked and the often dark and strange character develops added intrigue to the story line. I wouldn't necessarily call it a light hearted novel but it didn't require much effort to read because I always found myself wondering what would happen next. I found the initial bacchanal episode very interesting. Of course, this is fiction, but if a group of academic classicists were so involved in their subject that they were able to perform a Bacchic ritual. Could the same be done by Indologists and obscure Shaivist rituals? Just a thought.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sanskrit Abroad

My experience of studying Sanskrit in Indian has definitely been an interesting one! I'm used to either working in my room at college or going to the library or having classes in a small office covered in books. The library here is a world away from my faculty library, all the windows are open, the sunlight pours in and the fans are the only form of ventilation. Crows fly in and cry from the tops of the book shelves and chipmunks scatter across the wooden floors. 

Yesterday there was a power cut in the building so the coolest place to work was the roof. We all brought our laptops upstairs and read in the evening warmth with the sound of the waves crashing from the beach behind us. When it's February, freezing cold and I'm translating some obscure piece of Sanskrit, I'll think of this.

I do find studying Sanskrit in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, quite strange. Mainly because Tamil Nadu is the only state which has rejected Hindi as an official language and their local dialect, Tamil, is not Indo-European or stem from Sanskrit at all. For that reason, having an epicentre of Sanskrit manuscripts and texts in the middle of a state that has no particular affection for Sanskrit, interests me.

Another thing which I find striking is that when people at home hear about Sanskrit they think it's something totally obscure, random and pointless. The same goes for India. There is no real appreciation for studying the ancient mother of their modern dialects as there is a respect for studying Classics in the West. But rather the response: why study something so useless, why not study engineering? With that being said, there are some who find it fascinating that you have chosen to study a language that seems so far removed from modern society. But of course that is where the allure for these languages comes in. Perhaps for some the question isn't: what's the point of studying a dead language? But rather, what's the point in studying a language that isn't dead? I can't really say that this is always my way of thinking though because I often find it such a frustrating and infuriating language and question why at all I'm studying it haha.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Market madness

We went to the 'cheapest and best Sunday market' on the weekend. It was probably one of the most authentic markets I've been to in India, the most similar being a random one in Mysore but even that was full of people selling overpriced 'ood' and spices. This market which I think is called 'Goubert Market' was full of locals going about their daily business, getting their fruit and vegetables. 

I don't think they were accustomed to seeing many westerners and they definitely weren't the type to pander/ indulge the curiosity of travellers so when I complained about a turmeric stain on the cloth bag I had just bought the old shop owner literally told me to 'go away'. I actually found that quite refreshing, why should they have to fuss about something that their usual customers wouldn't think twice about. That made me think of a few things- tourists, especially from the west must actually be pretty annoying for locals. Living in London, I find it annoying when tourists stop in the middle of a busy road to take a picture of something that I take completely for granted. So surely locals here must get tired of random people coming in and observing their mundane daily rituals as if they are something from a completely different world. But of course this is only some people, I find that a lot of people in India get really excited about Westetners being interested in their culture and are enthusiastic about answering questions and often want to help you in whatever way they can. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Half way until home

This next time next week I'll be preparing to go home. People say that you learn a lot about yourself when you go travelling. I had heard this phrase so many time but never really taken much notice, mostly because I have been travelling before for long periods of time and never had some sort of enlightening experience of self discovery. I can't say I have had this moment of clarity on this trip either but I have felt homesick for probably the first time in my life. The feeling of being thousands of miles from your family and friends is plainly, a horrible feeling. I have a new found immense respect for people who go on gap years alone or go on their year abroad and have to say goodbye (ok more like, see you later) to the people that they love and want to spend all their time with. I found the prospect of two weeks away strangely daunting, two weeks in the grand scheme of things is nothing in comparison to the months and years that people leave home for. Of course, it is a manageable feeling- as most things are- it just takes time to get used to. But that intermediate period isn't much fun.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Coffee lovers of the world

Came across his pretty useful sign in Pondicherry. I've tried the coffee here once and I'm curious to try more. The only thing that's stopping me is that I haven't been sleeping well here and I think coffee wouldn't be the best addition to the mix. They sell a lot of locally grown coffee here which is packaged really nicely so I definitely think I'll buy some take home and try. 

The things I would do for a Monmouth iced coffee right now...

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Ratnavali revisited

The 1925 edition of the Ratnavali... A little different to my paperback Kale version.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The best banana leaf

It might not look like much but I am telling you: this is the BEST banana leaf curry I have ever had. 

We spent the morning walking around in circles, taking advice from unhelpful taxi drivers who would rather make something up than admitting that they don't know what you are talking about. And after what seemed like an eternity, we found this friendly tiffin place and were rewarded for our perseverance. The curry was delicious, the sambar tangy and the pakoras light. 

We had been there just the night before and had the most amazing dosas which were recommended to us by some locals. These have been some of the cheapest meals we have had in India... We paid 90p each for lunch. That's about a third of a latte in soho.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The long wait

I sat in this seat for 6hours and stood up once. I don't really know how I managed it but India has a tendency to warp time completely. There was nowhere to get water or go to the toilet but somehow the time passed quickly.

I passed the time reading 'The Secret History'... I appreciated the mention of 'Sanskrit and Copic and those other nutty languages'. Firstly, because I am here to study Sanskrit and second because I love the word 'nutty'. 

Finally after 6hours I went out into the humidity and we set off on the three hour drive to Pondy.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Wildfox inspiration

Words of wisdom found in the women's contemporary denim section in Selfridges. Take from that what you will. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

A Passage to Pondicherry

On Friday I will be setting off to India for 3 weeks. Using my experience from my trip there last summer, here is my compact list of all the essentials necessary for a trip to the South.