Tag Archives: India

Bring yourself and all your stories!

The Institute of Storytelling For Hope, Endurance and Growth will host a Storytelling Circle & Writing Workshop led by Marlon de Souza at Yogacara Healing Arts, Bandra West, Mumbai.

Building community, one gathering, one story at a time.

Ages 10 and up.

Sunday, July 28. 11 am – 1 pm

Tickets: INR 750.

Get your tickets here: https://insider.in/a-storytelling-circle-and-writing-workshop-jul28-2019/event

Stories

At the heart of all our stories is where we are in this moment, this very moment, right now.

When we write our stories, we get in touch with what is sacred, tender and joyful in us.

When we hear each other’s stories, we connect with what is sacred, tender and joyful in others.

FAQs

Q: What can I expect to learn from this workshop?
A: Exercises and activities in the workshop are focused on helping participants gain awareness of the truth of their own writing and storytelling experience. This workshop is intended to assist participants in beginning to build comfort and confidence in their own writing and storytelling ability.

Q: What is the age limit for the workshops?
A: Today’s workshop is for participants ages 10 and up.

Q: What writing material do I need to bring?
A: A notebook and pen will be provided. You may also write on your mobile device.

The sounds we make, the stories we share…

The sound carries from the street below in this suburb of Mumbai, all the way to the top of the sports club, to the second-floor men’s locker room where I am. The rhythm of a one-sided conversation traveling upward – something about a car – reveals an aural pattern rich in its display of class and status. Little boys in the locker room, intrigued by the events unfolding outside, head to the window to watch. A woman of high social standing is loudly berating a lower-class man – a parking attendant with the club. His voice can barely be heard , the woman will not let him get a word in. He’s subservient, patient and accommodating. Patience with the rich is the key to his future.

In the locker room above, an older man tells a little boy, “See there? See what’s happening? Women always create tamasha (drama). Always.” His voice gets throttled when he says the word always, as though another part of his anatomy is being throttled. A couple of other men in the locker room laugh and nod in agreement.

The woman’s arms are gesticulating, her right index finger accusing the man. She’s furious that the valet wasn’t able to retrieve her car in less than five minutes. She yells at him in Hindi, “I almost missed my appointment because of you. You know how long I had to wait for this appointment?! I’m telling you for the last time, you keep this up, we’ll see if you have a job tomorrow. Understood?!”

Fifteen minutes later, the public scolding continues. The often hostile, sometimes matter of fact condescension of the upper classes in India does not shock me anymore. Growing up in India, I’d seen it close at hand – in family, extended family and in the well-to-do middle-class society I once believed was the entire world. But the condescension of the upper classes is universal – it’s the same no matter what country I’m in, no matter the races involved, no matter the ethnicities, no matter the religion.

It’s the same in America and the rest of the West, once the much-touted facade of dignity of labor, diversity and inclusiveness are discarded – when no one who really matters is looking. It’s there in New York, that liberal bastion where corporate America and start ups have monetized newly discovered pretend equality. In London, in Paris, in Germany, and also in the foothills of the Himalayas – in the tourist lodges owned by rich Indians and foreigners. And in the villages of India where village elders hold the power. Power and money talk, bullshit and lower standing walks, or so the saying goes.

It’s also quite likely the same in the numerous parts of the world I’ve never been – the rich and the well-to-do talk down to the poor, the poor keep quiet in their silent, resentful contempt of the upper classes, the poor aspire to become rich, the newly rich repeat what they learned when they were poor. While everyone cannot stop talking about inclusiveness and diversity.

As I step out of the building, I see the woman, unrelenting. A doorman looks at me, smiles and says, “Yeh roz ka story hai, saab. Mian hai, aur kya bolega – This is the daily story, sir. She’s a Muslim, what else is there to say?” He grins at the wisdom he’s sharing with me. I’ve seen this kind of grin before.

I calmly correct him in my not-very-proper Hindi, “Yeh mussalman ka baat nahin. Hindu log aisa bhi hai, Christian log aisa bhi hai, Sikh aur Parsi log bhi aisa hai – this has nothing to do with being Muslim. Hindus are also like this, Christians are also like this, Sikhs and Parsis, too.”

It’s not the commiserating response he was expecting. He looks away sheepishly but doesn’t really care for my perspective – there will be someone else who’ll agree with him. This is not new for me, either – I saw this growing up in India, as a little boy and also as a teenager, when the grown ups around me, grown ups of all religions, disparaged other religions with completely malicious lies. All who belonged were special, all others were the cause of the world’s problems.

Today, India, like much of the world, has moved extremely rightward. Over the past fifteen to twenty years, the politics of religion and unwanted people – the other – has become a powerful driver for big corporations that align themselves with the forces of ignorance and hate. And people are poisoned and made to look away from the active role that class plays in controlling it all from behind the scenes, with just a little bit of a nod and a wink.

In America, too, where big corporations and politicians across the political spectrum manipulate people in the name of religion, race and victimhood. And Europe. And Asia. And Africa. And South America. And on, and on. Can’t eliminate it totally, I don’t think, or at all.

I could, however, endeavor to continue to calmly decline to partake in the madness. Just as calmly as the Hindu doorman at the club slandered all the followers of Islam. Just as calmly as a Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Jewish person in some other situation, some other part of the world might slander the followers of another religion. As calmly as a deeply racist person might make bigoted statements about other races just because he or she can. As calmly as an older man indoctrinates a young, impressionable boy with the belief that women create problems. And as calmly as the parking attendant observes the situation in silence and declines to add fuel to the self-righteous anger of the outraged person talking down to him.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Refuge

It’s 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) on a sweltering Friday afternoon. Mumbai in May is more intense and humid than any other time of year. The monsoon next month will bring much needed relief. Even the birds in the trees seem to be saying so.

I’m early for my physiotherapy appointment – after years of sitting behind a desk for a living, I’ve recently exuberantly embraced a rather intense level of physical activity. My body is not fond of the enthusiastic embrace. “No thanks, buddy. What’s the hurry?” my body’s been telling me. “After being sedentary for so long, how about we ramp things up a little bit slowly, yes? Then we can get intense, okay?” But I didn’t pay much attention.

After a couple of months of sending fairly clear and polite signals, my body says, “That’s it! Enough.” And with all the clarity in the world, it pulls the slow the f*** down lever. It usually wins this exchange. I’d like to continue to be in a healthy relationship with my body for a long, long time. Rest of my life is what I’m thinking. So, here I am at the front door of the physiotherapy department at Holy Family Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai.

Just outside the front door, a dog is taking shelter in the shade provided by an overhanging construction canopy. I’ve seen this dog before on the hospital grounds – in the evenings, I’ve seen it hanging out in the parking lot. During the day, it takes refuge from the heat under a canopy like this, or below the trees near the main gate. It’s calmly asleep amidst the noise and bustle from the hospital grounds. Feet kicking slowly in a dream, peacefully asleep.

Unlike me, this dog will not be going through those doors for a physiotherapy session – it has already learned to listen to its body when it speaks. But I don’t feel hopeless. I’m actually feeling quite fortunate – here’s this dog showing me how to be long after I’ll be done with physiotherapy. It’s a very good day.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Hey, hey, hey

Monsoon rain
Gone summer pain
Time to show my face again
to the sky
to my eye
No reason for
Beards to hide by

If the moon comes to play
when the rain has gone away
I’ll be there
No facial hair
Just ol’ me
I’ll be there

When the rain
comes to play
I will meet it
more than halfway
For the water is the way
Calls my name
and yours
Hey, hey, hey

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

The rickshaws of Kochi

Ashraf with his rickshaw on Princess Street in Fort Kochi

There’s Ashraf in the first picture. He’s been driving a rickshaw for thirty years. At first, he had his own rickshaw. Now, he rents – it’s cheaper and without having to handle all the hassle of maintenance, insurance and paperwork, he says. I met him in Fort Kochi my first morning there, on Princess Street. Ashraf greets me with his big, warm smile for no particular reason. He exudes ease, and calm. I’ve gotten many big, warm smiles in Kochi for no particular reason. I love it.

And then there are a multitude of other rickshaws this next morning, in Ernakulam, across the harbor from Fort Kochi. I’ll be taking a rickshaw from the ferry jetty in Ernakulam to the train station. From there I’ll catch the train to the backwaters of Allepey, south of Kochi.

The first guy at the ferry jetty at Ernakulam will not take any customers until he completes reading his morning paper. So I go with the next rickshaw. My homestay host in Fort Kochi told me it would be forty rupees to the train station.

Kochi rickshaws are wider and more comfortable than the ones in Mumbai. And more colorful. They drive slower too, even though traffic is light this morning.

All adding to the sense or illusion of peace and serenity…that old saying seems to be true – the outer world is a reflection of the inner world. I’m feeling generally very peaceful and happy here in Kerala, even though it’s been just two days.

I get to the train station in about ten minutes. My rickshaw driver tells me it’s sixty rupees – from my rucksack and my travel shorts, he must know I’m a traveler, not a local. I calmly and serenely tell him it’s forty rupees, which I hand to him. He calmly and with apparent serenity takes the money without any argument.

Off to Allepey now and to the backwaters.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

No red carpets here

A brown carpet made of jute fabric sort of says Welcome to My World on a road being dug up in Sherly Rajan, Bandra. Mumbai. Maybe all the digging is for a telephone or television cable, maybe it’s for a water main, maybe it’s for construction.

Or maybe it’s just because in Mumbai, utility companies and their contractors love to dig up roads perennially to keep themselves in business.

IMG_8983A steamroller is parked not far from the action, its driver engaged on his mobile phone. Maybe he’s chatting with his family, maybe he’s watching a movie, maybe he’s gossiping with other steamroller drivers.

Further down the street, a bunch of managerial level utility company employees debate the pros and cons of the ditches they’ve dug, after they’ve dug it. First dig, then discover. Life, unfiltered, in Mumbai.

 

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Nature in motion, with no dress rehearsal

Migratory Indian flamingoes are spending the remaining days of May in the Thane creek, an hour and a half from Mumbai. They are from the state of Gujarat in western India. Every year, in the month of November, the flamingoes fly south to the waterways in the Greater Mumbai area. They return to Gujarat at the end of May.

Here, the flamingoes put on a performance against the mangroves in the Thane creek. They had no dress rehearsal for today’s performance, nor was there one for the amateur photographer observing them.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

 

To an unknown man wearing a blue shirt and a warm smile

Toll

Airoli bridge toll booth

It was a long, plodding ride in bumper to bumper traffic on a tropically hot Saturday afternoon. I was on my way to the Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli, Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai), an hour and a half from Mumbai. To see flamingoes from a boat in the Thane creek. Before they head back to Gujarat, the state in western India where they will stay until winter.

The Thane creek is the largest in Asia, extending 26 kilometers and separating Mumbai from mainland India. Part of the creek has been declared an eco-sanctuary and is home to life-sustaining mangroves, and host to hundreds of migratory birds each year including the iconic flamingoes, which were lovely to watch from my boat.

Today though, I will not document the beautiful, graceful flamingoes or the egrets or the rare bird species I witnessed up close.

Today is dedicated to an unknown man, a working class toll-booth attendant in a blue shirt who stands in the hot Mumbai sun in the middle of May, readily offering his warm smile to motorists along with the change he dispenses.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Lakhan the traveling bamboo chair seller

 

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.