Monday, October 26, 2009

Diwali joy and regrets

I had a happy Diwali. But some precious pictures are only in my mind, and I can only share them through words because I had no camera and/or no time to stop and take pictures.

  1. People setting up their bedding on the street for the night on Delisle Road (N. M. Joshi Marg) under cheap strings of LED lights that decorated their shanties for Diwali.
  2. Diwali lantern bazaar in Mahim, a little south of Victoria School.
  3. Yesterday (Sunday, Oct 25), a police van illegally parked on the kerb outside Nanda Cottage, Church Avenue, Khar. I don't know if the police were there to investigate a local crime, or just on patrol for Chhat Pooja (hundreds of thousands of people were expected at Juhu Beach, and Church Avenue is an arterial road).

Still, here are some pictures I did take during Dassera and Diwali:

Below: Swastikas - an ancient Indic auspicious symbol that invokes good fortune - embellish a neighbor's apartment entrance at Dassera

Below: Fresh marigolds and stalks of grain mark celebration, prosperity and the harvest of the kharif (monsoon) crop

Below: Remains of religious rituals - red-and-yellow cotton thread, red fabric, coconut shells, marigolds and zinnias, and incense ash - are disposed of near the roots of a tree. The plastic bags and polyester fabric are unfortunate mutants of an environmentally friendly tradition of composting religious remnants.

Below: A giant paper Raavan towers over traffic on a busy road. Effigies of Raavan are burned on Dassera, to commemorate the victory of good (Lord Ram) over evil (Raavan).

Below: Clearly the 10-headed demon king disapproves of the way people drive in Mumbai.

Below: Dassera procession on Haines Road at Agripada. Cops were posted in areas where Hindu-Muslim tension may be a possibility, and also along visarjan routes (routes to the beaches, where idols of Durga would be immersed in the water).

Below: All the ladies were out in their colorful finery to bid the mother goddess farewell.

And Durga Maata deserves nothing less than a proper western-style drum kit mounted on wheels:

Below: Durga stands on a float, in front of her tiger and carrying her trident. She is flanked by three priest types. Traditional marigolds have been eschewed for colored gerbera daisies.

Below: Man selling LED lights in the pedestrian subway that connects Capitol Cinema and VT Station. This was a couple of days before Diwali, the festival of lights. The electricity is probably stolen or bought with a bribe.

Below: Rangoli (sand painting) at the entrance of my home for Diwali. I made it long and narrow to fit the threshold, because a bigger one would be in the way of people entering neighboring apartments. The swastika is not anti-semitic, just a wish for good fortune.

Below: The lamps are earthen, with coconut oil and cotton wicks. Some people say they are to welcome the victorious Lord Ram back to Ayodhya. Another explanation is that they welcome Lakshmi (goddess of material prosperity) into one's home. The adherents of the latter theory are generally of the business/trading communities who celebrate a new year (2066 this year) the day after Diwali. For them, Diwali is also the occasion for Lakshmi pooja (worship) , to open new account books on an auspicious note. A swastika is marked in vermilion paste on the first page. Whatever the reason for the lamps, the city looks lovely all lit up.

Below: More offerings under a tree. These must have been left by the Gujarati working-class community near my apartment, because the camel-riding devi, Dashaamaa, is not traditionally worshipped by the trading and Brahman castes as far as I know. The plastic bag is full of a mung bean-like legume called matki.

Below: This is what Diwali is really about in Mumbai - sales on electronics ;) Two men transport a flat-screen LCD TV on a motorcycle near Kamla Mills. I actually saw two other men on another motorcycle a few kilometres further south, doing the same thing. I'm still trying to figure out why someone who spent at least Rs 30,000 on the TV wouldn't pay another Rs 150 for a cab, which would be safer and more comfortable for the men and for the TV.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thank you, Mercedes Sosa

Mercedes Sosa was born in July 1935, just a few days before my own mother, on the other side of the world. I can't recall when I first heard her, although I'm fairly sure it was in the US, well after Sosa was already famous and past her sixtieth birthday. Like my own mother's voice, her voice became a strong, reassuring, inspiring familiar presence in my life without my even noticing it.

Sosa was among the leading voices of the Nueva Canción movement of 1960s Latin America, which combined folk music with progressive/political lyrics, sort of like the American protest song.

Sosa supported Juan Perón's pro-labor politics. As Argentina grew more repressive, she found herself being searched an arrested on stage at a performance in 1979. She moved to Europe as she was banned in her own country. She moved back around the time of the Falklands War (1982).

Sosa has collaborated with many great musicians, including Joan Baez, Milton Nascimento, Nana Mouskouri, Luciano Pavarotti, Caetano Veloso, Shakira, and Sting.

She was suffering from renal ailments, and died earlier today. RIP.