Ramesh is embroidering my final designs, and I’m out searching for yet more rikshaw canvas canopies to back them with – enhancing my reputation as the frantic canvas nabber! While scrutinising the ‘Caste’ embroidery I was asked if I would like to have lunch, “yes please”. Lots of happy excitement as I was ushered into the dining room. A sumptuous feast of curried chicken, rice and potato paratha was placed on the bed (on a plate) – just one lone placement for I am to eat first as the ‘Guest is God’ traditional Indian expression applies. I chatted with Bintu, Ramesh’s son while eating and was told not to talk while eating by his wife who had prepared the lunch – for I am to focus on, and savour the food. A nice relief, I all too often speak too much about nothing much at all. It was the first time I’ve eaten meat since I’ve been in India, and if I have the self discipline would happily eat meatless when back in NZ.Tomorrow I head home…it might take a bit of adjusting – back to the needs of maintaining a household and a very different reality. It will be wonderful to see Eva and Reuben (and Hunter the dog) after three and a half months away. In the relative quiet of this early morning I realise I have not heard the sound of rain, or the sloshing of a mellow Manukau wave since I arrived here in Varanasi early October. The horns, the hawkers, the rickshaw wallah’s ‘Ma’am where you go?” and the temple chanting every morning delivered through street loudspeakers, political rallies, street wedding ceremonies, are sounds that will resonate for ever. The electric hot water tank heating up is my rain sound, it’s easy then to imagine rain sissing on my deck at home in Titirangi. Very lovely. The gardener tossing buckets of water over the Kriti pathways are the waves. I’ll miss the spontaneous smile of the elderly woman rag picker, who, on her circuit, lugs a huge bag of collected recyclables every morning. She will be happy in the knowledge that when she dies here in India’s holiest city her soul will be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth. It’s been a productive time here in Varanasi and I’m very happy with the way the project has evolved, I had no real idea as to what I’d be making happen, creating abstract embroideries was as far as I could imagine without having the knowledge of the skills available here in Varanasi. I now have a good collection of embroideries, and woodblocks to print from, for an exhibition at Te Pah Homestead gallery next year. It’s been a great inspiring happy stay, the people here at Kriti and in Varanasi have a wonderful sense of humour and are some of the most friendliest and generous I’ve met. The embroidery and woodblock stories have drawn on lives that are largely inhabited by India’s poor – their tough lives, traditions and superstitions that I find hard to comprehend as a privileged Pakeha. Sometimes I think – do I have the right to comment on the lives of ones whose daily life is a struggle? – but these are the people I feel for, the ones I respond to, the ones I wish I knew the Hindi language for. So it’s time to bubble wrap the woodblocks, fold the hand loomed silks and cottons, and package the embroideries. And eat my last Indian papaya. And I’d like to thank once again The James Wallace Foundation and The Asia New Zealand Foundation for their financial assistance. I’ll be back in Varanasi, in what capacity I’m not sure, only Lord Shiva knows that, and I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring with me.
A lunch fit for a goddess
Updated: Jul 11, 2020