We completed the Bangalore University workshop yesterday. I was pleased to see five completed projects, one from each collaborative group. One group burned the edges of their book, as a metaphor for man’s encroachment of nature, serving up a sooty, pungent experience. It’s been a challenge for them to conceptualize working collaboratively. Most projects settled on agreeing on a theme and a form, but maintained their individuality by painting separate pages. One group managed to cooperatively paint each page, but one student in that group proceeded to sign his name on nearly every page, and had difficulty understanding why I called attention to it.
Student collaborative Book Projects
A huge old banyan tree on BU campus
Bus to downtown Bangalore
I was pretty excited to take my first bus ride in Bangalore yesterday, with Madhan as my guide. We sat in the back and bounced our way over the deeply jutted University roads. Yet again I was humbled by the generosity of India, leaving Bangalore University with an unexpected wallet full of rupees, a thank you from the art department, and having Madhan insist on paying my bus fare. It was a hot and dusty ride into the heart of the city. Since the bus was not direct to our destination of HCG Hospital, we got off near the city markets, where hundreds of running children were let out of school for the day. Probably Madhan and I made an unusual looking pair- Madhan with his African style knit cap and tattoo covered arms, jeans and sneakers and a small pack and me with my very white skin and gray hair. He has been a cheerful, loquacious and constant companion for the whole Bangalore University workshop, and a great pleasure to spend time with walking through the crowded markets on our way to the hospital. Many times children rushed to shake my hand and practice a word or two of English, or they hung out of auto rickshaws waving and laughing and calling out “hi!”.
One of the Rajs
The Palace Library (only scholars can look at the books)
On the train to Mysore
Mysore Train Station
This morning Mahdeva, the family driver, took me to the train station and held my hand through the ticket buying process (new to him as well as he usually takes the bus), making sure I filled out the form correctly and had the right ticket, and buying a platform ticket to make sure I was safely on the train. He didn’t leave until he peered through the window and saw me at my seat. I just learned from Umesh, the gentleman seated next to me on the train who had spent time studying in the US, that at crowded railway stations like Bangalore, people like to go to the train station to hang out, and so selling platform tickets (4 or 5 rupees each) bring in additional income.
Finally I visited Mysore Palace! I mistakenly went to the wrong entrance near town and a 13 yr old boy convinced me to ride in his ponga, or horse drawn cart, to the other entrance. I admit it was a lot of fun, and breathtaking the way he bade his horse canter and quickly turn in front of buses and onrushing traffic. He kept slapping the horse with his reins and I begged him to be nice to the horse. I had avoided riding in the pongas previously because the horses are so slight and seem too fragile to bear the burden of passengers and cargo they cart around. Plus they are forced to run on the hard pavement, which must be jarring to their slender legs.
The Mysore Palace really is fantastic. I was surprised that there were so few westerners in the crowds of tourists. There were a couple of Tibetan monks who were having a high time getting people to photograph them with various types of people, like school girls in uniform seated on the ground and turbaned, bearded muslim men. Despite the quantity of people that work at the Palace, it is quite informal. You can wonder about at your own pace. The wooden house, behind the palace, is wonderfully shabby. Walls are covered amazing paintings, photographs of the rajs and scrawled with graffiti signatures. Despite the ban on cameras, cell phone photos are ok, so everyone is busy snapping away and of course I joined in.
Graffiti on the Palace walls
Near closing I nearly had the place to myself. One of the guards asked me if I wanted to photograph the “beautiful swords madam” (not really) and then did I want him to photograph me in front of them, which meant allowing me behind a thick rope barrier. So I complied, and then it became clear (ok, I’m slow) that he was angling for a tip and was happy with the ten rupee note I offered him.