In one, two & three

In one, two & three
you’ll dance like no one’s watching
He’s stepped out for lunch!

raintree

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Red for rage. Green for envy. Orange for whatever.

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It all began in amusement, late one evening on the road, when I found myself in an unusually compassionate state of mind, forgiving people from behind the steering wheel. Suspicious enough to mentally pull myself over for driving “under the influence”. But it turned out pointless, because you see, nobody has devised anything to sniff out endorphins. So I sat back and played the all forgiving observer. “Honk away, it’s not your fault…was it ever?” “Oh you may as well cut across after that humiliating exchange with your boss.” “If YOU don’t jump signals then who will??”
And smack, how a memory of a couple of articles, more than 10 years old, showed its face again as the effects slowly began to fade away. Somewhere an Ostrich raised its head from a cloud of cough syrup.
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Here is what came up. One, a radical view on why our cities need to retain non-motorized modes of transport like bullock carts and why we need to stop expecting pedestrians to get off the road. He had been my hero for the rest of that day. And the other was about lateral thinking and how Indian roads naturally lent itself to it!With St. Marks road in the process of getting more pedestrian space than road space, the first is almost a reality! The second, well, it’s not in the least restricted to just when you are in a state of natural or induced, road euphoria.

At other times it’s about being lazy. To get angry. When it becomes easier to stare through the indifference of the cops.

Or mulling on something while gently nudging cows out of the way. Or getting into a staring contest with buffaloes. Or thinking of outguessing goats and the direction they are gonna head. These are the blissful moments; the nasty ones come with a Ferris wheel of teeth grating rage and bile spitting spite; throw in some megalomania, misandry, mockery, and every other human condition and add a liberal dose of muleheadedness – our roads have room for all these and more.

All said and done, when nothing else works, hope these come handy. A few, from the I-try-not-to-break-these-rules list.

If you find yourself behind an auto or Wagon R, never try to predict which direction it is gonna turn.  (Wagon R drivers, don’t hate me, but I’ve seen too may Wagon R bad drivers to dismiss it as a mere coincidence!)
Never, ever mess with a Taxi, bus, a truck or an Innova.
Taxis are the scourge of the road. Never take on one in any kind of ego battle.
Keep an exit plan ready, in case you run into that Karma driven maniac.
If everything else fails it’s okay to totally and unrestrained-ly lose it. After all you are merely human and traffic rules are just an illusion you are running after.
Why India will always be a mystical land. Bring on the snake charmers and the elephants too. We’re not going anywhere, any time soon.
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It’s not funny, though.

‘Whorled Explorations’ – at Fort Kochi’s Biennale

What happens when an entire town goes to art?

This.

Goats doing what goats do, become part of the art on the street walls. But first, fishermen walk the planks to sink the fishing nets while a motley group erupts in forced laughter. We watch as an Orange sun rises. And cats wait for fishermen who wait for the morning boat, all waiting next to a street cart vendor selling piping hot coffee and pazhamporis (banana fritters). The coffee doubles over and laughs at the likes served at Cafe Coffee Day. We wait, relishing the coffee and our pazhamporis, watching them wait. Soon our universe takes the shape of a pazhampori and we savour, every moment of it. She makes small talk with the vendor. Life is an installation, someone must have said. All you need is to take the time to look.

If you are thinking, what quasi-pseudo stuff !! then my guess is, you’ll barely survive Aspinwall House, the biennale’s biggest venue. Also because it has over 60 installations, featuring artists from around the world – video and sound installations and well, those that take empty space and transform it, like us with our pazhamporis and the cats, installed as a metaphor. Aspinwall House is also a sprawling old trading house from colonial times with beautiful trees and large empty spaces.

That’s just the beginning. You have art scattered across venues – mostly, old heritage buildings; along the walls on the streets, in the squares, on the beach front and even up the trees. Dot the venues and it will look like a very adventurous cat went for a stroll in the Fort Kochi neighbourhood. I went about on foot too.

Seen on one such walk
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Fort Kochi by itself, is starkly beautiful with its old colonial and pre-colonial artefacts – trees older than the really old buildings and the Chinese fishing nets that were fixed there a really long, long time ago. Older than Gandhi’s spinning wheel by at least a couple of hundred years.

A whole lot of Anglicizing also meant that they have really good cakes & coffee and everything continental in addition to the fish and other delicacies of Kerala. Yet when I think lip-smacking, the ones that come to mind are the pazhamporis, prawn pollichathu, steamed idlis with a prawn stuffing (at Dosa and Pancakes). And the gelato, enjoyed all by its own, much later one evening (at Gelato)!

My friend, at one of the video installations, Aspinwall House
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At David Hall
‘Everything will be alright’ – video
By Guido Van Der Werve
The artist walks towards the viewer, getting weary as time goes by, yet walking on, breaking ice with his feet on a frozen shore off Finland. A massive icebreaker behind him, doing the job mindlessly, with no hardship, making his attempt look futile. Foreboding. Yet full of spirit, and my most captivating memory from the biennale.

Everything will be alright
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At Vasco Square
Balancing Act
By Gulammohammed Sheikh
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At Pepper house
458 meters/sec
By Peter Rosel, Germany

An installation whose only point is to make you feel how gullible and helpless a traveller you are, trapped and hurtled around at breakneck speed. At Kochi, Earth’s velocity reaches supersonic speeds.

Spot that if you can, it says!

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At Pepper house
Liquid history of Vasco da Gama
By Sarnath Banerjee
A delightful little series in charcoal and pastels that tell, yes, the story of Vasco da Gama in a not very flattering manner!

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Guess who?
The recent spurt of Banksy like graffiti across Fort Kochi…

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Humid Fort Kochi also taught me not to get too engrossed composing and taking photographs. Else you’ll have to listen to something no one wants to hear from anybody – you have dirt on your er back.
um?? You must have sat somewhere, he added with a smile. I just grin and quickly dust off that lime wash off my er back!

And Goats can stare, unnervingly so!

At least, this is what I saw.

Goodbye for now, Fort Kochi.

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