Adventures In India

30 August, 2008

As a child I used go for morning runs with my dad during my summer holidays. He used to say hello to everyone we passed. And everyone would say hi back. I remember the wonderful feeling in my heart when this occurred. I felt connected to a community. I felt that people were good. And I thought my dad the most kind and trusting person in the world.

As a western woman entering into an Indian culture I wasn’t sure where to look. So to be safe I turned on my ‘non-look’ that I have refined so skillfully over the years. Its that look where you glaze out into the distance, appearing to be present in the world around you but avoiding all direct eye contact. The “I am confident but too busy, too involved, too distracted to look at you” look. Almost any stranger I walk past in the street at home knows how to give this look. In my country, to acknowledge a stranger on the street with a non-obtrusive head nod is one thing, but to look them in the eye for any length of time, and with sincerity, is unthinkable. And then, to say hello or engage in a conversation, well that’s just downright ludicrous! What is it that sets up this barrier? Are we too busy for other people who do not have a direct part to play in our lives? Are we scared? Do we assume the worst in everyone’s character, a fear drilled into us from Primary School when we’re taught about ‘stranger-danger’?

Anyway, I came into this country (India) warned that ‘all men think you’re flirting with them if you look them in the eye or smile’, and so like a good western woman I brought my well trained ‘non-look’ with me and tried it out a couple of times. But firstly, what a load of bollocks that turned out to be. People are people are people. And as a new person entering into a new community all I wanted to do was to really look. I wanted to show respect to these people and their land, to show my gratitude, like any guest does. How rude it would be not to look. So, after some hesitation, I opened my eyes and actually looked, and the world opened up to me. I was seeing. I was learning. I was sharing. I was understanding. It made sense to acknowledge the other, especially because I am the outsider, the stranger.
So now I am walking around with open eyes everywhere I go and am meeting the most wonderful faces and hearts. And it makes me wonder what might happen if I did this at home?

Adventures In India

26 August, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope and fear and how they exist in our world over the past year and, having recently landed in India on a three month Asialink residency, these ideas are flaring up like never before. Coming here, and being here, has allowed me to see and experience both hope and fear at a magnitude I have never felt before. And so I’ve decided to dive into this idea during my residency, perhaps eventually moulding all my research into a performance work.

My first step is to open up a discussion and forum about hope and fear to as many people from as many walks of life as possible. (Yes, that includes you!) I have put together some initial questions just to get the juices flowing (see below). I hope that you might find some time to be able to answer some of them or, even better, respond with a more open dialogue about these issues. Feel free to take the idea on any tangents you desire and to respond in which ever format suits you best; from text, to recorded sound files, or even video recordings.

Many many thanks,

1. What does fear mean for you? How would you define it?
2. What do you fear?
3. Can you recall and describe a situation or event where you experienced fear?
4. Can you recall and describe a situation or event where you experienced fearlessness?
5. How old are you? And has your relationship to fear changed over your lifetime?
6. What symbols, actions, or images in everyday life represent or depict fear for you?

7. What does hope mean for you? How would you define it?
8. Do you feel hopeful?
9. What do you hope for – today?
- this year?
- the future?
10. Can you recall and describe a situation or event where you experienced hope?
11. Can you recall and describe a situation or event where you experienced hopelessness?
12. How old are you? And has your relationship to hope changed over your lifetime?
13. What symbols, actions, or images in everyday life represent or show hope to you?

14. Which feeling is stronger for you today, fear or hope?

I came into this city 3 weeks after it suffered a terrorist attack, a series of bombings in public places, killing innocent people. I was afraid. I carried a big ball of fear with me into this country. And although I am experiencing more joy and hope each day here than I would on any other normal day in my life, there is still a part of me where this fear sits.
I hate the idea of fear. Even more than that I hate the idea that I am being affected by it. I hate that the people who are using fear to paralyse us, to hold us back, to stop us, or to enrage us and convince us we have enemies, that there is a them and an us, are winning over me in some small way.

Adventures In India

23 August, 2008

Warning: This entry may appear as self-indulgent. I had made an agreement with myself to keep a blog of my 3 month residency here at Darpana as I knew it would be an experience that would bring up interesting thoughts about art and life and they ways in which they connect and interact. And so I have written pages and pages to myself the past few days and then self-edited until there was nothing left that I felt worthy for public eyes. Then I watched a performance piece made here at Darpana by another foreign woman, an Italian, called ‘Western Woman’,s that was in essence a monologue of her emotional journey being here in India which I connected with so strongly that it brought me to tears. And so I decided that this ‘self-indulgent’ tangent I have been on with my writing this week may in fact contain more than is assumed at first glance. So I write…..


I have been in this country for 7 days now. It is my first time to India, a place for which I have always held great curiosity, but never ventured. This first week has been both unsettling and settling all at once. It has been a bombardment of actions, of people, of information, of unfamiliarity, but most of all of emotions and thoughts swirling through my head and heart.
It has been an extreme week.
A week of educating myself on the ways of the world here. Of working out where my boundaries are, where I can push and where I need to fall into line. Or more precisely, where are the lines?
It has been a week of meeting some wonderful, fascinating and inspiring people. Darpana is an incredible institution in that it attracts perhaps the most forward thinking, humane and just human beings in this state. I have already had many political and social conversations with people I have only just met. These people are open and warm and have passionate views and dreams of the world that match mine. The work of the company continues to impress me, in its scope, its impact, its bravery and its intelligence of head and heart. They are taking positive action in meaningful ways every day.
And then there has been the extremities of my emotions. Of loneliness, of fear, of being the ‘outsider’, of questioning my place and purpose here, of wondering what exactly it is I have to offer. The idea of 3 months in this foreign place seems at times like an eternity, with no familiar distractions – a home with no tv, no internet, no windows, no cd player, and a barely functioning toilet. I have felt naked without my luxuries. I have felt dirty and unsafe without my “axaj” and crisp white kitchen benchtops. And I have felt ridiculous for thinking such things! But slowly I have also felt myself relax over the week into the rhythm of this life, to find space and comfort in this way of living. And it is a good feeling.

So at the end of this first week I am a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Still the idea of 3 months here in some ways overwhelms me, and in other ways excites me. I have moments of fear, moments of loneliness, I have moments of inspiration, moments of awe, moments of connection, moments of excitement, and I have many questions…mainly…. What will I do here? What do I have to contribute? This is the challenge to come.


14 August, 2008

Arrival Date..Monday 18th August