The Fragrant Stench

April 15, 2011

The fragrant stench of Varanasi seeps into my bones and flushes out all that has been there before.  Babas with beards, kids with candles and goats chewing on temple offerings.  Pink tourists in white, a bicycle still in its shrink wrap being pushed along the ghat.  A horned goat gets the horn and mounts a beggar from behind.  “There is problem”!  Tennis ball bounces in from the cricket game by the temple.  Holy chanting.  Offerings offered and produce proffered.  “Chai, chai!”  And it is hot!  A baba has his monkey on a chain.  Or is it really the other way around?  Saris and mobiles.  Water pails in the sunlight.  The growling baba pulls up on his motorbike before setting up to request alms with a minimum of clothing and a maximum of necklaces.  Holy cow struggles to walk down the raked steps and stops to munch plastic on the way.  And the Ganges sparkles in the morning light.  It glistens too.  The glistening Ganges listens to the poetry of itself in an inner silent cacophony of depth.

Sue Do Neem

March on Varanasi 2011


Asha-Deep Kids show

April 15, 2011

So I am sat watching an astoundingly enthusiastic juggling act! At the front of the crowd a group of young lads who obviously dig the music are going wild our students from Asha-Deep Ashram school are jumping on top of each other to perform Acro flags and three person dragons while juggling, spinning plates and swinging poi.

I have just managed to creep away from bag-watching, after overseeing the ribbon act, to watch the show with the swelling, yet patient, crowd (the street sellers are making big bucks tonight.) Although we have our own back stage area cordoned off with sheets, there is no security and the street kids are very enquisitive.  The stage has been very well prepared, set against a white sheet backdrop with a glittering red border, the children of Asha Deep entertain the predominantly Indian crowd with a Masala of dancing, singing, drama, traditional and modern music as well as 6 circus and dance acts which PWB have overseen. A three hour epic!

Behind the stage religious life continues as the evening Puja (purifying ceremony) contends with our sound system. The tech crew seem unable to play one song all the way through and in one particularly memorable act, couples dressed in jeans and flashy jackets flip between the ever changing tempos of at least 10 songs, they are all popular however as the group of lads at the front seem intent on expressing – a mega mix of Indian Pop.

The circus acts are peppered in between: Uni-cycling, Juggling, Ribbons dancing, Hoop, Diablo and Ensemble dance. We have worked closely with the children at the after school club and its fantastic to see it all come together.  Diabolos are passed, ribbons tangled, hoops contend with Saris, frills and heavy colourful cotton, as we realize too late that a dress rehearsal could have been useful. We are all more nervous than before our own shows! We give the kids prep talks and last minute reminders of routines they have worked so hard on. Working so closely with these kids has allowed me a glimpse into their lives; I hope that has broadened their horizons too. Especially, thanks to Asha Deep  Vidayashram for allowing us to teach here.

The children who have put the most amount of practice time in really shine now, especially in the fire shows! A first for PWB in this project: a 5 person fire staff routine as well as poi, fire devil stick, juggling and fire hoop are proudly performed back to us, its very exciting to see and has been a big motivational factor for the kids! Unicycles are shared out to three kids, new to this prop at the beginning of the 4 weeks, now they are showing off their skills at the start of the show and during the interval. We all pack up together and enjoy Aloo- Chat snacks with the children, the last time we will see them. Goodbye and until next time!

– Elma

Images of Varanasi

April 15, 2011