Auto-rickshaw drivers in the city of Kochi (Cochin) – especially the Fort Kochi area- seemed to have suddenly turned a very cultivated lot. “Biennale Madam” “50 ruppees one hour” they cajole. Of course coming from Chennai (Madras) the 50 rupees an hour part shocks me more than the Biennale. Here 50 rupees would get me to the end of my street and even that after a lot of bargaining (“Petrol price ma”, “One way ma”, this that and everything else). I’m sorely tempted to take an auto from Aspinwall house to my hotel less than a kilometre away and rejoice in the pleasure of handing out meagre change as auto fare but that really wasn’t an option. I’m sure the fares would have shot up for non-artistic trips that didn’t involve hours of waiting outside exhibition venues and trips to hidden shopping treasures.
So I’d never been to a Biennale before. I have had the good fortune of having visited a number of art galleries and museums around the world but I would hardly consider myself knowledgeable to any extent about visual arts- especially contemporary art forms. When the opportunity came at work to go to the inaugural of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, I didn’t say no. The Australian contingent at the Biennale included three Australian artists- Fiona Hall, Lindy Lee and Daniel Boyd exhibiting their work.
But sure enough this was a Biennale with an Indian flavour to it, so everywhere there was palpable chaos- venues still being set up at the last minute, artists’ work not arriving at the right time. no signage, no this, no that and so on. The chaos pervaded tthe inauguration ceremony with the skies deciding to open up (after multiple light warnings) and drench all the guests including yours truly. But the artists themselves felt that despite all the chaos and the confusion there was a great collegiate spirit amongst the entire community which was rarely seen in other Biennales. So kudos to Kochi for that!
I also discovered a neat little hotel right in the middle of Kochi called Spice Fort. It was a cute little boutique hotel- one of those sprawling old mansions with numerous verandahs, balconies and courtyards converted into a tastefully decorated hotel with a swimming pool. The rooms were clean and comfy. The food quite tasty in that healthy organic kinda way (my Kerala vegetarian set lunch was a work of art with yellow cabbage curry, contrasted with bright pink beetroot raita, red carrot kurma and white rice- I didn’t take a photo but you get the idea) and best of all the hotel came with a small swimming pool that I didn’t use. I think if someone had to go to Fort Kochi to do some sightseeing or experience the Biennale then this hotel would be a great choice!
The Biennale runs until mid-March! I highly recommend that you should catch it if you can!
Oh and btw- I definitely did not leave my heart at Kochi but left my lenscap- grrr!
I recently celebrated my birthday. It amazes me that yet another year has just rushed past me. It has been an interesting year- I have not managed to do everything on my wishlist but I still managed to live through some unlooked for yet fascinating experiences.
I’d like to call the year that went by the year of Sunrises- not metaphorically- well maybe that too a bit- the year was full of new starts. But I did live through a few wonderful sunrises for real.
I almost missed a beautiful sunrise at Angkor Wat. You may have already read the story here.
A beautiful late (by my standards anything past 7am is late) sunrise at Langkawi.
The last most spectacular sunrise I experienced this year was at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It involved an early 5am start from our room- my sister and I trudged to the bus stop nearby to catch the shuttle bus to one of the view points on the rim. The thing about canyon sunrises and sunsets is that there are a vast number of points along the entire rim where you can live through the experience. However, this also means that there is a lot more confusion about where to go- especially when you are confronted with limited time. So it was quite helpful that the driver of our shuttle bus recommended Powell point to us.
Over the next one hour I captured a series of photographs of the canyon from Powell point. These photographs hopefully give you an idea of how as the sun rises, the canyon morphs from a dark form into a land of light and shadows. Truly the canyon at its most spectacular self early in the morning and late in the evening when the shadows are longest.
I was incredibly lucky to be able to observe the California Condor for a small duration of time during my recent visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim in September. The condor is the largest North American land bird with a wing span of nearly 3 metres. It went extinct in the 1980s but thanks to conservation programs- it has been re-introduced into the wild including in the Grand Canyon area- where the birds are marked by their unique number tags on both wings. The one we observed was Number 87.
I had been so obsessed with getting a good spot for capturing the sunset that I first did not even notice the condor sitting at a distance from the rim. As with all birds the condor was just sitting out of the reach of my 300mm lens and so I managed only to get distant shots.
The bird observed the tourists, took its time preening itself and then set off on it’s dinner date looking all proud and majestic. I made a few video clips that I’ve put together so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. The video quality is quite poor- this is because youtube for some mysterious reason wouldn’t upload my original quicktime format movies correctly and so I had to convert the format using windows movie maker.
One of things I really loved about Dubai (apart from the super futuristic skyline) was the uber huge Kinokuniya bookstore at the Dubai Mall. The book store is by far the largest and the best book store I’ve ever been to (unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the store) and has a vast collection of books in not just English but a variety of other languages. Of course Kinokuniya is a Japanese chain so I wasn’t surprised to find a mega section of books in Japanese (both for native speakers as well as for those pathetic souls such as myself trying to learn the language).
One of the books I picked up was this one
The editor of the book (who very interestingly describes the learning of a language as a train journey except one where we don’t know the destination- and the journey to learning tougher languages as one where the landscape changes slowly- I agree with this) curated 6 modern REAL Japanese short stories (not ones put together for text books but actual short stories read by actual people for reading by people learning Japanese.
What is really cool about the book is that it feels like a real Japanese book- one that goes from the back to the front and from right to the left and vertically! Woohoo! On the right hand side you have the actual text (with the furigana for the kanji) and on the left you have the author’s translation aide. So as long as you know your Hiragana and Katakana (which as the editor says can be learnt over a long weekend- over optimistic especially as katakana always tends to melt away from your memory) and a basic mastery of your vocab- you can start chugging along reading real Japanese literature.
There is also a quite detailed customised dictionary and grammar explanation section at the end of the book where you can check individual words and sentence patterns if you so wish to. I think the editor has put in a lot of effort to almost explain every sentence.
I bought this book in early 2013 but only now got around to reading the first story in this book. This is my usual habit and the Japanese have a word for it
A charming story called “Kamisama” roughly translated into “God” or more contextually “God Bless You” or “God of the Bears” (these translated versions exist!). The story features a warm and fuzzy theme (although surreal) and makes you realise that the important thing when you tell a story is not always the plotline but how you tell it.
At about 100 Dirhams (25 dollars/ 1400 rupees) the book is quite an expensive buy but totally worth it if you are a Japanese language learner as it makes you feel good about reading a real story. You can buy it here
For about three weekends now I keep wanting to post an inspiring and happy photo just as the weekend is about to begin but I seem to be getting to it only at the time when it’s almost Monday morning. At least this time I got around to it on the Saturday- have a great weekend everyone!