Tag Archives: kochi

Field Notes: Auroville, observations feeling lost (at first)

Intro / Disclaimer (longer than actual notes): I hesitate to publish this flashback diary, not because I fear away from my notion of embracing translucency in personal archaeology, but rather because these are notes from the first couple of days and after sort of a disconnected start (keep in mind, I had just come out of several weeks of fairly solitary time at an Ayurveda hospital).

Anyhow my (I don’t know how to say it) my “community building instincts” kicked in and I made friends with some fun Italians who had a house and some herb, we did some slacker yoga, met a young Indian man studying sustainable architecture and connected him with the wider hemp as a building material community which has gone on to be fruitful relationships, met some wonderful wise elder ladies from Iceland and Switzerland, sort of fell into my rhythm.

Matrimandir thatta way

Plus, I learned logistics about “how to live there which basically is “if you can contribute something, you can make it happen”.

So this part of the story which sounds a little bit bleak and, in many ways is accurate though as in recent times (as a round this up in 2022,) there are emerging and ongoing controversies about how a place like this should be governed which brings in a lot of questions about privilege, colonialism, ecology, status of the land itself, the intentions of founders (and how much that matters and how is to be interpreted), which all brings tension between long timers, and newer inter-lopers, and the people around the international enclave who are just living and trying to make the best of their life in a larger country which still kind of figuring out who wants to be in the bigger world.

oh here is Matrimandir

So,… there’s this part of the story and then the part where I had to leave suddenly upon the passing of my mother and make a rapid trip to Utah, (talk about culture shock!), on the middle, there were some pleasantness which I’ll try to articulate along the way under separate cover.

In short, I found that there was a need for archivists, librarians, radio talkers, communications types and I suddenly saw how I might fit in and disappear there forever.

Of course I loaded up on artifacts, ephemera and items from the bookstore with the teachings of the founders and various dispatchers and missives about peace and community. (Some made it in to a scrapbook chronicling the heart-wrenching trip from India to Utah and beyond).

I’m saying this because there’s a lot more to say but in the meantime I was also dealing with the crisis of the withdrawal of Rs.1000 and Rs.5000 bank notes from circulation which resulted in empty bank machines, and no way to get cash (which was particularly amusing/ironic in this cashless society when one really needed cash to not use cash – but without a bank account well… folks were flying to Sri Lanka just to exchange money and come back which seems to defeat the whole point of an ecologically sustainable and equitable community!).

As fate (if that’s a thing) had it, things went differently, very differently, but this place remains in my head as I try to sort out the conundrum to address here on these first tentative days, but also in my heart simply for the fact that this kind of “unique/weirdness” exists.

I hope to return, or maybe not, I just hope something like this exists in some utopian form. Yep, one can dream right?

Added a few snapshots in here, others will go in a sort of “in between days” post” (pardon my notes to self).

Oh and more about this time appears in audio form as “Field Notes from Elsehwere, Choogle On #121” in which i tell *way too much* about the missing years.

Auroville Observations

So far, its much more intense than intentional. Can a community grow into a city without bureaucracy, boards, meetings, committees, resolutions, motions, applications, infighting, mandatory contributions and acronyms?

Seems perhaps not, or is it? It seems not. Or is it rule dependent? Or personality driven?

But strong leaders go rogue and sex and power corrode.

Frequent complaining, loud motorbikes, local workers and no hellos and/or Namastes.

I have tea in a stainless steel cup. Will food come to me as a notice my cane? I suspect not.

With respect to intention and effort, are you simply trading one framework for another with new names?

various shrines but not “religious”

The spirituality if any is in the background. “Love” is the word but not evident in action. No hugs, no warmth, not cold communication but hardly an emotional symbiotic place or perhaps not physically evident.

Now, one full day in… Awaiting dinner after fumbling through woods on a dark trail. Why am I so unsatisfied? All afternoon scrapbooking, letter/package making-is it that I don’t understand this place yet? The only people who come to talk are other new people or “tourists”.

restaurants are neither businesses nor not-businesses, cash is no cash but cash

I get that long timers make this community for themselves and not for passers-thru but, still… This is neither a spiritual holy land nor brilliantly efficient or revolutionary self-sufficient nor rock ‘n’ roll fun nor artsy-craftsy-though all those elements exist.

No “religion” per se but cult of work-that’s sort of OK-not warm but not clinical. No hugs still, no hellos or help all day long. So many complainers!

Even at the visitor center-everyone is on mobile’s-services spread out making wearing motorcycles and scooters necessary. Townhall was well, a Townhall. You change money for a card with Receipts and *sign here* for everything.

I buy and read all the books and I’m down with the charter and respect and work but somehow it feels oddly-indifferent to outsiders no doubt and unashamed to say-a shortage of houses but no quick prefab dwellings.

Old ideas are cool with local artisans but if a shortage is thwarting progress from only 2800-ish to a projected (and seemingly unreasonable 50,000) how well it scale?

I don’t care as I like small but masterplan seems dependent on a few “lions” and long timers. Sure it makes sense in a traditional conventional sense but it all seems so fragile and rather self-congratulatory while more or less like the old west of the myths of America – pioneer families incorporating a new town while carpet-baggers roll in often with new ideas and are branded “newcomers” even after a decade or so.

New arrivals who wish to settle are vetted after a year or longer. You have to contribute *something* of value (skills, building, biz…) which the community deems needed.

But the “community leadership” is nebulous and confused (from my vantage point). The newbs post bond in form of an air ticket home – your “home” isn’t here, it’s where you “come from” not like rainbow gatherings where the greeting is “welcome home” – maybe because of the outside political situation, hedging bets with a “punt play”.

The pain and guilt of socioeconomic class is palatable and unresolved.

Yet here I feel so alone despite surrounded by people for the first time in weeks. But no eye contact no warmth – to me at least.

Now I will eat and hope it’s just a bad day despite a walk to the visitor center, watching an introductory film, purchasing books with rupees for which change is difficult, chatting on blankets and towel, getting “non-cash” card, buying items to eat: pears and curd and cookies on bed while I listen to favorite music but all I think is “I am lost.”

mighty banyan tree
Continue reading Field Notes: Auroville, observations feeling lost (at first)

Diary: Leaving India ~ rapidly, in a fog (Nov. 2016)

Nov. 29, 2016, 9:04 AM, Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India – i ordered this coffee and turned on phone…

Note: transcribed with light editing from my scribbled journal made in “real time” as always more to say but this is what is there is – read between lines, follow rabbit holes to fill in the blanks if curious. (will add more about Auroville at some point and more about dear Mom’s passing including my letters to her and obituary within)

Afterward: includes notes from the interlude

Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India – 9:04 AM, Nov. 29, 2016

After a visit to Townhall and Mathrimandir, near the visitor centre, hot coffee in small brass cup, turn on the pocket robot and (oddly) a barrage of messages on all channels, so many – I am confused (hithero ignored) – then email/every-messaging-channel – I read the first line, baffled but know something is terrible! so try to call brother Anders.

the day before, visiting golden dome dedicated to motherly love #sigh

Calls (over dodgy internet) are made and calls are dropped again and again after 3 words – finally, i hear “what” and say “Chennai airport, open the envelope, four hours” fast – go! {The envelope in Vegas contains access to Dashlane app which has all passwords credit cards and passport and a friend who is so good and helpful from home HQ.}

My location wasn’t on itinerary and no matter, no coverage anyhow. I was on my way to a post office to mail a dossier to Nick Bantock and then to the golden temple of meditation and somehow it all happened.

accomms in Auroville, met folks from many countries, enjoyed activities after a confusing start. i could *stay* here – i have skills

Hustle back to “Joy Community House” breathlessly explain. Return card to townhall. (Kind ladies hug me and give me “rescue remedy” in a glass bottle. I was just getting familiar and how do you explain this to someone? How do we humans know how to react. Grateful for wise ladies).

Bundle gear from cute room
Quick shower ("I will need this," he says from experience)
Call a taxi quicker
ring a taxi, try to make my situation understood, i look at my shoes

Fast to Chennai

Buy a bag of fruit from roadside, gogo man! eat bananas.

Shaking queasy, drink two coconuts en route

3 anna half hours weaving between cows

Coming the busses directly ahead! Fck Honk!

Roadhouses and truck stops and urine stained curbs and fields

Smoke two beedies each stop

Quick quick!

– dave in taxi

At airport, taxi drivers lounge around their classic sleds – i want to stay and ask them to take me far away. I don’t care to leave *at all*.

not my taxi driver, but other taxi drivers
Continue reading Diary: Leaving India ~ rapidly, in a fog (Nov. 2016)

Healing: Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra, review

panorama of the neighbourhood from the rooftop of Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra in Kerala, India

Continuing the story of my stay at Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra iin Trippunithura, (near Kochi), Kerala, India. Part 1 is a personal diary of my stay seeking treatment for syndromes, there is also a collection of “Kerala Field Notes” with riffs and lousy snaps about a few other activities while there.

For background on the series, check the Healing Ramble introduction video and follow along for Auroville diary, a rapid exit and then onwards to Nepal and possibly Pacifica, maybe Adelaide. Maybe you already saw the dispatches from Phitsanulok, Thailand. 

Unsurprisingly, there are various photo essays (ephemera, Lomo “spy camera” from a cenotaph in b&w or colour for your amusement), a Remembrance Day podcast and video spiel from Gandhi beach.

Next, (for convenience and hopeful promotion of Dr. Veena’s Ayurveda Hospital – Gmap), sharing a publicly-posted review (under no-longer-secret-pseudonym), ergo:

Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra Review

I recently stayed three weeks in-patient at Dr Veena’s Ayurmantra and found the experience was exceptional due to the kindness and skill of Dr. Veena and Dr. Hamesh. 

After years of shuffling between all manner of specialist doctors with divergent opinions but no solutions besides prescription medications and experiencing little to no improvement, I decided to try a non-traditional approach with Ayurvedic medicine and set out to find a clinic which suited my needs. I wanted a place that was small and attentive and not a “tourist spa”. Further, I sought a place with amenities and cleanliness which would make my stay pleasant.  Continue reading Healing: Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra, review

Kerala Field Notes: painting, rupees, museum, specs, wedding etc

The doors open, you don’t know where you might go, so you go

An omnibus round-up for lousy photos of logistical considerations, various tasks and personal memories in Thrippunithura (Kochi), Kerala, India (wiki), late 2016 while staying at Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra hospital. Please read the related story and consider watching the “Healing Ramble, introduction” video for context on this series. 

In the neighbourhood

sherbet coloured houses in the neighbourhood 

I sought permission to go out of the house to explore the neighbourhood, and after a while, she relented, warning me of the intense heat. I made a few oil pastel paintings of neighbouring houses which were all “sherbet coloured“ with lime greens, tangerine oranges and lavender which I found delightful.

i stepped out to make oil pastel painting and quickly made pals / note my awsum disposable clothes 

However, as soon as I would sit down with my art supplies, the neighbourhood boys and men would gather around to see what I was doing, ask me dozens of questions, and look on intently at everything I was doing. Continue reading Kerala Field Notes: painting, rupees, museum, specs, wedding etc

Healing: Story of Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra ~ Thrippunithura, Kerala, India

Me and Mr. Mohammed the Ayurvedic practitioner at Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra in Kerala, India

What follows comes from my erstwhile “Healing Journal” – written/compiled on a foggy meandering journey to various countries (Pacifica, Phitsanulok, Cochin/Kochi, Pokhara, Dikwella/Galle…) visiting all manner of hospitals, clinics and exploring various healing modalities and techniques. Shared here more-or-less unedited for posterity (whatever that is) and to shed light to those struggling who might come across this riff.

Please watch the “Healing Ramble, introduction” video for context on this series. Importantly, this is not meant to be a travelogue or creative writing exercise, just laying out my experience as it came to me. I may include some links to other projects or creations that came out of this, maybe… I’m not there yet.

This entry, from Thrippunithura (Kochi), Kerala, India (wiki), late 2016 and was written during my stay and in the weeks following – hence possible tense shifting and “note-style”. For the record: it’s nowJune 2021, i live in Japan, am stable if far from “normal”.  No advice or sympathy requested or accepted. Carry on. 

Thrippunithura, Kerala, India , Nov. 2016

Intro: On my healing journey, I had tried most every possible medical modality to find some relief, and was determined to try everything which showed reasonable promise a benefit.

A friend from Dubai recommended Ayurveda as a natural and holistic approach, and in a fog – truly, in a really difficult point in my healing process, I investigated 20+ Ayurvedic clinics in India and Sri Lanka – very rapidly and without knowing what i was doing really…, received all manner of different replies, prices and recommendations.

my first cup of Chai in India! such splendid heaven for a dime

I settled on Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra the province/state of Kerala, India due her excellent clear communications and no nonsense approach to the clinic (some seemed dodgy, others were “resorts for yuppies” with very high rates, most told me to “call” and i am not a phone calling type). 

Settling-in

I flew from Thailand (after time doing a load of tests at a hospital in Phitsanulok) to Kochi (aka Cochin), spent two nights in an airport hotel recovering in a bath {note: will share travel tips later in the series}, venturing out only to drink coconut (below) and tea (above) and rolled by taxi to the clinic – exhausted, demoralized, confused but open to anything.

stepping out into “all of the India” to drink a coconut 

The clinic was run by a whip smart woman named Dr. Veena who was sometimes assisted by her husband, a jovial tall thin man named Dr. Hemesh who worked at a regional Ayurveda hospital requiring a long bus ride for him every day. Such chemistry between them ;)

I lived in-patient in this facility for three weeks. My room was simple with the bed, wardrobe and desk and a wet bathroom. For much of the time, I was the only patient in their small three-story facility. Other times, there was a couple from Malaysia.

They also had a wonderful 3-year-old daughter who spent the day with relatives and came home welcoming me with a best hug calling me “Uncle”. The staff included a house lady, and a practitioner, a short Muslim man with a moustache – though almost every man the state of Kerala had a moustache. My 3 week, intensive, in-patient program of traditional Ayurvedic treatments was designed to address chronic pain, pain and heaviness in legs, reduced/uneven sleep. The treatments consisted of various massages with medicated oils, plus inhalations, purging, dripping medicated oil/milk on forehead, eyewashes … plus specific food for body’s needs, meditation time, stretching and a variety of herbal medications.

assorted Ayurvedic medications i took “to go” at the end of my treatment cycle along with Dr Veena’s handwritten direction 

Left with 2 month program of medications (capsules, liquids, ghee, powders…) and advice to avoid cold, avoid acidic food and meat, do yoga stretching and breathing exercises. Day-to-Day

Shirodhara vessel for gently pouring liquids over the forehead 

Continue reading Healing: Story of Dr. Veena’s Ayurmantra ~ Thrippunithura, Kerala, India

Waiting, not Riding

Waiting for a train
Alone amongst a billion
Just to pass by, not to ride

No where to go
But to my healing room.
Not the Darjeeling Limited
but moreorless the same
sweet lime or milk chai
your choice, 6 Rp
Moreorless.

Train rolls by
I jump a tuktuk
He drops me off
Somewhere wrong.

Watercolours & oil pastels, Trippunithura, Kerala, India, 2016 (thank you Dr. Veena)

In process / tea cup for watercolours
Tuk tuk in general direction
Station from bench

Diary: Otoosan’s (FiL) 65th Birthday

Happy Birthday to this fun-loving, shogi-playing, loud-talking, curry-making, sweet & kind (with great head of hair), retired civil engineer and new Grandfather.

65 today and hilarious and serious all at the same time / Celebrating with take-home South India Kerala curry & veggies from Spicy Spice resto (thanks Shabin Jabbar!) here in pleasant Okayama, Japan. 

Anyhow, being a foreign son-in-law in Japan ain’t always easy (as I understand it) so feeling rather fortunate for this kindly and fun father-in-law. 

For dessert, he gets to hold Ichiro 😉!

Delicious Kerala-style bento (though not in stainless steel tiffin ;)) Continue reading Diary: Otoosan’s (FiL) 65th Birthday

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi, Kerala (2016) – Lomo photos (colour)

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: coconuts make a fine beverage and snack
Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: coconuts make a fine beverage and snack

Arriving in India via Cochin (Kochi), Kerala, bound for an extended stay in an Ayurvedic clinic in Tripunitura, i snapped impressions along the way, capturing the washes of colours and shapes of everyday life. Also a trek into Fort Kochi on Remembrance Day to pay respects at a cenotaph (documented in a B&W photo essay and a Remembrance day podcast and a peace ramble video)

Snapped with a Lomo La Sardina (sardine can) camera with expired 35mm film, presented “as-is” with no edits and limited context, for your amusement and my memory.

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: the church was built by Portuguese, renovated by Dutch, utilized by Brits and now... mostly a museum (Vasco da Gama's bones were interred there for period)
Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: the church was built by Portuguese, renovated by Dutch, utilized by Brits and now… mostly a museum (Vasco da Gama’s bones were interred there for period)

Continue reading Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi, Kerala (2016) – Lomo photos (colour)

Concerning Danger…

Danger is evidently everywhere, not always warned so plainly.

Remembrance Day 2016 Peace Ramble in Cochin, Kerala, India


11:11, 11/11, in Cochin, India, Dave – wearing a handmade poppy on Mahatma Gandhi beach by Chinese fishing nets – riffs about sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, flyers, resistance fighters, parents. Plus discusses the importance of avoiding jingoism which leads to war and death and name-checks Henry David Thoreau, condemns greed, and encourages peace and diplomacy and compassion.