Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bengali in Beijing Part 1

Don't even mention the word 'Tibet' around here. They might not know what you are saying and you'll get in trouble. Fair enough, you say, and then go to the monastery and find the Buddhist mahamantra written in Tibetan on the rockfaces.

Anyway...had to start blogging at some stage. But when work forces you to get around five hours' of extremely tired sleep everyday, blogging is the last thing on your mind. Anyway...here's a beginning. Not a very wordy one. More picturesque than anything. But what the heck! We went to an old Chinese monsatery where the Beijing International Media Centre had arranged a bit of a song and dance thing from some of the 56 Chinese communities - or nationalities, as they are called here.
This, an annual dance common to most Chinese communities - or nationalities as they call them here. A symbolic process of washing away sins. Not too different from Holi, except that it's a bit more refined here. No colours. No overall nonsense. But boys do chase girls and make them wetter than they make other boys.
Another shot from the same ceremony. Important because the photograph was taken at precisely the right moment, catching the arc of the water beautifully. A French photographer was with us and got himself completely drenched trying to get that perfect shot. He came back dripping water but without a single shot as good as this one, taken from a safely dry spot well away from the water. He admitted so himself. I offered to give my shot to him. He wouldn't take it. These photographers are crazy!
Part of a harvest dance - this man is the baddie, the big insect that spoils all the crops. Lovely costume, no? An acrobat appeasing the Buddha ahead of performing this breathtaking stunt of climbing up a ladder of blades. Not alone. With his two young disciples.
That's him, up on the ladder, clinging to a blade, making life as tough for himself as possible.

This ornately dressed elderly lady was playing a metallic drum while the crazy acrobat was making love to those blades. A rhythmic, almost hypnotic beat.
Drummers of the mountaineous Jingpo tribe. A rather wild, exciting people with wonderfully energetic dances, high energy beats, long-haired men and very pretty ladies. Interestingly, partly because they are darker than the rest of the Chinese, the Jingpos are believed to have links with India.
Another tribe - probably the Mians. Unattractive women, uninteresting music, attractive costumes in a Naga sort of way.
There they are - dancing away behind me. Very boring dance. Much like the oh-how-quaint Santhal dances we have with a Naga touch courtesy the costumes.
Our lovely Jingpo guide. Speaks broken English and has a name that I will never be able to pronounce. And she wasn't able to write it down in English.
A little souvenir shop by the trail. The boy was not asked to pose for me. He stands like that, in the same pose, pretty much all day. And he's not crazy. He just stands there. Maybe he has been asked to. Not sure. He just does.
Me with the women. The unnamed Jingpo girl and three of our BIMC volunteers. Interestingly, all bespectacled. On the streets, you will find that Beijing has many more women than men. And you will find that Beijing has many more people with bad eyes than good eyes. The Buddha provides the background.
At the monastery. Evidently evil.