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Jun 11

Please Leave Comments!

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

Hey loyal readership (maybe three people or so, but that is okay)!

The comment section of my blog has been fixed so feel free to leave a comment.

Blog Errors and Tech Support

If you get any error messages while using this blog please email Unruly Redhead as much information you can about the problem. Include items such as:

  • The browser you are using
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Thanks

Jun 11

Bloglines Support

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

For those who use Bloglines, you need to perform the following steps to fix your Unruly Redhead subscription:

  1. In Bloglines unsubscribe to the Unruly Redhead feed.
  2. Go to http://feeds2.feedburner.com/UnrulyRedhead.
  3. Click on subscibe with Bloglines or on the Bloglines icon (this will take you to Bloglines.com).
  4. Set your preferences for the feed and click on subscribe.
  5. You can now stay current with the Unruly Redhead!
May 12

The Magic Of Man Love

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

 One of the most curious observations we made throughout or time in India was in regard to the astonishingly frequent displays of masculine affection.

 

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It is quite common to see Indian men walking hand and hand or with arms draped across the shoulders of each other. It was such a stunning reversal of the interactions we are accustomed to seeing among American men that each time we witnessed the Man Love, we found ourselves in awe and a little bit confused. It definitely made us stretch our perceptions in regard to our understanding of social norms for Indian culture.

 

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As far as what sort of interaction is acceptable between men and women in public, there are many restrictions in place that align with the conservative and traditional cultural values. Sometimes you will still see the woman walking a few paces behind her husband. More often than not, we saw mixed-gender groups with the men walking arm in arm or hand in hand in front and their wives trailing behind.

 

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And the interesting thing is that the affection shown between the men is no big deal. Apparently there are no sexual overtones to be perceived by witnessing, for example, two men lying on the grass with one of the man’s head resting in the lap of his friend.

 

It is not uncommon to see teenage boys caressing each other’s backs and hands on the bus or sitting on each other’s laps.

 

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Everywhere we went, we saw this physical comfort and affection on display and it was a refreshing change of pace from the gruff, hyper-masculine scene that one would think would accompany a more traditional and conservative culture.

 

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I remember sitting waiting at the train station in Agra and across from us sat two old men discussing the news of the day. With their bodies inclined toward each other, one of the men had his hand resting on the inside of his conversation partner’s thigh. In the U.S. people would gasp and giggle at such a display, but here it is commonplace.

 

But make no mistake. While homosexuality is not exactly criminalized in India, it is not an openly accepted lifestyle choice in general. This distinction is a tricky one for Westerners to understand, especially with Man Love being such a ubiquitous sight.

 

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It is endlessly interesting to be able to observe the different social boundaries from one culture to the next, and the magic of Man Love in India was definitely an interesting surprise.

 

Mar 29

Music & Dance In The Haveli

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

For another evening in Updaipur, our friend Sanju had his friend’s little brother take us up to a fancy haveli (traditional residence in Rajasthan and Gujarat) to see a special musical and dance performance. Since we knew people who knew people, we were able to gain admittance for free.

 

The performance consisted of several different acts that were all dedicated to a celebration of the history and culture of Rajasthan with traditional instruments.

 

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The first act we saw was a pair of women who danced the entire song with bowls of fire balanced on their heads. We were very impressed.

 

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The there was a very talented puppeteer who made those puppets perform some rather racy acts that I would have never thought possible for a puppet to pull off.

 

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The best costumes were from a performance that featured a women dressed as a peacock, one of the most revered birds in India and especially in the Rajasthani region.

 

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One of the final acts was an older woman who performed a dance that symbolized the Indian people’s relationship with water. In such a dry climate, the ritual of going far to collect water is a part of daily life for many people. As the song progressed, this women kept adding bowls to the top of her head. She started with one. Then two. Then three. Then she jumped to six. Then nine. As they increased, they also decreased in size. I believe by the end of the song she had an astonishing 12 bowls balanced on her head as she scurried across the dance floor. Even though they were symbolic and not actually filled with water, it was still rather impressive.

 

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My favorite piece of the night was a group of women wearing elaborately detailed and colorful costumes.

 

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They performed a dance that symbolized their purity as women and their commitment to community.

 

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I tried very hard to capture the movement of their gorgeous costumes in photos but it was a bit tricky.

 

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Mar 21

For The Love Of Sanju

Posted on Saturday, March 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

On our first day in Udaipur, we wandered up and down the streets in and around our guesthouse searching for good internet cafes. During that quest, we met a local artist and would-be ladies man named Sanju. Despite his soft mullet and intense stare, Sanju seemed harmless enough so we let him pull us into his shop. He immediately sat Shannon down at a small table and began to paint her fingernail.

 

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At first neither of us really understood what was happening. He worked intently for a good three or four minutes, blew on it and told Shannon to take a look.

 

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The picture does not do it justice but it is a highly detailed drawing of an elephant.

 

Then he gestured for me to sit down and he began to apply small, careful, but swift strokes with a tiny little brush. Miniature paintings are one of the region’s artesan specialties.

 

 

When he was finished, the drawing he had created was truly remarkable. He went over it with a coat of clear nail polish, blew on it and released my hand so I could examine his work.

 

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It was a peacock with its head in the center and its tailfeathers spreading out in every direction.

 

We sat and chatted with Sanju and his friend Lucky for some time. At one point they mentioned that they were going a wedding celebration in the evening, an older friend who was getting married for the second time to a woman who was also divorced. This situation is quite rare in India. Sanju and Lucky asked us if we wanted to come to the wedding with them. We thought they were joking. How can you just roll up to somebody’s wedding celebration with a couple of random white chicks?

 

But they assured us that it would not be a big deal. We went and asked our friendly and reliable Internet café manager/travel agent and he told us to go for it. Then he said, since we were going as friends of friends of the groom, we should purchase a tie to bring as a gift. We went and found a small shop selling ties and picked one out and had it wrapped.

 

Later in the evening, we met back up with Sanju and Lucky. Suddenly we were on the back of a couple of motorcycles zipping down the narrow streets weaving back and forth between pedestrians, other motorcycles, autorickshaws and cows. It was intense. I don’t think my face came out of a horrified grimace until we reached our final destination all the way across town.

 

The wedding celebration was technically day three of the wedding experience and since both the bride and groom were Muslim, it was much more subdued than non-Muslim India weddings. Still, it was packed with people all dressed in their best suits and gorgeous saris in hues of orange, vermilion, red and pink trimmed with gold.

 

We were sporting our snazzy new kurtas, and although we looked sharp for our standards, we stood no chance of competing with the lovely grace of the Indian women present. Each woman there shimmered with gold bangles and earrings and rings. Even the children were all dressed in their best outfits. Little girls as young as two and three years old were wearing thick black eyeliner and deep red lipstick.

 

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Sanju and Lucky led us into the main room and, although everyone was in the middle of piling food on their plates and engaged in boisterous conversation, seemingly all eyes turned toward us as we entered. Then the two professional photographers and the videographer marched over to us and shined a blinding, and rather large spotlight on the four of us. The groom came over and we exchanged introductions and posed for a dozen or so photos.

 

Later, Sanju escorted us upstairs where the bride and all of her female relatives were congregating. We approached the bride and kneeled down next to where she was sitting so the photographers could snap another collection of photos of us and then we headed back downstairs.

 

And the children at the wedding were quite curious about us. As soon as they saw our cameras they were all over us, clamoring to be in a picture. Then as soon as the flash went off, they would scurry over to examine the result.

 

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One of our favorites of the wedding guests was this little boy dressed all in black. He had quite a bit of spunk and was really working his shiny, snazzy suit.

 

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Later that night, Lucky ended up confessing his strong feelings for Cousin Shannon. And then the next night, Sanju did the same thing. He prefaced his admission with, “Although we have only been dating for two days….” Shannon met his gaze with absolute bewilderment. As soon as Sanju saw her gleaming smile, he said he knew instantly that she was a very good person. He said he immediately felt a strong connection to her.

 

Yadda yadda yadda.

 

She tried to play it cool and noncommittal, but the intensity of Sanju’s ardor for her weighed heavily on her shoulders. She tried to walk the fine edge of not leading him on while still being open and friendly. I foresee this trait of Shannon’s getting us into some hot water many more times along our journey.

 

Somehow, I don’t seem to possess this same trait. And Sanju picked up on this. Although he held out his hand and greeted me with the honorific “Helenji” when we would walked by, there was no hint of a smile in his eyes for he knew me to be his enemy. Rather than “Helenji: Charming cousin of his beloved Shannon” I was “Helenji: Coldhearted Cockblock.”

 

It progressed to the point where he would cross his arms and sulk if we walked by and didn’t have time to sit and chitchat over a cup of chai. Needless to say, we were not incredibly sorry about leaving town at dawn without having said our last goodbyes. With his penchant for belting out mournful old-school Bollywood ballads, Sanju would not have let Shannon leave Udaipur without a good dose of melodrama.