Wednesday 28 October 2015

Volunteering for Wall-art at Bhujodi, Kutch.

One of the reasons I went to Kutch was with the idea of volunteering for wall-art. I didn't know how and where but just knew I wanted to and that I would! Luckily the Director of Khamir, Meera, put me in touch with one of the more influential people in Bhujodi village, called Chaman Bhai, and I was all set for my wall-art there.

I went around with Chaman Bhai exploring different options of walls which could be painted and also talking to the village people about what they would like to see on the wall. I wanted an expansive canvas for wall-art and finally found one: the facade of the house belonging to Dayabhai Ala, an award winning weaver. The wall was painted with an advertisement of JK Cement which I got white washed. There was also a notice board on the wall and it was the main wall of the village where people would gather for important meetings and to read instructions/notices, etc, on the notice board.

The wall was 22 feet wide and 13 feet height and I completed that in 4 days. At the end of it, each muscle of mine was sore, and I had tanned 5 shades, but every bit was worth it. I stood on a drum to paint the upper parts of the wall, with a constant buzz of inquisitive children, village elders and wandering cows, who tried to chew the cardboard box in which I had kept the paints, twice.

Bhujodi is a village entirely of handloom weavers. And they also follow the legacy of the 15th century saint-poet, Kabir. So some of the motifs they wanted on the wall was Sant Kabir, a loom, a doha of the saint, and the motifs used in weaving which is typically geometric patterns, as you will see in the images. The doha the village people wanted was 'Patta toota daali se, le gayi pawan udaye, abke bichhde kab mile, dur padenge jaaye', which means leaves fall from trees and the wind carries them far away, and that is the way of life too. In the earlier days, the weaver community  had a symbiotic relationship with the nomadic Rabari community of shepherds. The shepherds would provide wool for weaving to the weavers and the weavers would in turn provide temporary shelter to the nomads. So I also incorporated motifs of the nomadic tribes in the wall-art. Let me take you through the images.

The completed wall. 

Vankar Dayabhai Ala, the house owner and award winning artisan/weaver.

Peacock and bird motifs used in embroidery by the nomadic Rabari community.

The Rabari herdsman with a camel and goat. The cactus represents the vegetation of the region. 

The Tree of Life made with weaving motifs. 

Sant Kabir and his tanpura. 

Add caption

The sun and the clouds.

Sant Kabir's doha, Patta toota daali se, le gayi pawan udaye, abke bichhde kab mile, dur padenge jaaye, which means leaves fall from trees and the wind carries them far away, and that is the way of life too. 

The loom. 

That's me beaming that the mural is finally over. 

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The Wonders of Abdominal Breathing.

If you’ve met me in the last one year, chances are you would have received an unsolicited lecture on abdominal breathing. I can ‘see’ some of you smiling! I thought I must share this with a wider audience as this may benefit some others as it has benefitted me. It was 2 years ago that my husband and I learnt Kriya yoga. While I don’t practice the entire breathing sequence, what stuck to me is abdominal breathing which is used in Kriya yoga.

So let me tell you how I discovered this magical tool which is available anywhere, anytime and free of cost! Last year in November, I was diagnosed with dengue and was hospitalized. Although I knew about belly breathing, it did not occur to me how it had benefitted me until I was discharged from the hospital. In the hospital, my husband stood by my bedside asking me to take deep breaths through my stomach. Though I was weak, I did as much and for as long as I could. As soon as I was discharged from the hospital I was up and about. I did not feel excessively weak as is the case with dengue cases (which I realized much later). I was discharged on 25th November evening and 27th early morning at 5 am I was off with my husband to attend the Passing Out Parade (POP) at the National Defense Academy (NDA). My Mother thought I was crazy. But that was an event I was looking forward to for many months and I was feeling well enough to go.

People who came to visit me at home were surprised when I myself opened the door and was helping my Mom in the kitchen. They expected to see me bed-ridden. Exactly a week after I was discharged, we met two dear Army friends. The gentleman remarked that he couldn’t believe I was in the hospital just last week as he had seen many able bodied Army men look like zombies for 2 months after a dengue attack. Another hilarious incident happened when 2 weeks after returning from the hospital, my brother-in-law from Chennai, decided to pay a surprise visit to see how I was recuperating. I had just returned from a jog and was cooking breakfast when he came. He looked really confused about my condition. My Mother kept informing me of people who even two months later enquired very sympathetically about my health.

It was then I wondered about why I had literally and almost instantly sprung back to good health. The answer was clear: Belly breathing! Since then I have been practicing belly breathing for all ailments and physical and emotional too and giving unsolicited lectures on it to unsuspecting people ;-)
Whether it’s an itchy throat signaling the onset of fever (in my case), or a headache, or even indigestion or feeling stuffed after overeating, I do abdominal breathing and I’m back to normal. In May sometime, I went for a jog without a warm up (don’t ask me why), and suddenly while jogging I felt a shooting pain on my right calf muscle. I had to stop and limp back to my house. For 2 days I went around limping and no amount of stretching or pain balms helped. I don’t know why but only on the 3rd day it occurred to me that I should try belly breathing. I did and next day onwards I was walking normally and 3rd day onwards I was back to jogging. I was surprised! Now my husband too had a knee injury from running since January and medicines and Physiotherapy wasn’t helping too. So after breathing had cured me of my severe catch on my leg, I asked my husband to try that for his knee. Without exaggeration, the pain which had been with him for 5 months disappeared in less than a week’s time!

Even right before my Himachal trip, just a week before, I had sprained my right ankle by missing a step. As soon as I fell down, my first thought was, “Gosh my trip is in 6 days”. Almost instantly I remembered the abdominal breathing and did that almost continuously. And needless to say, I did go on my trip, walked a lot, climbed trees, etc. My ankle did feel wobbly at times and I pacified it with breathing.

Fast forward to 2 days back. On Thursday, last week, I cut my tongue while eating, and it was very painful. I saw that there was a boil like growth where it was painful and I had slurred speech on Thursday and Friday. I was worried about how I would host guests who were visiting the next 2 days. I decided to try the breathing on the boil. I sat down and did a 100 breaths and went about my work. Suddenly while talking to my husband, I realized I wasn’t slurring and there was no pain. I rolled my tongue on the roof of mouth and still no pain. The boil had disappeared! This was really a miracle!

Another important and remarkable recovery was that of my Father-in-laws’. Around two years ago, he was diagnosed with the first stages of Parkinson’s disease. And when he came to visit us in Pune last year in August, he was already around 10 months into the illness and had been on medication for the same. My husband taught him belly breathing and insisted that he must do 100 breaths each day without fail. And within two months there was no trace of Parkinson’s!

Even when I’m emotionally disturbed or angry or even when I sense anger/frustration rising in me, I just breathe and I’m fine and able to be more objective about the situation. And yes, breathing has made me happier!

Now-a-days, I breathe through the belly whenever I remember and I’m conscious of it, like, while I’m typing this. If I am not regularly breathing through the stomach, I sit down and do belly breathing for as long as possible, sometimes for upto one hour. Whenever I have tried it, it has worked and I am still discovering its benefits with each passing day.

How to do it: Doesn’t matter if you are sitting, standing, sleeping! Just take deep breaths through the belly. It means, feel your belly expanding and contracting with each breath. For any ailment in a specific part of the body, you need to use your imagination a bit. For example; if I am having knee pain, I imagine my knee breathing in and out, although I continue breathing through the abdomen. If you find it difficult to imagine this, place your palm on the ailing part and breathe through the belly, at the same time bringing your awareness on that part of the body.

I remember in one of Lobsang Rampa’s books, he had mentioned that pain in any part of the body occurs because of a lack of oxygen supply to that part. May be that’s why bringing one’s awareness to that part and breathing through the abdomen works so well. I also remember a scene from the movie ‘Black Swan’ where Natalie Portman goes to the doctor for a strain in a muscle and the doctor tells her “Breathe into it” (into that part of the body).
Even babies and Rishis naturally breathe through their abdomen. Maybe we need to re-learn the natural way of breathing. It surely has helped me. Try it out and do let me know if it helps you!

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