Coexisting with India’s bureaucracy, as every Indian would surely agree, is not an easy thing. For foreigners this is compounded by the country’s paranoia over security issues. This time I have been working with two problems: the online purchase of train tickets and of an Indian SIM card, both of which proved tiresome and ended in failure though I’ve managed many times in the past. Yet from year to year the rules grow more complicated, and procedures that with infinite time and patience could be expected to work ultimately end in failure. For now I have given up on both counts. I am using a SIM from home, and there are other ways to buy train tickets, of course.
I arrived in India on December 26, after buying a flight on Kiwi.com that transferred me through Dubai. As far as I checked, only they offered this connection, because it was not formally a connection, but two separate and distinct flights. I had to go through Dubai’s passport control. But this was fairly easy, and the 3.5 hour layover proved to be plenty of time to get through immigration and change terminals. Still, if the airport had been busier, perhaps the process would not have been quite so relaxed.
Entering Mumbai was also easy to negotiate. G had given me precise instructions on reaching his friend’s apartment and a black-and-yellow taxi (the cheapest kind – avoid the expensive alternatives) took me there, over the new Sea Link route (for which you must pay the toll). The apartment is in one of the old houses on a side street not far from the Taj Mahal hotel and the Regal Cinema. It is high-ceilinged and graced by old-style or antique furniture – it’s been a while since I have slept in a semi poster bed.
Walking around the next day, it took me a couple of hours to get used again to the comparative squalor of Indian city streets. But I quickly got over that, so that it seems normal again.
My flights required me to travel light this time. Kiwi said that I was formally limited to one 5 kg bag, though I had realized that was probably not true. Spicejet’s limit for cabin luggage is 7 kg, and I made sure to stay within that. Actually it was borderline, but I placed some of the heavier items in my travel vest, which wasn’t weighed, and they also did not weigh the laptop bag. So my backpack registered as 5 kg and the man said “perfect”. However, due to the need to travel light, I left my camera at home and will rely upon my cellphone. Still, looking at my travel vest, the Indian airport immigration officer asked if I was a photographer. They are so so afraid of journalists in this country. I laughed at his suggestion that this was a photographer’s vest and said I was actually here for meditation. If he had pressed, I could have pointed out that I wasn’t even carrying a camera.
I have been walking around the area of the old Fort district, after reading a couple of books I found in my room on walking tours of Bombay’s historical area. Basically, there are many old buildings, most in a sad state of disrepair. But still a lot of history. I was particularly fascinated by St. Thomas Cathedral, with its many markers and plaques concerning British colonial officers cut down by attacks, overexposure to the sun, and probably disease, though the latter isn’t mentioned so often. One of the plaques even commemorates a member of the Scott expedition to Antarctica.
They have started up again. I was almost sure that the temporary ceasefire would become permanent; despite all odds, I guess. When I started my afternoon walk there were the booms of missile interceptions; then, on the way home, I looked up to see more. That was quite a big round. Although it was far away, I crouched down next to a tree, because, who knows, there have been stories of shrapnel falling.
But all this is nothing compared to the mass murder taking place in Gaza, probably as I write these lines. By now, I think there is nothing that Israel could do that would give me a worse opinion of it. To all would-be Khalistans, Kurdistans, Catalunias, Euscadis and Islamic caliphates, I say there is no place in the world for more homogeneous homelands. All countries should belong to all of their inhabitants, whatever their religion, language, culture or ethnic affiliation they may be. We don’t need more countries based on race or religion or other traits. They all end up discriminating against, or oppressing, or exterminating, some of their inhabitants. No modern country, even outliers like Japan, is 100% “pure”.
And yet who am I to say: it’s not as if anybody is going to ask my opinion. Neither am a loyal resident citizen of any state. In addition, even when states declare themselves to be multicultural, this does not always help them to be less discriminatory. The European countries are, to a greater or a lesser degree, secular, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. But all have populations that feel alienated, oppressed or discriminated against on the basis of their group identity.
As usual, in my thoughts, I start from the place of hating what Israel is doing, and end with the understanding that all nations are doing terrible things. Indeed, Israel could not be murdering Palestinians without international support. The support comes from those nations which, on the face of it, seem more moral. I end by wondering if I’m an anarchist; but, at a time when the world has such serious problems to address, in a super-organized way, nation states seem to be necessary. We simply don’t have time to hope for an alternative.
So I go back to the position in which I already find myself: an individual trying to live according to the dharma, to live frugally and morally. I could join movements for change, but activism isn’t my strength, and this is a time of life for retirement and other pursuits.
In August – September 2023 we visited a friend in Ibiza. These are some photos of our time there.
Photos from Ibiza, summer 2023
Over the weekend I began to learn more about LightZone, which is one of the best photo editing programs available to Linux users (it’s also cross-platform).
I have previously tended to use DarkTable more often. LightZone is easier to learn, but is still quite a powerful non-destructive editor. It handles RAW formats of many cameras, has built in styles, and seems to have a more logical workflow. As in DarkTable or GIMP, one can select parts of an image to work on separately.
Years ago, LightZone was a commercial program, but its source was later released on GitHub. Since then it has been maintained by a couple of developers who have not always had enough time to give to the project. However recently it has been showing some new development. The version has been bumped up from 4.5.2 (available as a flatpak to 5.0 beta, which is available in a Debian depository. Yesterday I filed bug reports on two issues, and already today a new beta was released, which resolves the more substantive issue. Thanks to Masahiro Kitagawa, the current main developer, for this quick action. The ability to reach out to and communicate with developers is the best aspect of using open source software.
Additional resources for LightZone:
Step right up my friends Life will no longer be dull Once you got some French tentatively:
Venez les amis la vie ne sera plus terne Avec le francais
From July to September 2023 there were no additions to this blog. There have been occasional short posts on social media, but not a lot there either. Going forward, we will see.
Farewell, Sinead, Shuhada.
I guess it should not be a surprise that she died so young, but nevertheless, I feel shocked and sad at the news. She was such an incredible combination of fragility, power, rawness and beauty. In this time of enormous fakery, there was nothing fake about her. Although she was a distant “star” and a celebrity, and it was difficult to keep track of her crazy meanderings through life, religion, mental illness, fame and notoriety, her music touched us on a personal level; it entered us deeply, and found the raw parts of ourselves. So losing her also feels like something of a personal loss – not just like the passing of another famous singer.