Sunday, January 29, 2012

Travels with an Identity Thief - Part Two

So here I am in Varanasi, searching out experiences that will reveal Marilyn’s character and provide settings for scenes in the new book. I have assumed her identity yet in many ways she is a total mystery. She is an artist who lives through her eyes, while I’m a writer who lives through words. And how can I think straight, with my senses transfixed by the chaotic sights and sounds around me?

The annual Hindu festival of Durga Puja is in full swing. The streets of Veranasi are packed with worshipers of the goddess, who have come to offer food and flowers at her feet and visit the pandals (temporary temples) where they celebrate the goddess who saved the entire cosmos from destruction! Trucks packed with young men commandeer the narrow alleyways, blasting earsplitting chants and music in honor of the holiday. The best I can do is to keep my eyes open and “give” Marilyn my camera, setting her loose to follow her instincts...

It’s dawn, and Marilyn and I watch a golden streak of sunlight paint the dark waters of the river as we listen to the happy chatter of bathers near the ghat steps. Maa Ganga envelops us inher peaceful embrace. India may be crowded, noisy and hectic, but carved into the chaos, like a Buddhist cave hollowed out in a rock, moments of boundless serenity await.   I know Marilyn will stay in Veranasi for at least a year –far longer than the three days I will be here – and that I too will be back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Travels with an Identity Thief - Part One

It's been a while since I've posted but I have a good excuse - traveled to India, where I assumed the identity of Marilyn, a character in a new book I'm co-writing with Arindam Roy. I covered a lot of ground on the Subcontinent and will start with my marvelous experience in Varanasi, where I stayed at Nirman School and met many talented teachers and artists.  On my very first day I was privileged to hear the classical vocalist and Bhajan singer, Ganesth Mishra, accompanied by Nawal Singh on tabla. Since one of the characters in the new book is also a talented singer, this was a good sign that my travels were already bearing fruit.

Marilyn is an artist, so my second day in Varansi I interviewed a remarkable mural painter from Kerala, Suresh Nair. He works with traditional materials, which means it takes him a full month to prepare the surface of a brick wall with layers of lime, sand, and coconut milk before painting. Visit his Facebook page to learn more!

Photo courtesy of
Balakrishnan Kavungal Anat
Stay tuned for more pictures and some discussion of my travels as an Identity Thief.

 Stay tuned for a virtual trip through La Alpujarra and Ceuta, the places in Spain that inspired me to write Zahara and the Lost Books of Li...