Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trip to India: Day 4: More Cochin!

Day 4:

We started out the day in our homestay with breakfast in the little treehouse hut on the roof and then went down to talk to the people who owned the homestay for a bit. These two were by far the nicest people I have ever encountered. They were also the first people I noticed performing the Indian head bob my brother had told me about. Indian people don't nod up and down like westerners, but side to side like a bobblehead. I think that these two were just so agreeable that their heads were bobbling from side to side for 80% of the conversation. She bid us all farewell with the most genuine hand-sandwich handshake and a kiss on the cheek and we headed into town.

For our first real day in Cochin we tried to take it easy and pretty much just went shopping at all of the Kashmiri craft stores. One thing I hadn't quite experienced was how everything in India can be bargained for. Taxi rides, hotels, food, nick-knacks, opium, etc. While we were in one of the shops I decided to try my hand at bargaining for these two little painted elephants (which probably should have cost about $5 or less for both). He asked me for my price (saying he'd give me a good price) and I ran over the calculations in my head. For rupees to dollars you double something...or half something and add some zeroes....and I suavely suggested "How about 1000 rupees for both?" Jasleen and the shop keeper started to laugh because apparently that's more like $20. So, I awkwardly started looking at something completely different, hoping to divert his attention from the American patsy in his store he could swindle. I ended up buying a sandalwood lion (which smells fantastic all the time!), which he probably significantly overcharged me for, but he let me feel like I had bargained him down, so everybody won.

That night we went to a presentation of the Kerala performing art "Kathakali" in which actors don elaborate costumes and make-up and perform, silently, stories Indian epics with precise eye, facial, and hand movements combined with intricate dance and a vocal and instrumental accompaniment.

The performance began with the process of the actors putting on their make-up, which took about an hour (or at least an hour that we saw). The vivid colors are made with various stones ground up into coconut milk or water to create a paste.

Combined with the make-up are elaborate costumes with giant hoop skirts and intricate headdresses. The different costumes and make-up colors (such as the black of the demoness below) suggest different character classes (divine, demon, female...).

Prior to the performance, the female character, Minukku, (also played by a man) gave a quick tutorial for us tourists about the importance of the hand gestures (mudras), emotive expressions (rasa), and eye movements.

The information came so quickly, and with such attention to detail, that it must take a lifetime to truly be able to read a Kathakali performance is it is meant to be understood.

Afterwards we saw a presentation of traditional South Indian dances performed by a few beautiful and talented girls.

1 comment:

lostinarc said...

lovely scribbles...good job..