novembre 06, 2007

Catching Up

G'day Mates!

Ah yes, well, doesn't sound too much like an Indian greeting does it?

Bijuli is going places, modestly trying to seduce the ladies of the world and conquering the universal market (no less mouah ah ah) . No worries, Bijuli is still Indian at heart, with its feet firmly planted in the rich Kerala earth.

The solidity of our little sap is taking its roots deeper into the soil thanks to Marie, the Production Unit manager. While Elianne is off and about getting new deals - and new expressions - Marie has been the keeper and watcher for a few months now.

It hasn't been easy, this year was yet another very wet year. Floods were very heavy in southern India, decimating homes, halting trains. Marie once told me she once spent a whole day stuck in a train because the rains had flooded the tracks. "Fortunately", she said," everybody showed good spirits, laughed, shared their foods, passed around business cards and just dealt calmly with the situation."

She also had to deal with the damage the rains had done to our unit : windows and sewing machines broken, flooded floors and dampened clothes to the core. Not only had she had to redoe some of the items but she had to deal with knowing the orders would never be ready on time. Not because the unit was not up and running again but because, this time, the postal services were stranded and overflooded in their own way with delays.

It wasn't easy but she pulled it through.

In the meantime, Elianne was in France spreading the good word to all those who listened: Bijuli clothes could now be bought online and shipped internationally! For the next few months, and with the help of all of our friends, a French & European Bijuli network was established : Paris, Manchester, Berlin, Avignon, Orange, Marseille here it comes!

But unfortunately for Europe and France, this summer turned out to be catastrophical for any beach and sun shopping. Quite a few individual sales were done but the good weather didn't catch on. Even Autumn was a no-show making it a distastrous year for the fashion industry.

So, to look on the bright side of things (well, and mainly for personal reasons) Elianne flew off to Sydney, Australia in order to check out what the further east south-asian market was made of.

And boy does it look guuuuud.

Affaire a suivre...

mars 16, 2007

Desert March

You can tell Marie and I have been living in India for quite a while now when I start writing to you about the changes in the weather from one year to the next.

A small recap on Trivandrum weather: from January until April, total bliss, it's 25C, blue sky, warm breeze, tourists buzzing in the city; April and May, hottest months of the year, 40C in the shade, cracked, dirty earth, not a dog or a human in sight between noon and 5 pm; from June until let's say September, summer monsoon, torrents of rain, temperatures drop to 16C sometimes, everybody goes abroad where the sun is (ha); October until November, off and on rains but mainly cool, tranquil weather, about 25C, sometimes winter monsoon will start in November, rains are fewer but impressive thunder and lightening occur often; December, the mild, lovely weather starts again.

This year, the weather starts with last year's summer monsoon. It began precisely on the 3d of June. I remember because on the 2d it was blue sky, cloudless, 35C minimum and on the 3d it was a sheet of rain, low grey clouds, couldn't see a mile away, 16C. The summer monsoon ran all the way from June until end of November. It took on it's friend the winter monsoon for a ride and both gave us, free, big bonuses of rain with thunder and lightening included. Five whole months of it.

Our clothes were damp, our sheets and pillows were damp, we were damp, the tourist season was late and businesses along Kovalam were getting desperate.

Then December came. The first charters filled with white skinned British arrived and on a night we decided to eat out in Kovalam, Marie and I found ourselves surrounded by Club Med.

We got used to the pace again as January and February walked in. Businesses were up and running again, charters flowing in like easy cash.

And now March should be pretty much the same as it's two earlier fellow months. But this year, since everything is upside down because of last year, March has been pushed aside and the heat of April has already landed on our heads. And let me tell you, what heat. Of course, it isn't Arizona desert kind of heat but it's enough to turn your body into putty. I'm sure after a while we will get used to it but, in the meantime, it affects us a lot more than meets the eye.

At first, the heat comes and stagnates over the city. The sky is eternally blue, not a cloud in sight. The crickets buzz day and night. The umbrellas make there appearance. As a foreigner, the first few days you're absolutely delighted. You hear that in France it's 10C and your having 35C in the shade. Living here is too cool. But that sensation of having it easy dwindles out as fast as a flame that eats the last of the wicker.

I've gone out in the middle of the afternoon at the beginning. Five minutes into a rickshaw and I began having a headache. I would stand still in the middle of my relatively cool living room and sweat. My work energy was thankfully still in stimulation.

It's been almost a week now that this heat has started. Not even a week and I take two to three showers per day. I went swimming in our pool in the morning, dried off in the shade and still managed to get a sunburn on my back. My energy level is nearing zero. I want to sleep and sleep and sleep all day. I have to force myself to work. All I want to do is eat ice-cream while walking around with a cold shower above my head. There are none of our stray dogs on the streets. I try not to go out between 11 am and 5:30pm. The worst part is that it is starting to weigh on our minds. Believe it or not, because the heat wraps us all around starting early in the morning into sometimes very late at night, the body gets hardly any break. And therefore the mind neither. It isn't unusual to notice a tendency towards morosity, sadness and even depression.

Not much can be done about it except drinks tons of water, have toilets at hands reach (for after water drinking), a can of water to spray on your face and body and use an umbrella if you must go out.

And of course, stay inside, wondering what suprises this April will bring!

janvier 25, 2007

And The Winner Is...

For Miss Trivandrum 2007....

Our very own Bijuli model: Ragitha!

Yes, guys, you've read correctly. Our lovely, young lady who, nothing more than being a brilliant student, a helper in her family, a modest human being and a beautiful figure in pictures, has won the covated prize of Miss Trivandrum 2007.

And she is going for Miss Kerala!

Marie and I are very attached to this young lady. We care for her, I suppose like mentors or big sisters.

She doesn't have a bad life. I mean she is not poor, she wears cool, western clothes, she has her mobile phone next to her always, she eats every day and has a roof over her head. But, she hasn't seen her father who has been working in the Gulf for a very long time, her mother tries to keep a disciplined and kind figure. Ragitha also wakes up at 6 every morning to go to Airhostessing class in the hopes of earning a good job to bring home money for her family. She goes to university at 9 until 3pm and studies late to be an honour student.

Her dream is to go to the Journalism university here in Trivandrum. It costs money that she doesn't have so she wants to fly the international skies quickly. The clouds speak to her of a worriless world.

She keeps in touch, keeping us in her life even though we have finished the first photo shoot for the time being. That is how Marie and I know how she is doing, how her family is and what excellent grades she has been getting.

I wish never to let her out of our sight. To follow her in her growth as a strong and vibrant woman.

I wish, when Marie and I can, help her in making her dream come true...

Now excuse me for a minute while I brag:

Nee ner, nee ner, nee ner, nee ner, nee toc!

janvier 21, 2007

Sa Ri Ga....

One of my long time projects, ever since I moved to India, was to tackle its music. I mean, hands on, learn it.

First, I had to chose whether I wanted to deal with the dance aspect of it, learn an instrument or make my voice through its notes. It was a close tie with the last two.

Second, I had to chose which instrument: the tabla? the violin? the drum? the veena? I actually fell in love with the veena and hence decided that was the instrument that would suit me most.

Third, I had to find a music school. I wanted one that catered trivandrumites. Like yoga classes here, you can find music schools who cater to tourists but my objective was not to have a glossy, westernized overview.

I finally found my school. Nadabrahama is located not very far from where I live. When I first went there to enroll, I was met with busy children running to piano, guitar, violin etc with serious over looking parents. I thought it was perfect.

The last thing I had to tackle with before starting my classes was my own apprehension to my lack of knowledge in the musical domain. I had enrolled in veena (which was already a scary thought for me) but also in Carnatic Vocal. This seemed like a major step. I had always admired my mother for her beautiful singing and felt that somewhere, as her daughter, I may not be able to live up to her standard (the things we put in our heads, really....). But I'm not one not to give it a try.

It's been a bit over a month now that I've started. I thoroughly enjoy my time at the school and just can't wait for the week to begin to go there and learn new things.

I love my classes. They each bring me great pleasure in human contact as well as, of course, learning to understand an aspect of my life that I love so much: music.

My veena teacher is a sweet, young woman who is often accompanied by her daughter of no more than 6. I like coming there early enough to watch them tune the instrument together. Her daughter plays beautifully which amazes me each time. Neither of them speak much English. That's ok. I am learning and with my little Malayalam, we get to understand each other. My teacher always gets a kick when I speak her language. During the last class, she dared ask me some more personal questions. The one that floored her the most was when I told her my age! Which makes me think that she is younger than me!

The Veena is the southern sibling of the Sitar and it is the musical instrument attributed to the Goddess Saraswati. It looks very imposing when you see it for the first time but, it is actually very light (although bulky). The strings are made of steel which, after a few lessons, make your fingers tender. When you press your fingers hard on the cords and on the metal bars of the veena, a beautiful, lingering sound comes out. And you're the one making it!

I'll spare you the details of the different parts of the instrument and their use. However, if you would like to know more about Indian instruments, the following website offers a good overview of the available variety:

My Carnatic Vocal teacher is very different. I have become fond of her too. When I first arrived in her class, I found her extremely contempt, belittling her students. As I came to her classes I realized that in fact she had a sense of humor which made all the students laugh, that she knew what she was doing (her voice is loud and lovely) and that her English was impeccable. I like her for the way she is: because she sits at the end of the room like a queen, dressed in her sarees, her head high, her mobile phone always close by, patiently singing with us our false or timid notes. And when we succeed in singing our lines without any mistake and have her smile of approval, it just makes our day.

There is another reason why I really like my vocal class: I'm practically the only adult. The first day of class I opened the door only to find little people (kids) sitting quietly and attentively around the teacher. They all looked up at me (a giant for them) with big, round eyes. They scooted their little bodies to make room for my long legs...

Now I have some buddies, some smiling faces I look forward to seeing. A little girl no older than 4 with her timid smile, a little boy with big, almond eyes and such a sweet smile. The other day he sang his lines, trying very hard. When he was finished, we looked at each other and I gave him a smiling wobble. He looked soo proud. And then there is my very spunky, bucked tooth friend, Aganta. She is no more than 12 and is a real hoot. We're like buds you know. And what an amazing voice she has! And she can hold her breath! She's better than any of the cute 16-20 year old girls that are there.

Examples of a conversation I had with Aganta: she asks, " Do you like spiders?" I reply, " I don't care." She defiantly, " I see one, I squash it." Me, " Do you eat it afterwards?" "HUH?"
Or, "Do you know what is the best car on the market?", "No", "The Toyota Innova", "The best car on the market is one that doesn't pollute the air. It's a bicycle", "HUH? " Hmmm. The other day I told my teacher about water turning into combus, combustion. She didn't believe me."

Or, "See you next Saturday!" "Ok, see you next sunny" "What?" "Next sunny"" Eleena, you gotta practice your malayalam!"

By the way, the title of today's blog is in fact the first notes of the Indian scale. They are called Saptasvaras. Sapta meaning "7". Svaras (pronounced "swaras") meaning notes. They go higher in pitch in the first line: Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa. And then go down: Sa Ni Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa.

Anyone want a singer & veena player for a party?

janvier 18, 2007


Happy New Year to all our dearest friends, family & kind strangers!!!!

2007 is the year of radical changes, of complete happiness, of unbound successes, of amazing growth, of resolving conflicts, of looking at the roads of our lives heads high and hearts at peace.

May this wish be whispered in your ears and spoken out in your daily life.

Today I've bumped into an old friend. One whom I haven't seen in over a year but whom I have thought of for all that time. He hadn't changed much. Still the same interface, the same creative possibilities. Maybe a few newer options...

It feels good to be back on our blog again. I've missed it terribly. I know that it has been missed by some of you too...

I look back at our last date of entry and realize how much time has flown by.

As you can imagine, many events took place in our lives between July 2005 and January 2007. Some have been extremely joyful. Some extremely painful. They are probably the main reason why we left our friend behind.

Don't ask.

The importance doesn't lie in the need to explain why, how and when. In that year, Marie and I laid down the foundations of our life in Kerala. This year, we are setting up its walls and roof. This is what we'll hopefully write about...

Don't worry. We promise to still bring you the quirky, the reflective and the poetic of our daily living.

Good night old friend and let us talk again tomorrow...

Qu'est-ce que la bise indienne?

Pour la bise indienne tout depend de la saison...
Pendant la mousson tu es balaye par les vents et la pluie avant de pouvoir la faire...
Pendant la saison seche, tu fonds sur place avant de reussir a t'approcher de la personne a qui tu veux la faire...
Et pendant la saison intermediaire, tu ne peux pas la faire car de toute facon ce n'est pas correcte.
Pour resumer, la bise indienne est une bise que tu souhaites faire mais que ton karma t'empeche d'accomplir...

juillet 06, 2005

Silver Screen

There had been a few times when we had taken the car that we had passed a small video store. There are many in the city, that is true. But, this one was different because it had a lot of posters of foreign films taped to its window front.

I asked Marie if she wanted to check it out; maybe it could become our movie rental hang-out?

We walk in a somber shop, no lights on. From floor to ceiling it is filled with DVDs. We ask our young driver if he can translate our questions to the man sitting behind the counter.

First question is answered; the man points at a wall behind us which is filled with foreign DVDs. A twinge of excitment flares up in my brain.

Second question is answered: to become a member, you must be introduced by someone they know. It so happens that our driver has a good friend who works at an internet cafe just around the corner. He tells us he will go and fetch him and have him vouch for us.

Marie and I are standing on air we are so happy. We are now proud members of "Padma Videos". And what videos! For our first selection we went Hindi and got two films : "Black" and "Veer-Zaaraa".

"Black" is a story based on Helen Keller: a young girl who is deaf and blind makes her way into the world with the help of her teacher. The film is exquisitely shot with matted colour tones and, although the acting was, as always, a bit overdone, the way the parts were played by the young child, Rani Mukerjee and Amitha Bachan, were excellent. A very poignant film.

"Veer-Zaaraa", as we will discover tomorrow, is supposed to be a famous movie because of the fact that it deals with a forbidden love between a Pakistani woman and an Indian man. Preity Zita plays the leading role while Shah Ruk Khan plays the hero. Although the subject of the story is good and the songs are beautiful, we found the acting a bit too overdone and the movie way too long. However, I still highly recommend it because the story is quite beautiful (and that was Siskel and Ebert for you...Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen).

juillet 05, 2005

Strike Three!

Speaks for itself.....

Third strike in a month. All is quiet today : no shops open, no rickshaws or buses running, even no rain.

All is quiet today : Marie is agonizing in front of a non-existent internet connection or of the non-existent computer screen for that matter.

I stumble out of my bedroom, trying to find my way out of my usual morning fogs.

We have a small gift to give for the boys today as Marie and I wanted to share with them the celebration of our first month here as well as thank them for all their help.

They are waiting for us downstairs.

Marie is extremely concentrated on the tecky problem; I'll have the give the present.

You have no idea....Imagine me barely half awake, facing to young men expecting something. Sigh....I hand them their gift with a sleepy smile and tell them that it is a small token of our celebration and thanks. I also believe to have muttered an excuse for Marie's absence in this common gesture.

They smile back sweetly, thank us and leave.

I feel like an absolute dud; Madam returns to the sleepy eyed child that she is when she is not awake in the mornings...

The rest of the day dozes on.