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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Learning Art of Nigeria

There is no limit to the art world. Every country has its own signature into the art world. I was fascinated with the art world on this side of the globe. In Africa, there is art in the motifs and bright color pictures. I went to the local market and there was a display of African art in most of the stores. My cousin, who is also interested in art, wanted to learn this art from a local native and I decided to accompany here and be a silent learner. Moses, the local painter and artist, agreed to share his talent with us. We drove to his studio to learn his art. While my cousin sat on the hot seat, painting, I learnt it from a distance. We went for two days. On day one, they drew lines with glue cone to create embossed effect and coated with the primer of glue and distemper. They worked on three canvases, Two canvases were on motifs, the third one was on knife paintings. At the end of two days, my cousin had created three beautiful painting. While my cousin was busy painting he was creating more designs He was quick, within one hour he created three more paintings.. We learnt the different motifs, his style of painting and blending of colors. He worked with much ease and style, with no drawing or planning, letting the brushes move freely on the canvas, each stroke plucked from his memory, just creating whatever came to his mind and all were amazing…….

Sunday, 27 April 2008 a strange land.....

The branches of the tree are just few inches away from my first floor balcony. I stare at it as I sip my tea. I marvel at the large, green and brown leaves that sway with the warm winds. I slowly shift my gaze towards the blue sheet at the pool that glistens with sunrays. Two small heads plop in and out of the pool, their happy squeals cutting the silence beneath the trees. In this month of April, I am far away from my home town, in a dark continent, in West Africa. Same blue sky of my home town is above me, but, here I am surrounded by healthy, green, clean, fresh air, and a sweet fragrance. The birds sing a happy song. So close to the nature, I should be swinging with joy. I am but only for few hours. I am spoilt by my electronic world and I miss the glossy patterns of bytes and words. I take two hours to complete my work which would normally take only ten minutes in my home town. Slow internet connection drains me out and I wait patiently, furiously pulling the strands of my hair. There is shortage of power at all times of the day; luckily for me, most of the houses have transformers that run on petrol or diesel. My mind drifts to the village home, just few miles away, and I see the discomfort of a native in this primitive land. The weather is too hot and my inspiration has no wings. Is April the cruelest month? I feel sad, but momentarily. Glow returns with the radiance of smiling faces around me. An idle chat of poetry and song, a game of cards, a fancy cuisine or drives through the green winding roads towards the beach shifts my moods and I am happy once more. But, driving through those lonely roads, I am reminded of the armed robbery through the streets that are more common now and I cup my ears to hide the reflections of the stones that dangle through my ear lobes. My heart stands still till I see the familiar secured gates of my holiday home. Safe, once more, I take a chance to enter my virtual world. I am home away from home This April is the cruelest month It is not, or is it?

Friday, 18 April 2008

On the busy streets of Lagos

The car has stopped in the middle of the road and needs immediate attention. Due to bad oil, there is dirt in the carburetor. While the car is being repaired, I am waiting in the car. My car is parked under the shade of the tree, just below the bridge. On my right are palm trees. Each tree is labeled, it has its scientific name, tree name ad its uses. There is a royal palm tree which says is uses for decorative purpose and other shorter tree called Palm tree has its uses listed as edible oil. There are several hawkers resting under the tree. These hawkers are the ones who were hawking in the traffic jam. Here the traffic jam is called ‘goslow’ and these hawkers sell all kinds of wares at ‘goslow’. On my left, there is a bridge and I can see more than 50 hawkers in that small strip of the bridge. They sell all kinds of stuff and run after every car. It is so sunny and hot, and they have their clothes soaked with perspiration, when they are tired, they come here, on my right and rest under these trees.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Visit to Beauty salon in Lagos

One of my cousins was leaving for USA,so she decided to have a make over, to get a new look after her trip to Lagos. She wanted to do streaking and blow dry....we went to the salon, where the owner was a male hair style artist. The salon was full of beautiful paintings covering all the bare walls. There were Indian magazines on the magazine racks. Salon was quite expensive. For dyeing and blow drying my cousin paid about one hundred US dollars whole my couin who did streaking and cutting hair paid almost one hundred and sixty US dollars. It is quite expensive if we compare the rates with India, In Mumbai I normally pay Rs1000 (about 25 US dollars)for dyeing my hair, and that too in a good salon.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Visit to Tropicana Beach Resort, Lagos, Nigeria

Set out to Tropicana Beach Resort in five cars, one behind another, total of twenty people to enjoy the sand and sunshine at Eleco Beach at Victoria resort. It was a beautiful ride through the tree lined roads and we reached the beach after one hour drive. we had to park the car outide the resort and we took a three wheeler to go inside the resort. The white glassy sands were shaded by the patches of sunlight that filtered through the rows of coconut trees. Major part of the afternoon was spend at the sea shore, combatting the wild waves against our skin. It was a wonderful day spend eating, chatting and enjoying the cool sea winds.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Five days have passed since I have landed in Lagos...

it started on a wrong footing...and all due to my carelessness...imagine, I didn't take my purse when I went to a rest room in the airplane, and left my handbag on my seat. I got stripped off my green notes and was quite sad.....but like they say, everything has a purpose, maybe the person who had the courage to rob me needed the money more than I do, so I move on, probably borrow the money and start enjoying my self....coming so far from my home town and mourning over the lost money is not a good idea, I might spoil the fun of others who are with me... So here I am enjoying the nature of Lagos...there are so many trees in this city...Neem, Mango, Coconut, Papaya, Banana.. Everywhere, there is greenery and the air is so fresh.....but there is too much traffic on he road and what amuses me is the number of things that are available at the traffic signals Almost everything is sold on the streets; watches, telephone cards, fruits, vegetables, drinks, cigarettes, magazine, clothes and many more articles. This reminds me of Mumbai traffic signals where we too have vendors selling their wares at the signals. The weather is very warm (hot winds) and it is difficult to breathe without an AC. Most of our time is spend indoors (a wise thing to do) but today we went to market place to get the feel of the city. They roast corn on the roads and fry red bananas. The market was full of handcrafted items and lot of paintings. One particular painting that impressed me was a collage of butterfly wings.. It was very beautifully made, then there were jewelry, clothes, wood craft, paintings and also fresh fruit and vegetables in the market. My cousin who lives here in Lagos has good set of friends and these five days I have met most of them at the restaurants or they have been visiting us. Some of them I met at her kitty party. The Chinese food here is very much different from what we have in India.. It is just fantastic.. very yummy but living is quite expensive. They have Naira currency (125 Naira equals one dollar.) My cousin bought some fruits and vegetables and then she took us(five of us) out for sandwiches and soup and I saw her spent 20 thousand Naira. The local Nigerians are very friendly and they don't stare. (unlike India, where everybody stares) At the market place, they address you as Mama or Ma, and politely invite you to buy their wares...and they are easy to talk to. They speak English but it is difficult to follow because they a different accent, most of the word are rounded and merged with overlapping of sounds. My cousin has two maids, one for cooking and other for cleaning the house. They live in servant quarters, which is behind the building; They take three hours in the afternoon to rest. The day starts quite early; 630 am and the activity in the house starts. The markets are open from 7am to 5pm. Nigerian is the sixth largest oil producing country, but I am surprised that it is having fuel shortage. I saw long queue at the petrol station due to fuel shortage. It has crude oil but no refinenary (sad but true) Do Nigerians have a good love life? (According to the Nigerian youth, he says) "In Nigeria today many, many girls are driven by both poverty and greed. The disadvantaged position of women due to a male dominated society puts men in a position where a lot of them just look at women as objects that can be bought and paid for. There few jobs after leaving school and many parents cannot meet with their kid’s demands. It is a sad situation and unfortunately I don't see any hope as far as the economy remains the way it is. Its all about money for hair, money for handset, recharge cards. Romance and love tend to flee this sort of arrangements so it is getting rarer than before." However, A Nigerian man will marry only if his lover gets pregnant.

Monday, 7 April 2008

My family re-union in Dubai

The ten days trip to Dubai was an eventful episode. It was to celebrate my cousin's 50th birthday. I love to spend time with my family and since all my family is scattered all over the world, I get to meet them whenever they come to India, or when here is some family wedding then we get time to meet. But during weddings, we are too busy attending occasions and we hardly get time to chill, not really…all our time is spend in visiting saloon or dressing or attending some or the other parties. During the wedding, there is loud music that silences our conversations, and the notes are normally exchanged in groups of three or four. We wanted to spend quality time together, to meet some place, out of India, where we could just be together. The opportunity finally arrived. My cousin decided to celebrate her birthday in Dubai. My nephew lives in Dubai, so it was perfect place for a venue away from home. He has three BHK apartments. The family that was to arrive were Rajni from Chicago, Suresh from Texas, Chandru and Meena from Hongkong, Laju from Lome, Reza from Bahrain, Gitu, Asgar and Neha from Lagos, Rani, Raju, Devkadidi from Pune and me from Mumbai. Then there were the family residents of Dubai that included Nikki, Dina, Karina, Sanjoo, Danisha, and Vinesh, thus we formed a group of twenty and the fun had begun. Except for Sanjoo’s family of four, all the rest of us wanted to live under one roof. Gitoo and Rajni, (who were first to arrive,) headed for shopping and purchased the air mattresses that promised a comfortable dreamy nights. As the family arrived, one by one, the rooms filled with laughter and joy. Mornings were spent chatting and joking that were laced with other odd jobs like preparing breakfast, making beds and washing dishes. Nobody told anybody to help, but there was a special pleasure in working together. Although we were so many of us in one house, we didn’t feel crowded. Nikki’s hall is huge and airy with a large open balcony. He has two easy chairs, two rocking chairs and el-shaped couch, then there is a huge square shaped dining table with twelve chairs. Under the glassy top of the dinning table there is a beautifully carved slab of wood that had mosaic of gold colored, square metal chips The centre of the table is laden with a huge globular vase that contained fresh flowers. A fish aquarium, side table and a bar complete the room. Most of our hours were spend in this room. After idle mornings, we would get ready to go for lunch and to visit malls. Dubai has beautiful malls with clean, large alleys. The shops gleam with merchandise. It is possible to visit only one mall a day, there is too much to walk and too much to see. We did go for desert safari, which was fun, roller-coasting through those sand dunes at break neck speed and late evening enjoying the Arabic dinner under the spells of the magic shows and belly dancing. We also enjoyed a boat ride on another evening and watched the sun set from the upper deck of the boat. But most of our days were spent visiting malls and trying the food at fancy restaurants. We enjoyed the long drives through the city. We had rented a 17 seated vehicle, which was perfect for our group; we shared our stories and comments as we drove through the city. My cousins related how the city has grown in last five years. There were constructions everywhere, a new shiny glass buildings were mushrooming on all sides. We saw Burj Dubai, the super-tall structure, the final height of which is being held as a closely held secret that will feature residences, commercial space and retail space and hospitality elements including the world's first Armani Hotel and Armani Residences. With over 160 storey now, the most number of livable floors in any building in the world, Burj Dubai is already pushing the frontiers in architecture, construction and engineering excellence. The ten days passed quickly and the quality time we spend together is the time etched in our memory for many years to come….

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