Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Old Pune City Culture Walk

Cultural Tour Of Pune (old city, pre 1750), conducted by ChaloWalks
Tour description by Maya Tate

I had a great experience on my tour of the Culture of Pune, lead by Mr. Rashid Ali. Right off the bat, you can tell this will be quite an interesting experience. Although, he says, Pune is not the biggest tourist destination, it has got quite a lot of culture hidden between forests of cement. He explains that as he gives the details and the (religious) backgrounds of the places, he is quite willing to acknowledge other explanations given by the tour group. After a short car ride, we arrive at our first stop, the Junglee Maharaj Temple. This temple is the final resting place of Junglee Maharaj. It also contains a box with his footprints embedded in it. To give you an idea of the story behind him, but without spoiling the fun of listening to the story from an experienced mouth, I will give you a timeline of sorts. Junglee Maharaj was a huge man, 7 feet tall, and an imposing figure. Through penances, he had attained special powers. He would use these extraordinary powers to cause mischief. People would scatter in his path. Then, one day, he saw a sage he thought to be an ideal target for his tricks. However, no matter how hard he tried, he could not do anything to the sage. The sage turned, and Junglee realized the sage was of a much higher spiritual level than he. He asked the sage how he had avoided these tricks, and the calm sage turned and told him not to use his powers for mischief. Junglee then went and meditated in the jungle in which the temple now stands. When he came out, he was called Junglee Maharaj. Do you know the reason people ring a bell when they go into a temple? Take a guess! Mr. Ali will be sure to ask you.

Second stop, the Pataleshwar Caves. This is really a temple inside of ancient caves. The Pataleshwar Caves are a huge, cavernous space, all hand chiseled out of the igneous rock that forms the Deccan plateau. The inside of the temple is a bit smoky from all the sweet smelling incense. Make sure you see each and every room, because there are some pretty darn amazing idols inside! There really isn't much more culture that I can explain without screwing up your brain for good, so I'll leave that job to Mr. Ali.

Next, we took rickshaws to Kumbharwada, a charming little potters village. The village, Rashid will point out, is quite safe. The people there love pictures of themselves and their children, however, do NOT take pictures of the washerwomen. Don't. Anyways, it was quite an amazing experience. Mr. Ali knows the names of almost all the villagers, and he will introduce them to you when he is showing you their work. Be sure to pay attention to the evidence of Muslims and Hindus living harmoniously together which Mr. Ali will point out, as it is a contrast to what one reads about India. There are stacks on stacks of pots, fired, and some of them painted. One woman was putting a sort of whitener, made of Plaster of Paris, tree gum and water, on little Lakshmi figurines. In another place, we saw a woman that had to make, whiten, and hand paint 10,000 of those figurines by the end of the next month! Alone! She was very kind and courteous, and spoke excellent English. We continued walking for a bit, taking a good many pictures, and then we were off to our next stop, the Idol Makers.

The Idol Makers make some darn impressive statues and idols, particularly of Lord Ganesh. They can be Huge, or they can be small. They are all made in molds, then hand painted in a rather stinky smelling but glossy finishing paint. If you look carefully, you will notice that one of Ganesha’s tusks is always broken. Ask, and perhaps Mr. Ali will tell you the story. One shop in particular has hundreds of statues, huge and small(ish). The owners are a charming family of about 6, but they do not speak much English. Take a moment to look around and admire their handiwork, because you will soon be leaving to another destination...

A local street market! Again, do not take pictures of any of these people. You will walk down a huge road filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables that shine like jewels in the sun. Mr. Ali may ask if any of you are Veg. If you are, or if you are squeamish, I would recommend speaking up, because you may go to a meat shop. All I will say is, it’s quite cool, but.... well, I’ll let you discover that particular part on you own. Heh. Well, take it all in, and don't strain your ears too much, because there is a noisy treat in store for you.

Welcome to: The Tambat Agli Metalworkers Village! Tambat means copper, but there is aluminum and steel work as well as bronze and brass, alloys of copper.This village is quite the noisy one, as one might expect. Rashid will most likely point out one particular worker, who has the fastest and neatest of hits on the pots he makes. The metalworkers hit the pattern on to the pot on an iron pole of sorts, so that the pattern hits itself at itself, in a way.The pots themselves are beautiful, not to mention the handiwork that they make. He will probably show you how they are made. It is quite interesting. A sheet of heated copper is put on a metal lathe, then pushed against a mould with a stick. It is then taken off, and a pattern is hit onto it. One particular man makes a type of hit on the pots that only 5 people in all of Poona can do. He, says Mr. Ali, is the master metalworker. If you get to visit his shop, I suggest possibly buying something. I myself bought a little trinket box, just because of the hit work on it. The guy is really a nice, kind, jolly fellow, and if I knew Marathi, I would probably be able to say a lot more about him. In his office, if you did happen to buy anything, are some pictures of things he worked on or made, like a fountain, and a Ganpati Crown. At this point, I, being younger than everyone else by a good many years, was beginning to get quite tired. My happiness was quite fading. However, Mr. Ali cheered me up for the time being with a delicious cookie/bar/cracker/brownie that Jan Ali made. Mmmm. Well, after some more time admiring the work, (and one or two more brownies), we finally left for our next stop, a wada, or mansion.

There isn't much to write about this, because you are not allowed to enter. I don't even know who owned it. In the entrance, a little ways back, you will see a wooden structure. This, I believe, is the family temple. Look closely, and you might see the family crest(?) on the entrance of the temple. It is quite a nice one. Also on the grounds, but that requires a little more hard viewing, you will notice that there is an apartment building. This, I thought was just a bit funny. Anyways, we are moving on to our last stop, the Kusbapeth Ganesh Temple.

The Kusbapet Ganesh Temple was the first temple to be built in Pune. The story goes as such: When Shivaji was a little boy, he was living at Lalbaug, with his mother, Queen Jijabai. One day, Queen Jijabai noticed that some herders were doing puja to a rock. When she asked why, they replied that it looked like a Ganpati. She was impressed with their dedication, and so ordered a temple built on that spot so that they could do puja properly. It is also the start of the Ganpati Procession. The rock looked a bit like a shapeless lump, no offense, although they had painted it and enhanced it to look a little more Ganesh – like. It's almost a bit like the eggplant seeds and toast that look like “Jesus”. But still, quite an interesting story, and a beautiful temple. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed!

It was at this point that Mr. Ali and we decided to end the tour. We had asked so many questions and talked so long with so many people that we had run out of time. Plus,I was getting very tired, and he had to go pick up his daughter from school. We did not get to see the Tulshibaug Market and Ram Temple, which I had seen on another occasion. In all, I had a great time! Thanks Rashid, and have a great time to any one who goes on the tour!
Maya (12)
Cupertino, CA, USA and Aundh Camp, Pune

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Puzzle: Gambler’s ratio

There is a rather dark bar called “Der Brocken”, near the “Mystery Spot” in Santa Cruz. Last Friday night as I went by I noticed a strange shadow cast by the bar on the surrounding fog. I went in and ordered some fish, which the barman assured me was second grade fresh. As I was nursing a masterly margarita, a strange person materialized next to me, with one dead grey eye, one piercing yellow eye and very arch eyebrows. He introduced himself as Wolande. Wolande was rubbing his knee with one hand, and with the other, he was playing with a rather odd-shaped coin, which looked like an asymmetric double convex lens.

From what I could see, on one side it had the image of a head on a platter, and on the other, words that began with, “There is a rather dark bar called …”. At times the coin itself appeared to be the platter, with the head presented on it. As Wolande tossed the coin in the air, it not only tumbled but also seemed to shrink as it rose and expand as it fell, vanishing entirely sometimes as it moved upwards and then after a short time reappearing moving downwards at the same height. As I looked at it I had an odd sensation of imbalance, as if I was tilted and should fall out of this world, but there wasn’t any particular direction I was leaning towards.
Wolande asked me if I was a gambler, and when I said I was, he offered me a wager. When I asked if it was fair, Wolande replied cryptically that I could make it so. So without thinking, I accepted – yes, yes,  jumping in headfirst where angels fear to tread and a fool and his money … . Wolande explained: “So it is on. I’ll wager a thousand prutot, no, thalers -- wait, nowadays you call them … dollars, don’t you? --  on the toss of this coin, if it lands tail up, you win the thousand dollars, if it lands head up you lose the amount you wager.”
“Is it a fair coin?”, I asked, “It doesn’t look it.”
“Oh what an enchanting question!” Wolande replied, “Of course not! But, this much I can tell you, the odds against your winning are numerically the same as your probability of winning. Now, you can wager what you want, and if it is fair to me I’ll accept it. I’ll toss in the respect and credibility of your colleagues on the 3rd floor, and then we’ll toss the coin.”
A sense of premonition hit me as Wolande continued, “But if your wager is not fair to me … I’ll keep your soul.”
1. How much would you have wagered, in dollars, correct to a cent?                                   
2. What book inspired this puzzle?


Hola, buenas tardes, ¿cómo está Ud.? Lo veo siempre trabajando.

Pues, no, solo los jueves por la tarde me puedo quedar aquí  trabajando hasta tarde.

Bueno, ya mañana es viernes y se puede descansar el fin de semana, va a hacer algo divertido?

Voy a pasar el día del padre con mis hijas y amigos.

Ay sí, como no tengo padre ya, no pienso en el día del padre.

Lo siento! ¿Ud. tiene hijos? Les debe ayudar a celebrarlo con su padre.

Si, tengo un hijo, varon, esta con su papa el Domingo. No estamos juntos su papa y yo, pero llevaré a mi hijo al mall para que le compre un regalo. Pero los hombres son muy malos.

Hay de todo, ¿no?

Es que he tenido muy mala suerte con los hombres. Me casé en Méjico a los diecisiete años.

¡Uyy que joven! (En este momento empezé a apuntar.)

Lo conocí  un sábado y para el martes ya nos habíamos casado. Quería huir de casa, no podía mas. En casa mi padre y mis hermanos me pegaban. Golpes muy fuertes. Yo sólo quería ir a vivir con él, como pareja de hecho, pero él insistio que así no, nos teníamos que casar, entonces nos casamos por lo civil y fui a vivir con él. Era un celoso, me empezó a pegar, me golpeaba, me rompió la clavicula intentando sofocarme. Yo era muy pueblerina, le preparaba la comida, lavaba la ropa, planchaba, limpiaba la casa. Le servía la comida como a un rey. Y el me pegaba, era un celoso, también pegaba a los perros. Como niña veia a mi padre siempre pegar a mi madre, pensaba que, verdaderamente sin pensar, así es la vida. Mi esposo me mantenía, y entonces yo pensaba que él tenía el derecho de tratarme como esclava, de pegarme, pertencía a él.

¿Y qué pasó?

Un día me fui. Decidí venir aquí y cruzé la frontera.

¿De que parte de Méjico es?

De Pachuco.

¿Pero está en el sur, no? ¿Como llegaste hasta aquí?

Es una larga historia, lo pase muy mal … pero logré llegar aquí.
Me la puede contar?

Es para otro día. A las niñas y las mujeres nos pasa lo peor. No puedo aguantar que me toque nadie, que me abrazen.

Si le resulta dificil hablar podemos dejarlo, perdone que le haya obligado a contar su historia tan dolorosa.

Me interesa que Ud. tiene interés en mi historia. Ahora la puedo contar, con la ayuda de la comunidad y los medicos.

Aquí conocí al padre de mi hijo, es de Guatemala. No me pegó, pero, me ponía los cuernos, Ud. Lo entiende, los cuernos?


No solo una vez, muchas veces, lo cache con mujeres, yo le amaba, estaba enamorada de el, lo cacheaba, lloraba, pensaba suicidarme. Le digo a Yésica, la muchachita, ella me pregunta sobre mi vida, que hubiera preferido no haber nacido, los males que me han pasado en la vida. Tengo un hermano mayor y una hermana menor, y los dos me trataban mal.

Quizas ella tomaba la parte de su hermano y no el suyo para protegerse, para que no se convirtiera en victima ella misma le victimizaba a Ud.

(Ignoró mi comentario teórico y --me doy cuento ahora-- estúpido e insensible)
Ella le chismeaba de mí, que había salido con el novio, entonces cuando volvía a casa mi hermano me pegaba. Mi mamá era como sirvienta en casa, siempre trabajando, pero yo pensaba que era justo, ya que mi padre le mantenía. Mi familia no tiene educación, pero yo no quise vivir así. Estudiaba enfermería por las tardes, despues de trabajar durante el día como sirvienta. Mi hermano mayor se dedicó a robar, mi hermana se casó, se ha llenado de hijos, muchos hijos. Ahora me tienen envidia, de mi vida, de que viva aquí. Mi madre era muy cruel, pero la mantengo, tiene ya ochenta y cuatro años. Ahora no les guardo rencor, les ayudo economicamente, soy la única de la familia que vive aquí y cuando necesitan dinero se lo mando.
He vivido una vida muy dura, me han pasado cosas muy malas, estaba al borde de la muerte, me he pensado suicidar, si tuviera otra oportunidad de vida no lo querría. Pero soy afortunada, vivo aquí, aquí hay leyes, no como en Méjico. He tenido un hijo, mi hijo es un milagro, un milagro de Dios porque yo no podía tener hijos. …
No le quería dar pena a Ud.

Perdoname a mi que le haya hecho revivir esos asuntos. Quiero pedirle permiso para escribir su historia y quizas publicarla en un blog para amigos, cambiando el nombre, pos supuesto. ¿Le parece bien?

¡Claro que sí! No hace falta cambiar el nombre.

¡Muchas gracias! ¿Se la mando para que la lea y redacte?

(Una pausa, y luego penosamente dijo:) 
No, no la quiero leer, confío en Ud. Me ha gustado platicar con Ud. Voy a seguir con la limpieza de la oficina.

¡Adiós, hasta mañana!