My last evening in Kochi was spent watching a second Kathikali performance, this time at the See-India Foundation. It was (I believe) a purer form of dance than the one I saw at the Cochin Fort. I guess you could say the See-India performance was the classical music of Kathikali and the Cochin Fort performance was the “rock-n-roll” version. The fort was all glam and glitz to please tourists; but, the See-Indian Foundation had more traditional moves and gave me more insight into the culture. My theory that India is whatever, whenever is correct, or rather, I can interpret things however I want. It seems that religion is personal and in a country with almost a billion people there are bound to be millions of different interpretations. Thus, people are tolerant of various beliefs.
The interpreter explained that there are two levels of religion: philosophy and mythology. People get caught up in the myth and stories and (according to him) forget the philosophical levels. I personally believe people use mythology in a way that suits them. They can use it to determine a philosophy or they can get stuck there, it’s their choice.
I loved his Krishna explanations. Someone asked why Krishna was blue and he gave the myth answer: When Krishna was a boy he was bitten by a snake and his skin turned blue. Then he gave a philosophical answer: The sky is blue, the ocean is blue, and Krishna is blue. This can be taken in a variety of different ways: You can say he is the embodiment of nature or you can simply say, he is blue because he is blue. People are going to have a different interpretation of this statement based on their own needs and experiences.
Siva is still around. I see her / him everywhere. Their whole religion is intertwined with their language, their dress and their general being. It was weird reading the Ramayana on a step in the street because I would read the philosophy, look up at people, and see that the philosophy is part of their being. The most obvious thing is with the cow. They hear so many stories of their heroes being reincarnated as animals that most are afraid to kill animals.
One of Buddha’s writing is that all life is suffering and to get rid of greed, one gets rid of suffering. In a country with so much suffering it is only natural for a religion like this to flourish. When there is so much chaos, poverty, people, not enough food, and so much sickness it is no wonder religion is so highly developed.
On the train away from Kochin all the women have shut their eyes. Perhaps it is to escape into a different world; I know I do it when people are crushed against me, there are babies screaming, it’s hot like I’ve never experienced hot, you are hungry, and you are worried about where you will stay. It is wonderful at this moment to be able to close your eyes and slip into another world. It is magical. The things that humans can tolerate is amazing. The mental conditioning that these people have is amazing. I love taking to the women on the train. The women talk about politics and people and religion. They talk about families and themselves. They all suffer.
I was sitting on the train thinking about home and my friends and tears welled up in my eyes. A woman came over and sat across from me. She put her hand on my knee like she understood; like she could feel my pain. She said: “I was in England last year and no one would talk to me. I saw you sitting her with tears in your eyes so I came over to talk to you to make you feel better.” She was a professor of Home Economics (Family Planning) and she did make me feel better. I can’t imagine how awful our culture must look to people from a country where people rely on each other for support.
I still love the women’s car. It is way more spacious and I don’t have men pawing me. The people are genuine. I asked one woman who was eating a fruit what it was (apa ini). It was brown, furry and about the size of a kiwi. It was brown inside with a tiny black seed. She didn’t speak English, only Tamil. She insisted I try one and it tasted like a medule so I think it must have been some sort of a date. In this circumstance I used my sense of taste to communicate with someone! It was a memorable experience.