10 September, 2010

In Tokyo after Nagoya

Here I am in Tokyo for the 2nd time. My first time was 3yrs ago but I did not spend much time here to get to know about the city. Tokyo seems like any big city in the world---large, crowded and huge,tall buildings with everyone in a rush. Somehow I enjoy the smaller cities and Nagoya surely was a lovely experience.

The past few days in this wonderful country has made me think a lot. Courtesy and honesty is something everyone can learn from the Japanese. In Nagoya, we were very well looked after by Jun san and Shinyo san. Jun is learning Tabla from Ty and Shinyo plays the Santoor. He was so happy when I asked him to bring his Santoor and play for me. He said that the few things I taught him has changed his life and now, considers me his Guru. They are just amazing people and the only word that comes to my mind immediately when I think of them is "cute". They looked after us so well and made sure we were comfortable in every possible way. The concert was in a beautiful Temple and it was indeed a spiritual experience. We had more than a capacity audience and many people, listening to Classical Indian Music for the first time. The sound was good too and somehow, I lost myself completely in the beauty of the sound. It was very hot and I surely sweated a couple of gallons but nothing matters when the feeling within is something special and I felt it last night. Both the Ragas that I played, Hemant and Kirwani are Ragas that I have performed many times but there was something magical last night. I could just feel each and every note vibrate within me and I let myself go like very few times before. To add to this enriching experience, I dreamt of my Guru where he told me that after hearing me, he felt that I was taking the right path and was on the right track!!!

People here are amazing. Last night after the concert followed by a wonderful dinner with some friends, we were coming back to our hotel in a Taxi. Our friends pre-paid the Taxi driver and on reaching the hotel back, he found that he had been overpaid and returned about 500yen back!!! Can we imagine this happening anywhere else? In Delhi, the auto and taxi drivers are waiting to fleece every single person. Why is it that people cannot be honest? I am sure that the taxi drivers here are also not the richest people but they live honestly. You cannot dream of tipping anyone here, either a Taxi driver or a waiter at a restaurant. It would be like insulting them if we tried to. What is also amazing is that you see very few cigarette butts on the street. Many people carry small pouches where they stub their cigarettes out and toss it into a garbage bin when they see one. It's funny that you can smoke inside restaurants and many buildings but cannot smoke near the train station.

Another thing I have noticed is that people are so healthy and it is indeed very difficult to see an obese person, be it someone young, old or middle-aged. Honestly, I have not seen a single person who is over weight. It cannot just be because of their small body structure but I am sure it is also because of their healthy diet. For me as a vegetarian, it has been tough since Japan is such a "fishy" place. Yesterday, Ty and I went to this amazing super market, Takashimaya and in the basement is their food section. Huge would be a small word to describe it but after walking around for almost an hour, we had to come out empty-handed since there was just nothing vegetarian there. Reminded me of the saying, "Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink". For me it seemed like "Food food everywhere but nothing to eat since I am a vegetarian". To top it all, I am practicing to eat with chopsticks(whenever I do find something vegetarian!!). I am sure that if you know your way around, you can find some places but unlike India and many places in the West, it is really tough being a vegetarian. The journey from Nagoya to Tokyo in the special Shunkansen train was just about 2hrs. This train travels at speeds of about 250km.

We have a few concerts in and around Tokyo next few days and I am really looking forward to appreciating Tokyo more. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to share my music with these lovely people and to get to understand them a bit better.

Signing off now and will try to write again in the next couple of days

05 September, 2010

Being a vegetarian in difficult places

Here I am, sitting in my small room in an apartment in Kyoto and getting ready to leave for my next destination, Gifu. I arrived in Japan a couple of days ago and have finished 2 concerts. Everything about Japan is small and compact--the rooms, the men and women, the cars. This is my second visit to this country and the first time, I am trying to understand more about this beautiful and ancient culture. But not getting far yet since I don't speak the language. It is indeed very difficult to make yourself understood here and yes--being a vegetarian is a huge problem. Perhaps if you live here or can even make yourself understood, it may be a bit easier. Last night, Ty and I had to look at several places before finally finding something that could at least serve some sort of a soup that had only fish sauce. Of course, this was unacceptable to me even a couple of days ago but rather than starve completely, I have had to accept this. In some parts of the world, it is indeed difficult being a vegetarian and if you cannot speak the language too, it becomes very difficult. I wonder how I am going to manage the next couple of weeks. Will surely lose a couple of pounds!!!

The concerts have been amazing and it's wonderful to be able to connect with the people through my music. Even though the people here are initially hesitant to open their hearts, once they do so, they are amazing people. Some people have come up to me after the concert saying that they have never experienced such emotions ever before and were crying during the concert. Just proves the often said sentence that music is indeed the only universal language that knows no boundaries, no language, no religion. If only more people can love music passionately, this world would be such a better place.

Signing off now and will continue to write about my Japanese experiences.