Friday, December 04, 2009

Spoiled Cheese - Blue Cheese of December 3

Dear Blue Cheesers,

Welcome to new cheesers, Grey Poupon, scruachaux, and énfrüge. Welcome all, new and old, to a very long cheese. Get yourself some caffeine, and read on.

Since last we cheesed (I'm not counting the sliced processed cheese about the performances last month), my parents and grandparents and I kicked the flu, and then my mom lovingly kicked me out of the house. I was committed to not leaving until I was sure that she and my grandparents had the help they needed, but she gently pushed me out of the nest (after years of me flying away), telling me not to be sad or scared or worried about them, to shake my cute little butt and fly away (Masakkali, matakkali...). I am continually in awe of that woman, my mother.

So Denali picked me up at the airport far sooner than we expected to see each other, and drove me straight to Rolling Ridge in West Virginia. On the way, even the minimal contact I had with Amerika with a k (the one that consumes and destroys everything, including itself) consisted of strangers being helpful and jovial with each other.

I love America, and I love being an American.

I spent my 28th birthday in West Virginia. I love getting older.

I was in WV when my 10 year highschool reunion met in Singapore. Part of me wanted to have my old classmates meet my older, cooler self, now on a ladder hammering away at the house Scot and Linda (Denali's parents) are building, slimmer, fitter, more able, in both spirit and body. Part of me didn't care. Part of me, that part that used to assert her American-ness because she thought that was the only way to be respected and loved, ashamed of her Indian-ness because racism, colonialism, and empire building patterns take a long time to dissolve from the human consciousness, that part of me wanted to casually tell a mind-blowing story about travelling the world and finding its deep magickal revolutionary veins in response to something they said about their new house or car or job or phone or toothpaste. Part of me knows there are plenty of stories to come, and plenty of love and respect already with me.

The kind of plenty that defies the illusion of scarcity. That allows a sad lonely little girl to face the darkest depression, the self-destructive despair and bottomless hunger for self-worth that she shares with the farmers in India who can't feed their families, let alone the country. Allows her to face it and say Boo, and become a woman.

I do love my school, though, and some day I'd like to go back, to Singapore or some other UWC, and be another small zap in the process of another young mind unplugging from samsara.

So, yeah, I spent a couple months in West Virginia, building and dancing in the forest, and I discovered an ever-deepening bond with Denali's extended family, both birth and earth family. I also, unfortunately, discovered my allergies are getting worse. Cats and mold got me bad. I had some pretty desperate nights, and went around for several weeks in a sleep-deprived de-oxygenated haze. Despite this nightmare, the days and nights of laughter, games, thoughtfulness, and togetherness still define my memories of this time on the East Coast. Every day I am grateful for the warm embrace of this new family of mine.

In the month at home with my grandparents and my mom I had found an internal fire from which I was dancing and creating every day. It kept burning in West Virginia, under the auspices of the Rolling Ridge land and community. My father visited in early October, for which I stepped up production and had a dance performance ready, with help and sponsorship from some immensely supportive friends. October 7th was the opening night for “Being Human”, in the middle of a romp of a week with my dad and Denali’s family.

After the performance debuted in DC, I took the show on tour to Northern California.

By the way, in case you haven’t noticed I now use phrases like “tour” and “opening night” and “debut” with ease, and in my OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) papers it says my occupation is “artist”. Could I, sweet cheesers, be forming an identity for myself?

But first I attended the Economics of Peace conference in Sonoma organized by Praxis Peace and RSF Social Finance. I practiced meditation and yoga every morning, got enough sleep, attended almost every session and actually paid attention, and walked back and forth several times to cook meals in my lovely host’s home with two new-found friends instead of buying food in the cute but upscale Sonoma center. I spoke up, articulately and compassionately but frankly, at every opportinity, about the microcosm of institutional injustice represented at the conference. My ego was present, as always, but stayed surprisingly behind the scenes for most of the show.

Who was that lady, where the heck did she come from, and where did she go? I ask myself now, searching inside for that heroine who emerged briefly and disappeared into the shadows again. It’s ok. I know she’s there, and she’ll come back with buns blazing more and more as I grow older.

Back to the tour. At the beginning I was unsure of having even one place to offer the performance even just for dear ones around the Bay Area. I ended up with four beautiful venues to hold a by-donation event, with a performance followed by a discussion circle on gift economy. I organized the whole thing by the seat of my pants at the last minute, from the computers of loving friends who also fed and sheltered me. The whole endeavor was a whopping success, financially, spiritually, and artistically. In fact, the greatest part of the success was that those three categories, financial, spiritual, and artistic, were inseparable.

A big shout-out to the four spaces who welcomed me and my work with open arms, especially the ones that have to run commercial operations and pay rent. And a special shout-out to my home and family in Synergy, for hosting and playing. And hallelujah for things like jars of jam (or apple sauce and tomato sauce) in the donation basket, sometimes home-made, and always given with love.

Every day I feel spoiled and blown away by what the universe has to offer.

My only regret is that I cannot yet share this performance with my mother and grandparents and others in India, especially now that I'm doing accessible entertaining Bollywood numbers that I rejected for so many years, with my elitist highbrow leanings. The kids in the slum in Ahmedabad would have loved Being Human.

I love India, and I love being Indian.

Apparently now so does the rest of the world. Indian things are hot shit. (Pardon the french). I hear it started with a hot Indian guy on a show called Heroes. And then there was Slum Dog Millionairem, of course. I actually think it started when hip-hop started mixing in Indian flavor. Too bad it wasn't this way when I was a confused little brown girl who wanted to be blonde and blue-eyed. Well, I'll take what I can get. Now that I've balanced my identities, take pride in all that I contain, and wear Indian kurtas of my own choosing, now when I don't crave acceptance, random strangers in the street tell me Your dress is beautiful, where did you get it? And I reply that my mother made it. And we all share a touching moment in America.

In conversation with Scot and Linda at some point it came up that they were “spoiled” when it came to watching Indian dance performances. This was one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. And it got me started thinking. I’m really spoiled too. This month in the Bay Area I got to see friends in performance (Taiko, a cappella….) of high standard. This is happening more and more as time passes. And my sweetheart, for example, compromises nothing and gives of himself completely to make instruments and other works of the highest quality. I find myself surrounded by great artists and thinkers and creators.

What if we all spoiled each other? What if we could only eat lasagna made from home-made pasta, or cookies made from home-made dough because that’s what we’re used to? What if we could only bear to build our own homes, curved and angled to perfection, from local and recycled materials, light on the earth? What if our homes were filled with paintings and flutes and rocking chairs and cradles and quilts and cutting boards and ceramics and canned apple sauce made with love by friends? What if we learned about Mongolia from a slideshow of a friend’s journey rather than a textbook? What if we studied mycology by going mushroom-hunting in woods with a knowledgable friend, and ate the delicious edible ones for dinner? What if we gave each other high quality live music and theatre in intimate venues every week? And side-splitting moments of improv genius every day while chopping broccoli or blending green smoothies with kale from the garden?

And what if the debate were about the meaning of health and health care, and other such fundamentals, instead of only who’s going to pay for it? And what if America set up 20 schools in Afghanistan, for boys and girls, in place of each soldier stationed for a year ( What if Obama refused to inherit the war in Afghanistan (cover of The Economist, ''Obama's war''), and Latin America (, and helped bring to trial the ones it actually belongs to? What if the US-Israel-(India) axis of money and power didn’t silence the United Nations commissioned Goldstone report on Israeli humans rights violations? What if the Third Intifada involved a lot of singing ( What if we stopped blasting the Appalachians for a few chunks of black gold? What if the US Congress knew where the hell the bank bail-out money went, and never ever authorized anything so mind-bogglingly stupid like that again? What if the Federal Reserve were actually federal (

And what if all institutional and personal policy came out of gratitude and respect, instead of debt and fear?

But I digress.

I extended the month in the Bay Area for a few days to participate in the sleepover on Alcatraz with We Players ( as part of the two year creative process for the performance project on the island. Then, as much as I enjoyed my time in Northern California, I thoroughly enjoyed leaving the urban space and taking a beautiful train ride down to Southern California to meet Denali where he had been building flutes and drums and eating well with his teacher-friend Guillermo for the month. We spent a few days there in the tranquil canyon , including Thanksgiving and Buy Nothing Day.

Almost two years ago I cheesed you from Guillermo’s house about Travelling Light, after which Denali and I picked up our tiny packs and sailed south to Mexico. A couple days ago we lugged several elephant sized bags to fly with jet fuel south through Mexico to Buenos Aires, where I write from now. We’ll be moving into our new place in El Bolson, Patagonia by next week some time.

The address, should you care to use it, is

Malavika Tara Mohanan

lista de correo

El Bolson 8430

Rio Negro


And the best news ever, we have a landline! With an answering machine!! Our voices can be heard at +54 2944 498 656.

Last Thanksgiving and Buy Nothing Day I cheesed you from Singapore, in the dark emptiness of new beginnings in the new moon in which I had become a dancer. I’ve been lucky enough to see several of you in person recently. I am thankful for that. To each of you, I am thankful for your presence, and nothing I could ever buy would top that, except for a big house where we could all live together.

I ask you all for blessings as Denali and I begin this new stage of life in Patagonia.

Come visit, and I'll tell you more about Alcatraz and all that the island represents, and our heartwrenching visit to the blasted beauty of the Appalachians, and why, when I criticize the policies of the U.S. President, I wholly appreciate why he brought tears of joy to the country, but I'm uncomfortable with pedestals and saviors, and unwilling to turn a blind eye to so many things, and you'll tell me what's been floating your boat, and we'll drink mate and pick blackberries and generally disfrutamos in the very place where Blue Cheeses were born.

Much love,