Yesterday afternoon we visited the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon at Teotihuacan. I’m always reminding my kids that “history,” as we know it, is very Eurocentric and therefore to always look for alternative narratives and diverse angles from which to view the human story. What a great lesson we got from Teotihuacan: “Around 300 BCE, people of the central and southeastern area of Mesoamerica began to gather into larger settlements. Teotihuacan was the largest center of Mesoamerica before the Aztecs. The city had already been in ruins for 500 years by the time it was discovered by the Aztecs. It is thought to have been established around 100 BC. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 – 250,000, making it one of the largest cities in the world during its epoch.” The city is stunning on account of how beautifully organized it was, the geometrical symmetry and integrity of its architecture, its apartment complexes and elevated temples, the level of astronomy and mathematics that its inhabitants were obviously familiar with, and so much more. Wish we knew more about this fascinating civilization and so many other ancient people – e.g. the Indus River people who built Harappa and Mohenjo-daro (now in Pakistan) around 6000 BCE. There is much in the world apart from Europe 🙂
How Diego Rivera imagined Tenochtitlan
How Diego Rivera imagined the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, with volcanoes and snow-capped mountains in the background. The city was a set of islands on Lake Texcoco, hence the canals and waterways, all painted in this gorgeous blue color. Mexico City is built on top of Tenochtitlan and everywhere it’s possible to get a brief glimpse of the civilization that lies underneath. These pictures do not do justice to the mural.
Exploring Mexico City’s Zocalo
Our hotel is right next to the Zocalo, or the main plaza in Mexico City’s centro historico, so today we walked around the square and explored the Palacio Nacional, the Cathedral Metropolitana and the Templo Mayor archeological site. Modern Mexico City was built by the Spaniards on the ruins of the capital of the Aztec Empire and it is this layering of history (this stratum upon rich stratum of culture and diversity, of architecture and religious beliefs, of violence and beauty, of art and truth telling) which makes Mexico so bewitching. One of the reasons I wanted to visit Mexico City was Diego Rivera’s monumental work: his murals at the Palacio Nacional. They did not disappoint. Imagine Karl Marx as a Moses like figure standing on Mount Sinai with his commandments. It took 22 years for Rivera to complete his masterpiece. It’s astonishing both as an artistic achievement, a detailed historical narrative, a triumph of the human imagination as well as bold politics. He tells it like it is, all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly but also the hopeful. Since the Palacio houses the President’s offices, my son asked pointedly if such art and politics could ever be displayed on the walls of the White House. A very good question.
After being detained at Toronto airport for two hours for further security checks on my husband (traveling while sporting a male Muslim name), waiting to get on a plane for another 4 hours (weather related airline issues) and surviving an excessively bumpy flight (the kid behind us kept asking his dad why we were “dropping” – an apt description), we are finally in downtown Mexico City!
the west coast is the best coast
some more pictures from the film festival in palo alto/san francisco and the wonderful time i had with my girlfriend huma!
interview at VOA in DC
this year thxgiving was followed by an interview about “a thin wall” with broadcast journalist faiz rehman, at voice of america, in DC, followed by a wonderful visit to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden along with my gorgeous sister.
it was raining but we took the metro and had a great time in the city. finished the day off with dinner at Earls Kitchen and Bar. the people in DC are lovely. at one point we forgot to change metro lines and were looking at a subway map when a woman walked up to us and offered to help, just like that. it’s incredible when people can find the time to connect in this way, in today’s hectic world.
have some interesting thoughts about one of the exhibits at the hirshhorn museum. it was called “marvelous objects: surrealist sculpture from paris to new york.” will write more about that later.
sumptuous thxgiving with my in-laws in NC. for lunch we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread souffle, sweet potato casserole with toasted marshmallows, green beans and rolls. dessert included pecan, pumpkin and apple pies. dinner was played in a slightly different key and consisted of koftas, chicken tikka, jalapenos stuffed with a sweet and sour tamarind mixture, and spicy shrimp pulao. for dessert: warm gajer ka halwa, a la mode, of course. the joys of belonging to a diverse family and combining cuisines freely 🙂
San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley
October 30, 2015: Just got back from Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39. It was v lively and all lit up. The famous carousel was there of course. Had some seafood for dinner. I took the muni metro even tho I have an awful sense of direction – I made it back to the hotel. I came to SF for the first time when my daughter was a tiny little baby and my son was 5 or 6. I remember going to the SF MoMA and falling in love with Mark Rothko. I bought a poster of his work. It still hangs in our house. I wanted to visit the museum again but it’s closed until May 2016. Oh well, next time inshallah.
October 31: One of my favorite things in SF – the Yerba Buena Gardens. I was blown away by them the first time I came to SF – we just happened upon them while looking for the SF MOMA. The Yerba Buena Center was considered an urban blight and scheduled for demolition in the 1970s, however, locals including some retired labor activists stopped the demolition, and plans for building a sports arena had to be shelved. The Gardens’ focal point is the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. It’s a 20 feet high, 50 feet wide majestic waterfall, furnished with glass panels inscribed with Dr King’s powerful words. Reading “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream” as one is surrounded by a thundering waterfall can be an emotional experience. The memorial speaks to Dr King’s remarkable energy, courage and vision. The strength and simplicity of the granite, the unquestionable force of the waterfall, the elegance of MLK’s words, their translation into the languages of San Francisco’s thirteen international sister cities, as well as in Arabic and African dialects, photographic images etched in glass of Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and of course the overwhelming roar of the water, all combine to transport one to another world. It’s one of the most fitting memorials I’ve ever visited. Later that evening, I went to see “Beach Blanket Babylon” at Club Fugazi. It’s SF’s famous pop-culture musical revue, with spectacular costumes, gigantic hats, and a surprising dose of liberal politics. My friend Huma picked me up later that evening. We had an excellent Italian dinner at Original Joe’s in North Beach, walked around Coit Tower and then headed to her house in Menlo Park.
November 1: Wonderful screening of A Thin Wall at CineArts in Palo Alto. The film looked and sounded beautiful. That’s so important to me! It was shown in a huge theatre. A large number of people attended the screening and Q&A, which was followed by a panel discussion organized by The 1947 Partition Archive, out of Berkeley. One of the best parts was being able to connect with so many incredible women – filmmakers, academics, archivists, reporters, activists, women with their own histories of partition. Thank u Anuj Vaidya for organizing everything with such ease and brilliance and thank u Huma Dar for being such an amazing host, friend and inspiration. I’m loving the West coast!
November 2: Small but lovely screening at Berkeley today. Thx Huma and Paola for making it happen and thx Abdullah, my dear friends Umar and Arjumand’s son, who attended in spite of exams and a busy student life, and made me a v happy auntie 🙂
Oct 28: Yesterday we had a lovely screening at Langara College in Vancouver. It was organized by Indira Prahst, department of Sociology and Anthropology at Langara College, and Imtiaz Popat. Today, I started the day off by meeting the lovely Ajay Bhardwaj and discussing our work and films. I felt like I had known him forever. In the afternoon, I got on the Hop on Hop off bus and went around the city. Vancouver is caught between the North Shore Mountains and the Salish Sea. The views from Canada Place and Stanley Park are to die for. The weather was overcast all day. It was magical to see mist rising up from the sea, the smooth glassy water, and the variegated canvas of the sky where light kept painting an ever shifting seascape. I don’t like doing touristy things but I decided to try the FlyOver Canada flight simulation simply because I’ve flown so many times in my dreams. It was surprising. Not only can one feel the rush of fresh air as one flies over mountains and prairies but one can also smell pines and get soaked by the spray from Niagara Falls. I couldn’t help but think of the First Nations people of Canada whose lives and destinies have always been so intricately intertwined with this majestic land. As we drove thru Stanley Park marveling at 700 year old trees and gorgeous views of the Lions Gate bridge, the sun had just begun to set. It created glittering skyscrapers and a warm glow on the surface of the water, which seemed to hold ships and barges alike in its luminous fold. I took a million pictures. It was another day well spent.
Oct 26: Spent lots of time at Pike Place Market this morning. Fresh fruits and vegetables, florists, chocolate shops, soaps and incense, pashminas, Bavarian meats, a Middle Eastern souk, tiny little restaurants, and of course, lots of coffee places, including the first Starbucks (dating back to 1971). I had a chocolate croissant (with the largest bits of sumptuous chocolate ever) and a tarte aux marions at Le Panier. After roaming around a lot more, I had some oeufs en meurette at Cafe Campagne – delish. Visited the Lisa Harris gallery and left with an original etching by intaglio printmaker Thomas Wood. Took the monorail to the Space Needle and walked along Broad street all the way to the waterfront. Loved the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is right by the water. There weren’t that many people there. A man was reading a book whilst enjoying a view of the waterfront. There were a few more people walking their dogs or running. The air was crisp and it was beginning to get dark. I could see lights coming on inside buildings opposite the waterfront. There are ships and warehouses and traffic lights and then the park, which is lovely. It replicates several ecosystems found in the Northwest. Not only that, it is filled with sculptures that mesh with the park’s natural beauty, sometimes in spectacular ways, other times much more subtly. We are talking about Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder and Richard Serra! This mix of sculpture, fall foliage, piers and ferries, ship terminals and skyscrapers, vast open public spaces in the midst of an urban landscape, create a wonderful sense of adventure. I was thrilled. I owe thanks to Smeeta for sharing her personal list of must-dos in Seattle, and to Nabeeha for teaching me how to navigate public transportation, for creating awesome dinners and for hosting me with such warmth and generosity. I am sold on Seattle 🙂
Seattle South Asian Film Festival
Oct 26: Wonderful festival finale! Thank u Kiran Dhillon and all of #SSAFF2015. It was an honor to be a part of the festival!
First day in Seattle
Oct 25: Went to Volunteer Park along with my wonderful hosts. It’s a beautiful park with a water tower, a conservatory, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the “Doughnut.” It’s located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Lots of coffee houses, beards, flannel shirts, hoodies, and bikes. Very counterculture. No wonder this was the epicenter of the grunge scene. An ad for yogurt at the Westlake station, en route to the Transit Tunnel: “If your dad was this smooth, you’d have more siblings.”
screenings on the west coast
v early tomorrow morning off to seattle, vancouver, san francisco, palo alto and berkeley. 10 days, 5 cities, 3 flights, 3 hotels, one train ride across the border to canada, 4 screenings of A Thin Wall, and lots of friends to connect with. yay!
Upcoming Screenings of A Thin Wall
A THIN WALL is on the festival circuit. It will be shown at:
The Seattle South Asian Film Festival on Oct 25th
The 3rd i Film Festival in Palo Alto on Nov 1st
Please let friends and family know about these screenings on the West Coast. Hope to see you there.
“a thin wall” screening at berkeley
i will be at UC berkeley on nov 2nd to screen “a thin wall,” my new film about the partition of india. west coast friends, hope to see u there!
Monday, November 2 at 5:00pm – 7:00pm PST
Conference Room of Center for Race & Gender, 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley