Here I present another series of animals that I have painted over the years, the elephants. The elephant can represent abundance, but also unconditional love and inner peace, painting or drawing an elephant connects me to these qualities and beyond, in this way even those who observe the paintings connect with those qualities. In any case, even the elephant is much more than what can be rationalized.
All the stories I tell are pure truth, also in writing there is creativity, but the expression together with the truth of the content becomes even more authentic.
People may wonder how a shy tiny person like me had many experiences, in Brazil once an Argentine friend who was at the beach bar with another friend told me that seeing me arriving from the beach, they began to joke about how difficult and messy life is for everyone, and they struggle to get things, then comes the Tana (so the Argentinians call the Italians) and it’s all easy for her, everything is synchronized. Well the Tana is like this.
Among my heroes, besides Pippi Longstocking, there was also kung fu panda, well I was already an adult when I watched kung fu panda again and again 😀 , authentic heroes, who found their strength in their diversity and vulnerability.
There is an elephant-headed deity in India called Ganesh. I got inspired with the idea of going to India after reading an Osho book when I was in Brazil, and the idea came back even stronger when I read Yogananda book “Autobiography of a Yogi” which is not about a bear but an Indian master.
I read that book on Lake Como during a 21-day fast, I liked the book so much that once I finished I went to a travel agency and bought a ticket to India, I left the following week, after doing 3 weeks of fasting.
The day before I left, I went to an Ayurvedic shop in Milan and in a conversation with the owner he told me that his daughter had just returned from India and gave me the address of the Yogananda ashram.
It was great to see the deserts of Arabia and Tehran from the airplane window, towards a continent completely unknown to me.
Arrived in New Delhi, as soon as I got off the plane I felt warm air and a strong elephant smell, in reality I did’t know that smell, but I knew it was elephant, I left the airport and going by taxi, I saw that the streets were crowded with people celebrating, there were real elephants in the streets and also people carrying elephant statues, and found out that that day was the festival of Ganesh , the elephant-headed deity.
The next day I went to visit a Hindu temple, where it is customary to say hello to Shiva and Ganesh, and the temple guardian put a red powder on my third eye. On the streets there were cows everywhere, since they are sacred, nobody moves them, in the evening they also entered the bars as if they were going to spend the evening.
Being a foreigner I was persecuted by avalanches of children who were asking me for money and men looked at me with looks that seemed to want to pierce my soul, it was a nightmare, so I entered a shop and I bought an Indian dress. Now I was passing by an Indian from Kashmir and I was finally invisible to go where I wanted. I visited an immense fortress, it was deserted, without doors or windows, full of courtyards and statues, no person but it was inhabited by monkeys, it seemed a place of silence away from the chaos of the city and the monkeys were more peaceful than people.
On the plane I had read in the newspaper that in the area I wanted to go there had been a large landslide due to a flood, with villages destroyed, so I looked for inspiration on where to go. Back in chaos there was a small shop that did everything, even travel agency, I went in and there was a very nice boy who was very happy in persuading me to visit Kashmir, telling me about his beauties, surely I was the the only person to whom he had sold a tourist trip to a place where there was war. I naively jumped headlong into the war between India and Pakistan.
The first clue that something was wrong was arriving in Shrinegar, the plane landed at the military airport instead of the normal one, and we were all interrogated and the bags searched.
The hotel owner was waiting for me with my name written on a sign, and he had to wait a long time before I met him after all the searches of my luggage and several interrogations.
The positive side of all this, is that there were no tourists, so they gave me a whole big boat all to myself on the lake, all of wood carved with Arabic figures, it looks like a palace resting on lotus flowers on the lake, on a plateau at 2000 meters on the Himalaya and they treated me like a queen, I had a huge room to sleep and a large dining room and a terrace with a big armchair where I sat to drink tea and to look at the lake. Quiet reigned, there was only the sound of birds and the silent vastness of calm, and the war seemed nonexistent. Occasionally I heard the distant echoes of the songs on the other side of the lake , which called the people to prayer. The lake is surrounded by greenery and mountains and has many tree-lined islands among which birds of all kinds flutter. Once I woke up dreaming of a foal that neighed and instead it was a big eagle on the roof above my room. Kashmir is a world apart.
A nice man who might have looked like a Calabrian, Mohammed, hired himself as my personal guide, at the beginning it bothered me a bit, because I like being independent, but it was good, adventurous as I was I would have chased myself in trouble going around alone, on the streets there were military checks everywhere and with him as a driver we easily passed every check.
When I was relaxed on the terrace of the boat looking at the lake, he often brought me tea, biscuits and a joint. I wonder why people often associate me with pots, and bring them to me on a tray.
The tea in those areas is a must, all the places where he took me, shops or anything else, people offered us a very good tea with milk and mint leaves. So I practically drank tea all day. Tea and calm conversation, very calm. I have never seen such calm people as in Kashmir.
I love conversations in places where people are quiet, like in villages in Brazil, conversations in which one is not afraid of pauses or empty spaces, and so the conversations are much deeper and they don’t say random things. On the other hand, in places where there is a faster pace and there is stress like in Milan people talk in spurts, they can’t stand breaks. For this reason I also removed the phone line from my house in Milan, because the various friends called me every day talking for hours about their problems and everything that happened and listening I often found myself lying on the ground with the phone in my ear without strength . At a certain point I said: enough! Telephone line disconnected, torture finished. Then when they put mobile subscriptions and therefore it was cheaper to call with it, they also tried with the mobile but I already learned to cut.
Returning to Kashmir, to experience the Muslim vibra, I went to the mosque with Mohammed and started praying in the women’s row, outside the mosque, because only men are allowed inside. I did what other women did, I followed their movements to the rhythm of the prayers sung, I knelt, got up, etc. Once I saw that they were talking to each other looking at me, and one even ran away, then I realized that my veil had flown from my head. The veil on the women’s head is very important in those parts, some even cover the face except the eyes.
I had other Indian clothes made by one of the tailors on the street. In Shrinegar there are no clothes shops, but it is full of tailors who work on the street, it works like this: you buy the fabrics, take it to the tailor and he makes you the tailored suit. The clothes of Kashmir are much more comfortable than those of New Delhi which are full of veils, in Kashmir just trousers and long big shirts, veil on head and that’s it, I made paintings with those clothes when I returned to Milan.
I think the story about the trip to India is much longer than the others so that I divide it into parts. It lasted two months but it was very intense, for me it was completely new. Ah in New Delhi I also had a hole and a nose earring made! I remembered it now, also because I haven’t used it for several years and my hole has been patched up. However the story continues, under the protection of Ganesh and the elephants.