(Nuristan screen from Afghanistan – a source of my inspiration)
Rough stones in hand, we zip over to a restaurant close to the Institute to grab some lunch. Actually, we don’t exactly ‘zip.’ We weave, roll along, halt, weave again on the road across town, moving at the grand maximum speed of 30 mph. Road rules here are merely suggestions such as driving on the left, stopping at a light, overtaking on the right etc. There seem to be no penalties for flagrantly running red lights, overtaking into oncoming traffic, and straddling two lanes for miles. It is an absolute free-for-all.
The only thing that renders the chaos somewhat safe is the speed or lack thereof at which everyone drives. Meanwhile, trucks, cars and tuktuks think nothing of coming within inches of pedestrian children while in the next moment giving a cow a wide berth. Perhaps this would change if there were more cows than people…
I’m curried out but the options are few. Even the rice is buttery and rich. We stop for lunch at a place close to the Institute. Annie and I decide that South Indian food is our preferred cuisine having had heavy, stodgy Rajasthan dishes for over a week now. My stomach begs for something, anything, steamed or sauteed. Not to be. Another soupy, goupy saucy meal awaits us.
At the Institute, we get to work.
(The Institute’s instructors, Rasool, Sam and Ben.)
That’s Sam in a turban on the left. Days earlier, at the Amber Fort, the desert sun bore down on his bare head, roasting it red. He’d just flown in from London so most likely had not seen sun since the previous summer. Thanks to the sunburn, he’s been sporting a turban under the cloudless, clear-blue and UV-laded Jaipur skies.
Sam once lived in Afghanistan. He showed us just a few photos from his time there that captured people in their other-worldly environment within perfectly balanced framing and in exquisite light. I hope one day he will share his stories and his photos, preferably in print. If so, I will happily link them through to you.
I set down my notebook and show Rasool how I’d like to see the lapis transformed. The rough will need trimming and polishing to bring its shape into being and its color up. I’d like to see the same with the aquamarine but I don’t imagine there’s time. Rasool gets to work on the cutting and stone polishing wheel.
Annie is horrified. Using a wheel without goggles? she asks. Do you want to blind yourself? She is right. The smallest chip from a stone could fly into the eye and cause blindness. But there are no safety goggles. This is India. Since I am from Jamaica, I didn’t think much of it either when I took a shot at the grinder, especially remembering watching my grandfather cutting and polishing agates, wearing just his reading glasses, out in the shed at Stanton. But she is right. I drive her point into my brain and promise myself to use goggles in the future.
The institute closes at 4:30pm. Rasool finishes all that he can of the lapis. His day is over and he goes to collect his wife and his son who are waiting for him.
(Through the window of the Institute’s lunch room/rec room/nursery for the Afghans. Is this not adorable?)
My next step is the factory a short drive away where I will see how the models are coming along and how they look with the lapis. The scale is off somewhat, all needs refining but to me, its all looking good!