Shalimar Revisited

Disclaimer: Best viewed at the theatre. Use a high volume to get it...

Some revelations need time to pass before they can be shared. Sometime this depends on how long it takes for someone to upload something into Youtube...

About a year ago I experienced synesthesia quite dramatically when I was sitting at the theatre and watching the opening of Spike Lee's brilliant (yet popular) thriller Inside Man*. As the Bollywood music rolled on, having nearly no connection at all to the opening credits, I started smelling Shalimar... The male singers' voice pouring around like melted ghee, sweet like honey syrup with rosewater over halwa and orgasmic drum beats.

I finally got the Indian connection to Shalimar. Forget about the fountains in Mumtaz Mahal's garden, or any other story they are trying to sell you... The sensuality of Shalimar's vanilla, roses and bergamot can be summed up into an Indian sweet and a Bollywood voice and ripples of silk-scarf dancing.

If you want to just listen to mohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifre of the music, again, take this (this is the Rap Joint version at the end of the film ):

Here is the translation of the song from Urdo to English according to BollyWHAT? (it has more to do with Shalimar than the plot of the film):

He whose head is in the shadow of love
will have heaven beneath his feet.
Whose head is in the shadow of love...
Walk in the shadow.
Walk in heaven, walk in the shadow.

There's a friend who is like a sweet fragrance,
whose words are like poetry (lit. Urdu, the language of poetry),
who is my evening, my night, my existence.
That friend is my beloved!

Sometimes (my beloved) flirts like a flower,
so fragrantly that you may see her scent.
Having made it into an charm, I will wear it.
She shall be obtained as a miracle is obtained.
She is my song, my declaration of faith

(My friend is like a priest to me.)
My song... my declaration of faith...
She moves like the dew.
She walks with the garden of heaven beneath her feet,
sometimes through the branches, sometimes amidst the leaves.
I shall search the wind for her trail!

I trade in her beauty.
Fickle, she flits shamelessly from sun to shade.
She changes her bright colors;
I negotiate that as well.

*The popularity of the movie, as well as some of the soundtrack, helped Spike Lee to make his piercingly (and depressingly) provocative When The Levees Broke.

l'Ecume des Jours & Rebuilding New Orleans

My perfume l’Ecume des Jours was inspired by Boris Vian’s magical novel by the same name. It was inspired by the perfect beauty of the Jazz of New Orleans, and in particular the music by Duke Ellington. This is a book that is signified by a perfect symmetric structure and the collapsing of a universe because of its own fantastic and surreal rules. It’s beauty is unbelievable. And so when I created a perfume in its namesake, I tried to make it perfect too, if this is even possible… I took the most unusual essences, such as boronia, pink lotus, seaweed, moss and cassis, and worked them together to create a watery, transparent, floral-green perfume. Something that is almost out of this world… I was very pleased to notice that recently it has finally started getting the recognition I was hoping it will receive, which translates into sales of course. And while this made me happy and proud, another thing made me sad…

Last week I watched in awe Spike Lee’s documentary “When The Levees Broke”, about the drowning of the city and the people of New Orleans. The people of this unusual city, which has been a beacon for freedom in the USA, an example for multiculturalism and a corner stone in the USA’s culture of jazz music and art – in fact a corner stone of the entire Western Civilization – have been let down by its own government. The people of this city have received very little help from the USA government ever since Katrina struck. So I thought to myself: “If the president of the United States doesn’t care for New Orleans citizens, let the Citizens of World care for them!”.

Let’s not let New Orleans collapse in the same way that the world in l’Ecume des Jours collapses into non-existence. Let’s not let a perfect city drown again in misery and death, poverty and stormy waters. This is too cruel of an end to a city that is truly the heart of America as we know it. It drowned in the water rising from the hurricane and unstoppable by incompetent levees. Let’s not drown it a second time by not helping the people of New Orleans to come back and rebuild it. Let’s help them re-build New Orleans, ensure its safety from rising water by restoring the wetlands surrounding it and building safe and steady levees this time. There is something we can do about it!

One of the powerful things a small business owner can do is help the community and help make a social change. Since the very day of conception of my little perfumery, I always knew I would do all I can to help causes that I think are important and that are close to my heart. I would like to invite you all, responsible business owners, bloggers, perfume lovers – responsible, caring people and citizens of this world - to join me in supporting charities in New Orleans that truly help the people of New Orleans and re-build the city.

I will be donating $10 from each bottle of l’Ecume des Jours that I sell to a New Orleans woman that is struggling to support her aging mother and two children. I have only raised $60 so far this way, but hopefully l’Ecume des Jours will sell more after this post, and hopefully my perfumery will flourish and grow to enable me to do even more for New Orleans.

I invite you to do the same and support an individual from the city, or donate to one of the few charities that I have confirmed are in fact helping the people of New Orleans and are most likely to actually make a difference in the future of this remarkable city.

Here are their links, as well as links to the film’s homepage:
To help New Orleans people with basic needs such as food and shelter you can donate to this charity:
Catholic Charities New Orleans - Hurrican Relief Services and Projects

To help restore Louisiana’s wetlands, essential to the future survival of the city, you can support this organization:
America's Wetland

Click here to read more about the film “When The Levees Broke”, where you can also find an interview with director and filmmaker Spike Lee, and also find out about more organizations rebuilding in New Orleans.

The illustrations and art work for these New Orleans posts are all courtesy of Mark Andersen, a New Orleans artist and a Katrina evacuee now living in Atlanta, GA. One more thing you can do to support New Orleans is purchase his art book via Emigre.com, which will donate 50% of the sale to a program in New Orleans to aid affected musicians.

Artwork copyright by Mark Andresen, 2006. Some images are from "New Orleans As It Was: Sketchbook Drawings by Mark Andresen from 1988 to Katrina", designed by Rudy Vanderlans and printed by Gingko Press. Avialable on Amazon.com and Emigre.com. If you buy it from Amazon.com you will be supporting the artist, himself a Katrian evacuee.

When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

We watched this 5 hour + documentary five nights in a row, not able to stop thinking about this tragedy in between "screenings". It was originally broadcasted on HBO as a mini-series documentary and is now available on DVD. I believe every person in America should watch it, not to mention across the world. Moreover, it should be mandatory to watch for every high school in the US (which is probably not going to happen with the current administration, probably more keen on screening "Anti-Terrorism" propaganda instead).

The film tells the tale of what happened in New Orleans prior, during and after the hurricane. According to the account of events, what caused the drowning of New Orleans was not the hurricane (by the time it reached New Orleans it was only level 2 or 3, which the levees were suppose to withstand). It was the failure of the levees. These were the most incompetent structure and although experts and government officials knew three years in advance that they are outdated and unsafe, they did nothing about it. They simply watched the sinking of this flag-ship of American culture, not to mention individual people who's lives were at sake (and forsaken on that ship). They simply watched them drown (if they weren't too busy vacationing in Texas ranches or fighting Holy Wars in the Middle East).

In every single step of this hurricanic Via Dolorosa, the US government did everything possible to make things more complicated. Let's make a little list (which I am sure is not going to cover it all):
1) Not taking responsibility and action over the safety of the city and the questionable protection of the levees.
2) Not ensuring that the citizens of New Orleans are properly evacuated from the city, when the storm clearly was hitting level 6.
3) Not providing relief in time and rescuing the people who were stuck in the city. In fact, many resources were wasted on capturing so to speak "looters" (who in more cases than none were just looking for clean water and food for survival).
4) Delaying food and water and medical aid (the people in the city were stuck for 5 days with no food or clean drinking water)
5) Once the rescue has arrived, the families were torn apart and dispersed all across the US.
6) Once the hurricane was over and the city was ready to re-absorb its citizens, there were not attempts or efforts made to support or encourage or physically bring the people of New Orleans back home. Families were torn to pieces and the entire social fabric of this tightly woven city has been destroyed.
7) Delaying to assign emergency shelters such as trailers to the people that lost their homes, leaving them homeless and even causing death (from hypothermia) to young people who were staying at tent camps during the winter.
8) Even recovery of the dead wasn't properly done: people returned to their homes to find their dead relatives and loved ones, even in houses that were marked to be with no dead bodies inside.
9) To this day, the people New Orleans received little or no compensation for their losses, neither from the government nor from the insurance companies (to which they paid the best parts of the salary for their entire lives). Such funds and moneys, which could support the people while re-building the city, seem to be unavailable in a country that prides itself as being one of (if not THE) richest in the world.

Nice checklist, huh? This was so efficiently done I can imagine someone going through it and making sure nothing is done!

What happened in New Orleans is more than a large number of human tragedies concentrated in one city. This is a cultural tragedy. This is a message from the government of the USA that "George Bush doesn't care about black people", as one of the city's people dared to say on TV.
Of course, not only black people were affected by the hurricane - but New Orleans being a city that chooses to give more importance to jazz and good cuisine rather than oil and weapons clearly poses no political interest for the current US administration, and therefore very little sympathy translated into dollars.

So, the bottom line is - it's up to the people of New Orleans to re-build New Orleans. And if we want to see this city again and make sure that the heart of the US is still beating, we have to help them out ourselves.

Poster for When The Levees Broke from HBO.com
Clips from YouTube.com
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