Jefe's House

Tag: india

Contacting the Dead in West Bengal

by on Feb.18, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Truth Is In Here

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

line

I’ve traveled India a bunch in the past five years and have learned that almost no one in India seems to have heard of a Ouija board. I’ve also been in tons of stores ranging from rustic bazaars to gleaming shopping malls and have never seen a Ouija board for sale even though they have plenty of other Western toys and board games.

People there do, however, know what you’re talking about when you explain it, only they call it “doing planchette” and those who do it would only ever make their own. The idea of buying one seems foreign to them. Culturally, “doing planchette” seems to hold the same place as it does here: spooky, scary, forbidden, inviting doom, naughty, tempting, very real. Once I got my wife’s Hindu family elders talking about it, they recalled tons of stories that pretty much parallel the kinds of escapades you hear recalled in the US.

Her great uncle warned me against it, telling me there’s a reason God has created two separate dimensions for the living and the dead, and that to try and bridge the gap is inviting trouble. He then told me how once as a young man he and a bunch of friends were vacationing in a small shack in the jungle on a wildlife preserve (the Indian version of the “cabin in the woods” archetypal horror setting) and one evening they got bored and someone made a planchette board. They typically use a coin as the planchette. They soon were in touch with a man who said he was recently deceased. He said he was a Naxalite (Indian Marxist rebel) who had recently been killed by a rival Communist. At that moment the lights went out, engulfing them in darkness. Everybody freaked, they balled up the planchette board and threw it away and my great-uncle vowed never to do the planchette again.

He remains true to his word. I asked him if he would draw one for me exactly as they had drawn them back in the day, and he grimly said, “This is not possible.”

I dropped the subject but later that evening I approached my wife’s grandmother to ask the same question. She shrugged and said, (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , , , , more...

A Magical Child

by on Feb.07, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
line

A talented young street magician I shot in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India after she approached us shouting “Magic? Magic?”  My 3-year-old son has recently discovered magic so we gave her the nod. She dropped to the ground, emptied the contents of her bag and went to town. Soon a small crowd formed to watch.  My son’s mind was blown, especially when she made money disappear from my wife’s hand and come out of my son’s ear and nose.  I am extremely envious of her sleight of hand skills.  Apologies for the wind noise.

 

I realize there is perhaps, potentially, a darker side to this, like where are her parents? I didn’t see them, but I didn’t see a Fagin lurking about (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , more...

Remnants of Jewish Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
line
Temple Beth-El built in 1856.

Kolkata’s oldest synagogue, Beth-El, built in 1856.

There only 25 Jews left in Kolkata but three large, old synagogues speak to their former vast numbers. They were Baghdadi Jews from the Middle East. Getting into these synagogues as an outsider is no easy feat. The Kolkata cabbies haven’t a clue nor do most native Kolkatans you ask.

You have to go to a certain bakery on the first floor of the historic New Market bazaar, get a phone number and call it, speak to a certain Jewish woman who’ll give you directions, then you go to the sites and mention her name to the groundskeepers so they know you’re legit, then they let you inside where you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. Suggested donation is 100 rupees (about $2.00).  I jumped through all of these hoops and it was well worth it.

We first step inside the Magen David (slideshow) synagogue built in 1884 and the guide, a slight Indian in his 30′s with a boyish face, sticks a yarmulke on my head. He barely speaks English. I barely speak Bangla. It goes like this: (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Beth-el Synagogue, Kolkata, built in 1856

by on Jan.31, 2015, under The Truth Is In Here

About half a mile from the Magen David and Neveh Shalome synagogues is Beth-el Synagogue.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

Next door to the Magen David Synagogue is the “Old Synagogue,” official name Neveh Shalome. In 1825 a house was bought on this site and made into Kolkata’s first synagogue. It was demolished and rebuilt as the present one in 1911.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , more...

The Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.30, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

Built in 1884.  Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015.–>>

(continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , more...

Voices from the Dennison Crypt

by on Jan.24, 2015, under NYC, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

DON’T MISS THE NYC PREMIERE OF JEFFREY STANLEY’S BONEYARDS AT BROOKLYN’S MORBID ANATOMY MUSEUM ON 2/27/15! DETAILS HERE.

*

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
line

Assume with me for a minute that ghosts really are, without a doubt, real. The dead really can contact us. EVPs/Raudive voices/ghost box voices are the real deal.  That said, it follows that it’s pointless to try and get any decent EVP’s in a cemetery. Why would ghosts be hanging around  a cemetery full of strangers when they can go back to their still-living families or the places that were near and dear to them in life? Sure, cemeteries can be creepy and I’m not sure I’d enjoy traipsing around in one at night, but really my belief is that they are generally ghost-free.

A still from the background looping slideshow in BONEYARDS.

A still from the background looping slideshow in BONEYARDS.

Unless a particular grave or cemetery is historically believed to be haunted; then, it might be worth a look. Take the notorious Bachelor Grove Cemetery outside of Chicago which I plan to visit in March during my trek on the California Zephyr for my Amtrak Writers Residency. Or the Dennison family crypt in Kolkata’s South Park Street Cemetery, one of my favorite haunts in West Bengal, India. When I was last there earlier this month I took my trusty P-SB7 spirit box with me, the one I use live onstage in Boneyards, to check it out. (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

“Nightmare”

by on Dec.06, 2014, under NYC, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Press

indiaabroad“Soon after I took a seat all hell broke loose.”  

Har har, I sent a news tip to India Abroad about a debacle in the New York visa office run by Cox & Kings and they instead ran it as a full page piece with the header “Nightmare.” I know some of you will feel my pain.

London-based Cox & Kings is one of the world’s oldest travel agencies and has offices around the world.  Increasingly India and other countries outsource their entire visa application process to companies like this one, with results that are often a Kafkaesque exercise in frustration but on my final visit — it took me a record 4 visits to New York from Philly to get mine and my family’s visas approved — I watched a near-riot ensue.

Obviously there are larger issues in the world to complain about (to wit, this week’s cover story pictured above) but chronic problems with Cox & Kings have been an ongoing saga in this paper, so perhaps my recent tirade will help in some small way with the many thousands of people who travel from the US to India each year.  Here’s to the power of the press.

Full article here>>

To add insult to injury, I got outta there with visa in hand and made the long trek back to Philly, but the next morning they sent me an email telling me my visa was ready and had been Fedexed to me! They even included a tracking number!  I thought maybe it would be one of the many lost passports they’re notorious for but fortunately nothing ever arrived.

 

 

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , more...

Finally. Relief for my sweat itch-induced intertrigo.

by on Aug.14, 2014, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

“Relieves sweat itch due to intertrigo.”

When it comes to humidity-induced itching, a monsoon country like India don’t mess around when it comes to quick, potent, no-nonsense remedies.

I'm not even gonna ask about "dhobi itch."

I ain’t even gonna ask about “dhobi itch.”

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Boneyards Final Shows This Weekend

by on Oct.30, 2013, under Shaheb Cafe, The Press, The Sixth Boro, The Truth Is In Here, Theatre

Come wake the dead.  BONEYARDS returns for 2 final shows this Saturday and Sunday 11/2 and 11/3 in Philadelphia.  Times and tickets.

Meanwhile please enjoy my latest article in today’s Washington Post about my theatrical experiments in contacting the dead as performance art over the past two years.  Thank you for your support and patronage, and Happy Halloween.

wapobanner2October 31, 2013

On Faith
Supernatural Skeptics Don’t Know What They’re Missing
by Jeffrey Stanley

I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.

I like Ouija boards. I’ve used them since I was a teenager.  More recently I’ve messed around with electric spirit boxes, also known as Frank’s boxes after their inventor Frank Sumption.  They’re radio receivers which allow you to listen to and record voices of the dead, also known as EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) or Raudive voices, after one of their early discoverers.  Over the past two years I have frequently used Ouija boards and spirit boxes in my performance art, attempting to conjure up the dead as my co-stars before a live audience.  At one of the universities where I teach playwriting and screenwriting part-time I am also the faculty adviser for a student-led paranormal investigation club.  Friends and fans assume I am a true believer but the truth is that I am not.  I am a healthy skeptic.  And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there. I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind. CONT’D>>

And also out today from Drexel University a story about the PIG of which I’m the proud faculty adviser…

drexelnow_overDrexel Paranormal Investigators Haunted by the Unknown
by Alissa Falcone
…It doesn’t hurt that the group’s faculty adviser also has an interest with the undead: By day, Jeffrey Stanley teaches classes in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s Screenwriting and Playwriting Department, but at night he transforms into undead residents of cemeteries from all over the world during “Boneyards,” his performance that imagines supernatural comic monologues.CONT’D at drexel.edu>>

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...