Monday, April 27, 2009
Mehendi is the practice of painting the hands and feet of the bride as part of the wedding ceremony.
This ancient art form is still alive and well and flourishes where any talented entrepreneur sets up his shop.......
Linda and I had just finished dinner and as we were making our way back to our car, we stumbled upon these two artist and their customer busy at work creating this work of art on the sidewalk.
It was amazing just watching them work. I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler......God just did not bless me with the artistic talent that he has given to others.
I politely asked the young woman if I could take her picture and she obviously obliged.
Linda has expressed a desire to have this done one day.......perhaps when Parker gets here!
I will be sure to take some pictures of her when this happens.
I a not sure what the cost is to have this done.......but it is certainly an art form unique to South Asia.....and not something one sees taking place on the sidewalk in any city in the US.
I recently read, in one of Linda's handy books that she bought from one of the lady organizations she attends, about this very interesting shopping area in Delhi.....this was our second trip.
The shopping area consists of shops from various parts of India, that sell handicrafts from the villages from their state. All of the prices are very reasonable and fixed, so there is typically no need to go through the typical bargaining session that is the highlight of other shopping experiences.
We found a few exciting things to decorate our apartment with, but there were no major purchases. Well except a statue of Lord Shiva.....that Linda thought was the statue of a girl.....she kept referring to it as "Her" until our driver Ramesh pointed out to me that it was Lord Shiva......the destroyer!
But I did get a couple of very interesting photographs and some colorful ones as well......and what Preston typically does when Linda and I explore the shops.
I know that Preston can't wait to get his big brother over here so they can go off and explore things on their own......it will be good to have both of our boys back together again.....even for a short time.
We think about you all the time Parker......about 22 days and you will be here......and perhaps you can find a place to sleep like Preston!
The Sunday that Preston and I visited the ruins of Tughluqabad Fort the temperature outside had reached 102......but, the heat here is a very dry heat, similar to what you would experience in Arizona. Nevertheless, it was warm, especially while climbing up and down the ramparts of this beautiful remnant of history.
Tughluqabad Fort was built by the man who named it.....Tughluq....Sultan of Delhi.....he has an interesting background, but I think I will spare you the details.
But here are a few amazing facts.
He became Sultan/ Ruler of Delhi in 1321 and he immediately commenced construction of his fort to defend against invasions from Mongols. The walls of the fort reach 35 feet in thickness in some areas, but most average between 15 - 25 feet. The perimeter walls are approximately 6.5 km long. It was built, complete in only 4 years.
Apparently there were so many workers commissioned to build the fort, that worked stopped at the construction of a well for a local Saint named Nizzamudin. Nizzamudin was so angry that he placed a curse on the fort which later proved to be a reality.
Preston and I had a great time this Sunday, despite the heat, and can't wait to explore it further when Parker gets here. It is well worth a second trip back as we didn't have any water with us and cut the visit short.
Speaking of water.......the lack of water on the ridge was the primary reason that Tughluqabad was failure. It was abandoned shortly after it was built, making the "curse" come true.
By the way......Delhi is also know as the place of "Seven Cities". The American Embassy School offers a program that lasts ....seven weeks....and includes visits to each of them. Linda was advised to wait until the fall to take the class, as newcomers tend to take on too many new things at first..
Tughluqabad is know as the THIRD CITY of Delhi......I think Preston and I have visited about 4 or 5 of the seven so far......just on our weekend explorations of Delhi.
And one more thing......we found the "secret escape passage" but as I was descending the stairs and my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness of the underground passage, my eyes saw something moving and chirping......and when I looked closely the ceiling was filled with bats.....needless to say, I climbed the stairs very quickly.
It is always an Adventure....with me!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
A week ago I had another visit to the property in Jaipur.....another long day of leaving at 7:00am and not returning until approximately 11:pm.
The mode of transportation was by car this time....not the usual quick flight of an hour......but a trip by car that takes no less that 4.5 hours.
This is my preferred mode of transportation, because of the sites that avail themselves.....but sometimes, the need to effectively utilize time does not allow for this, and the plane is necessary.
There are some incredible sites that one can witness while driving anywhere on any road in India.
The "Truck Art" is amazing......Preston enjoys "collecting" pictures of truck art as well.
And then.....the Indians have taking the term "Hitching a Ride" to a new level......In this picture you can count six people hanging on the outside of this Jeep....what you can't see is how many people are packed inside.....I am not exaggerating when I tell you there were at least 10 people inside.....traveling about 40 km/h down the highway.
Experiencing India by car is an amazing journey all it's own. A word of advice is to always have your camera ready.....anything is possible.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Linda,Preston and I volunteered to host a dinner party at our apartment for the entire team and their spouses......it was a great way to get everyone together when our "American Guests" were here on business. Of course, preparing for the party just added an additional weeks worth of running around for Linda and I.
I decided that it would be fun "surprise" for Chris and Rob to wear some traditional Indian clothing, since I had enjoyed the experience resulting from the wedding......so the "theme" was Indian.....go figure! I emailed Chris's wife and got his sizes for his kurta top and his size 9 "jutti's". For Rob, I just looked in his jacket one day while he was working in the office.
The party provided the necessary "motivation" to get some of the photographs that Preston and I have taken enlarged and framed. The purpose of this of course was to fill our blank walls with "art". Linda also had a hand embroidered silk scarf framed.....it turned out to be a beautiful piece of artwork as well.
And speaking of walls, Linda visited the paint shop......chose a wonderful color for the walls in the foyer and arranged for two painters through a friend to paint......we needed the perfect background color for the pictures......other than the whitewashed walls.
The combination led to me drilling holes in the brick walls of the apartment, putting in the lead anchors and screws....
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the two pieces of furniture we purchased; inexpensive by American standards......and purchased with how they will look back in our home when we return.
And with furniture.......Linda just had to find some "accessories" to complete the decorating project......but again, some very unique pieces that we will have as "treasures" when we return from this adventure. Of most interest is the wooden ladder from Nepal.....I am not sure of it's age, but it is carved from the trunk of a tree.....with notch's for steps......very unique!
Many of you have asked for photo's of how our apartment is shaping up, and I will do a "before and after" at a later time.....it is still a work in progress.......but back to the party.
Just before the party, the driveway was filled with candle filled sconces lighting the way to the party......when the guests arrived, they were greeted with candles surrounded by flower petals that linda had arranged in a nice decorative pattern.
Furniture was moved out so we could move in some round tables and chairs to accommodate almost 30 guests.
It was a catered affair.....arranged by Sonya and Ashish.....which was a huge help to Linda......and the food was fantastic.
The caterers brought in a "tandoor oven" to cook the Kashmiri food items on the menu......fish, chicken, lamb, and a host of vegetarian items as well.
The party was a success.....and in the future we are destined to host some additional get togethers for the team......some of our new expat friends and their families....and some of Linda's network of friends from the various organizations she is involved in..with differing themes.
Although the party ended and the last guest left around midnight......Linda and I were up until 3:00am cleaning and mopping the floors......that last picture shows what the kitchen looked like towards the end of the night.
All we need is a reason to party! I guess our next "guest of honor" will be our son Parker......who we miss tremendously!.....Hmmmmmmm.....I wonder what theme we can have for his party?
Bon Apetit....and Cheer's!
If anyone is wondering why there has been a lack of entries in our Blog, it is simply due to the hectic schedule I have had over the past two weeks.
Three visitors from the US.....a Conference in Mumbai......visits to the hotel project sites......meeting after meeting......follow up from the meetings.....get the picture?
However, despite the crazy schedule and hours that were being kept, we managed to find a few hours to do some volunteer work.
I find it amazing how my life is guided at times......volunteering was not my idea especially while I was looking at the hectic schedule that was building on my calendar.....it was the request of one of my colleagues from the US, who asked if it would be possible for him to do some volunteer work while he was here on his extended trip(his third to India).
Of course, when his request came, I asked Linda for some assistance, as she has made some wonderful contacts through the organizations she has become involved in......and she knew the organization that was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do......Project WHY!
Linda had met "Anu" at one of the American Women's Association meetings she attended......Linda was moved by the work Anu was doing and how this woman had forever made a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
The day we volunteered, it happened to be Anu's birthday, but even though it was a Saturday she was there to meet us.
She told us all about the organization; the work she does with children from the "juggi" (slum). She has a pre-school program which begins teaching English at a young age.....the ability to read and write and speak in English seems to be the foundation upon which a person can build a better life for themselves here in India.
Anu also takes in children and young adults who are mentally challenged.....she provides a refuge for them on a daily basis....an escape from the physical abuse many suffer if left at home...as they are not able to contribute to the family unit....therefore many are abused or simply ignored by their own families. Anu explained that she and her volunteers will sometimes physically go to the homes of these children and remove them from harm......teach them life skills....provide food and shelter....and simply show them love and affection.
She provides before and after school programs for children from the juggi as well. Public schools educate girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon.......and Anu and her volunteers work with the students....help them to complete their schoolwork.....and generally provide support to keep them in school and off of the street.
Project WHY is not funded by huge corporations or foundations.....Project WHY is a grass roots organization....started by Anu shortly after the death of her parents by her own yearning to make a difference in the lives of others.......and what an incredible difference she has made.
She went on to tell the story of a father......who sought her help to save the life of his son......the father did not have the money to seek the medical assistance for the open heart surgery his son needed to keep him alive. Anu found a way to make this happen......not once but over the years she has raised money to save the lives of 15 such children!
While Chris and Rob gravitated to the smaller children, I was more comfortable spending time with those a bit older......boys ranging in age from 9 to 15 or so......since our volunteer day was on a Saturday, most of the time the children spend are on "fun" activities.
The young man above is Radu......he is 13 years old and at the age of 8, Radu underwent open heart surgery with the financial assistance of Project WHY. I had the pleasure of playing three games of chess with him.......he beat me twice!
Chris, Rob and I also learned how to play cricket......a totally new experience for us.....and one I will never forget.
If you are planning a visit to India, and your agenda includes spending some time making a difference in the lives of others, Anu and her staff would welcome you with open arms. You can find those in need at every street corner.......there is no shortage of poverty.....the beauty of Project WHY is that you truly can see your efforts at work......your donation of time and money actually touching the lives of those in need.....without the worry of how your money may be spent or if it is reaching the hands of those who are not in need.
By the way......the average cost of an open heart surgery here in India is 80,000 INR (rupees).....about $1600.00 US......
To learn more about Project WHY I have included the link to their website......for those who read this blog and want to raise money for a very worthy cause.......donate clothing, toys, or time......Project WHY could use your help.