Sunday, March 22, 2009 "A" Block Vasant Vihar

Preston and I stumbled upon a park in "A" Block of Vasant Vihar which has been transformed into a beautiful flower garden by the New Delhi Horticultural I wish they would do the same to the park next to our house!

This park was filled with several varieties of flowers, and between he and I we shot several hundred pictures......just hoping to capture something fantastic....

So after reviewing the 321 photographs that I shot, I thought that I would share five of my favorites of flowers that were being visited by bees. Although I enjoy taking pictures of flowers, it is always fun to capture something unique.

The ones I selected are far from National Geographic material, but nevertheless, they are fun to look at....and were fun to take. explain the title.....I look at photography as an "art form"...but my sister, Betty, is the true artist of the family. Just recently, she has taken her talent to a new level and has started to offer her work to willing buyers....and her paintings,ceramics or other works always include a small "bee" as her signature; something she uses as a "twist" of her first initial...."B". BeeArtworks is how she "markets" herself.

So this is my version of BeeArtworks.....India style! Her talent far surpasses mine.....I can't seem to make anything happen with a paint brush and perhaps with a camera I might be able to develop some talent.....I am just trying to be as artistically talented as my big sister! There is no harm in there?


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pink City Blues!

Jaipur is thus far Linda's favorite city in India.....and although Jaipur is high on my list, I honestly haven't visited a city in India that I haven't liked.

Jaipur is rich in History, Heritage and Legend......One such "legend" is how Jaipur earned the designation of being the Pink City.

The story is told as follows:

Jaipur needed a fresh coat of paint to welcome its distinguished guest, the Prince of Wales, in 1905-6. The contractors inability to supply any other color in the required quantity compelled the choice of pink shade for its walls. A contractor’s compulsion famed Jaipur to become known as the Pink City.

I cannot attest to the accuracy of the information....because several of the websites I visited had different years that the Prince of Wales visited......the earliest stated that he visited in 1852......some in between, and the latest was 1905-06. Who knows?

One thing is for sure.....Jaipur is a very special place and besides the history/legend behind it's name.....Jaipur is also know for Blue Pottery.

The influence of the Mogul Rulers can be found in the architecture and arts throughout India. Like these, the use of Blue Glaze was developed by Mongol artisans who combined Chinese glazing technology with Persian decorative arts. This technique travelled south to India with early Muslim potentates in the 14th century. During its infancy, it was used to make tiles to decorate mosques, tombs and palaces in Central Asia. Today, the art is being revived by only a few skilled artisans.....but they are making many decorative items for modern consumers to use in their homes.

When Linda learned about Blue Pottery, her first visit to Jaipur would not have been complete without a stop at a place that sold Blue Pottery....luckily, one of my earlier visits to the City I learned of just such a place that has their own artists and factory.

All handmade and hand painted.......the result of this timeless tradition yields some beautiful works of art....vases, drawer knobs, tiles, coasters, bowls,figurines, plates, furniture....

I have no doubt that our family and friends will be recipients of some Blue Gifts from the Pink City!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Swati and Himanshu's Wedding.....

Before we arrived in India, Linda and I had both read during the "researching" phase of our India Adventure, that attending an Indian wedding is an incredible experience and .....chances were good that we would be invited to attend one while we were living in India. That premise held true, and this past Thursday we attended our first Indian wedding.

I was honored when Amit, our GM for Technical Services and Engineering, presented me with the invitation to attend his sister's wedding. As a matter of fact, I was so excited, that I couldn't wait to return home to announce to Linda and Preston that we had been invited....

Although I am not an "expert" on Indian weddings, I will impart what little I do know, to give all of you back home reading the blog a sense of how things differ from the traditional "western" wedding.

Weddings in India take place on days that are considered "auspicious" by the priest or "pandit"....These are days that are considered to be "special" according to Hindu tradition.

Recently there was an article in the paper that over 20,000 weddings had taken place in New Delhi alone......on one day in February. There are over 165 such days in the Hindu calender.....and we can HEAR weddings taking place from our apartment. Yes...hear them.

Swati and Himanshu's wedding was no different.....the Swagat Barat, or Grooms Procession, takes place with much fanfare.....there are fireworks and a band to announce his arrival.....he is dressed in clothes befitting a "maharajah" and traditionally arrives on horseback or on an elephant.....

Fireworks, the band.....dancing truly reminded Linda and I of a mini Mardi Gras parade......

Once he arrives, there is a small greeting ceremony that is conducted by the Brides family.....welcoming the grooms family...once the groom arrives, he sits on a stage and waits for his bride to join him......she sits on his right until the ceremony is complete. And yes, there is the exchange of the the "garland of flowers".......remember my "inadvertent" wedding to Jeshri, my Indian wife...

The food is elaborate......the clothing is gorgeous.....and the wedding ceremony for the family doesn't end until about 3:00 in the morning. lasts approximately 6 hours......we unfortunately couldn't stay for the entire ceremony as the wedding took place on a school was an honor to be invited and a part of our adventure that will remain a highlight of our experience here in India.

Here are a few other things to note from the pictures.....Notice the intricate henna artwork on the brides hands......somewhere incorporated into the design are the letters from the alphabet that make up her husbands name......she is supposed to try and identify them......the henna artwork is a symbol of fertility......

The jewelry is given to the bride by her is her dowry of sorts.....part of the ceremony takes place under the arch...where the bride and groom walk around a ceremonial fire 7 times each reciting certain things....this is the part we couldn't stay for......She will wear the red bangles on her arm for one year indicating that she is a newly married bride.

Like weddings in the is a very special and festive occasion, but the entire week is filled with activities.....both the bride and groom, after 7 days of activities and a ceremony that lasts until 3:00am, must be exhausted and ready for things to be over.....

If you are invited to a wedding, you can ask other people to attend with is common...yes we could have invited some friends to join us....people that neither party knows......they adopt the philosophy that the more people the merrier.....this does not happen in the US.....attendance is sometime very strictly controlled....sometimes children are eliminated all together....and never could you bring someone...unannounced.

India is INCREDIBLE...and I hope that we are once again honored with another invitation to a wedding while we are here.

In the last picture....from left to right....Amit's Mother (the brides mother), Amit's wife, Swati(the Bride), Amit, and Amit's Father

Enjoy the pictures!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Nothing Old, everything new, something borrowed, nothing blue!"

For those of you who may be reading our blog and are wondering about the title of this blog is simply an adaptation of a saying that typically applies to a BRIDE in the United States.....a custom of sorts....I'll explain!

The entire saying comes from Victorian Era England, where it was customary for a bride to incorporate each of these items into what she wears as good luck and for a happy marriage.
"Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue,
And a sliver sixpence in her shoe"

Needless to say, in the USA, the last line of the phrase is often eliminated.....for obvious reasons.

Hence, the title of this blog refers to our experience leading up to attending Swati and Himanshu's wedding.

We had nothing OLD.......all three of us decided to purchase NEW clothing for the wedding.....There was something BORROWED......but nothing BLUE.

Shopping in India is always interesting, fun and a learning experience....

For the two "guys", the experience was quick......and painless...well sort of. We simply took some advice from Sonya on where to shop.....walked in, announced that we were attending a wedding and needed to purchase something to wear.....and Presto...within a half an hour we were all done. Except, for me......I was unable to complete my wardrobe purchase because they didn't have "Jutti's" to fit me.....yes, it was explained that only 1 out of every 55,000 people in India have a size 13 finding large shoe sizes of any type will be a challenge......especially in Indian footwear....but as you can see from the pictures.....persistence, some guidance, some aggravation from the hassles of haggling, and a few extra litres of diesel, and visits to several shops....I have a snazzy pair of jutti's.

Preston and I also had something borrowed; the two silk "scarves" that we are wearing were borrowed from the generosity of was a last minute addition, but it certainly put the finishing touches on our outfits.....we need to go and purchase two of our own. Thanks to Sonya......who once again has proved to be an invaluable resource to our family......she is truly helping us navigate through the waters of our India Adventure......and the sailing has been smooth.

I hope that all of you agree that Preston and I looked "smashingly handsome" in our Kurta Pyjama's and Jutti's......yes, it was the most comfortable wedding I have ever get to wear pyjama's.....well that's what they call them anyway!

Linda didn't find anything that she liked that day, so it took a few trips to a few stores, but in the end, she found something that looked absolutely fantastic......she looked the best out of the three of us.....and it was so wonderful to hear her say that her outfit made her "feel like a princess".....and minus the tiara, she truly looked like one!

I almost forgot....the something borrowed....through one of Linda's friends, she was introduced to a jewler.....yes.....YIKES....but wait.....I have been telling you how INCREDIBLE INDIA is yet another example.

Linda visited with the owner of the store who began showing her very elaborate jewelry from his store......urging her to take whatever she wanted.....his philosophy is simple....BORROW whatever you need...whatever makes you feel beautiful......his kindness and generosity through the years to the expatriate community has paid dividends that can only be imagined.... Linda was very conservative in what she selected to accessorize her outfit......but in the US, things like this only happen in Hollywood.....not to ordinary people like Linda and I. Incredible, warm, generous, kind, gracious........India.

We had a wonderful time at the wedding.....enjoyed our new clothes........Preston did have some pain....a small blister from his Jutti's....but that was it.

PARKER....get ready.....we are taking you shopping when you get here...there is a pair of Jutti's and some Kurta Pyjama's waiting for you! You too will be able to look as handsome as Preston and Dad!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

....more Holi fun!

It seems like everyone gets excited about Holi!

The excitement unfolded right before our eyes, and Linda and I enjoyed the views from the balcony of our apartment.

Holi gets started very early......first with the Security Guards, then Ramesh and his friend Surrender...and then as the neighborhood children woke up, they joined in the fun with water guns, and water balloons.......wetting each other down before the colorful powder began to hit....we could hear the drums from a nearby band playing somewhere near the was very festive.

Linda and I had fun....even though we just watched the excitement from the comfort and cleanliness of the house......but, when one of the neighborhood kids saw me up on the balcony taking pictures, he did his best to hit me with a water balloon.......but he missed!

The pictures are of Ramesh, Surrender and the Guards, and one of the dogs in the neighborhood that didn't escape the fun.

Preston's Technicolor "Holi" Day

Well it seems like all over the world, there is some sort of celebration of the beginning of the US, color is infused into Easter in the form of dying India, you dye your body.....well you don't, your friends and strangers do it for you.

So goes the celebration in India called "Holi".

Preston was picked up in a taxi by a group of his friends at 9:00am,and after a 500 rupee ride to somewhere in Delhi, Preston's Holi celebration started.

That's right, we had no clue as to where I son was going with 4 other teenager's in this city of 17 million people, but we knew that he would not come back the same way he left us.....clean, well somewhat clean. We did speak to Parker and he thought we were crazy to let Preston go off, and not know where he was going. Of course, he proclaimed that we would have "never let him do that at 15 years old". And he is probably right.....but neither Linda nor I knew what to expect and we decidedly chose to celebrate our first spectators.

However, we did give Preston certain instructions....Be careful, don't drink anything strange...only water, stay with your friends, call us occasionally and let us know you are OK, keep up with your money, have fun and one more final "be careful".
If the pictures didn't paint (no pun intended) a clear picture, as I am writing this blog, he just emerged from the shower......and he proudly came to show me the from his left ear, red from his right......It appears that he had fun!

Holi is not your typical celebration, as you may have gathered....and Preston came back in one piece, and didn't drink anything strange......yes, there is a drink that is traditionally served at Holi which is called BHANG.

Bhang is a type of tea.....sounds innocent doesn't is the recipe..... There's also a Hot Buttered Version as well!

Flavoured Bhang - Ingredients

2 cups water
2 ounces marijuana (fresh leaves and flowers of a female plant preferred)
4 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons blanched and chopped almonds
1/8 teaspoon garam masala (a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamon)
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater
1 cup sugar


When Linda reached him by phone, Preston's explained that he was at the British High Commission (Embassy) with his friend George.....and that he only had 20 rupees and needed a ride home.

Ramesh, our driver was off today, so it was my turn to drive in Delhi once I did get to have some fun on Holi also.

I brought some old sheets to drape over the car seat, and retrieved him for the drive back one piece, but covered in FUN!

Have a very HAPPY HOLI...wherever you are.....personally, I cannot wait until next year.....stay tuned for the pictures!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Morning Shower......

I make it a point to always have my camera with me. The camera and I are inseparable on the weekends; a trip to the store, a walk in the neighborhood, on the way to the school, and on and on......

The same holds true every morning on the way to work and in the evening when I return.....

The reason is capture and share life in India as it unfolds around us. India...where the UNCOMMON is COMMON.

This morning as Ramesh had come to a stop in the line to pay the toll......I looked to my left and captured one such moment of everyday life here in India......the morning shower!

While it is common to see people bathing along the roadside.... anywhere, at anytime of the day......I have never seen it done in this manner....


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Delhi Landmark - Qutub Minar

As incredible as India is, it is remarkable that there is so much literally right in our backyard.

With the intention of preparing for Parker's upcoming visit, we have decided to embark on several exploratory trips to plan what will surely be an action packed adventure for him.

This week, Preston and I discovered Qutub Minar......a New Delhi landmark since the year 1193 A.D.

That right......1193 and built on the site of 27 former Hindu and Jain Temples that were destroyed by the first Sultan of Delhi; Qutub-Ud-Din who managed to only reach the first level before his death.

The Qutub Minar is part of a vast complex of other monuments of historical importance....and is a must see landmark on a visit to New Delhi.

The last picture I included is the beginning of a second tower, which was supoosed to be twice the height of the Qutub Minar, but the Sultan died and it was never finished.

Here are some interesting facts and 5 of the 354 photographs that we took at the site......

Interesting & Fun Facts about Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world.

The height of Qutub Minar is 72.5 m. or 238 feet tall.
There are 379 stairs inside the tower, which lead to the top.

The foundation of the tower was laid down by Qutubu’d - Din Aibak in 1193 AD.

The purpose behind the construction of Minar was for the use of mu'azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer.

The next three stories were added by Shamsu'd-Din Iltutmish, the son - in - law of Qutubu’d - Din Aibak.
The fifth and the last storey were constructed by Firuz Shah Tughlaq.

Some say it was damaged twice by lightning and subsequently repaired in the 1300's.....some say it was from earthquakes.

The Minar contains numerous inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters, which narrate its history.

Qutab Minar is made up of red and buff sandstone, containing intricate carvings and verses from the Holy Quran.


Market-ing 101 - A Visit to I.N.A. Market, New Delhi

Markets come in all shapes and sizes in Delhi.....a complete range...simple to sophisticated......those frequented by locals where very few expatriates shop, to those that specifically carry items that expats are familiar with from their home countries.

There are markets that specialize.....the fabric market, the spice market, the meat market, the produce market, the book market, the bike market.....any commodity that can be sold, there are markets (clusters of shops) or simply a street, that have concentrations of vendors hawking the same or similar items.

And then there is I.N.A. Market......which has a bit of it all. A few weeks ago, on the way back from our visit to Safdarjung Tomb, Preston and I stopped for his first visit.

I had previously visited this market, once to purchase the "Tongue Cleaner's" I brought back for Erika, and some cashew nuts for the plane trip......and once for a visit to the I.N.A Meat Market..... the open air, non-refrigerated, fly infested, pick out a chicken from the cage and have it butchered while you wait, fish and shrimp and......and the "aroma's" and the combination of melted ice and other liquids all making their way into the crude drainage that get the picture?

Yet, I.N.A. is considered one of the best places to shop.....and I do recommend it.....and a visit or two......the experience is unforgettable.

Linda has been on several trips with other are some of the sights.......and look at those shrimp/prawns.....huge....probably 2 shrimp/prawns per pound.

This is a definite visiting place for Parker when he joins us for his visit in a few months......this will be his training grounds for shopping, bargaining, and getting a good feel for the other places we will be visiting when he arrives.

Enjoy the photos!

Holy Cow!

I have shared pictures of the cows wandering the streets of New Delhi in the past.......but they have always been from the distance.

Last Sunday, Preston and I took a walk in our neighborhood, and came across a HERD of cattle......not just the random one or two cows that are typically seen......but seven or eight.

We discovered them as we neared our house, using an alley as a shortcut.....and just as we entered, they were entering from the opposite end.....along with a scary looking dog. Preston and I didn't know what to be more afraid of......the dog or the herd.

Well, as luck would have it, neither bothered us and we were able to get some up close and personal photo's with our bovine friends.

So if and when you visit.....and you are faced with a similar situation....there is no need to panic or to be scared......just MOOOOOve to the side and let them pass by.....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Let's have a Chaat!

No....I didn't spell anything wrong in the title of this blog entry.

"Chaat" is the Hindi word for a savory snack.....typically found on the streets of any city in India.

Chaat comes in many varieties.....and as I have mentioned before, we read warning after warning about eating food from street vendors before moving to India.....but there comes that moment, when you smell something delicious cooking, that you just give in.

So, you cast aside most concerns.....yes, you still need to be careful and follow a few simple rules of thumb. Stay away from liquids......even warm ones.....always make sure what you are hungry for is freshly cooked......and very hot. Simple enough, right? kind of cast aside that the vendors probably didn't wash their hands, or where they have been, or the fact that there is no running water.....or refrigeration,and that they are cooking outside, where it is very dusty.....oh and sitting on the ground, and actually preparing the food on the ground, where perhaps a cow or dog roamed the night before of maybe just hours or minutes ago.

.....and then, the pictures themselves.....take a close look at the top of the ice chest......and the fact that it probably doesn't even have any ice in it, or very little.

But, despite all of these negatives, there are those freshly cut and peeled potatos.......ALOO.......and that piping hot oil, that you are confident enough is going to BURN away any germs that might have come in contact with the food during it's preparation.....

Hmmmmmmm.....and you smell the aloo frying, and then the vendor tosses them in some spices......and serves them to you. YUM!

Preston enjoyed his "Aloo Chaat".....and didn't share much of it at all with Linda and I......a testament that it was good.....and a bargain at only 25 rupees......if the adventure doesn't make you ill! The round ones that look like crab cakes are called "Aloo Tikka".....

This vendor was just outside the Opticians Office where I finally broke down and had my eyes checked and bought a new pair of glasses. My glasses will be ready tomorrow.....and I hope that when I return to get them, the vendor is there, and I get the chance to try the "Aloo Tikka" looked very good.

I'll let you know how it tastes and perhaps I Hiralal can learn to make them for us here at the house, where things are slightly better controlled.