Greece and India

When I was writing many articles about the history of Lefkás last year someone commented about the fact they thought there was some link between the two. At the time I couldn’t find anything on the web about this so I couldn’t help them. It is only through listening to the excellent Eva Palmer Sikelianos- Her life in ruins by Artemis Leontis that I have been able to find out any information about this. Even Google comes up blank!

Now in order to fill in a lot of gaps of generally unreported or unknown history I’m going to have to give out a couple of history recaps and this will make this article long and quite possibly unwieldy. Bear with me while I set the scene.

When I was in India just before Covid caused the world to shutdown I went to the Gandhi memorial gardens. It’s a peaceful paradise in the middle of a busy, hot, dirty city. It’s quite simple but it’s effective just like Gandhi would have wanted it to be. It is however part of the tourist trail which is not what he would have wanted but you don’t have control after you die. As we were on quite a whistle stop tour we just passed by it since you can see everything from your window and Covid was starting to bite. It might have been nice to go around the place but instead I have a postcard memory. By that I mean the memory of an image rather than the actual place.

As India is so big it’s good to have a plan in place so that you make the most of your time there. Checking out Gandhi’s history only became part of the schedule as we had time to spare. It would take a whole other holiday to properly research this.

As I’m clearly digressing from the point I’m wanting to make I will try to get there promptly. The reason I mention Gandhi is because he was a major influence in the revolution in India against British colonial rule and included in that was wearing Parisian fashion. These were often made using Indian cotton and cloth. This was to become known as the khadi or homespun cloth movement. He wished women to go back to the loom and weave their own clothes similar to Eva Palmer Sikelianos.

Eva had also met the first Indian Nobel literature prize winner poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore; along with the granddaughter of Dadabhai Naoroji who was known as the Grand Old Man of India. Now Khorshed Naoroji is a person who has completely disappeared into history apart from her time spent with Eva, Gandhi and the knighted Tagore.

Khorshed possibly had a brief intense relationship with Eva where she was converted into wearing traditional Indian saris instead of the more fashionable Parisian styles she was more accustomed to wearing. She was trying to develop a Byzantine style school to teach those in India about Greek music, dance, language and culture and would have succeeded but Eva choose to help her husband with the development of the Delphic festivals. It was this that led to Eva’s life in ruins as well as her study of archeology 😉

Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Choker Bali is available on Netflix to watch if you want to find out more about his work for yourself. I found it a very enjoyable watch. It’s subtitled as far as I recall.

The Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji, was the first British Indian MP who is commentated in many street names in India but also in Finsbury Park London. If I had continued to read the William Dalrymple book that was in a hotel in India I would know more as would you all.

Meditation types

Not all meditation is created equal. I have tried the most popular commercial apps that are around at the moment – Headspace and Calm but to no avail. To me they feel like you are just going through the motions since they are only utilising a calming voice, tranquil music and visualisation; nothing else. This is why the American self help programs, positive affirmations and mindfulness I have previously tried to get behind haven’t worked. They feel lacking in authenticity to me. It’s like having an artificial structure imposed onto your life but there is no content to sustain it. If you just have the bare bones of something it’s not going to be very useful. Very much like in languages if you can say hello, my name is, how are you and I’m good this does not make a conversation or a friendship. It’s just politeness that feels like progress as its relaxing you, but stops short of actually achieving anything.

Meditation is being commercialized in a big way right now but when that happens the very essence of what you are trying to accomplish is lost. This happens continuously because when you introduce money into these concepts they stop being about self actualisation and start becoming about income and nothing else. They lose their potency which is the very reason why you want to do them in the first place!

Religion is a bit like this too. As I’m learning more about the origins of the big religions and how they have changed over the years I seeing why people are losing faith in them. There becoming corrupted from there original goals. No wonder Americans study the bible in Greek. The King James Bible is so altered from the Greek or the Russian Orthodox version. I wouldn’t say I was religious at all but there are truths in these books. It’s why they have persisted for so long. It’s control but it’s also an understanding of human nature. We have not changed as a species so the same stories still help us through the centuries. The father, the son and the Holy Ghost is a recognition of the fact that we grow throughout our lives but there are still elements of the past within us while we anticipate and plan for the future. Our personality or soul, what makes us unique, can be carried on to future generations through our actions, words and tasks. Our legacy can live on even though we do not.

I really liked the Deepak Chopra 21 day meditation course I’ve just done. This is available for free on YouTube if you want to take part in it yourself and I highly recommend that you do this. There are other resources to go with these videos which I was provided with as part of a group exercise I took part in. I’m not sure just the meditation works on its own even though he uses chanting, mantras and visualisation techniques. This is where the difference comes in with competing regimes. Deepak Chopra is a world renown doctor of endocrinology and has researched what happens with the body/mind connection. Not many other people are that steeped in the knowledge required to do this properly and it certainly shows with the outcomes of these programs. I’ve got his latest book Meta Human to continue the progress I have started.

I’m deep thinking and highly empathetic which is slightly problematic when I want to talk to someone about this. Most people are not able to understand this in the way that I need them too. Most of the people that do however have much higher levels of emotional intelligence than I do so trigger me. While this is good to a certain extent being triggered by them all of the time means they are not for you.

So once again I have the dilemma of where do I fit in and will I ever find my tribe? Being an optimist is only good for so long. That’s why occasionally I do have a healthy dose of scepticism and pessimism. If I was accepting of everything and everyone all of the time; my brain would be so open it would fall out. You have to stand for something otherwise you will fall for anything. Principles and a moral code are extremely important here as standards do need to be respected and kept.

Life is a game of balancing the 2 sides of everything. You can’t truly experience anything if your only seeing one side whether this is through your own myopic view or that which has been created in your own country.

Meditation

This practice is needed most by those most resistant to actually taking it up. It’s the masculine side that needs balancing by the feminine side. Yoga groups are full of women taught by men. This seems a little odd to me. It’s been around a very long time so it’s been proven by the test of time. It’s a free practice that has been monetised to great success. As proven by Bikram Choundry on the Netflix program about his life.

Meditation is about accessing the 5 different brain waves that we have at our disposal. Alpha, beta, gamma, delta and theta. (Makes me wonder why no epsilon?) These brain waves are responsible for our thoughts and brain activities. They are different lengths and respond to the different levels of consciousness that we possess. If we are not able to use them all while me may get get sleep it will not be the restorative sleep that we require to wake up feeling relaxed, recharged and ready for the day ahead.

Meditation helps us to connect our minds with our bodies as often we think they are completely separate. There intimately entwined with each other more than we know. This is why our diet is so important. If we put bad food into ourselves we are polluting our bodies and therefore we can’t function properly. Our gut biome is our bodies way of keeping everything ticking over well. If we lose our appetite this tells us there is something wrong just like when we are sick or feeling nauseous.

Our skin is often the first indication that something isn’t right with our diet, environment or our mental health. It’s extraordinarily sensitive to everything that we experience on a daily basis. It’s our barrier between us and the outside world but we often don’t give it enough attention. Only when it is irritated do we look for a cause. This is often just the first symptom though.

We often need to look deeper into ourselves if we have constant problems with our nerves or we have other issues that cannot be easily explained. Our endocrine system (hormones) and our 2 nervous systems, sympathetic and parasympathetic can help with diagnosis here. Pain is a problem with inflammation and shows that something is out of balance. In order to eradicate this we need to look at what could possibly be causing it. This is tricky because it’s not well understood by western science. We have a scientific understanding but much like with languages; our initial information only literally describes its effects. We need to investigate the links present so a much more through journey is required.

Eastern medicine looks at things in terms of energy to see where it is, where it should be and how to get it to make that transition. It’s how Feng Sui works but this is a much maligned practice at the moment. Marie Do has tried to help with her tidying but only time will tell how much of an impact she has on this.

Yoga is about breathing and stretching which is a key part of eastern beliefs. Tai Chi is another that helps to promote peace and prosperity. Gentle exercise is essential to get your endorphins flowing just like being outside in the fresh air getting your vitamin D. Swimming has long been held as beneficial as well as the sea side.

Our ancestors knew that simple things such as writing our thoughts down in journals, painting or calligraphy is soothing to an anxious mind as well as being beautiful, walks in nature and discovering ourselves through careful observation of our reactions to things.

We have become majorly distracted from what is truly important in our lives and for the majority of us we didn’t have the time until now to change this. We need to use this opportunity before it is lost to us to create our lives exactly as we would want them to be. They have been stripped of all excess to allow us to notice what we really appreciate and need. We need a lot less than we think to live a good life.

This is why meditation is so important to continue this reset so we don’t lose the progress that is made in this break from what has become normality.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a book I read at college but I didn’t like it. It was shocking and terrifying. I also didn’t like the way the book was constructed but I don’t think it could be done in any other way. It was meant to illustrate the power that such a revolution would have on you and it certainly did that for me. I was confused as to how such a thing could take place but so is Offred and everyone else. That is why they fight to overcome the system. Offred is very strong and resistant to the new regime but sensible enough to know that you have to act a certain way to survive. I don’t want to give the game away to any of you who haven’t read it or seen the TV series. I expect the follow up The Testaments is where the material for later series comes from.

Have you found any unexpected novels that you persevered with and later understood them much better?

Feminism

This is quite an unusual article to me to write based on my past history but I feel now is the time to start exploring it. I have realised that actually I’m a strong woman. I need to start embracing this characteristic of mine. A person can only go so long not recognising who they are before they start to develop their inherent potential.

The woman’s struggle has existed since the dawn of time and I have been guided through my mother and others to study the Suffragettes at college, to see exhibitions about them, to gather information about Virginia Woolf, visiting Sissinghurst where she stayed and acquire lots of books about the subject. This also led to me reading a Handmaid’s Tale as it was on my high school book list and later on watching the TV series. I will get the Testaments later. Other books that are on my list are Vox, The Farm, etc.

As I got quite into feminism through an alternative viewpoint on classist history I wrote several articles on what I discovered. I think it’s a novel idea because history is written from the standpoint of the victor. This traditionally has been male so to put another spin on it is quite good. It also helps me to learn about myself as my mother and my grandmother have been very strong influences on me. I’m only starting to realise the extent that impact has had on me.

Meditation revelations

Today I have been flooded by a barrage of emotions.It started last night, led to a disturbed night sleep and is still continuing. When you ask the universe for clarity at the start of the year and you start doing a meditation regime to increase the abundance in your life you better be prepared for the floodgates to open.

I watched a video on YouTube recently about dopamine addiction so I once again started to lessen my use of technology which has now lead to me losing my phone. This happens on a regular basis and as my mother frequently said during my childhood, “You would lose your head if it wasn’t on your shoulders”. The other comment of “You would be late to your own funeral” is having a rest right now as were not going anywhere but it’s still equally true due to the fact anxiety is ever present in my life from my highly sensitive nature.

It’s amazing what your parents know about your own abilities and qualities that you don’t realise yourself until many years later. I’m terrible at anything requiring balance hence skiing, using a Segway, skateboard, roller skates etc. I’m also bad at sequencing things hence cooking, chess, poker, etc. This is also why I have no ability to be a self starter, I’m bad at sales as I’m not persuasive enough just irritating and I have no marketing skills as that just social skills dressed up with lots of communication which tires me easily.

I’m good at 2 things, maths as that was an innate talent that my butterfly mind was somehow focused on with the assistance of my dad when I was 6 as before that I was bad. This is no longer the case after my accident which destroyed my natural talent but I still have that systematic mindset. It means I’m still attracted to this area but can’t actually do anything with this interest which is constantly infuriating. I’m also into words, literature and languages through the influence of both of my parents as you might know if you’ve ever come across this blog or me before. However, due to my autism I both learn ridiculous amounts and cannot communicate this to anyone as I get tired so quickly. The unclaimed emotional baggage of others is exhausting.

I do wonder whether my absent mindedness, lack of balance, executive dysfunction etc were all present before my accident but due to lack of funding they were not discovered. My mum might might have been ignored as a pushy parent but she was trying as hard as she possibly could for my entire childhood and adolescence to get the help I needed and it just wasn’t there. I have suffered from a lack of purpose in my life so far as I haven’t found anything that I can do since hurdles keep presenting themselves. If you’ve ever seen me running or jumping you will know that inverted hips, knees and a metal plate in your leg lead to some funny consequences. Along with the knowledge you have no clue what your body is doing.

A short history of the effect of British culture on its people

This is actually a mindset of emotional repression caused by the inherent class system which uses alcohol and a trip to the pub as it’s let off valve. The sports of Football and boxing are also used by men to let off steam, with cricket traditionally being played by gentlemen and rugby being the sport for gentlemen but played by ruffians. Tennis was a much more genteel sport with polo, croquet or bowls definitely for the upper classes as they had time to indulge in leisure activities. Racing whether it be horses or dogs was for lower class gentlemen just like darts is today. Even this delineation smacks of the true division that is still ever present in our society. These are all masculine activities those are women were expected to be barefoot and pregnant as the saying went.

The self deprecating attitude traditionally associated with the English is perplexing to foreigners. We are always putting ourselves down, thinking we are not good enough. We are always complaining amongst ourselves but never to those in authority as we don’t wish to upset the apple cart. We can’t have ideas above our station after all.

We are always queuing waiting for our turn quietly obeying the laws of the land but we are also always gossiping about others who dare to do something different. It is such a scandal when someone does something that doesn’t fit with the status quo. Those that dare to be different though make the most of there lives by breaking out of the stuffy container that we have made for ourselves.

Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, the Bloomsbury group, the Pre Raphealites these were all people who were bohemian that believed the world could be a better place through art and music. They lived a hedonistic lifestyle but they could afford too as they were commonly part of the landed gentry. They could afford to live eccentric lifestyles travelling abroad and living in grand houses attended by many servants. This is harking back to Roman times but more often I think it was a nod to a romantic notion that we all in the UK entertain about life in Ancient Greece. If you think about it we are still ruled over by an Anglo Greek alliance through Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

So in a way you could say we are all striving for something better in our lives while remaining exactly where we are as we have internalised the fact that the class we were born into is the one we will die in. If we achieve a meteoric rise some how then we are frequently brought back down to Earth again abruptly like Anne Boleyn was only not quite so dramatically.

The crab bucket effect is very much part of our lives along with the keeping up with the Jones idea. For those who are not English this is the constant fight to maintain the appearance that you are a heterosexual married couple who are middle class with a good job, car, well maintained house with 2 well behaved children. This idea is a complete fallacy but it’s what we all learn from our environment as what we need to aspire to. If we have not managed to achieve this by age 30 we are somehow incomplete and there is something wrong with us.

With this break from normalcy we should all new values to creep in to replace the old ones which didn’t serve us. You may have noticed that all of the individuals I mentioned earlier were not only artists but engaged in different sexual identities. There gender representation was also different from the norm. This has been so against what society has said was acceptable for so long that we have lost some of our greatest minds like Alan Turing through this ignorance. We need to allow all forms of expression for we are all human at the end of the day. If we are much kinder and welcoming of those that present differently, think how much creativity and intellect will be saved. We will be living in a better world for all concerned.

Using meditation to supercharge your mind

While in lockdown I’m trying out Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation course. It’s been provided by a friend and it’s like the hen do that we didn’t get to go on due to Covid.

I’m finding it amazing for my clarity of mind and we’re only on day 4. It has simple tasks for you to do but they produce results. The meditation contains a mantra in Sanskrit which helps clear your mind. It’s different every day and a translation is provided. It only lasts about 15 minutes but you do need to be uninterrupted for this time for it to have its full effect.

I definitely felt the loss of it today as I receive them in the evening and I did yesterday’s before I went to sleep. So, by the time it got to siesta time the next day I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed with the rest of my day. The previous day I had experimented with doing it just before siesta time so I haven’t found a good time yet. However those are the easiest times for me to slot in such a routine as phones and technology are not a thing I can do too easily first thing in the morning. It affects my day too much if I do that.

There is also a new phrase to write down and repeat each day to power you up but doing these at night defeats the purpose as you forget by morning. Halfway through the day means your energy is mostly gone so maybe I aught to try breaking it into parts with the audio at night and the rest later on? I could perhaps repeat the audio while doing the task later?

In addition there is also a task (writing, drawing etc) to do that maybe related to previous tasks so you need a notebook to keep all of the work together. It helps in processing things. They bring up surprisingly things which are best written down also lest you forget these important revelations.

There are getting to be questions to be answered too so again a dedicated pad of paper is required to make full use of the techniques you are learning. A sheet for each day is good or one each for the phrases, mantras, tasks and questions. I have a feeling this might get quite lengthy, quite quickly and you will need to refer to previous days to get the full benefit.

Drinking and emotional regulation

I have come to the conclusion that the traditional British attitude of the stiff upper lip is responsible for us drinking far more than we should on a regular basis. It’s also not just how much but how early we start, that we commonly drink everything in sight and that we don’t stop. We don’t even drink soft drinks to water it down. Even in this pandemic alcohol sale and therefore consumption levels are at record levels. We can’t go to the pub to drink our alcohol so we drink it in our homes where we don’t have to worry about work, transportation and it’s cheaper.

It’s no wonder that millennials have stopped drinking. They have learnt from our European cousins that there is more to life than booze. They have also learnt to be a lot freer with their emotions. Emotional repression is why the majority of people drink as it’s too painful to endure but the consequences of this are insidious. You do more long term damage to yourself by not addressing your own problems and feelings than you do by ignoring them.

The Greeks are very spiritual and emotional people. They can be commonly found having a disagreement ie shouting match but it never results in blows. The next day they are friends again having resolved their issues. They do love a good catchup and right now they are enjoying their beaches having come partially out of lockdown.

Where as us in the UK are still in for at least another month. We can go out of our houses now but still have to social distance and can only meet friends one on one in the park. We can’t invite them round for afternoon tea or a sleepover. We can take as much exercise as we want as long as we social distance so playing golf for instance. No spectating and no group sports otherwise. We can go to work if we can’t do it from home ie construction or manufacturing. So working for others is allowed as you have to think of big business but otherwise stay home and alert watching to see if Covid is around the corner of your now spotless, well organized home. Which by now is full of home schooled children, artwork and home baked goods. Maybe you even have a bun in the oven yourself since you’ve had so much time on your hands?

Infinite Monkey podcast, Primates and Pokemon

Today I was listening to Brian Cox on the BBC Sounds App and the title of the episode was called Fire. There was a lot of interesting information like the practical information about fire in this universe and whether it could exist elsewhere but the thing that was most interesting was the “Did fire or life come first debate?” Life came first as it created the oxygen required for fire. This lead onto the fact that creatures other than humans (birds) can deliberately create and use fire as a tool just like some primates do. I think it’s amazing that the Aboriginal Australians knew that the fire bird was capable of doing this thousands of years ago as it’s in there traditional dream festivities. It’s also possibly the origin of the Phoenix and almost certainly connected to the legendary fire bird Pokemon Moltres. It does however mean that the story from Greek Mythology about Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods is almost certainly wrong. It’s an eye opening discussion to have with a Buddhist which I did a while ago now. Sometimes things are so strange that they have to be true or at least based on an established fact that has now been forgotten to have lasted for so long. My memory is a strange thing with what it forget and then later on pulls out of its memory bank.

Later on I was watching Primates on BBC narrated by Chris Packham who is a famous autistic naturalist and it showed that in 2017 they discovered a new type of Orangutan. It’s simply stunning that we are still finding new animals in our world but also extremely worrying that they immediately go to the top of the endangered animals list since there are so few. Yes there is also a Pokemon – Orangu and the librarian in the Discworld is a wizard who refused to become human again as life was much simpler as an Orangutan. These are some of the strange thoughts that flit across my brain while watching tv or painting but wait in a holding bay until I decide to write them out on here later on. If I don’t let them out to play they cause trouble by withering in potency after they have prevented other thoughts from emerging. Then I become blank and boring to be around since I’m lifeless having nothing to comment on or communicate to others. This is a state to be avoided at all costs.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This is a television series about the Tudor Monarchy and specifically Henry VIII’s break from Rome to create the Church of England to marry Anne Boleyn and create a male heir. This is based off the series of books that Hilary Mantel wrote about this period in history. She has just written the 3rd and final book in the series so that may be turned into a series by itself. It might be too difficult to change the original series to include this new addition.

This time in British history has been covered many times in book and film as its very memorial to us British. Its the only time one of our monarch’s had 6 wives so its the most standout part of our schooling. The other parts are when we study the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans along with the Anglo Saxon and Viking Invaders.

The earlier Tudors series with Jonathan Rhys Meyers follows pretty much the same script because you can’t change history just to suit your serialisation. For this reason I get kinda bored watching this as you know exactly what is going to happen. The acting is good as we know how to do costume drama but that doesn’t stop me from being uninterested in it. If you know your history like I do then there are no surprises. This is Sunday night drama at its best but since everyday is a Sunday for most of us right now where is the enjoyment factor.

India – Mumbai

Mumbai was extraordinarily warm and humid in comparison to all the places we had been to previously. Must have been the smog which you could see for miles around.

As all the shops were shut we couldn’t go shopping although we had lost interest in that by now. The hotel offered very high end shops so my father in law bought a couple of shirts. My husband had a chat with a member of staff who said there was a nice bar round the corner but we didn’t venture outside of the hotel since Corona was starting to bite here.

To entertain myself having read the hotel magazine since it was the 4th Taj hotel we had stayed in; I picked up Parsis and Zoroastrians. There was also an artists corner at the hotel but it was too warm during the day to engage in this. There were many artefacts in the hotel to admire instead and of course the daily newspaper which was much more extensive than in Goa. All of the usual activities that you could engage in like having a tour of the kitchens being taught how to make Indian food or learning pilates in the gym were cancelled as was the art tour of the local area and the trip to nearby Elephant Island. I had to console myself with a picture of the Gateway to India through the window.

Our hotel though was filled with all manner of objects that I could admire and they even had a tour which you could undertake as they had so many. It wasn’t on but they were still willing to show you round the place just like they would organise a city tour because your tour operator had cancelled there out of safety precautions. All about the money like everywhere else in the world. Regardless here are some pictures of things that I walked past while I was there.

I also have included a special treat in that Mumbai airport was covered in artwork so I took pictures of that and wrote about it. Stay tuned to check it out.

So concludes my Indian trip but if you have enjoyed this please leave a comment, follow my blog and buy my books.

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Jaipur

India – Udaipur

India – Goa

Mumbai airport

India – Udaipur

When we got here we stayed in the same place that Octopussy was filmed at. The interesting thing is that the Palace of the movie is in fact 2 different palaces that are very close to each other. They have patched it together so well that unless you have visited the 2 locations you wouldn’t know that they had done that. Roger Moore named the pond the Lily Pond when he was doing the filming.Pool with fountain

Pool with fountain

Hotel grounds
Hotel grounds

Hotel shrine
Hotel shrine

Sunset panorama
Sunset panorama

Local dancers and musicians
Local dancers and musicians

While we were staying in the Lake Palace we would get the boat over to the shore to visit another City Palace Study

Study

Inner courtyard
Inner Courtyard

Courtyard
Courtyard

View over Udaipur
View over Udaipur

Inner Courtyard decoration
Inner Courtyard decoration

Courtyard gate
Courtyard gate

and to attend a Hindu temple Hindu temple carvings

Hindu temple carvings

Hindu temple architecture
Hindu temple architecture

Hindu temple statues
Hindu temple statues

which had a service going on. We also visited the gardens that were very beautiful, shady and calming. Udaipur had a lot of construction work going on to build roads but it was still cleaner and quieter than Delhi. People didn’t tend to blow there horns anywhere near as much. Holi is celebrated over several days because there is the initial holiday then the policemen and so on so all members of society participate in all regions eventually.

There are always so many sellers of everything on the streets everywhere you go so its rather overwhelming trying to get anywhere or do anything. By being in a private tour you don’t get to see the real India but its close enough for my liking. I don’t like being hassled so India is not a place to go if your rather sensitive like I am. Which is why my parents had always told me not to go but my in-laws convinced my husband so we went.

This particular City Palace is all about coloured glass as its very vibrant. Its filled with many panels and designs through. Blue stained glass window over Udaipur

Blue stained glass window over Udaipur

Multicolored stained glass window
Multicolored stained glass window

Mosaic multicolored stained glass window
Mosaic multicolored stained glass window

Flower stained glass window
Flower stained glass window

Peacock stained glass window
Peacock stained glass window

Mirror stained glass window
Mirror stained glass window

There are lots of temples, palaces and tombs through India all created with marble and inlaid with precious stones which are magnificent to behold but the input gets too much. I was quite ill the day we arrived here.

There are also many fabric and clothes shops as well as those selling tourist souvenirs. There was a tour that we could have gone on to see the local women and the crafts that they make but we were getting rather tired after our extremely long bus journeys around India. The early mornings and the flights were getting to us.

As was the fact that despite staying in 5 star hotels you still get Delhi belly. We started to avoid milk in all forms, dairy, meat even fruit because you most certainly can’t drink the water. We were wary about ice in our drinks too as it was starting to get hot on the west coast of India. Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner does take its toll.

Its better than the international options when they were around but you just want some plain food occasionally. You do however realise how unsatisfying pastries are for breakfast as its just carbs. Also nobody ever eats the cereal in hotels abroad regardless of whether its India, Prague, Berlin, Tenerife, Mexico or Morocco.

Time for a beach break in Goa which is the next stop.

To check out all of the adventures see here

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Jaipur

India – Goa

India – Mumbai

Mumbai airport

India – Jaipur

This city was founded by its ruler Jai Singh. He was a Hindi which is why its a pur and not a Muslim abad as I first mentioned in my post on India – Delhi (part 1). Singh means lion or warrior depending on how you translate it. Lots of people are called Singh as its a symbol of strength not a family name which you might think given its popularity.

I really enjoyed the orderliness of Jaipur. It was one of the first cities to be organised on a grid fashion. I think it was the first in India. Jai Singh was into maths, physics and astronomy. To do this on a regular basis he built the most amazing astronomical equipment. These utilise the sun as opposed to the moon which makes it different from anything else that I’ve seen or heard of before.

Indians also seem to enjoy playing chess as there are an amazing amount of chess boards about in the hotels that we have been staying in. Fancy chessboard

Fancy chessboard

This was one of the best that I have come across. It was very confusing though with elephants and camels instead of the usual pieces. Life size fancy Chess board

Life size fancy chess board

I went to the City Palace in the town centre and learnt that Polo that most English of games actually came from India. Jodphur which is nearby is where the trousers come from for playing the game. There are also 5 different types of pyjamas which is another Hindi derived word. I also learnt that while the Sari is Hindi, the shalwar kamneez which is the other outfit that you often see women wearing is of Muslim (Persian) origin. It’s a lot simpler to wear and requires a lot less cloth so is better for children. Jaipur has lots of places you can go to like we did to get clothes custom made for you. My husband got a shirt and my father in law did too. Our driver had recommended that Jaipur was the best place for shopping and it certainly seemed a good option from the limited time I spent there.

We also went to the Amber Fort on the hill which is built on 4 levels each with increasing privacy and seclusion. The courtyard at the Amber Fort

The courtyard at the Amber Fort

There are 12 apartments for each of his wives that he could visit separately without the rest of them knowing so that kept harmony. The wives apartments

The wives apartments

There was also a harem of about 200 women hidden from view behind a screen that allowed them to see court proceedings without being observed themselves. The Harem cloisters

The Harem cloisters

There were gardens to appreciate nature without going outside the fort which is always good for your mental health.The Amber Fort gardens

The Amber Fort gardens

The architecture with the designs on the tiles and the artwork is phenomenal wherever you go in India as they really had some good artisans in those days.Tiles

Tiles

Arches and wall decorations
Arches and Wall decorations

Intricate wall carvings
Intricate Wall carvings

White Marble inlaid with Turquoise
White Marble inlaid with turquoise

Symmetrical precision art
Symmetrical precision art

They also have an art gallery inside that me and my husband wanted to visit but my in laws were quite hungry by this point so we left. There is always many salesmen that you have to avoid so photo opportunities have to be carefully managed.A view of the Amber Fort

A view of the Amber Fort

While I was there I participated in Holi which is the Indian festival to celebrate the Spring. Happy Holi dessert place

Happy Holi dessert plate

A bit like our Easter. Holi is known as the festival of Colours as they get hold of them very cheaply and they are extremely bright. The red is the worst to get to get out of your skin as it takes a couple days. Water is also part of the festival so expect to get wet if you are a young girl. I got absolutely mobbed and needed my husband there to protect me as they like to give out hugs and take selfies with you. The hotel warn you that it isn’t safe and when you still want to go out, they tell you the wrong direction to protect you. A taxi driver found us and corrected this. He took us to the main area and waited while we proceeded to walk and become living artworks.My Holi outfit

My Holi outfit

 They really like peacocks over there as they turn up everywhere.Peacock displaying

Peacock displaying

Peacock arch and artwork
Peacock arch and artwork

To look at all my Indian Adventures see here

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Udaipur

India – Goa

India – Mumbai

Mumbai airport

India – Delhi (part 1)

I have just been to the Indian subcontinent on a 2 week trip to take in many of the world renown cultural and historical sites that are spread around. I was extraordinarily lucky in that Covid 19 only affected the later part of my trip in Goa and Mumbai. I am now home having got what was perhaps one of the last planes out of India before they started to shut everything down.

I flew into Delhi to start my exploration. Our hotel was a heritage hotel (there called Haveli’s like ours was) in the centre of Old Delhi. Inside there was many pictures of the renovations that had taken place to turn the building from a wreck to the stunning place that it now was. Your greeted by refreshments, the red dot is applied to your forehead as a welcome and as a precaution due to Covid 19 you have your temperature taken. Then you have the forms and after being handed your key left to your own devices as the restaurant timings have already been explained to you. For yours and there entertainment in the evenings they fly kites which you can see being demonstrated on the roof at sunset. They also do pigeon racing which is explained to you. From the roof I got an excellent view of the city sprawl.

Later in the evening they have traditional music Life in Delhi is loud as you soon learn. The often repeated phrase, “In India you need 3 things, Good horn, good brakes and good luck.” is understood pretty quickly. On the back of every vehicle it says Horn Please! or Horn not OK to indicate the drivers preference. The streets of Delhi are narrow so walking is an art form as you have to dodge all many of transportation and people selling to you on the street. The roads are congested and there is no such thing as a bus stop or bus station. You just get on or off the bus at a traffic intersection. Pedestrians have little fear of death here as at every junction you will get children miming they want food for there younger siblings, people trying to sell you trinkets or most surprisingly lady boys trying to advertise there services. I didn’t think you would get groups of men dressed in Saris walking the streets. The guide told us that frequently European men who have had too much to drink can’t tell the difference until much later and then they have to pay to quickly get rid of them so it most be a thriving trade.

I visited a Sikh temple (there are approx 10 across Delhi), while I was there and you have to keep your elbows and knees covered as well as your head. This applies to men as well as women so they sell coverings just for this purpose. Alternatively bring a scarf like I did. You have to be barefoot as well but there is water later on to clean the dust away. You can’t take pictures of the insides of the temple but its marvellous.

I found the kitchens amazing in that they cook for hundreds of thousands of on daily basis. The poor of the region get there 3 daily meals for free as well as being able to spend as much time there in quiet contemplation as they liked since there were no set services. You can volunteer to cook there as my mum did and its open to all regardless of colour, creed, race, heritage, religion, age, wealth. The rich sit with the poor cross legged on the floor eating the same food but its funded only by those that can afford to contribute. They feed you until you are full and Indian food is surprisingly filling, allowing you to take your leftovers home with you as its like the Indian Welfare State they are providing here. There were several sittings a day and it was never empty. They never ran out of food and only rested for a couple of hours at night to make sure that they could complete there never ending duty once again the next day. We didn’t eat there as we didn’t have time to wait but the goodness of these people is astonishing.

Talking of kindness we visited the Mohandas Gandhi memorial gardens and they have a flame there that is tended so that it never comes out. Mahatma is a title that is given to Gandhi to show reverence to all that he achieved for India peacefully. Its lovely and peaceful which is a complete contrast to the bustling metropolis that is New Delhi. They are side by side with Old Delhi also being referred to as Shahjahanabad. This is because the city was found by Shah Jahan. He was a Muslim so the city has abad appended onto the end to indicate that its not only his city but an Islamic one too. If it was Hindi it would be pur on the end like Jaipur which I will talk about later.

We also visited Humanyun’s tomb which is a magnificent building in the Taj Mahal (Crown palace) style. This is a striking contrast to the rest of the buildings that people live in on a daily basis. The mughuls that lived there are descended from the Mongolians and its where we get the phrase media mogul from to indicate how much wealth someone has accumulated. The palaces are full of marble and inlaid with precious stones. They have gardens and fountains to replicate the heavens as the word paradise comes from a walled garden. They had more wealth than the average person could gain in a thousand lifetimes as the average life time income after 50 years was £2.

Chandri Chowk is a street that you will pass by often if you are exploring the historical district and it means Moonlight street. This is connected with the daughter of the ruler at the time. There were 5 Shahs that you will hear about when you are driving between the different attractions and if your guide is anything like mine was, it will be information overload. I loved hearing all the history and the word origins as I’m a bit of a word nut as you may know.

There are many temples (Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist etc) in Delhi as you might have guessed and as we were walking about we came across a Jain temple. These are strict vegetarians and have rather odd rituals for their priests during celebrations. They are in fact not allowed to wear a stitch of clothing and therefore the family surround them so that nobody is embarrassed by this. This parade happens from the temple to the family home so it can go on for quite a while. Luckily I didn’t see this but I was reliably informed by my guide who was turning out to be extremely well informed on everything to do with Delhi’s monuments and history.

We passed by the India Gate which was built by Edward Lutyens (who also designed the gardens in Sandwich, UK amongst many other things). He also designed many buildings in Delhi which were beloved by William Dalrymple but sadly are gone now. I read some pages of an amazing book by him (A City of Djinns) provided by the hotel but I didn’t get very far and it didn’t seem right to take it with me. I wouldn’t have had time to read it much anyway as the time was so packed with places to see. I got to read more about the East India Company later in a hotel magazine in an article written by him.

The Red Fort that acted as barracks for the soldiers in Delhi has apparently been hollowed out by previous occupants so we saw the one in Agra which is amazing. More on that later as the next stop is Agra which is home of the Taj Mahal!

Best wishes

Angela

 

Parsis and Zoroastrians

This is a book I started reading in my hotel in Mumbai as there is a big population of them there and I was curious to find out more about them. As far as I know they don’t exists anywhere else in the world.

Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Balsara) was the most famous one as far as I can tell but I didn’t even know that myself until I had watched Bohemian Rhapsody which is an awesome movie. Zoroastrianism also turns up in Nietzsche as he wrote Thus spoke Zarathustra which is the name of their God. Although it’s a much changed version according to the book’s author which I’m afraid I don’t recall.

I had a spare day since Covid 19 had cancelled my city tour so I settled down to read through a photographic journey of the life of the author so far. The writer grew up in the Parsi culture in Bombay but was educated elsewhere so that is why they were able to explain in English so well a religion that is not well known in the rest of the world.

Parsis is the cultural name given to Zoroastrians to separate them from anyone else that was living in India. The Parsis are originally from Persia but left due to persecution from Islamic forces long ago. However, they were followed much later on so became very insular. Where as before they were at the forefront of business and became very rich a bit like the Jews of Europe .This fear and persecution has contributed to their downfall in the eyes of the author since they will soon no longer be numerous enough to be considered a community (30,000+). At this point (25,000) they will now be labelled a tribe. There is a very big emphasis on staying within your community and they will provide for you that’s why this downgrading of their status is such a big deal to them.

I was unable to get more than half way through the book as I had to leave the next day but the information about the lives of the children who were becoming priests was fascinating. It is part of the culture for at least one boy in the family to learn how to be a priest even if they subsequently decide that is not the field that they want to go into.

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Delhi (part 1)

Best wishes

Angela

India – Agra

These are some pictures of the mini Taj that we went to the day before we went to the Taj Mahal. We also had to go to a marble cutting workshop as that’s usually part of the deal when you go on guided tours as not all guides are the same. In fact none of them matched up to the one in Delhi in terms of knowledge.

It happens in Turkey and many other places around the world that part of your tour is here look at this stuff that we have for sale “and I will get commission if you buy”.

We also went to the Red Fort which was very expansive. He had 3 wives, one Christian, 1 Hindu and 1 Muslim as he didn’t want to show favouritism between religions.

If you want to look at the other posts in my India series see here:

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

In order to get the best photos when you visit the Taj Mahal you have to arrive before sunrise so that means about 6:15am. It’s worth it though as the crowds soon turn up afterwards. It’s never completely silent except now because of Coronavirus. I was lucky to go when everything was still relatively calm.

There is a lot of history associated with the Taj Mahal and some of it is much more recent than the rest. While you are there you will be shown the seat that is now famous as Princess Diana’s seat. There will also be professional photographers wanting to take a set of photos of you. We got some done and if you just want them digitally they can send them to your phone in seconds.Taj Mahal after sunrise

Taj Mahal after sunrise
Taj Mahal

Before sunrise
Before sunrise

Taj in the sun
Taj in the sun

This is apparently Tom Cruises favourite shot of the Taj Mahal according to our guide. We had a different one for each place so they varied a lot in what they could tell us about each attraction.

Since I love series and Organization here is another one so you can easily go from one post to another.

Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

This is an Audible book that I listened to recently while I was on holiday. Listening to an enjoyable story that is engaging makes long road journeys pass so much more quickly!

It’s alternative history based on the fact that Alan Turing wasn’t turned insane by taking oestrogen tablets to cure his homosexual urges. With this in mind we end up with a very different 1980’s. We have advanced sufficiently with AI to build completely life like humans that tests what it is to be human after all. They are an exercise in humanity as it teaches us whether we can accept machines into our lives as equals.

I loved the philosophical debates that Adam engages in with his housemates Charlie and Miranda. I also loved the technical, mathematical and physics details along with the anthropological studies. Adam raises a lot of interesting questions and provokes strong emotions which you wouldn’t expect a machine to be capable of. He is not really a machine though; but a conscious being capable of existing all by himself as along as he has the same comforts were used to like shelter, sleep and fuel.

This is essentially an exploration of the contradictions of being human. This is what every child has to learn and what autistics struggle with greatly. The same things that Adam can’t comprehend are also what we have difficulties with. There is however no real solution to these issues as life is such a messy business.

Best wishes

Angela