Saturday, 28 April 2007

Being Back

Return from India has been unsettling. Yearning for something. Just not sure what yet. Can't get back into the work environment. All the gossip and politics and bad atmosphere and pointless chit chat and broken PC combines into anxiety inducing hotbed of dissatisfaction. The commuting, the sophistication of people, the ignoring of each other, seem strange.

India was a place of people. We talked. About stuff - the population, the environment, history, culture, religion(s).

I'm in sensory overload - I can't not read every sign (because I can) and I understand what everyone's saying so its much more difficult to switch off.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Year 4

In the excitement of the trip and being backed up with holiday snaps (which I understand may be boring you by now! But y'know its the law that I have to show all of them before you can get away - only a few more days to go) the anniversary of my blog went by without me even noticing. So here we are. Year 4.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

First Day Back

And so its the first day back at work, I'm feeling shell shocked. My head feels detached from my body, I've forgotten how to walk like a commuter and still seem to drag my feet like its 46 degrees and I've nowhere to get to. It takes long to get there. Its hot and stuffy and very indoors. I'm struggling to stay awake and concentrate. Holidays - sometimes I wonder why we take them - its so difficult to recover! (Keep checking below for further updates on India - look out for tigers, a road trip and the return to Delhi).

Wednesday, 18 April 2007


Later we went across the road to the Mall. Rumours that there was costa coffee there. We were overwhelmed by the number of people employed - door men, two for each entrance, a man at the bottom of the escalator who switched it on as we approached, and one at the top to turn it off again, doorman at every boutique door, cleaners all over the place polishing floors, handrails, glass.

We found the costa coffee and while we were waiting for our drinks an argument broke out between a customer and a worker. The customer pointed aggressively in the workers face, grabbed him by the collar and slapped him in the face. Everybody just watched until an older woman went over to restore harmony.
Bus Trip

The family of the groom was up from a place somewhere close to Bangalore and they had a bus trip around Jaipur planned which those of us travelling from the UK were invited to join. The bus was circa 1970s, Indian, with broken air conditioning and fans that didn't work. We all piled in. We sat close to the back, with a bunch of the grooms cousings behind us, and an uncle to the side across the aisle. They kept giving us excellent information about cultural issues and religion.

First stop was the Amber Fort. We were literally herded round by a cousin acting as guide who was terrified of losing some of us. Umbrellas were handed out to those wishing to avoid the sun (we weren't takers).

Then we got back on the bus. Stopped for a packed lunch (Indian style - some ochre, potato with seeds and chapati) and then went into the City Palace. The city guards kept jumping, annoyingly, into my pictures (red turbans, strange black mustaches) expecting tips. Great doors though.


The Pink City. More terracotta than pink. But the uniformity had something of a unifying effect making the buildings have cohesion despite the fact they were quite different and unique.

This was more the kind of architecture I was expecting in India - terraces, balconies, turrets. And then there was the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds. Built by the poet King Sawai Pratap Singh including 953 pink sandstone windows known as 'jharokhas' meant for the ladies of the royal household, so they could watch the colourful bazaars and processions while not to being seen from outside.

Then there were elephants in the street.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Road to Jaipur

Farmers like to decorate their tractors with tinsel, big tassels, canopys, perhaps the way they did with elephants. Tractors mostly made by Magnus Fergeson. Camel drivers decorate their camels with designs painted on their sides in henna. People decorate their houses with white drawings on brown backgrounds same as they chainstitch onto cloth. Then as suddenly as the drawings appeared they disappeared and were replaced by writing again.

Full flickr roadtrip.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Ranthambhore National Park

So this part of the trip was a complete suprise. Before we came we hadn't even considered going on safari looking for tigers. So we had no binoculars. Set off in an open top jeep. Zooming along the road at 5.30am. Picking up two other parties along the way - an older German couple and a journalist researching an article on Tiger safaris around the world. The German lady had a proper camera with an appropriately long lens. I had camera inferiority complex.

Set off expecting to just enjoy the scenery and not see any tigers. We felt it best so as not to be disappointed. We got zone 3 much to the disappointment of the germans who had read in their guidebook that nobody had ever seen a tiger in zone 3 (only 5 vehicles were allowed in any one zone for each session).

Our guides listened out for deer alarm calls. Drove to appropriate points to watch and listen. Pointed out other wildlife. We watched the sun rise.

Then they saw the tiger - moving from a hiding place by a pond. She came out, walked round and went off into the woods. We were amazed. Huge beast wandering freely. And we were off - racing along the tracks to hopefully catch her when she emerged over the hill, bouncing and thrown about in the jeep, holding on for all our worths. Stopped when we saw her emerging from the woods again. She wandered along, marking her territory, coming closer and closer to the jeep. Totally unpeturbed by our presence. So close we could have reached out and touched her.

I had to keep reminding myself that she was wild. We weren't in a zoo. They weren't caged. There are no boundaries to the park - tigers do occassionally leave, particularly young males looking for a territory, which is when they get into trouble (farmers are concerned about tigers living close by to their livestock).

Later that day we were on our second safari of the day - an afternoon session. We really did expect to be just looking at the scenery this time, after such fantastic views earlier in the day. We were in a different zone, its terrain was quite different, higher, rockier, not as many watering holes. But someone with eagle eyes spotted an enormous male sitting in a cave. Visible only through binoculars, which our jeep companions kindly shared. We waited over an hour. He eventually came out and bounded up the side of the hill as if it were nothing. About three leaps. Wandered along and disappeared around the corner.

We went home after the sun had gone down, feeling very lucky.

Full safari flickr photostream.

Sightings: spotted deer, cormorant, crocodile (heads poking out of the water x2), sambar deer, tiger (13 year old Royal Bengal Tiger female, one of the biggest males in the park), peacocks and hens, egrit, macack monkeys, kingfishers, gazelle (x2), mongoose, langa monkey, brown fisher owl, Quail - running along the ground, honey buzzard, black stork (in flight).
On the Road

Driving from Agra to Ranthambhore. Agricultural landscape - small scale. End of the first harvest - fields are full of people working. Small holdings. People and animals coexist. Washing rituals at the pump. Grain stores - woven like enormous baskets, straw up piled up against the house. Dotted along the road are villages, or watering holes, sometimes the equivalent of just the corner shop - selling sweets, fanta, water, a few plastic chairs outside.

A barber. His shop a chair inside a lockup shed. Cut-throat shaves and hair cutting.

Vehicles on the road without number plates - homemade by farmers for farming. Long open engines like tractors mounted on a platform, long steering wheel posts, similar to the first cars without windshields. Putput along the road, sometimes pulling a load of grain, sometimes loaded with farm workers - western dressed men and women in colourful saris, yellow, pink, blue, red.

Families on motorcycles. Dad driving, 2-3 kids squeezed in the middle, mum on the back riding sidesaddle. Nobody wears a helmet.

Trucks carrying grain in huge canvas bags so full the load hangs over the sides and off the back. So full and overloaded can't quite understand how the truck manages it.

Jeeps full of workers speeding down the road, overtaking, people clinging to all possible available space - on the roof, hanging onto the side, standing on the open back door flapping one hand on the roof rack. People walking out of the fields with bundles of twigs, huge bags of grain, stacks of waterpots, belongings, balanced on their heads.

Then sporadically a town. Shops painted deep yellow with red and black writing or coca cola adverts painted in red and white. Houses painted blue (shades of aquamarine and turquoise or pale blue) or pink. Throng of people, cows, goats. Stalls - cloth, fruit, vegetables, eggs, motorbikes, rickshaw wheels. Crowd of men around a 'cafe' (water, fanta, food, chai).

Brick works. Stacked bricks, rectangular ditches and chimneys puffing out smoke. Rows of masons, all manner of carved stone vessels, domes, gods, walls. Ready to be assimilated into new buildings.

Goat herders, cow herders, sheep. Every once and a while a seemingly discarded shrine with a dome and idols. Kids playing cricket. One game had a plank for a bat. Another had a pile of bricks for wickets.

And when we ran out of road we were on a track covered in lumps of rock where the road was being resurfaced and expanded, travelling with local traffic, barely slowing down.

Peacocks and hens in the fields like grouse.

Deeper and deeper we get fewer vehicles, worse road, more men in traditional dress so they fit better with the women in saris.

I'm feeling very western - consumerist, excessive, privileged. Luxury of being able to be unhappy and dissatisfied. Bound by things, ownership and ambition. All of which seem pointless here.

Closer look at the pictures here.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Keoladeo Ghana National Park

So, driving away from city life we stopped at the bird sanctury. Out of season the wetlands were dry in the most part. But in the rainy season it apparently is a haven for migrating birds and covered in water. We took a rickshaw ride to the middle of the park, the driver of which pointed out birds and animals on the way. Hot and dry. Peaceful. In the centre of the park was a plaque recording figures of past shooting parties - ranging into the thousands apiece - pretty senseless seeming.

Little egret, heron, crane, and a nilgai (blue bull).

And here's a picture of my sister pretending to be a rickshaw driver (we had a great deal of guilt being cycled around with our great western arses by wirey Indians) shortly before she lost control and we careened off the road, capsized and spilled into the road. She felt less guilty about riding rickshaws after because it wasn't hard pulling us along but crushed with guilt about overturning the rickshaw!

Sighting list: peacock (x2), white breasted Kingfisher (x2), lapwing doves (lots), Tiger bird (cleans the teeth of tigers - tree pie (lots), minor birds (lots), black drango (forked tails) (lots), female black radistag?? (x1), crow pheasant (x3), cattle egret (eats flies off cattle and deer) (x1), crane (mate for life - always seen in pairs) (x8), redwater lapwing - from sri lanka (x2), black necked stalk (from sri lanka, blue eye= male, yellow eye=female) (x1), ring dove (x2), large egret (x1), grey heron (x1), jungle crow (big and fat) (x1), little egret (black beak), spotted owlet (x2), sandpiper (x1), green bee eater (x1), magpie robin (x4). Also saw sambar deer, monitor lizard, turtles and nilgai. Not sure whether these are exactly the right names of the birds - it was sometimes hard to understand the driver!

Flickr photostream.