A Travellerspoint blog

Heart and Soul

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Viewing from western eyes it can be very difficult to see the differences between how men and women are treated in India and I'm certainly not going to use the blog as a forum to air my views, but in my opinion, Indian women are the lifeblood of this country and the strongest I've ever met in my life.

Our wonderful cook left last week for a job in Kuwait and this got me thinking about  how much she does and has achieved. Without going into her background she's had a hard life and now lives in a small hut put together with corregated iron, coconut leaves and plastic, while earning a living as a housemaid to try and build herself a new house. She gets up at 5am every morning (as most the women do) to cook, clean and help the neighbours with their kids. She then looks after us with pretty much everything - in the picture she's clobbering open a coconut to use for our dinner. She then goes back to her tiny house to cook for herself and sleep ready to start again the next day. The past few weeks she's been getting up even earlier to look after her 3 month old grandson and build her new house, actually laying the bricks and cutting the iron for the foundations herself. She did all this with the most wonderful smile on her face and an easy optimistic laugh.

Ulmakoolsa is just one example of the wonderful women I have met here who work extremely hard, sometimes in very extreme conditions, but remain elegant, beautiful, optimistic and confident. One thing that always strikes me when I teach my classes is that the girls will grow into these women, some already have (marriage at 16 isn't rare), and I hope I can help them on their way. I think more likely is they have helped me.

Posted by carlala 22:48 Comments (0)

Mysore

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I've had a fantasic weekend in Mysore and the trip definitly warrants more then the one post I'm writing about it. The feeling of the city is very different to anywhere else I've been in India so far. The streets were wide and open and lined with trees, giving it an almost European feel. Men and women were busily sweeping the streets to retain the title of India's cleanest city, which they were definitly achieving.

The main sight is Mysore Palace which was fantastic to visit (even to someone not easily impressed like me). It was built in 1937 by a British architect in an Indo European style and cost was certainly no object. Huge opulent rooms were painted rich turquoise and peacock blue lined with gold detailing. Wall paintings of the Raja and his proccesions lined each wall showing the ostentation and grandeur of the royal family at that time. All the floors were marbled or tiled and the doors were either teak, intricatly patterned inlay rosewood or covered in sheet silver. Sadly I couldn't take any pictures inside so you'll just have to take my word for it!

Mysore is also famous for it's silks and sari making and I was keen to look round the silk factory. Unlike anywhere else we've visited we were allowed to wonder around without a guide, meaning we could go right up to the looms during the weaving process. Huge rooms with about a hundred looms clattered about while creating the most beautiful silk saris with gold thread (zari) detailing running through. A real treat and like stepping back to Victorian Britain. Again sadly no pictures allowed! The showroom had the finished dyed saris in every colour - sadly a little too expensive for me but later we came across a sari auction where....if I could have worked out the bidding...I would have got a bargain, and the women were certainly buying in bulk!

Finally...yes the yellow cows...we weren't sure either but apparently last weekend there was the festival, Pongal, where all the cows were rounded up, dyed yellow with tamarind, had their horns painted red and made to jump over fire! Hmm...?

Posted by carlala 23:38 Comments (0)

The Wonderful Journey

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I got back from Mysore this afternoon after a great weekend. I've managed to catch a cold though (it was only 30 °C there!) so I'll put up a full post when I feel a bit more with it. In the mean time here are some pictures from the bus journey which took us through three states (Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), up the Western Ghats, through the tea plantations and into 2 national parks (Mudamalai and Bandipur). Not bad for r.94 (about £1.20). Ooh and I saw wild elephants! See if you can spot one.

Posted by carlala 08:04 Comments (0)

Kappad

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I'm going for a long weekend to Mysore tomorrow so I'll be offline for a few days. Before I go here are a few pictures of the beach we visited last Friday to help you get through the January nights - I hear it's -2° with you at the moment.

Kappad beach is just outside Calicut (Kozhikode) which is about 1.5 hours from Nilambur and the nearest city. Kappad's main historical feature is it was where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498, heralding the Portrugese and eventual European infiltration of India. Other then a plaque to this landing the guidebook said there wasn't much to see here, this is perhaps true but I'm really glad we made the effort. Unlike Kovalem on the South coast, which is extremely touristy and frenetic, Kappad is quiet and relaxed with just a few courting couples sat on the promenade. The sand was golden and the sound of the sea made any tension fall away. This isn't a sunbathers beach and there aren't any restaurants so a couple of hours slowly strolling to admire the fishing boats is enough time here - but it's given me enough of a taster to want to explore the Northern  Keralan coastline a bit more.

Posted by carlala 04:21 Comments (0)

You're beautiful.....but don't kiss me

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If anyone has driven or been driven in India then you know it's an experience not to be missed.

Officially they drive on the left....but I have to mention that even though I've been driven every day since I got here, I had to ask which side was correct. Cars, auto rickshaws, motorbikes, lorries and buses all fight for space and right of way on the fairly narrow and often winding roads. Constant horns and overtaking without slowing down can be quite a white knuckle ride, but fight isn't really the right word to describe the traffic. What first appears as complete chaos actually happens in complete harmony, reaching almost telepathic understanding of which direction each oncoming vehicle is going.

The vehicles themselves are as synonomous to India as biryani and yoga. The bikes are Honda Heroes for the 20 something year old men elevating to Royal Enfields when there's a family in tow (at the moment the record stands at 6 on one bike or 2 guys and one goat!). The cute yellow Piaggio auto rickshaws are everywhere - except when you need one - and can carry, families, chickens, matresses...in fact anything you want. Buses are ram packed full, windowless and often look like they're held together with nothing more then a bit of solder and paint. For those that can afford it there are Ta Ta hatchbacks and saloons, seen as status symbols admired by all the neighbours.

My favourite are the higly decorated (the photo doesn't do them justice) Mahindra trucks that can be seen on long journeys darting along with their huge load. Every one has their name painted over the cab and a snappy motto painted on the back. I keep forgetting to write them down but the post title is one that stuck in my mind!

Posted by carlala 06:11 Comments (0)

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