Hello welcome to my Blog
Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.
Sunday, 25 December 2011
Friday, 23 December 2011
A lot of us go into slight meltdown at this time of year because we become nostalgic for tradition, family and that comfort of familiarity. For a lot of expats living here keeping contact with loved ones can be an issue, for all sorts of reasons, time zones, distance, costs.
Email and skype have made life easier but we are always looking for other solutions and information that is relevant to us, so I was pleased when I came across this site which basically is a combination of support and business.The business side offers attractive rates for international calls. The support side is in the form of an interesting online magazine called " The Social Expat" which is basically a combination of articles on a variety of subjects ranging from culture to travel to practical information. Check it out on :http://socialexpat.nymgo.com/
Monday, 19 December 2011
The other half of Ajanta is Ellora. They sound more like girls names then ancient sites. These sites probably did not see any women present at all but they are definitely worth looking into as Ellora is the follow-on from Ajanta and spans the 5th Century to the 8th and 9th Century AD. Here there are no paintings. There may have been some but most have been destroyed or defaced. What is very impressive on this site of three to four kilometres, and worthy of a long day's investigations, are the temples carved in basal stone.
However you have to see it to believe it because telling you about how they did it just does not convey the enormity of it. They built a temple, the biggest one in this complex, known as the Kailas, from the top downwards. So imagine you have one huge lump of rock and a chisel and hammer and you start from the roof top and you chisel all the way down to the bottom creating the most exquisite statues, columns, sanctuaries and interconnecting structures, in perfect symmetry with no corrections or omissions but from ONE ROCK. This is the biggest monolithic temple in the world and it is truly something to behold. Not surprisingly it is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
The so called 34 caves are actually man made and are all Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples. There is surprisingly little differentiating them on the surface but the devil or should we say the god is in the detail. Today I will just talk to you about Kailas as this is the one you meet first.This is a picture of it dug out from the rock.The Hindu temple's shape and structure resembles a chariot.
The immense hallways dug into the rock
The pillars on either side of the temple are 17 metres high and are symbols of the caves.
The Gajalaxmi on a lotus in the lotus pond with elephants bathing her.
We walked all round the top of the temple and took the pictures looking down.
The other Hindu temples are not as impressive in grandeur but they have exquisite carvings like the statue of Ganga here.
Monday, 12 December 2011
Today is Delhi's 100th birthday as we know it.Happy Birthday Delhi !
On 12 December, 1911 the Capital of India was shifted from Kolkata to Delhi. This made Delhi the political centre for ruling the Indian sub-continent. This was not the first time that Delhi became a capital.
Between the 12th and the 19th century AD, Delhi was the capital for many rulers. Siri, Tughlakabad, Jahanapanah, Ferozabad, Dinpanah, Shergarh and Shahajahanabad are the historic ‘seven cities’ that existed. The eighth city, New Delhi, as we know it was built by the British with the help of Lutyens and Baker and is the one which is celebrating its 100 years today and in which I live.
This is where it all began:
At Coronation Park in North Delhi on the 12th of December 1911 at the Durbar celebrating the visit of George V and Queen Mary to India . It became a tented city of some splendour and the pictures of the processions and the celebrations are truly impressive.
The flowing gown in stone of George V
Some of you who follow the blog may recall that I blogged about this some months back and said I would go back to check the MDCs plans to overhaul this historic but much neglected site. Sadly everything is in turmoil and this is the picture of Coronation Park on its centenary.It will eventually be done but not for this important date.
The last two images are to me powerful reminders of how in 100 years and despite the tremendous growth and development of India on some levels, little had changed for the common man on the street who is still there in his threadbare garments chiselling the stone with a simple hammer as he and his forefathers have done for centuries.
Friday, 9 December 2011
It is hard to fathom, even harder to execute but there can be no mistaking the effort and the years that went in to creating Ajanta because it is there for us to see not far from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The caves, not real ones, but man made, were on the ancient trade routes where money and influence seemed plentiful and the earliest date back to the 2nd century BC or as it is now noted 200 BCE. They continue to be built until about the 5th Century AD, 600 CE when they were abandoned for the caves of Ellora which I will also blog about, and they lay abandoned and ravaged by weather and time until an unsuspecting Britisher John Smith, out looking for tigers, came across one of the bigger caves.
A river flows through a rich and green ravine and the horseshoe rock face on the one side is what Buddhist monks decided to chisel into, using nothing more than a chisel and hammer. The caves, about 30 of them, are all masterpeieces of Buddhist art and architecture and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They show elaborate paintings of Buddha and his life and of course the life of others around him, including women with intricate hairdos and even make up , men with socks and playful scenes of life in Buddha's court.All this painted with natural colours and dyes and done with little or no lighting in exquisite detail and design.
One of the entrances
Probably the most famous painting of the Caves Boddhisattva Padmapani holding a flower, but due to reduced lighting in the caves it is actually quite hard to get a good picture as flash is not allowed.
A scene of the court life
One of the Buddhas in Cave 4
One of the paintings
The patterned ceilings
Men of the Court with their socks !!
One of the many images of Buddha and the animals depicted below
The only reclining Buddha in the Ajanta caves.
Look at the peace on his face and the ease of his body.
Monday, 5 December 2011
In the south of India and in a hurry ? Want to see the Taj but have no time to get to it. Want something like the Taj experience and that Diana moment on the bench - Look no further.
Baba ka Maqbara is the place for you - it is a replica of the Taj in the Deccan. Built by Aurangzeb's son on the outskirts of the town of Aurangabad as a tribute to his mum Begum Rabia Durani it is to all intents and purposes a Taj Lookalike but without the crowds.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
The Taj never tires. It is just as amazing every time you see it and it doesn't matter how many times you visit. Each visit is different for its colours, the season, the light and the people.This time the morning colours were sharp, in focus and so bright.The people are awed by its beauty and proud that it is part of their heritage.
This is the first time I visited the Taj Museum and I saw some spectacular pictures of the Taj from many centuries ago, the orders for materials and all the drawings and plans that went into creating this architectural wonder. We visited it with a little boy who was there with relatives and who engaged me in conversation for all the time we were in there. I complimented him on his English and he smiled, turned to face me and said "Your English very good too. ". He is the small one in the centre of the picture.
Ah but did you know there is a Taj Lookalike ?? More soon,
Ah but did you know there is a Taj Lookalike ?? More soon,
Thursday, 24 November 2011
The news from abroad is singularly depressing, the global economies are suffering. It is an unanswerable question for me why those in the know did not ring out the warning bells earlier or why they even allowed this to happen, but perhaps that is another discussion for another day.
So with the exception of our well known billionaire friends in India and abroad all us mortals have to be a little more careful with the pennies. It is so welcoming therefore to see initiatives like the one recently launched by my good friends Philippa Kaye who conceived and planned a new site called Hotels Under 100.
The 100 refers to £100. She has collected the choisiest and most appealling venues and has put them all under this banner. It is user friendly and attractive both financially for all but also tantalizing to our travelling tastebuds. Click on it everyone and plan away.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
The area where I live is awash with peacocks, peahens and peababies. I know so little about them I decided that this blog really needs to be about the National and sacred Bird of India which is so beautiful and so infuriating at the same time. Bit like India some may say ?
The story begins many years ago when my husband bought me a shawl from a very beauitful shop in London called Liberty's and while the eyes were depicted as red and not blue, so representationally inaccurate, it has been much admired and worn.
It continues with the true history of Gustave de Revilliod de la Rive who bequeathed all the land on which the Palais des Nations was built in Geneva. He stipulated in his will that peacocks should always roam free on the grounds.I would often walk in the grounds and admire the birds who defied Swiss regulation.
Now here in India they are found everywhere but more so in the open areas in South Delhi where I live. They play hide and seek in the bushes at the back of my house, they strut along the pathways chicks in tow. They perch on the fences and cry ferociously and infuriatingly and they dazzle daily with their feathers.They are mainly blue and green here but white peacocks also exist. The colours result from the micro- structures of the feathers and way light falls on them. Male birds have the upper hand here as you know and perhaps like most things male it is a carefully constructed and thought out plan- the goal is clear- to get the woman.
The eyes do it and their dance which is called a "shiver" is exactly designed to lure the women in. Once breeding is over they shed their feathers which grow back longer and finer the following year with trains reaching 1.5 metres in length. They roost in trees which seems almost an impossible feat as they seem unlikely flyers and balancers yet they manage well and their populations are healthy. They are considered a sign of good luck and well being in all of Asia.
Forever looking for the associations between my origins and my life here I have found a story of how peacocks got their eyespots.
According to Greek mythology, peacocks got their spots thanks to a woman named Io. She was a priestess to Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus took a fancy to Io and turned her into a heifer in order to disguise her. Hera who was no fool, tricked Zeus into giving her the heifer/Io as a present. Once she had the heifer in her possession, Hera appointed Argus, a man covered with eyes, to guard Io. Zeus then sent a minion to rescue the priestess, who killed Argus in the process. As a tribute to Argus and his many eyes, Hera bestowed the "eyespot" onto the peacock.
I have no idea if their marriage survived but all is well in peacock land where males can have more than one wife.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
The weather in Delhi is perfect at the moment and being out and about in the day as well as the evening is a pleasure. Driving around the city recently I noticed a very strong scent and started asking around to find out what it was- no no not sewage, not frangipani, nor urine ....the usual suspects, this was distinctly different, almost overpowering a mixture of heavy spices, cloves, allspice, juniper, which hit your nostrils with an unmistakable and captivating aroma.
It took several leaf pickings and several pickings through my tree book because I could not readily identify it until my landlady said she knew it as being alstonia - so here it is Alstonia Scholaris also known as Saptaparni aka as the devil's tree, ditabark tree, white cheesewood, milkwood pine, blackboard tree-Saptaparni, satpatia, chatium, satwin, satni, shatan ka jhad ! I never knew a tree could have so many names. Courtesy of Pradip Krishen's book on Trees of Delhi.It is the small white flowers that are so heavily scented.
This was planted in Delhi in the 1940s when colonies like Golf Links ( one of the foremost colonies in Delhi )were being planned out and I am little proud to say that the oldest, largest tree is on Archbishop Makarios Marg who was of course the first President of my country on Independence.Ah these links ...
Breathe them in.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
Since visiting Mexico some years ago with my family I am fascinated by the figure of Frida Kahlo. It seems I am not alone in the world and my good friend Kanchan Chander has dedicated a part of her recent new solo show to this fascinating woman. Kanchan in her own right is also quite a woman and she occasionally pops herself into her beautiful artwork so that we dont forget her lovely face.
The Cover of the Catalogue
Frida led a very adventurous life in the 30s in Mexico City but she was also quite a tragic and troubled figure.
She was married to the painter Diego Rivera but was known to have had various lovers in her life, even apparently a short affair with Trotsky who was in exile at the time in Mexico.
Courtesy of First City.
Kanchan has taken her face and recreated it in a million different ways all with the finest detail and materials and with sense of colour and vibrancy which is captivating.
She is fascinated by the female form and a lot of her smaller works concentrate on this with senses of its multifarious functions in the form of a lover or a mother but also a doer of jobs and it is one of Kanchan's delights to slip in the odd artefact that she may pick up at a flea market and which embellishes a face or a body at once like a piece of jewellery but also as a tool.
Go along to the exhibition and then and enjoy a coffee or tea on the first floor while browsing beautiful art books.
"Revisiting the Popular" is on at Art Positive from now until the 3rd December-
Address Lado Sarai F 213 BDelhi
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Autumn is definitely one of my favourite seasons and I am happily visiting the UK to see my boys at a time when the weather is still mild and the leaves are clinging to the trees in a myriad colours of burnt oranges and reds, subtle yellows and screaming ones too.The view of this wonderful drainpipe is outside my window.
I wander around and delight in the beauty of the place, the quaint gardens, the stained glass windows and the impressive doorways. I dawdle in the parks and the coffee shops and I soak in the atmosphere all around me in a city which if you let it runs away with you.