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.
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Recently I visited my home country. While I was there my sisters and I took a trip to the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. The borders have been largely open since 2004 when the southern part of the island became a part of the European Union and at that time I remember the huge lines of cars, packed with families waiting to cross after so many years of absence from their homes, their fields and their previous lives.
Today barely any cars cross. The initial excitement, for want of a better word, has passed and people are getting on with their lives which they rebuilt from scratch when they had to leave their homes following the Turkish invasion of 1974. The Turkish army still occupies some 30% of the island and even after 35 years of talks the two sides are unlikely to sign a solution to the problem any day soon.
So what I want to talk about today is coping with that sense of loss. We have probably all experienced the loss of a loved one with the loss of a parent or a grandparent or a friend. But coping with the loss of a life as you knew it is something quite different because this is a loss which can be visited and revisited. Is it all about coping with the present and making the compromises ? Is the anger and the resentment still there, seething under the surface perhaps on both sides of the border, are the memories of it all that is left of a life once lived ?
These are the emotions that I dealt with as we crossed the border and headed into the Kyrenia hills. The plains were a luscious green, it has been unusually wet in Cyprus this year and all the rivers and dams are full, and the mountains were slipping in and out of shadows formed by menacing clouds overhead. There was a brightness though in the sunlight that shone on us and warmed us in the cold wind, a clarity in the sky and a welcome return to our childhood when we would be out on these moutains for picnics and walks. I cant pretend that when visiting the desecrated monasteries and the stripped churches I was comfortable with what was before me and the scene that shook me most was a cemetery, largely abandoned and destroyed, with a cross which was propped up with a stick. Someone had bothered.
The anemones were like rainbows in the fields, the baby goats galloping on the scraggy hills, the trees unfurling green tips and the sea in the distance troubled and dark but also frivolously playful as it reached the beaches. There is a sense of loss and one that isn't easily reconciled with the present but as with all things in life we cope, learn to adapt and look forward using the past as building blocks of strength even if the sense of belonging has been snatched away.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Ranthambore National Park is quite stunning. It was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambore became a national park in 1980. It is stunning because it is so varied. The Aravali hills in the distance, the fort perched on forbidding tall rocks, the plains stretching as far as the eye can see, the lakes shimmering in the rising heat.
It is rich in another way as well as this is where a large population of tigers can be seen together with the many animals some of which form tiger dinners. A lot of visitors go to Ranthambore expecting to see tigers and proportionately the possibilities are good as there is quite a number of them in the park.
This however is where I go into a rant, which I don't often do on this blog. When we visited we tried to get in as many safaris as possible. First we were sent the most complicated process to comply with in order to book them which we balked at saying we have never had to do this in any other national park. Then when we finally organised the safaris through the place we were staying we were so disappointed at how badly they were run and how little they offered.
Our interest in wildlife is not centred on tigers though we have enjoyed every minute of our viewings. However our guides and our vehicles were just hopeless. We were hearded into a "canter" a twenty seater where the engine was so bad that it could barely make the small inclines in the park, not to mention the NOISE that came from the engine which must have driven away any animal within a two mile radius. They drove round the park with the only motivation of getting to the end of the journey. The guides were useless- imparting little or no infomation about the wildlife - we knew more so were able to actually stop the "beast" and explain to the rest of the eager onlookers some of the treasures that the guides were not able to share with us.
We were so disappointed with this mass ill treatment that we requested a jeep which we thought would make a more sympathetic view of the park. Sadly this was just as disappointing. The guides took us on exactly the same route we had been before. They were simply not interested in sharing any of the park's treasures.This is a government run service and it is woefully inadequate.There is SO MUCH on offer and it takes little to impart the beauty and the variety but this was a bureaucratic nightmare of monumental proportions.
SO given all this you might think well what did we see ? We saw a tiger on the ramparts of the fort ! The tiger sauntered by turning to look briefly at the unruly humans who were misbehaving in these oversize trucks trying to get a good view of it. It disappeared very quickly into the undergrowth thinking no doubt, good grief these humans could really be taught how to behave better ! However there was so much more in spite of their insistence to race around which I am happy to share with you all !
Sunday, 12 February 2012
A great favourite as it is prime tiger country and not that far from Delhi. A five hour train ride to Rajastan will take you to Sawai Madhopur, the closest town, and in this colder weather of a Delhi winter the relative warmth of Ranthambore is really quite wonderful. So are Khem Villas where we stayed and enjoyed the comfort of beautiful surroundings, eco friendly practices and a vegetarian menu almost all locally sourced from their extensive and well run vegetable garden.
Meeting the owners, Usha and Govanden was an extra bonus particularly being able to hear how Usha's father- in- law is considered by most as the founding father of the park and all the work that has gone on to conserve the tiger populations.
When there, a visit to Ranthambore Fort is an absolute must. A beautiful fort built on a hill with amazing views of the park and the lakes and the Aravalli hills in the distance. The fort dates back to 944 and has been the prize of various rulers and maharajas over the year finally coming into the hands of the Maharaja of Jaipur who used it as his hunting ground. You enter through a gateway; Smooth and wide steps lead up to the fort and when you get to the top you enjoy the most breathtaking view of the lake below and the surrounding plains.A summer residence lies along the banks of the lake. The fort houses some Jain and Hindu temples and a plethora of peacocks and monkey families. They are eveywhere and always fun to watch and photograph.
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Have you ever seen those fruit bowls with artificial wooden fruit painted to look as if they are real ?
I am sure you all have but did you know that in India there is a tree that produces these large and incredibly green apples- they look like Granny Smith apples - except they are as hard as wood. Isnt that bizarre ? So I set about finding out about this tree.
According to my Tree book and to Wikipedia I have identified it as being the Bael tree.Bael (Aegle marmelos) (also known as Bengal quince, stone apple) and native to India.
The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree and can reach the size of a large grapefruit or pomelo, and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. It has been described as tasting of marmalade and smelling of roses. Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.I havent managed to see inside yet as I have failed to crack one open.
My landlady filled me in on all the other details. The inside is used to make a drink like lemonade and also a sherbet. It has a number of medicinal uses - good for dyspepsia and sinusitis though frankly I fail to see how the it can bridge the gap between these two - and the other is chronic constipation. Not a frequent problem in India I hear you shout !
To complete the picture I find out that this is a sacred tree to the Hindus like the Banyan. So next time you see this odd looking tree think of its outer hardness and inner charm.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Went shopping in Gurgaon today and there was an almighty traffic jam heading into the town. In true western style I jumped out of the car and said to my driver I will cross the road and go to the shop while you make your way round through the traffic.I grabbed my shopping bags, leapt out of the stationary car and attempted to cross the road.
I couldnt ! There was such a strong stream of traffic coming that every time I stepped off the central reservation I would have to quickly get back on. I must have stood there in utter frustration for about 10 minuted trying to get across when I saw a small break in the traffic and I flew across the road, shopping bags and all with a huge and unstable Indian lorry hurtling straight for me. I nearly said a puja getting to the other side and I turned to see how the carefully painted zebra crossing was fading fast beneath a layer of dust and uselessness.
The road I was on but not the Zebra crossing.