Showing posts with label Jaipur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jaipur. Show all posts

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jaipur Bombings

More than 60 people died Tuesday in Jaipur, the city that charmed me most in India, following bomb attacks in the walled city. Officials imposed a curfew Wednesday; hard to imagine bustling Jaipur without activity, or innocent-looking bicycle rickshaws used in the bombings. The CBC quoted a Johri Bazaar merchant aptly: "Neither the Hindus or the Muslims here want to fight," said Mohiuddin Qureshi, a gemstone trader who works in a market that was bombed. "Our lives are together, our businesses are together. This is the work of outsiders." I passed or visited some of the sites bombed: the Hawa Mahal (above), Sanganeri Gate, Chhoti and Bari Chaupar, Tripolia, Chandpol Bazaar and Johri Bazaar, where jewelry and gems are sold. The Hindustan Times has posted a page devoted to the bomb tragedy and video.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rajasthani Girls

Police are investigating 21 doctors accused of aborting girl babies in Rajasthan, India, even though it's illegal to perform ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman to determine gender. The BBC reports that as many as 10 million girl fetuses have been aborted in India over the past 20 years. Womens groups in the state's capital, Jaipur, recently protested to shed light on the subject; families prefer boys given the cost to wed a daughter. One of India's many new television channels recently re-exposed the subject, a national issue we heard about on our CBS/Chazen Social Enterprise trip. In Hyderabad, we visited a Lifespring women's medical clinic where nurses displayed prominent illustrations explaining the fetus testing law (see photo, above.) Lifespring is partly financed by Acumen Fund and targets rural, poor women who typically face societal and familial pressure to abort girls.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rural India

Staying in a Taj hotel when on a social enterprise trip seems wrong; on our trip, students had to pay high hotel rates to effectively insure the University against danger. Ironically, we didn't have hot water one morning at the Taj, and there was a decaying bomb site across the street. But I digress. The founder built the luxe Indian-owned chain, whose first hotel boasts this Mumbai view:

providing a response to "white-only" hotels. The latest foray is Jaipur's Taj Spa at Rambaugh Palace. Spa torture, er, service, includes: " 'Ventoz': Indian cupping, duration 90 minutes. By creating a vacuum with heat in a glass, the knots and sore points on the body are gently eased. ... may cause mild bruising ... guests report immediate relief from long-term chronic conditions." Greeks call them bendouzes. A social change blogger named Sagar Gubbi points out Westerners should travel in rural India to spread the wealth. Our Yiayia is laughing somewhere -- rural remedies - bendouzes - can command luxury prices.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ganesh in NY

Missing India, I dragged a friend today to Chennai Gardens, on 27th Street, for a veg meal of dosa, uttapam and a little halwah for dessert, Tamil Nadu style with almond and cardamom flavor.

Only in New York, it was kosher too. The neighborhood offers a tailor who will make jootis and a grocery with chai masala spices, rotis and packaged curries. Plus elephant-god Ganesh statues in brass for sale everywhere!

Even ABC Carpet & Home has gone Indian with a wall of Ganesh, remover of obstacles, in marble or wood, a floor-to-ceiling wall of fake-orange marigolds, stacks of hand-stitched Indian bed covers for $500 each and Indian jewelry (gemstones, gold and silver) at absolutely ridiculous prices.

I am thinking about Jaipur most. But I found a site where you can see its Rajasthani turbans, forts and even the Gem Palace in a Gem Palace video.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


In Hindi, the word mitra means friend, so when people cannot pronounce my name, I just say D and Mitra. And they get big smiles on their faces. It's 2 a.m. and I am staring at the darkened Indian Sea from a 20th-story Taj Resort hotel in Mumbai, a startling and frankly, kind of sad contrast to the colorful, wonderfully trusting and warm culture of Jaipur, Rajasthan that I left a few hours ago.
Yesterday, some guys I met who sell jewelry brought me to a Krishna festival where we drank hot chai. But don't worry, I haven't converted -- despite the red dot! People here are very aware of their Hindu faith, and explain the gods. Ajay(left) and Om (right) wanted me to meet them again Friday, but I went to a monkey temple and couldn't find their shop afterwards. Ajay, who’s 26, said he is an artist, and wanted me to leave my bags at his house and tool around the day I left. He thought we could be best friends. At the  monkey temple instead, I captured amazing images of temple drawings and monkeys wandering around. Then went to Jaipur's Maharaja Palace complex to see beautiful architecture -- Arabian influences reminiscent of southern Spain -- with fine paintings, 200-year-old silk saris and other things. Tonight, on the way to the aiport, my trusty driver Anil brought me to his modest home to meet his wife and kids. Off the busy main road to the highway, their building is a complex where some 60 members of his extended famliy live. Passed another sacred cow as we parked.
They served spicy sweet chutney on biscuits for me, and bought me a liter of water for the road, and we exchanged addresses for the next time I come. They showed me their wedding photos too -- 2000 people came. They looked like royalty, Anil in a red Rajasthani turban and his wife coated in gold, with a painted forehead and hennaed hands. He came in on a white horse. Really lovely family.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Namaste Jaipur

Found a modern, clean, family-run home-stay for two nights -- complete with man-servant who cooks breakfast and dinner, and just a five-minute, thrilling auto-rickshaw ride through the chaos into the old city. $25 per night inclusive. Family grilled me on my backround and told me theirs: educated, from Kashmir, son-in-law works for LG. I couldn't identify the strange animal noises during the night -- woke up at 6 a.m. with the call to prayer, stepped out onto my veranda, and saw there was a cow, a peacock and a puppy in the neighbor's yard -- she was cooking over an open fire. I love traveling in traffic that is completely chaotic and I am fascinated by all the small, ingenious vehicle-contraptions on the road. The kids at right waved and said "Hello, Hello, where are you from?" Adorable faces. Yesterday, I found the Gem Palace and tried on some very yellow gold -- Pappu, one of the three 50-something sons running the 150-year old business, invited me for a drink and downed three scotch-and-waters while stalling, as it turned out. When we retuned to the gold-and-gem shop, they had the bracelet I had described earlier, plucked from the warehouse. They even gave me a throat syrup and a vapor concoction for my cold and sent me home with their driver, even after I didn't buy. The operation is a maze of rooms with modern and traditional decor, wall painting and vats -- literally -- of semi-precious stones. An entire sack of Lapis Lazuli. Outside, begging women wait. Pappu says they make too much money and just don't want to work. Clearly they are beautiful; I have decided not to give on the street, but did to them because it was New Year's Day.

Monday, December 31, 2007

India 2008!

Allah Akbar! Happy St. Basil's Day!!!!! St. William too!!! Awakened first by the firework booms just before midnight on New Year's Eve, and then at 6 a.m. by the tinny echo of mosque chanters competing for the first call to prayer for 2008. Sights and sounds continue to amaze. Overriding all is the peacefulness of this chaos. The absence of anger and anxiety here are calming, as is lack of cell phone and television. While Jaipur is not quite a walking city, at $22 for a most pleasant personal driver for the day (more than many charge) I am thrilled to take photos and shop for linens. Rickshaws and saris and elephants and camels and monkeys and dal and nan and dusty roads. The Schweppes is "Indian Tonic" naturally. Stares, hawkers saying "Madam, Madam" with fine painted scenes over Arabic script. Red hijabs. Naked children. Cows in the road. Raw vegetables and fruit on wood carts supported by bicycle wheels and pulled by camels. Wonderful and affordable Ayurvedic massage. It might be a good thing that I have a head cold, because things smell just fine. The link above has more photos!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Alive, Well in Jaipur!

Cows, goats, roosters on the road, children waving at me from packed three-wheel carts holding 10 people, strange beverages, mosquitoes swarming at the airport .... it's another world. Singapore Air is amazing; Jet Airways is its carbon. People very unflinching; no U.S.A. aggression or anger. Even when a car is coming straight at you, and you might hit a camel to avoid it. I hired a driver this morning who has not left my side since I walked into the smokey morning chill at the outpost Jaipur airport. Quite warm in afternoon. Lots of saris. It's true what they say about the juxtaposition of beauty and filth. Have not seen the wealth here in the old city of Jaipur, or environs. He of course took me to stone and jewelry shops he knew, I didn't buy anything, but I did find a quilt. Many Muslims in this city; but we went to a temple dedicated to Ganesh today, and another to a few goddesses -- in marble. More soon -- hotel here is GREAT, neighborhood is shocking, but dirt roads, and a hut for haircuts outside seems par for the course. There's a man, about five feet tall and armed with a billy-stick, guarding the place. More soon -- shot a whole roll of film and digital ran out of juice. Cancelling Jaisalmer seems wise; some train lines have been shut down as Pakistan's crisis continues.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I'll be staying within a 500-year-old desert fort in India in just three weeks, as part of a four-day tour in Rajasthan including Jaipur and Jaisalmer. I'm not prepared, and neither is my digital camera, whose Kodak battery positively stinks. Apparently this place, the Golden City so-named for its carved, sandstone walls reflecting the setting sun, was described in a book that was made into a 1974 movie released in the United States as "The Golden Fortress" by Bengali writer and director Satyajit Ray.