Tag Archives: travel

The Great Wall and Time

The sun’s heat is scorching. We walk at a steady pace, completely awed. 

We are at the Great Wall of China.

 Before we reach the starting point, our guide briefs us about the Wall and its history, and loads us with many interesting nuggets of information.  We agree on a time to meet, and proceed on our long walk.

The valleys on either side watch us in silence, as we walk, stop and marvel. How was this feat even possible!

At every turn, the wall winds up and down into the rugged terrain, an off-white line that stretches away into places that the eye cannot see. 

We feel humbled.  We walk up steps, climb down others, pausing for breath, pausing to take pictures, wondering, only wondering.

We can picture the soldiers at their viewing decks, and the invading armies. 

My son and I sit down, as we wait for the others. There is a deep silence. Except from two crows that caw on and off, all is quiet.  Our hats give us some semblance of protection as the sun’s hot rays reflect off the stones.

I look up at the clear blue sky and smile. A merry little jet is whizzing importantly across the sky, leaving behind a fluff of white lace. 

Time seems suspended between history and the future. 

The Wall is unchanging, a witness to thousands of years of history, culture and human development.  The jet is too busy to stop, it is after all, busy carrying people to appointments and meetings.

The word ‘time’ as I know it seems pointless, as I sit on the Great Wall, knowing that even after we are all gone, this architectural wonder will still remain.

Tropizens 

I keep reading blogs that talk about Spring; and am reminded of the animated movie Bambi, where all the animals in the jungle celebrate Spring by breaking into a song-dance routine. Spring – when flowers bloom, when butterflies flutter, and when there is green everywhere!

Sigh! I can only read or watch movies about Spring. Living in the tropics as I do, the word ‘seasons’ is only useful when teaching my kids about seasonal changes in other parts of the world.

Where we live we have only three ‘seasons’ – warm, very warm and unbearably warm.

Our bodies are conditioned to easily handle temperatures of 33 deg and above.  We are used to thunderstorms and rainfall almost every day.

I am a Tropizen – a citizen of the tropics. Why am I saying this? This is because, like any other group of people, Tropizens exhibit certain behaviour patterns.

Take for example our handling of cold weather. Tropizens grow brrrrrrr…if the aircon temperature is set at anything below 24 deg. We feel cold in airports.

Imagine this – our family of Tropizens went on a trip to New Zealand a few years ago. It was in December, which is summer time in New Zealand. The internet told us that the temperature would be between 18 to 20 degrees during the day and around 12 deg at night. Rattlleeeee….!

For a Tropizen, that is winter..Brrrrr. We stocked up on caps, scarves, mufflers, gloves and thermals.

Picture courtesy – Cartoonstock.com
When we landed in Christchurch after our long flight, the fresh air seemed invigorating, initially. However, in a few hours we were wrapped up in our wollens.

As it was our first day, we decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood. The locals were enjoying their summer in cotton clothes, and were probably shocked to see eight people walking down the road, covered from head to toe in warm clothes.  They must have wondered if we were headed to some camp in the Antarctic.

Most restaurants had their tables set outside. People enjoyed tall glasses of drinks, with ice cubes tinkling in them. The thought of ice cubes made us chatter. We wanted hot coffee!

We were probably the only few people who asked to be seated indoors.

But at home, in the tropics,  we can survive the heat and humidity without batting an eyelid. We can guzzle big buckets of cold juice…with clinking ice cubes! We can take on lightning and thunderstorms, and anything else.

For us, comfort starts at 33 deg!

A moment in time…

Recently, as I browsed through my digital photo archives, I came across this picture of my son, when he has 3 years old.

I still remember – it was a cold, windy day, and we were on a windmill farm in The Netherlands.

My husband and I stood transfixed by the old windmill, but my son was mesmerised by this beautiful duck that waddled across the grass. 

My son got his arms together and imitated the duck’s waddling as he followed the bird, making a ‘quack’, ‘quack’ sound with his mouth.

Seeing this photograph brought back memories of that holiday, and memories of the little boy that my son was then, whose day was made by that little duck.

How time flies! When I showed him the picture, his eyes grew big, and he asked, “Is that really what I did?

A simple moment in time. A moment that can never be replaced. A moment when a three year old followed a duck.

The Anatomy of a Ladies Trip

We are in Chennai. A bustling metropolis. Four women, who have travelled to this city to attend the dance debut of one of our mutual friends’ daughters.

All of us arrive the night before, from different places. The excitement of meeting like this – without husbands, children, work and everyday mundanities is potent.

We are staying with another dear friend. We wake up lazily, indulge in hot cups of aromatic filter coffee, gossip and sip more coffee. We laze about, finding this strange abundance of time so refreshing; where work, chores and children seem unreal. We catch up and discuss our lives.

When the sun hangs directly above our heads, we decide that we are famished. We are food-sisters, if you could call it that. We love food and enjoy eating out. So, the ubiquitous South Indian Thali gets our vote.

The four of us wait to hail autorickshaws for the short ride. We think we may need two autos to accommodate our frames. All the autos seem to be busy. Finally, one stops for us. The auto-driver bravely agrees to take the four of us. We squeeze in, with one of us spilling onto the side bar. Amidst a lot of giggling, we get dropped off at the restaurant.

The server asks us if we want the ‘limited’ or ‘unlimited’ Thali? The vote is unanimous for the Unlimited Thali, meaning you get more of any item you like.

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The delectable Vegetarian Thali with its tantalizing aroma, and vibrant colours, is placed before each of us. We tuck into the delicious food, mixing the gravies with rice, crushing the papads, tasting the tangy pickle. The eating process is made more enjoyable as we tease each other, and continue to be amazed at our appetites. We finish all the courses and wait for the dessert of hot gulab jamuns with icecream. Pure bliss!

We walk out into the afternoon, content with ourselves, and living in the moment, our busy lives temporarily erased.

We amble back, to burn off some of those calories. We then laze about discussing our wardrobes and what each is going to wear to the dance debut. We catch a few winks.

After another hot cup of coffee to revive  ourselves, we start getting ready. We leave for the function, enjoy it and head back to change into our everyday clothes. Back to airports, train stations and bus stations. Back to the routine.

It is so wonderful to be back home with the children and husband. The trip feels like a dream now.

Letter mirrors

A few years ago, when my Dad passed away, and my mom was clearing out some old stuff, she chanced upon a bundle of letters that I had written to my parents, when I was in my twenties and  working in London.

She had preserved them carefully, organized by date; each letter safely tucked in its original envelope. The envelopes had frayed edges, where my parents would have opened or torn them to get to my letters.

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          Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

A few days later, when I visited my mom, she asked me if I wanted to keep the letters, because they were filled with my everyday observations of London (one of my favourite cities), to my dreams and aspirations, and lots of photos and humourous observations. Of course, every letter was an outpouring of love to my parents, my aunt, my sisters and to my adorable niece, who was 2 months old then.

I took the letters with me, and sat down to read them. I must have had lots of time, especially in winter, for no letter was shorter than 14 pages!

Through those letters, I relived my life in its twenties. I could see that young woman, with so many dreams and aspirations, looking at her future and its immense possibilities.

I loved reliving London, with its tube stations, and the weather, and the long walks I often took. I remembered the scones and jacket potatoes. I remember how many books I read on my trips in the tube. I learnt so many, many things. I travelled, I walked and I read.

I fast forward to the now. How have I changed? Lots of things are still the same, but I have mellowed. I am a wife now, a mom now. My priorities are quite different.

Many of those dreams are still inside, waiting to be realized, maybe after the kids go to university.

Life was independence, fun, young and filled with lots of possibilities ‘then’.

Life is dependence, love, ageing and filled with dreams and possibilities for the family ‘now’.

Different phases, both beautiful. Wouldn’t trade either.

My Doll Display – Part 4

Today’s featured dolls are from The Masai Maara Tribe in Kenya, Africa, from our trip there.

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We visited the Masai Village on our trip to Kenya, a couple of years back.  These dolls are from there.

We spent a fascinating afternoon learning about the Masai Tribe, that has lived in Africa for centuries.  Their culture runs wide and deep, and is steeped in a lot of beliefs.

The Masai live in settlements called ‘Manyatas’ or villages.  The village is surrounded by a bramble bush and stick fence to protect the tribe from wild animals.

The Masai men performed a welcome dance for us and crowned each of us in turns, with a top-hat made of lion skin.

The Masai have stopped hunting wild animals, as hunting is banned in Kenya.  However, they do kill the odd wild animal, if their cattle or tribesmen are threatened.

The Masai guide ‘Philip’ wore a chain that had a lion tooth pendant.  He claimed to have killed a lion; the pendant was a souvenier.

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The guide spoke good English, the result of a drive by the government to make education mandatory.

The Masai are mainly cowherds, and each village has sheep, goats and cows.  The village we visited had 67 tribe members and over 300 cattle.  The central village enclosure is where the cattle stay at night. The place is filled with cattle manure, used extensively by the Masai.

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Men mainly graze cattle, build fences and protect the village, while women fetch water, cook food, build and repair the house, care for the children, and make jewelry.

Polygamy is an accepted practice, with a man having about 6 wives.  The man pays a dowry to win his woman – 10 cows per woman.

The main diet of the Masai include milk, blood and meat.  Their main tools are the sword, the spear and poisoned arrows.

The Masai houses we visited were made up of tree branches and cow dung.  The houses are tiny and have areas earmarked for various activities.
The houses have a small opening to sky to let light in. At night, they use a kerosene bottle lamp.

The Masai make fire using the branches of the olive and acacia trees. It was amazing to watch.

After this, we were taken to the village handicraft exhibition, where we bought these dolls and some lovely bracelets and chains.

A piece of another culture added to my Golu through these dolls. So many memories here!

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The lost suitcase

My friend and I recently took a domestic flight in India, to attend the silver wedding anniversary celebrations of one of our very dear friends.

Each of us had checked-in a small suitcase. The flight was a short one, and before we knew it, we were at the luggage carousel, waiting for our bags to arrive.

Mine was one of the first few to arrive. Fifteen minutes later, my friend was still waiting for her bag. By then, most people had taken their bags and left the airport.

We barely noticed all this, as we chatted on. My friend had her eye on the carousel, but there was no sign of her suitcase.  It took us a while to realize that we were the only ones left and that there was only one black suitcase going around on the carousel. My friend was really worried and we started talking about how we would register a complaint. The more worrying part was that the clothes for the party were gone now.

As we walked towards the customer service counter, it suddenly hit my friend that the black suitcase was actually hers. She had started packing in a red suitcase , but had shifted to the black one later. But the image of the red suitcase had stayed with her!

So, looking sheepish, she ran and picked up her suitcase. We had a good laugh!