24-12-03

SMOKE SHOP BLUES

Panajim, capital of Goa.
 
Outside the phone cum smoke shop
a hand written sign says
 - no smoking

 
 
Two days after I took this picture, craftsmen install a new - aluminum - front door. The nice old wooden one has been offered on the altar of progress,  The 'NO SMOKING' sign is missing. This picture is now classified and will someday be published as Panjim's Heritage. 

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GOA WAY


And so this is christmas
and what have you done
the near and the dear ones
the old and the young
 

 
 
 
 
After breakfast at Hotel Venite, down the street from my Hotel,  I pay a visit to the barbershop up the street - haircut and a shave. I am quite surprised to find him working on Christmas day. Obviously I need not leave my street, the world will offer itself to me to be unmasked: there is my hotel, a charming restaurant, a bar, a barber and a mom and pop corner store.
I spend some time at the cybercafe to reach out and touch some friends and family. Downtown, I discover the 30 roepie ( say 70 cents ) Thali. The Thali is a traditional full Indian meal, in this case more than I can finish: rice, dahl (lentil soup), chickpea soup, green beans, okra stew ( I try and pass ), a pickled cabbage of sorts, curd and roti ( flatbread ). Not unlike our traditional American Thanksgiving meal.  
For my special Christmas dinner I stop at the omelet house: a four wheel roadside cart that serves omelettes on a roll for 12 roepies. Very tasty too. After dinner I wander throught the streets to mingle with the locals. At the ice cream shoppe, I opt for a cone of 'butterscotch' ( a Lark Creek Inn tradition ) to top off my epicurian Christmas in Goa.

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DELHI REVISITED

"Zeg ne kje min moatje, kieze kik min 'maatje' zelve.
 
 
After our tour de Rajasthan, we return to Delhi for a few days. 
It is bitter cold. The sun is hidden in fog most of the day.
With Kaat, I revisit Chandni Chowk Bazaar, 
where we meet this mystic sidewalk vendor. 
Next Kaat is flying home. I prepare to fly to Goa. 
  

 
 
 
I've got a plane to catch and can't be late
I'm on my way to another state of mind
leaving this one behind.
A handful of dreams, a heartful of hopes



Saturday morning. My little white Maruti taxi arrives promptly at 10. The friendly young driver likes to talk. "Where from? Where you going?" His recommendation: stay in Goa for a few days and then go to Kerala. Lovely beaches, friendly people, cheap. Traffic soon takes all his attention. The conversation stops. 

The radio plays some solid rock. "Is this Indian rock?" I ask. He turns to me: "Guns and Roses! You like?" Back to traffic. 

Next up a familiar tune. A fitting farewell to the polluted city of Delhi, driving to the Gandhi Airport listening to "Take my breath away..." The universe has a wicked sense of humor. Amen.



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VICTORIA'S SECRET

It's no secret that we spent the last two nights at Hotel Victoria, a little gem not mentioned in the guide. Here, no rooster, buddhist bells nor muslim prayers to wake us before dawn, but the daily morning market scene four floors below our window. 
Caveat: b. y. o. V.


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JAISALMER FORT

While the many forts around the other Rajasthan cities are dead museum quality tourist attractions (seen one, seen'm all) the old fort of Jaisalmer is an actual city with living people and things.

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15-12-03

CARAVANSERAI

just become quiet, still and solitary
the world will roll in ecstasy at your feet

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BLAZING SADDLES

Went riding through the desert on a camel
- forgot his name.
In the desert you can't remember your pain;
there ain't no one there
to call your name.

Three days and two nights in the Thar desert,
at a camel's pace.
Slowing down 
to life's natural rhythm.
 
Words can't express the feeling,
nor pictures capture the experience.
 
Desert,
don't you wish that you could be here too.  
 

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SANDMAN


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CACTI AND CAMEL

and here, right here
between the cacti on the plain
between the camel and your pain
once again, once again
love calls your name

                             my thanks to Leonard Cohen

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JAISALMER



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06-12-03

UDAIPUR

udaipur
white city
sadhu in blue
 
 
 
 
 


 
Maharajah's palaces and Bond,
James Bond.
Octopussy was filmed here.
Now one can see the movie every night at 7 in most any rooftop restaurant.   
Just another Kodak moment.




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PUSHKAR


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PUSHKAR SUNSET POINT

Monday morning, sitting in the sun
Hoping and wishing for the mail to come.
Tuesday, never got a word,
Wednesday, Thursday, ain't no sign,
Drank a half a bottle of iodine. (what the hell might that be...)
Friday, woe is me
Gonna hang my body from the highest tree.
Why don't you write me ? (P.S.)
 

                                   Reaction from Bernard Nuyttens


Pushkar...smells like teen spirit

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AGRA


Classic Kodak moment. How can one resist?


 
 
 
 
Abundantly photographed, much written about...nothing I can say or show has not already been said or shown.
Following in the footsteps of John Brandi, here is a short excerpt from his "A Question of Journey" episode at the fabled Taj Mahal. 
 
Late afternoon.  Heatwaves from smooth marble. Breezeless silver sky. Egrets on cows' backs in the smoking fields across the shallow Jumna. I remove my shoes, pass through a tunnel up a stairway and onto the pink sandstone platform from which rises the Taj. Pilgrims, tourists, tour groups. Here they all converge, ooh and awe, flash their bulbs, adjust their lenses, change film cartridges and read tour books...under the broiling sun.
 
Shah Jahan built the Taj as a memorial to his young wife Mumtaz Mahal who died too young, bearing his fourteenth child, while he was away waging battle. He summoned architects, stonecutters, astronomers, mosaicists and silversmiths from Persia, Arabia, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean and all off India to build this tomb, that took 20,000 laborers two decades to complete. Legend(?) has it that he severed the hands of his architects and blinded them to prevent them from ever replicating this monument.
 
In the luxurious garden which surrounds, the splendour of the Taj rises like the simultaneous evocation of heat and snow; the very effects of light and ice one encounters in the Himalayas where, ironically, I once stood spellbound, muttering "After this, why visit any man made temple?"  
 
Until I read this very ode to the Taj I thought I would skip "another monument, another tourist attraction". I am grateful to John Brandi for changing my mind. 
 
People and things
I met Baba rickshaw-wallah on my way to lunch at Zorba the Buddha, that other sweet Agra memory. Outside of Taj Mahal, there isn't much to see or do in Agra. As soon as I hit the steets, the rickshaw wallahs are in my face...but I wave them off, preferring to walk a few minutes to Zorba. Turning right at the corner of the street, two rickshaws - both driven by older guys - are still following me. One of them, of athletic built, in ragged clothing and with long unkempt hair and scruffy beard - when he learns my destination - says he will take me for free. A bit suspicious, I look at him, "for free?" Yes, because they will serve him free chai. So I stepped in. Of course, I could not take advantage of his 'free' offer and so Baba got his tea and a few roepies too. We became friends for a few days and used his services whenever possible. Baba is a gem.

Previous night, we discovered Zorba the Buddha, a great little restaurant, run by Osho sannyasins. In sharp contrast to what we have gotten used to - man has an uncanny ability for adaptation to almost any circumstances - they run a clean operation. The menu offers salads and fresh juices - makes me think of Roxanne's back home in Larkspur. No reason to eat anywhere else when in Agra.

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PEOPLE AND THINGS

 I look at all those lovely people...
 
 
 
 
This one's for Johan
"zeg ne keer mijn maatje
 kieze k'ik mijn maatjes zelve..."

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OLD DELHI

A day in the life of Old Delhi at Chandni Chowk Bazaar.
The yellow and green Tuk Tuks run on natural gas... an important step in the direction of a "future" cleaner/greener Delhi. there is hope. 

 
 

Chandni Chowk bazaar is not for the claustrohobic:   I look at all those lovely people, people, everywhere people
I think I'll just sit down - don't have to leave my spot - and watch life unfold. 
 
To illustrate, the following excerpt from John Brandi's "A Question of Journey".

The impossibility of India. To say that the nation is poor is to bring to mind economic depression, starvation, the thirst for material goods. But its poverty begins with the multitude, the embedded system of caste and codes, the stifling effect of role upon role, death upon death, burning upon burning, birth and endless rebirth.

 

On a sagging cot next to me sleeps a Spanish man. Fresh off the plane and disoriented by India, he found me among throngs of ambling shoppers and haggling merchants in the Chandni Chowk bazaar. When he asked for directions o cheap lodging, I mentioned my hotel. At which point he fumbled and moaned, trying to break free of the curious gawkers surrounding him, all tugging with suggestions of their own.

 

“I need out of here!”

The man pulled like a child at my sleeves. I quickly turned, hailed a rickshaw driver and agreed on a price to my hotel. Within minutes though, the ride turned to disaster. The rickshaw driver, hoping to convince us of a different hotel and thus pick up a small commission from the manager, took a deliberately meandering route.

Deeper and deeper into the maddening crowd he pedalled, stopping first at a shop of a friend who sold hookahs; then to the brass vendor… and on and on. At each stop the rickshaw wallah insisted we buy something. Opium, phony marble antiques, chrome lingam, ganja pipe, plastic trident, sun damaged scarves printed with bliss bestowing mantras. He was relentless, jabbering without stop a baffling mix of Hindu and broken textbook British, through a harmonica row of missing teeth.

Bearing his thin weight on the pedals, his ribs stood out, his mouth burped red spittle from an assortment of leaf wrapped herbs rolled under his lip.

The Spanish man began to suffocate. He looked for a way out of the shoppers, the pushing mass of neon lit skeletons, the rearing horses and bellowing bulls, the monkeys banging across tin roofs. The constant murmur of the crowds rose and fell in unending waves. Not for a second was there any pause. Suddenly he stood up in the teetering rickshaw, dangerously throwing the driver of balance on his little bicycle seat in front of us.

 

“Mucho mundo, mucho mundo!”

 

The nervous India, the strangled India is too tired to be anything but indifferent.





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NEW DELHI

New Delhi's got the smog in her skies
so thick it burns my weary eyes
each morning when I wake up to rise
I'm living in a dreamland
 

 
 
 
 
 
Arrived in Delhi International
Thursday November 12, 10.15pm. . 


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