I'm hoping you'll indulge an enthusiastic traveller just one (or maybe two) more posts
about my recent trip to India.
I feel nervous asking, but at the same time, some lovely readers have asked for more,
so, encouraged by this, here we go ...
These are a few of my (random) thoughts & impressions, illustrated by some quieter images.
Yes, India is all about vibrancy and colour and busy-ness and mayhem.
But, it's also all about these things...
Some numbers - 1.2 billion people live in India.
The combined wealth of the one hundred richest Indians
equals nearly a quarter of the country's GDP,
and conversely 60% of the population live on next to nothing.
The contrasts are huge. The reality stark. The poverty unavoidable.
It is hard to look the other way when a tiny child braves the traffic to appear at the side of your tuk-tuk, begging for money & food.
Hard not to notice a little family setting up their stall for the day - nothing more than a cloth with a few bracelets laid out for sale on the footpath. That evening we walked past them again. The stall was packed up, & the two children were eating a simple meal of dhal & naan.
Later that night, on our way home, and that same cloth had become a bed for the children. They lay sleeping on the footpath, while their parents sat alongside.
And yet, there is pride in selling, rather than begging.
Desperately poor, but not necessarily impoverished.
The strength of character, the kindness, the humility, the sheer hard work, and an appreciation & acceptance for the way things are, pride in a job well done, no matter what that job, the friendliness - these are the things that impressed & affected me the most.
The people are amazing.
And I loved talking with them and learning about their lives, hopes & dreams.
Flowers appear throughout India, and are an important part of daily life.
The fragrance of roses, jasmine & tuberose, the gorgeous colour of chrysanthemums and marigolds.
Mostly sold as flower heads or petals, and used as gifts to the gods or to decorate temples & shrines.
Some flower sellers have a cart laden with blooms, others a simple rattan tray on the ground, & they are outside every temple, & on every corner is the most beautiful display of colour & fragrance.
I learnt much about wisdom & karma & the spirit of giving.
There is so much to be appreciated for living life in this simple, grateful way.
This is Ganesh, the god of good luck, prosperity & wisdom.
He is always portrayed with a mouse to show strength in
overcoming your fears, and avoiding obstacles and hurdles.
Ganesh is present over every doorway, in every home, he is celebrated in every business
with flowers, incense & a shrine,
and he rides in every taxi, tuk-tuk, truck & car.
You know how I love a little chipped paint, a lovely old door, fret-work screens, chalky, faded plaster.
India can't help but be a vintage-lovers paradise.
Picture perfect, just like the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
But paradise tinged with a dose of reality.
These buildings may be vintage. Once grand, they may now be shabby by our standards.
But these are still fully (in every sense of the word) occupied homes.
I learnt that many crafts & occupations in India are generational.
If your grandfather's father's father was a block carver or a weaver or a printer
or a perfumer, then chances are that this will become your path in life also.
And so, the perfumer who showed me his beautifully fragrant oils, attars,
incense & floral waters, was especially proud of the fact that his family had been making and selling these scented treasures for almost 300 years.
The fragrances were beautiful, and I especially loved the way all the pure essential oils were displayed and sold from these cut-glass flacons.
Throughout India you see leftovers from the British Empire.
Mixed in amongst the mughal & muslim architecture, you suddenly see a building that
is straight from Victorian England.
But my favourite imperial mementoes, other than the classic old Ambassador cars (which are taxis), would have to be all the old group photos, such as this one, which document India in a different age.
Several of our hotels had these photos lining the halls & walls.
Men with turbans & magnificent moustaches, wearing the most beautiful & elegant clothes.
The stories these photos must be able to tell.
In the textile world, the most beautiful handcrafts come from India, where the skills and knowledge are passed down from generation to generation.
So many textiles and types of textiles that we still use today originated here, and the history has always fascinated me.
Rajasthan, and Jaipur in particular, specializes in block printing, and the embroidered textiles from Jodhpur are so beautiful.
What I especially learnt, and appreciated however, is that much of this craft work is done from home.
The fabric is dropped off, the villagers embellish & embroider it at home, and then it is collected again, and taken to the next artisan in the craft chain.
I came home feeling really good about the fabrics, cushions and bedlinen we sell that are made in India, knowing that the craftsmanship was beyond comparison, there is no 'sweat-shop', and that the villagers are paid a fair price for their skill & nimble fingers. This work also allows a largely illiterate & otherwise uneducated sector to contribute and earn, while keeping an age-old practice alive.
These are creative communities.
At the end of each day, being able to return to the sanctuary of a lovely hotel was, indeed, a privilege.
Especially when you appreciated what you had, and what so many - most - have not.
I sound ungrateful & incredibly spoilt even saying this, but the heat and the chaos and the constant barrage of locals wanting to chat and sell you something or take you somewhere is hard work.
Indians are unlikely to ever say 'no' - they would rather tell you a lie than upset you or disagree with you. This can result in a lot of going around in circles if you're trying to go somewhere or negotiate something, or even ask directions. Similarly, a direct 'no' from us is considered harsh.
Finding the in-between isn't always easy!
Escaping to a sanctuary gave time to recharge the batteries & face the barrage again.
It also allowed you a wee moment to imagine life as a Maharani,
especially here at the Samode Haveli in Jaipur.
Back to reality then.
Amanda xxPin It