The Cork Board

Rajasthan Tales; by way of introduction


Way back in 2008 you will recall the world almost came to a standstill. The banks had been rolling around in the trough, gorged themselves, and the rest is well recorded. Mrs.Monkey was a casualty of the banking crisis and finding herself jobless decided that now was the time, in her late 30’s, to take that Gap Year which had eluded her all her career driven days.

Nothing less than a spell volunteering would suffice, amongst other things, and so accompanied by, as luck would have it, a British Indian girl from London, she found herself spending 4 months in a rural village called B.Kothakota in deepest Andhra Pradesh, working in the local schools. Thus began our love affair with India.

...The New Delhi skyline ...
…The New Delhi skyline …

India is a beguiling mistress. It is a vast country whose regions all have their own character and often their own language. (Of 300 recognised regional languages 24 have at least a million speakers.) It has a secular constitution and though the debate surrounding religion in politics rages, the various “isms” are subsumed to the greater good of a collective “Indianism” – a passion Indians have for their country, proudly proclaimed each school morning by millions of Indian children. It’s population currently stands at 1.2 billion.

However, India undeniably, has huge problems. According to The World Bank, India accounts for a third of the World’s poor, with almost half of the country’s under 5’s being classified as malnourished. Corruption in politics and bureaucracy is endemic. The introduction of the RTI, The Right to Information Act, by the Indian Government is an acknowledgement empowering the individual to challenge the grinding processes that weigh India down so heavily.

... how many different forms of transport in 50 sq metres ? ...
… how many different forms of transport in 50 sq metres ? …

We have often reflected on why we love India so much, given it’s seemingly insurmountable problems. In conversation the best allusion I can use is that I liken India to the experience of looking into a child’s kaleidoscope. You can stare at it for hours and it will always fascinate you if you turn the wheel once in a while.

IMG_3321

A British Indian friend of ours is rightly proud of his country but is unafraid to acknowledge that in India you will find “the best and the worst of human nature” .

Sitting over dinner one night in a restaurant in New Delhi we were discussing our love for the place. Why is India under our skin ? It was late and the warm night buzzed with mosquitoes, and we idly watch the night owls wander by. Traffic honks incessantly regardless of the hour. Our first instinct was to feel safe. That may seem odd given recent news. But Indian youth culture is not fueled by alcohol and the prevalent assumption in the UK that you are not having a good time if you are not throwing up on a Friday night.

... No riff-raff allowed ...
… No riff-raff allowed …

The noise,

the heat,

the bustle of the place,

the animals,

the humanity.

India makes us feel alive.

We cannot come here and not be energised. (I write this having returned home exhausted, my senses pulverised, strangely missing the adrenalin.)

And though when you come here you must park your preconceptions and accept India for what it is, without doubt we have met some of the kindest people here you could ever hope to meet.

... tomb it may concern ... The Taj lives up to it's billing ...
… tomb it may concern … The Taj lives up to it’s billing …

If you were to visit India, you will find yourself, at some point at least, outside your comfort zone. But life is for living, isn’t it – and all life is here.

20 thoughts on “Rajasthan Tales; by way of introduction

  1. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
    ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

    HAPPY TRAVELS 🙂

  2. with all it’s problems i too, think India a magical place…and the people quite amazing in their equanimity and grace. they know an enduring cosmic secret. to my mind they are, in a word – sweet. i loved “being” there. beautiful pics Al. thanks. continue…

  3. Interesting back story Al, and I like the kaleidoscope analogy. I’d love to visit India again (last I went I was 7 yrs old) so many relatives and in laws scattered all over the place. Perhaps that’s why Huz and I haven’t made the effort yet 😉

    Did you eat at that tourist-only restaurant? 🙂

      1. The picture is obviously from Jodhpur ( Blue City) and though I’m going to post more about our travels I was going to skip the “Where we stayed .. this is the pool ” stuff. But anyway, since you ask … we stayed at a Heritage Hotel called Ratan Vilas. A 1920’s colonial style place of about a dozen rooms only. The curries we ate there were superb and despite trying a myriad of different ones over the next 2 weeks nothing beat them. Faves of all were Murg Makhani and Bhuna Gosht (if I’ve got the spelling right). The blend of spices was exquisite, and you know what, it was home cooking, not the cheffie stuff from the TV. I have vowed to try to replicate them now that we are home. You never know, could be a cooking post on the way. 🙂
        And how are you enjoying the new jazz-tinged Coke Studio? 🙂

      2. Omg, I just dropped by to reply to your comment (bhuna gosht and murgh makhani….even the names are mouth-watering) and to ask you if you tuned in to CS yet! How fabulously freaky. Have only heard Fariha Pervaiz’s ‘Jogi’ so far and it has been playing in my head in a loop (sa ga ma ga…sa re ga re ga za)
        Not too sure about the Croatian jazz band…and I know it’s all about fusion….
        But I’m looking forward to your post on it. I know there’ll be one soon 😉

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