Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Religious rituals - a colleague invites me to his village

Ok, it's been a while...

Some time ago I was invited by a colleague of mine to celebrate a ritual (puja) with his family at his village of Bhora Kalan. Today I went there. Some 80km from Delhi, the drive took me through a mix of crumbling houses, brand-new developments, spotless highways and pot-holed roads.
The village itself was lovely. The people very friendly. The food very Indian!

Fried bread being prepared for our lunch at the community center

So, here is what wikipedia has to say about a puja or pooja, after which some pictures will follow, enjoy!

Pūjā or alternative transliteration Pooja, (Devanagari: पूजा) (Sanskrit: reverence, honour, adoration, or worship) is a religious ritual performed by Hindus as an offering to various deities, distinguished persons, or special guests. It is done on a variety of occasions and settings, from daily puja done in the home, to temple ceremonies and large festivals, or to begin a new venture. Puja is modeled on the idea of giving a gift or offering to a deity or important person and receiving their blessing (Ashirvad). The two main areas where puja is performed is in the home and at public temples. There are many variations in scale, offering, and ceremony. Puja is also performed on special occasions such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. The puja ritual is performed by Hindus worldwide. Various poojas are performed at various times of the day and on various occasions.

Enjoying lunch with the men!
Old houses in this village
The courtyard of the community center

The roof, where we ate the food

The women gather & gossip

My colleague Sandeep in the light clothes serving food

Entrance to the courtyard

My colleague (l) and our driver (r) walking through the village

View from the roof...

And another view...
And another...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A few words on Shanghai

Shanghai is a nice city. The Chinese seem to be very efficient in everything they do, and clean for that matter. Things that are noted when one travels from India. It resembled Russia a lot in some matters. I guess communism has its positive sides. The only annoying thing was of course that twitter, facebook and this blog were all blocked via regular internet access. And there India is miles ahead of China, an actual democracy, a bit chaotic, but free at least.

Ok, that's it. Here are some pictures of when I had time to do some sightseeing.

Skyscraper city

The Bund

Television Tower

World Financial Center (which i went up to)

View from 3rd highest tower in the world

On the skybridge

Shanghai by night

Elevated pedestrian streets above the highways

World Financial Tower is the one in blue

The Bund again

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Delicious & Delirious Delhi - part II

My earlier post on Delhi covered one of the most famous bazars in the city, the one around Jama Masjid. That day I got a complete different and more accurate view of the Indian capital. But for a city this big (11mln people), much more was yet to be seen.

So, one fine day, I found myself on a very early Sunday morning (around 6:30 AM) in an area in Delhi named after Nizamuddin, one of the most famous Sufi saints buried here in Delhi in a large tomb. The micro-area itself, where we met up with other Dutch expats living in Delhi, was one of small houses, dirty muddy roads, cows, open sewer systems and, to counter all that I guess, flower stalls.
Amidst Delhi traffic
We set off around this part riding our orange bicycles. The company DelhiByCycle has been set-up by a former Dutch journalist who has been living here for 6 years. The tour was really amazing. We drove around the smallest possible alleys, of sometimes just 50cm width. The houses were crammed together in a chaotic way and we could see the daily life of the people around us in its purest form. A mother washing her kids hair, 8 young men brushing their teeth on a balcony while waving at us. Small barbershops, kids playing and the usual dirt & cows roaming around.

Area where we cycled
Unfortunately, I have no pics of these really small alleys and the people living within, since it was going up and down and there were bicycles coming from behind as well. But if there is one thing I would recommend doing in Delhi, it is actually take one of these tours. It is a great way to explore a part of Delhi, you'd otherwise not see.

Cycling through clothes lines

Small alleys

A goat
We finished the tour with a picnic in Lodi Gardens (on which more below) after which we cycled back and everyone went their own way. We decided to go to the Delhi Red Fort (we had seen one in Agra before also).

Red Fort

It turned out to be just on the other side of the Jama Masjid mosque, where we had been the day before. The Fort was imposing, with its big red-stoned walls. Inside, we could relax from the hustle & bustle of the bazar close by and the tour we had that morning. Many nice buildings were scattered on the grounds within the Fort, and lots of benches and grass to sit on. That's what we did. It did not take long before a some 4 young kids came and sit next to us. At first slowly and a bit shy they started to say hello and then laugh. But before we knew, we were surrounded by at least 30 Indian people from all different ages taking pictures of us (for a video scroll down below). And then, some foreign tourists started taking pictures, perhaps they thought we were famous?

Little kids (look at the one in te red shirt posing)

It was a bit hard to get rid of them all in the end, because now the friend of the friend of the cousin of the uncle of the grandfather of the neighbour also wanted to be on the picture. But we managed to get out, take a riksja and leave for Lodi Gardens once more.

Lodi Gardens
And Lodi Gardens is a real paradise within Delhi. This park is located in a richer area, hence less people, and it has some beautiful tombs from the 15th and 16th centuries lying within. It is the ideal place to relax after a busy Delhi day. Not in the least because it has a great garden restaurant next to it.

Lodi Gardens

All in all, Delhi has lots to offer!

Funny video of the boys at Red Fort:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some flashy wedding!

Yesterday I was taken to one more wedding while in India. I've been to one before, which was fun, but not completely Indian (the couple was French/Indian). This one was and the difference was there as well (although I cannot comment if this was only due to the fact that this couple was Indian/Indian...).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, please see pictures below. It was quite the sight. Out in the open, at a so-called farmhouse, a former or still current house/villa that could have been an actual farm earlier. More on how this works, looks like, and what people can order at their wedding, you can find on this website, which is quite interesting...

So, everything was quite beautifully lit. The cars were taken care off with valet-parking, after which we walked through a palm tree lined entrance towards the big garden. A spectacular column-like roof was built, a professional stage with live bands and performers and of course lots & lots of food and very good drinks. The whisky was great and I tasted the best walnut-pie ever :)

It was not overdone I must say, nothing too "amusement park"-like, quite classy even, although to our Calvinist Dutch standards, it might have been a bit too much.... I had a good time anyhow.

The main area with the stage & video wall at the back

Most women were traditionally dressed in sari's

Nice details

Entrance way to main area

All custom built for the happy couple

The entrance way from the car-park

Lights with yellow roses along the way

Valet parking at the front