Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Thursday, 15 March 2018

{quotable thursdays}

I ventured out briefly to enjoy my garden in a moment of sunshine and what a treat to see the flowers beginning to wake up post-snow!
{Walt Whitman}


Thursday, 8 March 2018

{quotable thursdays}

In honour of International Women's Day, I'm posting a little quote/drawing I did for my guest bedroom:

A reminder that size does not determine one's strength...and a nod to all the wonderful women in my life who make me want to be a better person and who offer such examples of strength in so many diverse ways!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

{postcards from India-Mumbai beginnings}

{Gateway of India at dusk}
In  my previous post, I discussed what draws me to India, and in this post, I begin writing down some of the details of our trip! We arrived in India on January 3 and were picked up by our faithful taxi/tour company State Express. We drove to our simple but clean hotel near the Gateway of India. The roads were fairly empty because of protests due to disputes between castes. All shops were closed and at one point we thought we might not be able to get to our hotel. We passed all types of architecture, ranging from humble abodes to the most luxury accommodations: crumbling old British buildings; a large monstrosity that is apparently the most expensive house in the world; as well as slums, with tarps for roofs. 

{faded grandeur}
{neogothic taken over by banyan}
{brightly coloured Mumbai dwellings}

Brightly coloured buildings, some with only three walls revealed the inhabitants inside—the second floors reached by little ladders attached to the side of the house….men drinking chai or reading newspapers, while others slept. With no room for washrooms inside, men washed themselves outside on the road.
 Roads closer to our destination were closed and after a detour we arrived at our hotel. The hotel staff advised us to not go outside due to unrest. We settled on some dahl and rice at the hotel’s restaurant, my father exclaiming ‘I could eat this food for the rest of my life.’ Having been brought up in India this was the food of his youth.

By late evening things had calmed down and we ventured out to the Gateway of India, with many Indians out for an evening stroll, takings selfies against the sunset and the Gateway of India.  Many boats were moored on the Arabian Sea and my Dad revealed this is where he had first learned to sail, a remarkable start to a career as a captain who has sailed the seven seas!

{Taj Palace Hotel}

{Arabian Sea}

 We ventured into the old Taj Palace Hotel—where we stayed 25 years ago on our first trip as a family to India—and had a drink in the piano bar called the Sea Lounge. There was live piano music playing and we were served by a nice waiter who had worked at the Taj his whole life, and was soon to retire. He brought us endless plates of free Mumbai street food, with a gourmet twist.
{Gateway at night}
The next day we ventured out to Chor Bazaar—a Muslim quarter where anything from antique brass, Hindu and Christian sculptures and old prints, to bathtubs, archaic phones, and suitcases can be bought.

We stopped off in a little shop (after crossing the terrifying traffic) and bought some Kurta Pajama for my dad, who ever since he was a boy wears these to bed.

{Mumbai streets}

We then went to what was once called the Prince of Wales Museum (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) a fine example of ‘Indo-Saracenic’ architecture, where we saw the Tata collection of European paintings, including a work reportedly by Dosso Dossi, once in Alfonso d’Este’s camerino in Ferrara as well as Hindu sculptures, a fine collection of Chinese porcelain and an impressive collection of miniature paintings covering all types from Rajput paintings to Mughal illumination. Mughal emperor Akbar's armour is also on display! I was impressed with the modern museum displays and the accompanying texts, something we wouldn’t find in other museums on our trip.
{Prince of Wales Museum}

We also briefly stopped off at Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji)—what appears to be St. Pancras transported into Mumbai, yet the traffic in front of it was much different than Euston road, where school boys cross the street, dodging lorries, scooters, and men carrying things on their heads!
{Victoria Terminus}

After a rest, we enjoyed dinner at Delhi Darbar, a famed restaurant known for its fine curries, with simple décor but excellent food.
On 5 January, we took a cab to the Four Seasons and joined my eldest sister, Julia, who had arrived early that morning. We had the day to kill before our overnight train left for Goa, so we enjoyed relaxing by the pool as well as a short taxi ride to the Dhobi ghat, the largest outdoor laundry, where  dhobi wallahs wash clothes and textiles in large tubs in the ground and hang the laundry to dry. A kaleidoscope of colours greets the onlooker, with each dhobi specialising in a colour or type of laundry, from the white sheets of nearby hotels, to blue denim jeans. While we were onlooking and Dad was rattling off in Hindi to a handful of women trying to sell various things, one of the dhobis lost their footing and fell into the tubs, bringing a whole pile of laundry with him!
{stark contrasts between Mumbai high rises & the dhobi ghats}

We headed back to the hotel for dinner and awaited with slight trepidation the overnight sleeper journey to Goa. Stay tuned for that adventure in the next installment!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

{quotable thursdays-world book day}

I write from a very very snowy England--spring seems to have disappeared.
But today is World Book Day and in honour of that, a wonderful quote from a wonderful author who wrote some of my favourite books:

stay warm! & curl up by the fire with a book!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

{quotable thursdays}

{beautiful print}
The best thing about my job is I can be curious about the world, research, and then write about it...
Stay curious!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

{quotable thursdays}

At this time of year, I often feel the grey close in and it feels like everyday is a long toil to get through. But then I see the bulbs in the soil beginning to sprout, and I remember that soon we'll be inundated with spring flowers and that warmer, lighter, brighter days are on their way.
There is beauty in the knowledge that spring is on its way, but there is also faith and hope in that knowledge.
I think back to the autumn when I planted my bulbs and the belief I had in tomorrow...wise words from Audrey:

{wise words from Audrey}


Sunday, 28 January 2018

{postcards from India--chai beginnings}

I am sipping a cup of chai here in my home in Bedfordshire called Chota House. It's tea time. Although I live alone, I continue the tradition of tea time. Tea makes me think of life in India and it offers me a little escape everyday at around four o’clock in the afternoon. 
{my Dad's family in India in the 1950s}
Ever since I can remember, chai and chatter mixed in our family.  It was a necessity of everyday life. Chai nourished our souls and the chatter created unbreakable bonds. Through a hot liquid, generations have been nourished and continue to grow. They carry on traditions that have been long forgotten; they start new ones. Chai and chatter—the foundations of a family. 
It was not the blinding white intricate marble inlay of the Taj Mahal built by the proud Shah Jahan for his Mumtaz Mahal that so often appears in picture-perfect postcards and replicated in styrofoam models. Nor was it the ancient and crumbling powerful tower of the Qutb Minar built by Aybek to signal his authority over destroyed Hindu temples and to demonstrate his might to his newly conquered people in Delhi. Nor was it the obscure and quaint water ways of Cochin, where inhabitants eat, sleep, wash, dine, and die within the confines of the winding water banks. It is not a particular monument or a particular era that has drawn me to India, but a discovery of a way of life and a way of a country--an interest that is in my blood as there has always been a long love for India in my family.
My great-grandfather left England to join the army in India, which resulted in three generations in India. My granny was born in Simla, the summer capital of the Raj, and after marrying my Bristol-born grandfather, together they raised my Dad and his brothers and sister across the subcontinent (my father was born in Peshawar, what was then India until Partition). 
{my granny as a child with her ayah}
{my Dad and his pet monkey, Archie as a school child in New Delhi}
{my grandparents in Simla, newly married}
On my first trip to India, I was 10, and yet it felt like I had somehow returned to a place I knew well. We had visited the country in our sleep and in our imagination, through numerous stories told to us over chai. Our childhood was filled with tales, recounting the horrors and delights of a place called India. Every morning we were reminded of the spices of India as the smell of fresh chai permeated the air. I would hear the click-clack of my mum’s slippers on the staircase, the creak of the door, and a soft song of ‘chai chai gurham chai.’ A fresh, hot, sweet and delicious cup of tea would be placed beside my bed, and I would awake to a day of normal life in Victoria, Canada. Then I would look forward to another cup of chai at four o’clock, when me and all of my four sisters would gather around eating home-baked cookies and sipping copious cups of chai. Chai and chatter mixed. 
It was on our first trip to India that we gained the nickname the 'gurrham chai sisters'--given to me and my four sisters by our faithful taxi driver Jaya Kumar. Whenever we get the chance, we still enjoy our cups of tea together! On this most recent trip, my sister Julia & I (the other 3 sisters not being able to come)enjoyed copious quantities of masala chai. Unfortunately, the tradition of serving tea in silver tea pots seems to be no longer the fashion, and even tea bags seem to be the favourite over loose leaf (my granny would be absolutely shocked if she were still alive)!
{me & our friends, relatives of Jaya Kumar, in Ooty in the mid 1990s}
{At the Taj Mahal on our first trip to India}
{returning as a family for the first time to India, visiting my Dad's old boarding school in Ooty}

India felt familiar on that first trip and my Dad rapidly regained his fluency in Hindi. Hindi words were (and are still) used in our everyday vocabulary from the delicious tea we call chai, the quenching lemonade we call nimbupani, to billi for cat.  My Granny flooded our early childhood with English Raj vocabulary.  Words like godown, rickshaw, the dak; all of these were English to me, although I often learned they were not understood when I tried to use them at school or in ordinary conversation with people outside my family. My own house here in England is called Chota House, meaning 'small'; my nickname in my family being Tiny (or the derivative Tinza) and my abode is rather a tiny little Victorian worker's cottage...

{my grandfather (right) in Pakistan}
{my sister and me in 2005 on the Khyber Pass}

After our first visit to India, we continued to go back--always for a couple of months. It's a place that keeps drawing me back. So it was with utter excitement that on 2 January 2018, I flew back with my parents from Heathrow, landing in Mumbai. Immediately upon arrival, all the memories came flooding back, and all the reasons why I love it so much...all the splendours that India has to offer: the intense smell of bodies, spices, squalor and riches, that are blended together so intricately as if concocted in a similar fashion to a well slaved-over curry, simmering in the heat for just the right length of time. This “curry-in-a-hurry” encompasses the unseasoned traveller as they first step out of the airport and watch the flurry of Mumbai wallahs: some rich, some poor, some beggars, some beggar-masters, some all too seasoned by the Indian spices of life that they go unnoticed, as if part of the urban landscape. These are all the attributes that contribute to the appeal and wonder of a country so rich in history: from cave paintings and temples dating back to the second century BC, to the great epic poetry and mythical texts such as the Gitagovinda, to the exquisite miniature paintings and the lavish ceremonial of the Mughal Court, to the East India Company & Colonial rule, the First War of Independence (or the Uprising) to the Swadeshi Movement and the familiar face of the Bapu figure, Gandhi, and finally to the fame and fortune of Bollywood, hips shaking, light bulbs twisting,& brightly coloured bodies girating, exhibited on the telly that is modern day India.
{Mendhi on my hands as a teenager}
{in the jharoka at the Lal Qila (Red Fort) Delhi in 2005}
{Rajasthan on one of our many trips to India}
& so, over the coming weeks, maybe even months, I'll recount my latest adventures in India. Stories that are dear to my heart, that will stay with me for a lifetime...
{Char minar Hyderabad, Jan 2018}

Stay tuned!