Saturday, March 6, 2010

India Wrap, Part Two

I thought I was going to write a bit each day, but it's now Sunday...I'm still enjoying the most amazing sunrise here in the Eden Valley just south of Carlisle. I work up this morning to see a band of luminescent orange and yellow across the horizon. I bounced out of bed to have a better look. Even 45 minutes later, the light is incredible...softly pink and violet... I'm on a dairy farm cum sculpture gallery (see until next Friday when I fly home. I'm visiting old friends, Bernadette and her husband Jonathan. B & I worked together in a restaurant called Yan Tyan Tethera (1-2-3 in the old Cumbrian dialect) in Keswick from 1973 - 76. We're having a reunion of staff and customers to celebrate our former boss' 70th birthday next Wednesday. There will be about 30 people coming for tea. We've been planning this since my visit last June.

I spent last weekend on another dairy farm, this one in Rajasthan just outside the city of Kota. Vicky, our escort for the Magical Mystery Textile Tour, also runs this family farm and hosts guests when she's not leading groups about the countryside. Her website is We had two nights on this peaceful property, such a welcome respite from the sounds, sights and smells of urban India. The first thing we did upon arriving at the farm was have a "proper" cup of tea...darjeeling tea steeped in a pot, covered with a tea cozy and eating wonderful fruit cake and chocolate chip cookies. I hadn't realized until that moment that as much as I had been enjoying the chai masala that I had missed my usual beverage.
The next morning we went on our last textile excursion--a visit to the neighbouring village of Kaithoon where there are many people creating the famous Kota Doria fabric. This is a gossamer-like weave, and I bought a few "dupatta" sized cotton pieces. The most amazing lengths were in silk for saris--one spectacular piece was a new original design of peacocks and paraqueets in a Jacquard weave. This was the first place we've visited where new designs are encouraged (rather than continuing to weave only the traditional patterns). We met the young designer, and he took us on a tour of the village to see the warping (in the narrow lanes outside the houses), dyeing, plain weaving and jacquard weaving. The weaving is still by hand on pit looms, and the weavers were all women. This was a Muslim community and it seemed like everyone was involved somehow.
We then stopped off at a small workshop where lac bangles were being made by hand...the resin is heated over coal and the cooled "dough" is rolled by hand. Like every workshop we've been welcomed into, it seemed a rather dicey place to work in terms of safety! Bare feet, no eye protection, etc. None-the-less, I enjoyed seeing the process and selecting a few bangles...

Later that afternoon we were in a boat speeding down the river at Kota. We saw the remains of the bridge that collapsed Christmas Eve (over 40 people were killed and one of the foreign contractors has just received bail to get out of jail), but further up the gorge we enjoyed the wildlife especially the turkey vultures and TWO CROCODILES sunning themselves on rocks.

The next day we enjoyed playing Holi with the farm workers and people of the neighbouring village--sprinkling coloured powder on ourselves and others to celebrate the lunar new year. The boys arrived first around 9AM and sprinkled powder on Vicky's feet in exchange for a chocolate biscuit, then the men started arriving and received a tot of rum, and finally the best part were the women and babies around 10:45 who sang and danced. I'll be sure to post pictures of this when I get home.

We spent our last afternoon and night in Kota at the Sukhdham hotel ( before catching the 11:20 "Golden Temple Mail Train" to Delhi. We were met at the station in Delhi by another man holding a JANET/WENDY sign, a most welcome sight amongst all the touts trying to sell us stuff and take us to their taxi or hotel. This pick-up was again arranged by our Delhi hostess. The same fellow picked us up again the next morning at the dreadful time of 3:45 for the trip to the airport to catch our 06:55 flight. The only good thing about this was that we were able to enjoy good espresso coffee and browse in the book store before departing!

As for culture shock...I am still astounded at the litter on Indian streets (but definitely not on Col Sudhir Farm--that's a litter-free zone) and as I made my way across London to Euston station I marvelled at NO LITTER anywhere. And at Euston, there were no litter bins! So how does it keep so neat and tidy? Answer--an army of custodial staff pushing carts sweeping up anything. I deposited my sandwich wrappings in one of these carts.

I've been enjoying my downtime knitting, reading, snoozing, walking--Jonathan and I went on a wonderful walk yesterday from Threlkeld to Keswick around the backside of Latrigg--and I've cooked a dinner of plain food (roast chicken and vegetables). I really enjoyed the Indian food, but plain is good too!

Thanks for staying with me, dear readers! I'll post pictures when I get home.

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