Here I was on a short holiday at Landour and a few hours after arriving there, was stuck in a traffic jam. I thought I had left traffic jams and noisy cities behind me in Mumbai, but the honking, the slamming of car doors and the fact that my vehicle hadn’t moved an inch in the last 15 minutes brought a sense of déjà vu.
My car driver had switched off the engine and gone off to investigate what was holding the traffic up. It had started raining by then and after waiting impatiently for some ‘progress’, gave up and started looking around. School had just got over and the narrow road was filled with school children returning home and were having to do it by squeezing between the vehicles stuck in the traffic jam to find a ‘route’ to get through.
Then I turned left and looked out of my car window into this.
There I was walking down one of the many streets in the historical centre of Bukhara, idly looking at stuff being sold at the many pavement stalls lining the street. As I passed the stalls, I made a mental note of the interesting stuff that I could come back and have a closer look at later and perhaps pick up something to take back home with me. There were carpets, paintings, booklets, terracotta figurines, ceramic tiles, silk scarves, embroidered material, ikat products, hats…
I suddenly stopped at a stall selling hats. There were many hats, but one of them had caught my attention. And I stopped and stared with disbelieving eyes. I actually rubbed my eyes and tentatively reached out to touch the hat with ‘legs’ dangling from it.
Every place has its share of the funny, quirky and the bizarre and this hat with legs was definitely my pick for Bukhara and Uzbekistan. I saw similar ones in Samarkand too ! It was a real hat in the sense that the fur was real as were the legs and the feet and the nails… of what I think was once a fox. Continue reading →
Around this time last year, I visited Lohargal in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan in search of a stepwell. I found the stepwell or Chetan Das ki Baoli, And along the way also stumbled upon a temple dedicated to the Pandavas, with a very interesting story attached to it.
The Pandava temple (shrine would actually be a more appropriate word) is on one side of the narrow pathway that leads to the main and ancient temple, dedicated to the sun. I would not have given this shrine, whose walls are covered with subway tiles, a second look if the priest hadn’t called out to me and told me to stop. I did out of politeness and was glad that I did for I had never seen or heard of a Pandava temple in worship till then.
In a little park, near the United Nations’ offices in Geneva, Switzerland, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi reading a book and with a look of utmost concentration on his face.
The statue was unlike any Mahatma Gandhi statue I had seen or come across before — I had always seen his statues in a standing or walking position. This one of him reading seemed more like one I could relate to.
And to think, in retrospect, that I almost missed seeing this. Let me elaborate.
“Where is the bawri?” I ask a group of men playing cards on the road. I am at Fatehpur, a large town in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan and searching for a nearly 400-year-old stepwell, locally known as bawri.
“You’re standing at the entrance to the bawri,” drawls one of the men.
I look at where I am standing and then behind me. All I can see is an arched entrance and garbage beyond that. Heaps and heaps of garbage.
“This is the bawri?” I ask in disbelief.
Loud, raucous laughter erupts from the group. “This used to be a bawri. It used to contain water, now it only has garbage. Therefore, it is kachre ka bawri (or a well of garbage). Why have you come to see this kachre ka bawri?” says another man in the group.
More laughter, this time mocking and derisive, as I look on in horror and recall all that I had read about the bawri or stepwell in Ilay Cooper’s book.
The cow looked up coyly at me through her false eyelashes. Her golden horns glinted with the light of Surya on her forehead. The various gods and sages on her flanks looked stonily at me — Brahma, Hanuman, Saraswati, Agni, Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi… Only the sage Narada had a cheerful smile for me.
The fact that she was boxed in a transparent cage and leg deep in money did not seem to affect the cow at all. And as for me, I stared at the cow with a touch of disbelief. You would have done the same if you saw a cow like this.