Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Jodhpur Bazaar (part 2)

They do market gates well - gorgeous red sandstone confections.
Photo by K
Other buildings around the market
This was an active temple, with a cafe in the forecourt.
Another view of the temple buildings
Some other building
A number of touts kept trying to direct us to the Textile Warehouse (or similar), claiming it was five stories, and sold goods to Prada and Ishka and something and something and something. We never did find it (having refused the kind offers of our would-be guides to take us there), although K&G had been there previously. They noted that it wasn't five stories, and it certainly wasn't all that.

There were lots of shops selling ribbons. Just ribbons. Lots of pretty ribbons.
Photo by K
Photo by K
Photo by K
Photo by K

I don't know why there are so many shops selling ribbons - I wan't particularly aware of them adorning clothes, or hair, or anything else. They may be used for decorating saris and kurtas, but I don't know.

More practically, there were also shops selling ropes.
Yup, just ropes.
And bright fabrics/clothes

And all sorts of other things. I just felt like too much of a rubbernecking tourist to take the photos I should have. Oh well, you'll just have to go yourself to see what else is there!

Bazaar, Jodhpur (part 1)

Our first encounter with the bazaar was by tuk-tuk (called auto-rickshaw in India), as we had to got through it to get to the hotel, and our minivan was too big to navigate it. The seven of us piled into three tuk-tuks (Dad and I shared one), and a fourth brought our luggage. It was a little hair-raising, as our driver nearly got us killed within a minute of leaving the carpark (by turning in front of a large van, which had to slam on the brakes). He also picked up a mate, who sat beside him on the (single) front seat and distracted him the whole way there. That particular driver is no longer retained by the hotel. (The others were very good, and tipped accordingly.)

Anyway, that afternoon, we left the boys with Dad/Gopa (they planned to go for a swim, but scotched that when they discovered how cold the pool was) and Mum, El, JD and I went exploring in the old bazaar.

Market gates, uphill (or hotel) side
Market gates (downhill side)
At the centre of the walled section of the market is a clock tower, apparently built by Maharaja Sardar Singh (after whom the markets are named).
Clock tower, at dusk.
I saw several sensible statements about tea (there was another one, in a small shop in the downhill gate itself, but I didn't get a photo, and now I can't recall what it said.)
(If that were true, both Mum and I would be exceptionally fit.) 

The market is divided into sections. One of the first JD and I encountered was the spice market. And, no, I don't know what half the things are. They're pretty, though!

I think that's asfoetida powder in the foreground (Hare Krishnas use it instead of onions and garlic;
be warned, there's a reason "foetid" is at the root of the word!)
Anyone know what this is?
No? How about this one?
(Actually, even though it looks like ultra-rich mud cake, I think it might be asfoetida resin.)

Here's a good description of it, randomly found on the web, which evokes the experience pretty well.

Hotel RAAS, Jodhpur

In Jodhpur, we stayed at Hotel RAAS, with a rather magnificent view of Mehrangarh Fort.

Mehrangarh Fort, from balcony of our room at RAAS
It was rather gorgeously lit up at night (JD had a good play with the colour balance, or something, to make this work)
Night view of Mehrangarh Fort, from our balcony
The restaurant (middle ground) served some very good curries (the recipe for Bhuna Gosht is here), but was a little chilly at night (there are no walls in the dining area, even inside). Nothing a warm shawl and brazier can't fix!
Main courtyard, RAAS
The boys tried having a swim in the afternoon, but very quickly decided it was way way too cold.

Oh, and the rooms weren't bad either - spacious, with a huge bathroom, complete with shuttered screen (like the marble screens seen elsewhere) beside the huge bath.
Hotel room, RAAS
Bathroom, looking towards balcony
And, even better, they had good in-room wifi!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

I'm baaaaack

Sorry about the radio silence - I've been crook.

A ripper chest infection left me with pulled muscles from coughing too much, but antibiotics and liquid codeine worked their magic, and I'm nearly better. (Hooray!) What really sucks is that I'd only just recovered from the head cold I came back from India with, which left me with a very husky to non-existent voice for nearly a week.

The upshot is that I haven't been doing terribly much of anything, particularly anything active (which includes walking from one end of the house to the other) or anything requiring coherent thought processes for the past few weeks.

But, I am nearly well (it'll be another week before I resume TKD training), and I've still got a heckuva lot of photos to post.  And it's too hot to do anything much today. So let's get on with it, shall we?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Happy birthday, Ky!

Here are a selection of photos taken of or by Ky since Christmas
Ky, taken with his new Christmas present (reco Canon A2000 IS)
Ky & Jack, Boxing Day at Gorky's place
Ky and Lakshmi, Ganesh Temple, Pondicherry
Ky, just after being blessed by Lakshmi, Pondicherry
More after the jump

Monday, 6 February 2012

Amber Fort - video

We didn't end up taking much video, but JD has started processing the few bits that we did.

These are both from Amber Fort. The first is shot in the Jaleb Chowk (the parade ground, or first courtyard, as discussed in the first Amber Fort post.) I did say it was pretty noisy - you might want to turn the sound down for this one.

The second is looking out from the other side of this cupola, over Amer and Maota lake.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur

The Hindu funeral rites generally involve cremation, which ensures that the body can return to its five essential elements: fire, air or wind, earth (the pyre is on the ground), water, and ether. (Ether, unlike air, cannot be felt.) Cremations usually occur near a body of water, but also some of the cremains are poured into a significant water body, ideally at Varanasi. Any buildings are therefore memorials or cenotaphs (lit. 'empty tombs'), rather than tombs or other burial chambers.
Jaswant Thada, east face from NE corner. With omnipresent flying rats pigeons.

Jaswant Thada is on the way to the Mehrangarh Fort, which overlooks Jodhpur. It was built by Sardar Singh in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II.

Mehrangarh Fort, as seen from Jaswant Thada

Jaswant Thada is built near a man-made lake, with the main entry path forming the dam wall. The lake is used for bathing after funerals/cremations, to purify oneself.
Dam wall of the lake.
And for collecting water.

The main building was designed by the Maharaja's widow (as a woman, she did a pretty good job, conceded our guide), and is built of white marble, and red sandstone.
Overview. Lake is out of shot to the left. (Pic from here)

(Lots of pics after the jump)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Chicken cashew curry (recipe) - kid-friendly

This isn't strictly an Indian curry insofar as I got it out of a Strine (?Pom) cookbook. On the other hand, I have actually made it, and it comes with the kids' enthusiastic stamp of approval. The other beauty of it is that it is wonderfully simple and easily adaptable. And, excepting the cashews which always seem to get eaten, all of the ingredients are generally present in my fridge and pantry. (I bought unsalted cashew for this, so they might still be around next time I make this.)

Essentially you make a slurry of various interesting things. And then you cook the meat in it. And then you serve. It really is that simple. And it only takes around half an hour go to whoa - around the time it takes to get the rice on and cooked.

For the quantities given, I needed a 2-cup whizzer - I have a cheapie Magic Bullet knock-off ($19 KMart), and the largest container (the one pictured) is perfect.

Combine the following ingredients into a whizzer and process until fairly smooth, then set aside.
     1 onion, roughly chopped
     4 T tomato puree
     50g cashews (about one large handful)
     2 t garam masala
     2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
     1 T lemon juice
     ¼ t turmeric
     1-2 t salt
     1 T natural yoghurt

Heat 2T vegetable oil in a large pan, and when hot add 500g diced chicken thighs, and sear until sealed. Add the spice-yoghurt mix, fry stirring for a few minutes, then add a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro).

Add a cup of chicken stock (or the balance of whatever you used to sluice out the yoghurt-spice mix container), and simmer for ten minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

Serve immediately, garnished with a little more chopped coriander and some toasted cashew nuts, with rice, poppadums, and whatever vegies you think you can convince the kids to eat.


  • Use prawns or fish or just vegetables instead of chicken. If you use lamb, you'll probably need a slightly longer cooking time.
  • Add chilli to the yoghurt-spice mix, or cumin, or omit the turmeric because you bloody ran out. Toss in some fresh ginger, because you need to use it up.
  • Throw some vegies into the pan (snowpeas, green beans, cauliflower florets, capsicum) so the kids have a greater obligation to eat at least some.

Friday, 3 February 2012

India: a concept as much as a country - Pt 1: Languages, alphabets and numbers

India, in some ways, is a bit like the EU. It has a single currency and spans dozens of languages and cultures; it is a grouping of kingdoms and princely states, brought together by geography and politics. As one of our guides said, the British did some good while they were there, and one of those things was to forge (intentionally or otherwise) a sense of "India" and being Indian.

Languages, alphabets and numbers
The EU has twenty-one official languages, including Maltese, which is spoken by fewer than half a million people. All the languages of the EU are covered by two alphabets - the Latin, and the Greek - and one number system. If more countries are admitted, then the Cyrillic alphabet may need to join them.

If you've ever travelled in Greece, or even seen food packages with Greek on them, you'll at least recognise the alphabet. If you're a science geek (like pretty much everyone I'm related to by blood or marriage), you'll even know them all, both upper and lower case. And if you're extra-geeky, you can sound them out, and be delighted at finding common etymologies: ταβέρνα is "taverna", which is strictly more a bistro than a tavern; I recall pharmacy/chemist being "apothecary", but Google keeps bringing up φαρμακείο (pharmakeio). But it's quite a different thing to recognise your exit when reading signs on the motorway, travelling at 100km/hr, when only some of them have transliterations.
Ironically, it was the Ceres turn-off we nearly missed, back in 1992.
This pic pinched from here.
By contrast, India has twenty-two scheduled languages, and several hundred spoken languages, of which thirty are spoken by more than a million native speakers. And each language has its own alphabet and number system. Standard Hindi is the official language, with English recognised as a secondary official language, although each state can recognise its own language. There was a plan to phase out English, being the language of the invaders/colonisers, within 15 years of independence, replacing it with Hindi as the sole official language. However, Hindi has nothing in common with many of the other native languages, and when it came to the crunch in 1964, there were violent protests in many areas, and the proposal was eventually shelved indefinitely.

Thankfully, most signs in India are in both the local and/or Hindi script, as well as English. The non-English scripts are various forms of magnificent curlicues and swirls to my ignorant eye.

Road sign in Kerala, near Kanam Estate

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Natural rubber - harvesting and processing

Latex is the sap produced by many plants, including lettuce, dandelions and the rubber fig, but particularly, the Para rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. As its name suggests, it is native to Brazil, or at least to South America. The plant was introduced to India in the late nineteenth century, and commercialised in the early twentieth. India presently is a net importer of natural rubber. (All from Wikipedia.)
Small section of freshly tapped rubber tree

At Mundackal Estate, near Kothamangalam (koh-tha-MAN-ga-lam), there is a substantial rubber plantation of around 100 acres. Each morning, the tapper will score/remove a layer of bark from around 500 trees, causing the sap (latex) to weep, and run into the collection cup.
Fresh latex (white), partly dried (cream/beige)
The spiral score goes around half the girth of the tree, starting at chest height, and continues for around seven years. The process is then repeated on the other side. A single tree can be first tapped around seven years after planting, and for around 25 to 30 years from then.
Showing recovering first side (on right), and actively tapped side (on left)
After lunch, the tappers then go around each of the tapped trees to collect the fresh latex bled from each tree. If left, the latex will dry and oxidise, becoming like a rubber band (excellent to ping one's brother with).
This tapper was seen near Kanam Estate, while on our elephant ride
His freshly collected latex
The collected latex is then coagulated using formic acid (did they use crushed ants back in the day?) in metal trays.
Coagulated fresh latex
The coagulated latex must then be dewatered, over several stages, first by kneading

then by running it through a wringer several times

yielding a still fairly pliable sheet.

It is then run through a second, corrugated wringer, which increases the surface area

making the sheet stiffer and drier again.

The sheets are then smoked for three days, yielding a dark brown dried sheet, weighing around 750g (1½lb) each.

(or air-dried for smaller operations)
This pic near Kanam - that's Lakshmi's trunk at left of the photo. We saw lots of drying rubber bathmats before we worked out what they were.
The dried sheets are collated into 25kg sets ready for sale.