Well spotted

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What’s this?

These are chital or cheetal deer, otherwise known as axis or (unsurprisingly) spotted deer, and are found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The name chital comes from the Sanskrit word citra, which means variegated or painted. Knowing this, you won’t be surprised to learn that the word cheetah has the same origin. 

Where’s this?

Trivandrum Zoo in Thiruvananthapuram, formerly and most commonly known as Trivandrum, Kerala

Pink pani

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What’s this?

Pani is the Hindi word for water, which I’ve used in this post’s title because it starts with a P, but I should be saying vellam, which is water in Malayalam. Malayalam is the language of Kerala, which is from where I’m writing this post.

I wondered why this hot water, served to everyone as they were eating their breakfast, was pink. I discovered that the water turns this colour when boiled with the heartwood of Pathimugam, the East Indian red wood tree, a tree indigenous to India. The wood is whitish in colour when freshly cut but turns red when exposed to air. The wood is thought to purify the water and help to prevent water-borne diseases, and is also thought to have many Ayurvedic properties, and so i Ayurveda medicine, now also practiced in the western world, originated in India over 3000 years ago and is one of the world’s oldest holistic (meaning ‘whole-body’) healing systems. 

Where’s this?

In my hotel’s restaurant, near the Cochin International Airport, Cochin, Kerala

Almost an extra

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What’s this?

When my friend and I were exploring the historical city of Champaner, we came across a TV crew, filming around a tank (a body of water used for bathing and praying). Their cables are shown here. My friend talked to one of the many crew members hanging around and we found that they were shooting a scene for an episode of Razia Rani (or Razia Sultan), a historical drama about the first female ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, a Muslim kingdom that ruled a large part of India from 1206 to 1526.

I was excited! Were my dreams of becoming an extra in Indian TV going to come true? No. It didn’t seem that my not-so-young Western face had a place in this drama, sadly.

When I was watching the crew members rushing around, I heard someone yell “chalo, chalo, chalo!” in Hindi, which basically means “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”. I have family and friends who’ve worked in the film industry in Australia and I know the stress that goes with it, and I thought ‘well, it’s obviously the same in India!’.     

Where’s this?

Champaner, an abandoned city in the Champaner-Pavagadh Archeological Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in the western state of Gujarat.

 

Jai hind – long live India!

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What’s this?

There’s nothing special about this image at all, but it’s the only photo I’ve taken of the Indian flag, and today is Republic Day in India, a very important day in the Indian calendar. Republic Day celebrates the Constitution of India, which came into force on the 26th of January 1950. It replaced the British imposed Government of India act, which had been law since 1935. Following the Indian independence movement, noted for largely peaceful non-violent resistance and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi, India gained her independence from Britain in August 1947 after British India was divided into modern-day India and Pakistan. An Assembly was formed and a draft constitution was discussed for nearly 3 years before final copies in both English and Hindi were signed in January 1950 and became law. By 1950 India had a population of approximately 360 million, an extraordinary amount of extremely varied people to keep in mind when writing a constitutaion with which to govern them!

Unlike Australia Day in my country, which also falls on the 26th of January and on which it’s common for people to have barbeques, watch fireworks and drink beer, Republic Day in India is a more serious and formal affair during which there’re great displays of military might, speeches and cultural programmes.

Here’s something I found interesting: each Republic Day parade has a chief guest, a head of state or government of another country whom has been invited by the Indian government to attend. The first female chief guest, as far as I can see, was Queen Elizabeth II, in 1961.  Australia’s only chief guest was Prime Minister Malcom Fraser in 1979, and the United States’ only chief guest was President Barak Obama in 2015. This year’s chief guest will be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.

Are you wondering what the colours in the Indian flag represent? Saffron (NOT orange!) represents courage and sacrifice, white represents peace and truth, and green represents faith and chivalry. The navy blue symbol in the centre represents a traditional spinning wheel, symbolising Mahatma Gandhi’s goal of making Indians self-reliant by making their own clothing. 

Where’s this?

Red Fort (Lal Quila in Hindi), Delhi, India’s capital city. This spectacular fort was constructed from red sandstone in 1639 by the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan – you may know him better as the man behind the Taj Mahal! It was was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Bangle up

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What’s this?

Look at the gorgeous colours of the glass bangles (choodi in Hindi) in this stall! Bangles, lots of them, are worn by many Indian women and I’ve been told that it’s unlucky for a married woman not to wear them. I love jewellery, and although I often wear a lot more jewellery when I’m in India than when I do at home, I’ve been told several times that I look bare, that I’m not wearing enough!

Bangles are usually made of glass, and so have the capacity to break if they’re hit hard against something.  Look on the ground in India and you’ll no doubt see pieces of broken bangles.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Rajasthan where the women wear extremely vibrant colours – hot pinks, bright oranges, lime greens and turquoise blues – so it was interesting for me to note that the colours that the women wear in Maharashtra are more subdued and earthy – rusty oranges, olive greens and maroons as seen here.

Where’s this?

Nishak, Maharashtra

Heavy machinery and delicious drinks

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What’s this?

If you saw my previous post about making sugarcane juice (see Sugarcane juice – one of the world’s best drinks?), you might be interested to see the machinery that extracts the juice from the cane.  Here it is, a set of rollers attached to a cart – they’re heavy duty! I’m sure many a poor sugarcane juice vendor has had a finger or two accidentally crushed in his lifetime, which I shudder to think about.

I also make jewellery, and jewellers use much the same piece of machinery (just smaller) to roll out metal. Both kinds have a dial on top of them, turned to bring the rollers closer together as the sugarcane or metal is flattened. 

You might notice the flies on the wheel. Sugarcane juice is very sweet so naturally flies and bees are drawn to it! A few flies are certainly not going to stop me from consuming this delicious drink.

Where’s this?

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Sugarcane juice – one of the world’s best drinks?

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What’s this?

It’s going to be quite warm in Melbourne today and what I’d really like to drink is sugarcane juice, an incredibly refreshing and delicious drink that can be bought all over India. In the photo are two essential ingredients (apart from the sugarcane itself) – pudina (mint) and nimbu (lemon). 

To make sugarcane juice, the vendor, working from his roadside or shop front cart, will use a pick to break up some ice and put it into a container, which is set at the end of a tray from which the sugarcane juice will pour. Several sticks of sugarcane are passed through a set of rollers, run by a generator. Juice will start to flow. After a few passes, the sugarcane will be quashed and soft enough to fold in two. The vendor will tuck a lemon and some sprigs of mint into the sugarcane, and maybe some ginger too. The sugarcane will be passed through the rollers a few more times, maybe 5 or 6 times altogether, until it’s nothing but a pulpy mass, and all its juice has been relinquished. The juice, cloudy and mossy green in colour, will then be poured into a cup through a strainer and handed to the buyer, who, if they’re me, can hardly wait to drink it! The buyer, if they’re me, might order another one.  

Where’s this?

Pushkar, Rajasthan