Agra

Travelling through India can be quite daunting especially when you’ve received a culture shock. I’ve been through villages before so I’m quite used to the clay huts, excessive jewellery and the wild cows crossing the road but this was the first time I’d met an old “family friend” from Bihar. And oh my, this man had the loudest, hoarsest and scariest dialect in the world… I could feel my heartbeat racing just listening to him talk (not shout, talk.) And to top it off, he assigned us a driver that honked at anything within a radar of 20 meters – so you can imagine sitting in a van in the blistering heat of Uttar Pradesh listening to honking all day got incredibly frustrating…

Although it felt distracting at the time, the minute we drove into the city of Agra I was amazed. It was maybe even just the small red bricked buildings… When I first saw Akbar ka Mukbarah, the burial place of King Akbar, the architecture was incredibly breathtaking. How Islamic geometric patterns decorated the bricks, and the writing of the Qur’an was carved in marble stone, it was beautiful – for something made in a time where there was no CAD drawings, no automation – just hand tools. As well as that, there must have been some genius mathematical perfection in how the tomb was designed because from the tomb you could see everything that was happening at the front gate but from the front gate you couldn’t see inside the tomb.

I love visiting old buildings just to see the imprints of time – At the Mukbarah you could see how different kings had marked their own presence on their walls. In fact, it is slightly scary how desperate people are to make their own mark that they were even willing to graffiti over some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. And it’s not just that, I often hear people saying they want to be remembered after they die. I suppose it’s because it’s really important to us to know that there is more than just an abrupt end to it all.

The Taj Mahal is the marble tomb of the red city of Agra and it is absolutely stunning. Again, it’s the manual labour that captures you. It took 30,000 men to make it and they all had their hands chopped off. And then there’s the dedication – a marble tomb dedicated to the love of Shah Jahan’s life. Who falls in love like that these days?

 

Travelling on Indian Trains

Indian trains have always been my favourite mode of transport. I’ve simply enjoyed the chaos of them. One would think that having lived in London, the city known for its public transport, I couldn’t possibly enjoy the small, dingy, rocky compartments of the Indian rails but no way, there’s just no comparison.

Once you enter the train you’re bombarded with people from the left, right and centre. You’ve got to pass through small alleyways with huge baggage in 5 minutes or else the train will leave without you. And when you’re on it, you’ve got a long stream of tea sellers, sandwich sellers, eunuchs and beggars passing through the compartments trying to get you to buy something. At night time, you lay out the 3 tier beds and get rocked to sleep. (I’ve shot-gunned the top bunk for life.)

The best part though is that the trains have open doors – which mean you can literally sit at the conjunction of the two compartments with the wind hitting your face as you move… it’s amazing just to pass through places and catch a glimpse of people’s lives in different cities and towns.

The train stations though – some of the things you see at the train station is just crazy. I’ve seen trains that feel 4 sizes too small for the amount of people on them… People sleep at the platform, cross the tracks and simply go crazy when the train arrives. All in all, it’s a chaotic mess and yet there’s still something exciting as hell about them.

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Sandesh fed the monkeys!

So we were on our way to Sanjay Gandhi National park; a beautiful forest in the middle of Mumbai – it’s a preserved natural jungle which looks amazing in the Monsoon. We had to go there to go to the Kanheri Caves and to go on a safari – but because we were late we didn’t actually get round to properly doing anything – instead we went through a highly traumatic monkey battling experience. 

We were sitting in our cars when Sandesh, our driver, fully aware of what he was doing, rolled down the windows and started beckoning the monkeys that were perfectly fine being left alone.

He started feeding some of them and god, it was so adorable the way they would take the food out of his hand and start asking for more – yes, it was the cutest thing, but then, things started to get feisty. These monkeys were so enthusiastic! One of them climbed on top of the car bonnet – and another one was on top of the rear-view mirror stealing from Sandesh’s hand…

The worst one though was when a completely unexpected monkey climbed on the window on our side of the car and started reaching inside the car for the food from Sandesh – I mean, the monkey was friendly – but jesus-freaking-Christ!

 Photo Credits (Aayushi Parikh) IMG-20140725-WA0002

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Sandesh fed the monkeys!

So we were on our way to Sanjay Gandhi National park; a beautiful forest in the middle of Mumbai – it’s a preserved natural jungle which looks amazing in the Monsoon. We had to go there to go to the Kanheri Caves and to go on a safari – but because we were late we didn’t actually get round to properly doing anything – instead we went through a highly traumatic monkey battling experience. 

We were sitting in our cars when Sandesh, our driver, fully aware of what he was doing, rolled down the windows and started beckoning the monkeys that were perfectly fine being left alone.

He started feeding some of them and god, it was so adorable the way they would take the food out of his hand and start asking for more – yes, it was the cutest thing, but then, things started to get feisty. These monkeys were so enthusiastic! One of them climbed on top of the car bonnet – and another one was on top of the rear-view mirror stealing from Sandesh’s hand…

The worst one though was when a completely unexpected monkey climbed on the window on our side of the car and started reaching inside the car for the food from Sandesh – I mean, the monkey was friendly – but jesus-freaking-Christ!

 Photo Credits (Aayushi Parikh) IMG-20140725-WA0002

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Global Vipassana Pagonda

Last week we visited a beautiful Buddhist meditation centre in Mumbai. This meditation centre was, ironically, situated near a  famous theme park, Essel World. yYs, it was in the middle of absolutely no where and it was surrounded by mountains and valleys and what not, but it was also next to a very big noise-making machine… We could actually hear the screams from Essel World. Great meditation guys, I can really feel the enlightenment. 

But that critiqued, I have to say, it was simply beautiful. The minute we stepped out of the car and looked up at humongous statues of lions, and brass gates covered in gold, it was just amazing… if we tilted our heads a little more, we could see a huge funny-shaped building, like an upside-down V. It stood magnificently above the evergreens.

For a while, I felt like I was getting smaller- that I was in a place that was too great to imagine. I was suddenly aware of my own insignificance, as you do when you look up at the stars in the night and find yourself looking millions of lightyears into the past.
So we walked inside, and started walking around the building and past gold embroided red pillars. I felt as if I had suddenly shifted to Tibet. It was all very royal, and I later found out that the use of gold was to signify that Buddha’s body turned to gold.
One the side of the building, there are quotes from Buddha’s teachings. One particularly stood out for me as I truly believed in it – it was my life motto.

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After that, we were allowed to view inside the building. I was in absolute awe! It was a pillar-less dome made of Burma Stone… there was a little bit of lighting but it was mainly a very relaxing – we weren’t actually allowed to enter the dome… so we stood outside. We also went to a “model” pagonda (pagonda is a word for meditation centre)… and were allowed 20 mins of meditation, which for some reason instead of relaxing me, highlighted all of the body aches in my body!

Feminism Rant…

Okay here’s the deal – I’ve been hearing a lot of jokes and insults about feminism and I think it’s very interesting people are arguing against feminism – almost like it’s just an anti-male, greedy group that needs to be made fun off. 

For one thing, feminism isn’t about giving women more rights than a man – it’s absolutely not about telling people that females need more attention, more pay, more opportunities. It’s just so interesting how quickly the feminist movement has been taken as a “negative” thing. Feminism is about equality for men and women. 

And I’m not just talking equal pay/ paying for dates and stuff… I don’t think it’s good enough to just give up after you’ve given equal pay – “here you go now, are you happy?”. It’s just condescending. 

The other thing is, feminism should not just be a female led group. Feminism should be predominantly male as it is the male population that’s responsible for all the problems in the first place (mainly)… 

It’s just so interesting that people just scoff at the idea of a feminist. I think everyone should be a feminist. We’ve got to start somewhere to get people to change their mindsets towards women, otherwise it will never change. 

 

And… the rant is over. I’m done. 

 

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