Friday, 30 November 2012

Rajasthan circuit - day 1 - The Jama Masjid Mosque, New Delhi - The 15th of November 2012

" Take care of all your memories, for you cannot relive them".
                                                                                             Bob Dylan

The long awaited circuit journey to the State of Rajasthan didn't exactly start the way I had expected it to, as I had to buy another airplane ticket to Paris (where we would be flying from) because the European strike menaced to disrupt the flights the same day I was supposed to leave Portugal associated to the fact that the ticket I had initially bought for that particular date had restrictions of its own, which did not contemplate any changing date.

From then on everything went as according to plan. Following the long flying hours that took us via Zurich and further on to Delhi we finally met our potential circuit companions at the International New Delhi airport lounge and  still not quite recovered nor fully awake from the tiring journey headed towards the Jama Masjid , the greatest Mosque in India.

Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and built in the year 1650 AD, though only completed six years later it has three great Gates, two Towers and two red stone and marble minarets, all of which rather impressive.

Equally impressive was the number of worshipping families, many of which were just walking around the huge courtyard. The flowery dress most foreigners were asked to put on though not as flamboyant as the clothes worn by the Indian ladies added nevertheless a touch of colour to the whole brick sandy coloured ensemble.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The smiles of the Rajasthan children ...

There is nothing like the smile of children to make one's day (or days) special particularly when travelling across a country State like Rajasthan in India where a simple decorated pen or a lolly-pop can make children's eyes sparkle with joy and where words need not be said.


 The Junnagarth Fort in Bikaner may have not been the right place to distribute the first pens and lolly-pops, as I soon realised, because there was one particular moment where parents and family members of the children I was handing them out to came over to see what was going on and  blocked the way to one of the  fort courtyards ... though I was happy enough to see they were as touched with the "gesture" as their children were.

We had been told it would be advisable not to hand those out to the children directly, but after just three days I felt I should not miss the opportunity of approaching children in my own subtle way and I must confess I am glad  I did it because that gave me a unique chance of being close to them and directly share their joy. 

As we approached Jaiselmer, just one day after I started distributing the little things I had brought along I realised I wouldn't have enough to last me till the end of the journey ... I had miscalculated not the number of days but definitely the potential number of children I might come across with.

So the last lolly-pops were handed out to two rather shy siblings on a small village compound we stopped at on the road to Ranakpur, days before the end of the trip... 

 But what precious moments those were ... I am sure I will forever remember those big eyes looking at me ...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Jorge's birthday party ...

I must admit I felt flattered the moment I was invited to Jorge's birthday party. He happens to be a former Aeronautical English student of mine and one of the ten Cape Verdian trainees attending the Air Traffic Control Abinitio Course at the Aviation Training School I work for.

Although I later realised I might not make it in time (which I didn't) due to a last minute setback situation I am really glad I finally made it, as not only did I get to know a bit more about him and the others beyond the classroom (which is not a privilege many teachers are entitled to), but also because the atmosphere was one of heartfelt enjoyment until it was interrupted in a rather "abrupt" way by one of their "circumstantial" neighbours, who complained about the noise and threatened to call the Police.

Cape Verdian parties are definitely noisy, because there is music ... dance ... food ... drinks ... stories ...  anecdotes ... laughter ... and all that is associated with moments of cheerful happiness ...

Jorge, Marius and a guest friend in the kitchen (left). Jorge, Carlos, Victor and Micael in the living room (right).

Jorge and I

I must confess I was instantaneously speechless the moment I set eyes on Lenira ... she looked stunningly beautiful with her hair not tied at the back ... a subtle touch of make up that brightened up her face and that cheeky smile as if to say ... "None of you was expecting this!" ..., which I am sure none of us was ...

Lenira (left). Lenira and Jair (standing up) with some guest friends (right).

I was in for a few surprises throughout the night, let me tell you ... 

Who would have possibly imagined that Arico with that gentleman serious-like attitude could have entertained us with such "spicy" anecdotes ?...

Kelly and Arico

and ... Sara with her cheer leader smile and a never ending bundle of energy taking on the lead of the line up dances in which Micael (whom I never in a million years would have guessed danced, let alone in such an "inspiring" way) ... Carlos (whose hip and thigh "movements" were equally "inspiring") ... Victor (Wow !... how unexpected!...) ..., not to mention Jorge (whose hips moved like women's ...) and Kelly (whose "batuko" hip movement is second to none) ...


 ... As Elio and I sat talking I unexpectedly found out that his great grand uncle is someone I have known for a long time and whom I have always admired, together with another family member who prior to his retirement also pertained to "our" huge family of Aviation in Portugal ...


Jair with whom I have only had those "corridor" type of  conversations at the Training School stood there in the veranda talking with me about the concepts of life and living together nowadays and we almost forgot there was a party going on in the next room ...  until we were called in to sing "Happy Birthday" ...

By the time I got back home it was early morning and people could be seen going to work ... I still had the inebriating smell of that "catchupa" (I didn't try because I had had dinner before) embedded in me ... the taste of those spicy shrimps ...  the laughter ... the cheerfulness ...

As I was getting ready to lie down I wondered how important it is to be with people you love and who seem to love you back and respect you, despite the age gap ...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Lisbon's Orient Museum (still) - the 28th of October 2012


 I couldn't help photographing a few more outstandingly beautiful artefacts from Japan and China, though I felt I could have photographed many more.

Japanese armours dating back to the Edo period (17th century) said to have been inspired by the European presence, particularly the Portuguese.

Shikoku puppets representing one of the Gods of Fertility and one of the seven Deities of happiness to make the Gods come at the moment of the New Year.

Gilt covered and polychrome Japanese Satsuma  pottery from the Meiji period (dating back to the late 18th century).

The last part of the visit included a temporary exhibition on tea, where I took two tea-related photographs, one being a 1662  portrait painting of Dona Catarina de Bragan├ža, believed to have played a major role in the introduction of tea in England and the second a black and white photograph of the Portuguese Queen Dona Maria Pia dating back to the late 18thcentury.

It certainly was one of the most interesting afternoons I have recently spent inside a Museum and I can now say that I know will go back some time soon, once I felt it was really worth it.