Saturday, 28 April 2007

Shopping in Delhi

We don't have anything planned for our first afternoon in Delhi so we arrange for our driver to take us shopping, mainly to have a suit made for J. The driver takes us first to a tourists' bazaar. Through the main entrance there is a warren of shops spread over 3 floors. Each shop keeper tries to entice you into his store "just for a look". The goods they have to show us are beautiful; wood carvings, marble ornaments, paintings on silk, carpets and embroidered wall hangings. I would love to browse but I don't feel comfortable looking at things I've no intention of buying. A carpet salesman was especially persistent, his silk chain-stitched rugs were beautiful and he keep bringing more and more to show us. I would have loved one but they are out of our budget and not what we have come for. It takes a long time to escape him and he will try again later to sell us something. Upstairs, in the tailors we come under the same pressure to purchase but at least this is what we have come for. First we select the fabric, then the style from the samples that they bring out. After negotiating a price Jon is measured from head to toe. His suits will be ready in 2 days but we will be in Chandigarh, so we arrange to collect them when we return to Delhi in 5 days.

Next we want to buy a hat for J (he left his at home). After trying a couple of shops without success our driver takes us to an underground market. To enter we have to pass through a bomb detector. This is a real maze, I quickly become disorientated and I am very pleased that the driver is there to guide us through. Inside it is hot that the air is filled with smoky incense - insect repellent, I think. It is as if a small boy is running ahead of J and I calling out "the tourists are coming". Before us men step out of each tiny shop and call out, "Ma'am, Sir. Come in. Look here". I don't like to simply ignore them, that feels rude, but any words, even "No, thank you" seem to encourage them and they call to us more. It was both exciting and intimidating at the same time. I was very nervous about pick-pockets, the narrow alley ways are crowded. I am a little ashamed to think of them all as untrustworthy but I remind myself that I feel the same way in my home town when the shops are crowded.

Finally we find a baseball cap for J and a skirt and top for me. We were please that we had negotiated a good price but later we realised that we had paid 1,000 rupees more than we agreed because they took payment from both J and me without us realising it!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

10 April - Arrival

Beginning our descent the landscape looked almost familiar - fields, towns, rivers and roads in miniature below me. Gradually things began to look less familiar, I could make out the flat-roofed, square buildings that were squeezed into every available space. Then, as the aircraft swept low over Delhi for our final approach, I could see the tiny breeze block huts and tarpaulin covered A-frame tents that are home for the residents of India's slums.

Our passage through arrivals at Indira Gandhi International Airport was straight forward and our local guild, holding aloft a card with our names, was there waiting for us - a great relief after all the tales we had been told of Indian inefficiency and bureaucratic red tape.

Outside the heat hits you like a wall - you can smell it - and your ears are assaulted by traffic noise, especially the ceaseless hooting of horns.

Our drive to the hotel is like a theme park ride, the driver darting in and out of other road users, hitting his horn for the vehicle in front to move aside when there is no way around. I am too busy watching the road ahead to take in much of my surroundings but already we are astonished by the variety of road users - every kind of motorised vehicle you can imagine, bikes, rickshaws and tuktuks, carts drawn by hand, horse, donkey or cattle and amid all this pedestrians and animals wandering freely.

The driver tells us that to drive safely in Delhi you need 3 things: a good horn, good breaks and good luck!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Incredible India

It is 4.30 in the morning, still dark and very still. For a moment I am not sure where I am, but gradually my body recognises the familiar comfort of my own bed and I remember that I am home. A twist in my stomach tells me that I need the bathroom urgently, a feeling that I have lived with for the last fifteen days despite the care I have taken with food and drinks. As I step out of bed, the carpeted floor feels strange to my feet, which have become used to the cool marble tiles of hotel bedrooms. In Delhi it is 9.00 am and a new day has begun. The roads are full of every type of transport imaginable, all weaving in and out of each other, trying to get ahead. The air, already hot, will be filled with the pollution of exhaust fumes and a cacophony of horns, shouts and engine noise. The children that attend school will already be at their lessons in their smart uniforms. Those who don’t attend school face a day working beside their parents, peddling souvenirs or begging from tourists.

My adventure is over and it has been an incredible one. I have seen two extremes of life in India, from the lavish extravagances of a Hindu wedding, to the unbelievable poverty that is everyday life for the average family. I have experienced the selfless hospitality and generosity of two families to whom we were effectively strangers. So many people have tried relentlessly to extract money from us, by fair means or foul, that I have become cynical and untrusting. My eyes have been dazzled by the rainbow of colours everywhere; the roadside stalls selling fruit and vegetables; the ladies' saris that sparkle with beads, sequins and metallic threads; the brightly painted auto rickshaws with their gleaming chrome, and they have looked away in disgust from the filth and squalor that is the backdrop from which the colours shine out.

Here, the birds that are so familiar to me are just beginning to sing, tuning up for the morning chorus that I so love to hear but deep in my ears there is a faint echo of the calls of the all exotic birds that I have seen and heard. I have opened the window so that I can hear them better. Tinkabelle, having picked daintily at her breakfast, is curled on the settee under the window, her ears twitching constantly. It occurs to me that she may be better feed than some of the children that I have seen play by the roadside.

I have seen and done so many wonderful things in the last two weeks my head is buzzing with the memory of them all, but in those first few moments while I tried to remember where I was, one image played on my minds eye. The pretty face of a small girl we encountered 3 days ago in Jaiphur. Her green dress is filthy and her hair matted with dirt but her cheeks are plump, her eyes bright and her teeth strong and white. She is a professional beggar, sent by her parents to entice money from softhearted foreigners. With one hand she tugs my skirt to get my attention, with the other hand she gestures to her mouth that she wants money for food. She looks into my face with pleading eyes and her most beguiling smile. I have been subjected to this so many times now that my heart has hardened to it and I try to walk away without responding. She continues to tug my skirt and constantly manoeuvres to stay in front of me. “Please, madam, please.” I tell her I don’t have any change and she immediately replies, “the ice-cream man has change” and tries to tug me in his direction. I nearly give into her pleas but a glance around me takes in more children and beggars gathering around, if I open my purse for her they will all press closer and hold out their hands for rupees. I shake my head firmly, push her hand away and avert my eyes.

Laying here in my comfortable bed with clean sheets, I am full of remorse. I don’t know what difference 10 rupees would make to her but I know that it would have done more good for her gain 10 rupees than it would have harmed me to part with it.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Taking a Break

A couple of months ago J and I received an invitation to a Hindu wedding in Northern India. We decided to accept the invitation and to stay an extra week to tour some of the area. On one hand I am very excited about it all but on the other, it hardly seems real and I can't believe we are going. Well, it is real and today is the day. Our bags are packed and we leave for the airport in two hours. How exciting is that?

I think this holiday will be completely different from an holiday I have been on before but I am trying not to get any preconceived ideas of how it will be. I just want to go and soak up all that India has to offer. I would really like to blog the experience day by day, but I don't know if we will have internet access or, indeed, time in our very busy schedule. So, I'm taking a break from blogging for two weeks.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Rod End

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I've been doing plenty of sewing lately but not much embroidery and no work on Venerable Friends at all. I was having withdrawal symptoms and needed a fix. I could only spare a couple of hours as I have a very busy schedule this weekend, but it was better than nothing. I decided to work on the end of the rod as it is quite small and 'doable' in a short time. That way I would not be so tempted to do a bit more and a bit more.

The oval end is embroidered with a pair of gold threads couched round and round with red couching thread - the same technique I used on the end vein of Suehiro. I remembered that I had not got the pairs of threads touching and left gaps in places. This time I concentrated of making sure the threads were tight to each other and I am more satisfied with my work. It is only a small area but I think it looks good. The ends will be sunk to the back when all the embroidery is completed.

On the edge of the oval area I have couched a single strand of the karayori that I twisted in Bournemouth. It looks even better couched to the silk ground than it did twisted around the glass, the rope like twist really shows up well. The ends of the karayori will also be sunk and finished later.

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Bridesmaid's Dresses

A friend's daughter is getting married in May. I am making dresses for 2 of the bridesmaids. The dresses are technically quit simple and I enjoy dress making but I get quite stressy when I make things for other people, especially when they have laid out a lot of money for the fabric. Over the last 3 weekends I have spent one day working on the dresses and I had hoped today I would get them finished all bar the hems. I didn't that far but then I always do under estimate how long something will take me. I have made up both dresses but still have to insert the linings.