Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow


I admit it.

image
A Blow Dry :p

I admit. I am a tad self obsessed. I love ny hair. It is long to shoulder length, sometimes growing all the way to my waist.  And I love it. The waves, the curls, the frizz. I love it.

I did the unthinkable a few days back. I got them chopped to a Bob cut to help a friend get certified. And I’m crying about it. I feel bald almost.

I know it’s just hair and it’ll grow back. Sure it will. But why do I feel so empty now that the initial euphoria has worn out and the blow dry has left me?

I’ve never been someone with a huge sense of self esteem. Andbi have loved my hair without judgment. I love the feeling of running my fingers through them or having anyone run their fingers through my hair. Just seeing them wave naturally gave me such a high.

If I haven’t probably turned off all readers by sounding too batty, I do have a point.

We tend to stay with what we love. Our blankets, those cosy slippers, our favorite toys, clothes, that favorite pen you must have or that dish you always eat first thing your birthday. Often we pick convenices and stick to restricting our sense of beauty within that.

I am GUILTY OF THIS. CHARGED CONVICTED AND HANGED!!

I decided this year to use it to explore beauty. To find myself and to find all the beauty within me. I even started making notes and writing. And here I was horridly set back when I got a hair cut done.

Your hair or eyes or feet or handwriting or washboard abs NEVER define you. They cloathe you. They give you something to smile about. Would I trade them for money? Maybe not. Would I trade them for a hug, a loving cuddle every night, a good night kiss or a good morning embrace? Without a doubt.

I notice we prioritise so many things ahead of simple stuff. Beautiful stuff. Ahead of life. And we miss out on so much. Maybe I missed out on so many years of discovering my inner beauty and listening to my inner voice while I obsessed over how beautiful my hair looked.

I had hair yesterday.  It is gone (well almost) today. And I am left with no other choice but to look at myself and remind me of the beauty in me. Or the beauty of life turning out maybe how I imagined it years back. Or how that comforted feeling that wrapped you when you knew something was JIST RIGHT! And that things were about to get better.

You have beauty today. It could be gone tomorrow.  What will stay with you, is what you are deep within. Make a conscious effort to give that little you some TLC. Everyday.

I part with these random words I strung about now,

Hair Today. Gone Tomorrow

Life Today. Gone Tomorrow

Ethereal and Beautiful You.

Right in your heart , Forever So!

Part 2: Beautiful Me, Beautiful You

Yesterday Once More: Long Gone Karen Carpenter!!


She’s long forgotten!! She died on 4th February 1983 and I am 2 days late in writing this post about how unabashedly sad I am about her untimely death!!

karen1Who is she and why am I dedicating a post to her?

Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970s duo, the Carpenters. Although her skills as a drummer earned admiration from drumming luminaries and peers, she is best known for her vocal performances. She had a contralto vocal range.

Carpenter suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder which was little known at the time. She died at age 32 from heart failure caused by complications related to her illness. Carpenter’s death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders

This is what Wikipedia says about her.

I discovered the Carpenters quite by accident. I was downloading some songs for my mother who loves their songs and when Ikaren2 listened to their songs, I absolutely loved them. They were so typical of the era, soft, mystical and clean. Mostly clean lyrics focusing so much on emotions. Karen and Richard made good music. They made music that could heal you on any given day. Karen’s magical voice could cut through all my misery, literally!!

Remember the song, “Top Of The World”

Such a feelin’s comin’ over me

There is wonder in most everything I see

Not a cloud in the sky

Got the sun in my eyes

And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream

Look at her smile!!
Look at her smile!!

Everything I want the world to be

Is now coming true especially for me

And the reason is clear

It’s because you are here

You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation

And the only explanation I can find

Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around

Your love’s put me at the top of the world

karen4Something in the wind has learned my name

And it’s tellin’ me that things are not the same

In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze

There’s a pleasin’ sense of happiness for me

There is only one wish on my mind

When this day is through I hope that I will find

That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me

All I need will be mine if you are here

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation

And the only explanation I can find

Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around

Your love’s put me at the top of the world

karen5I am sure so many of you readers can resonate with these lyrics. They never fail to bring a smile to my face.

The reason I am so very sad with Karen’s death was her ANOREXIA!

In those days, people never came out with their eating disorders. Karen was not stunningly beautiful but she had this rare quality which drew you to her, if you saw some of her videos you would instantly realise!! She had this beautiful face and a very mature voice which is unbelievably melodious. And she died at the age of 33 because her heart couldn’t take the complications of over 14 years of crash dieting.

This, precisely this made me feel so very sad. She was so bright. People still tear up mentioning her. I see so many fresh comments on her YouTube concerts where people say they miss her. It is impossible to ignore the people she touched in the short time she was here!

The day I read about her death and saw her photos, saw what the disease had made her, the true extent of our society’s malaise struck me. Here was a perfectly good-looking woman who has a worldwide following. She felt the need to diet and to cause so much harm to her body. She felt she wasn’t good enough inspite of being so very loved and followed.

It made me wonder about the people at the very common level. She was a star, undeniably. But what about you, me or anyone you know? Since when did we let a commercial or a shop sale, (= I feel a tremendous bout of guilt when I don’t find anything to buy in a sale!!) decide whether we were beautiful? And why was our society SO OBSESSED WITH OUR PHYSICAL LOOKS?

karen8

That is how Karen looked a while before she died! A skeleton. Done in by our society’s warped ideals of what a man would want or what made us beautiful. It isn’t just by chance that I found this blog which was documenting Extremely Sexist Advertisements during the 1950s.

It saddens me everytime I read about her death. Why do I read about it then? When it makes me so morose? To remind me that nothing that people say should drag me to the point of becoming like this. She was stunning. I would love to be in her place, jamming and cutting out albums. Doing world tours! But not like this. Nobody deserves to end like this!

In a way, Karen’s death opened up the floodgates for research into anorexia and behaviours linked to food. The plethora of information that we have and the eating disorders which are so easy to diagnose today, are courtesy the death which shocked so many people all over the world!

I can’t help get caught in the warped web of deception and the whole “I have to look Beautiful” line. But it helps to sometimes remember that if only someone could help Karen out the way there is help for anorexia or bullimia today, that maybe we would have had the very gifted and talented singer yet amongst us!!

I do, I do take her loss personally!! It always seems as if she tells me to not take life too seriously! That I am beautiful no matter what. And if I was among people who didn’t endorse the view, then I needn’t get disheartened. This beautiful woman gives me the strength to not go down her path and to always love me!

I don’t seek to advice or lecture about anyone’s sense of beauty or self-esteem. I just wanted to give Karen a tribute that the number of lives you have saved today, by the research spurned on after your death is monumental! And I can’t thank you enough! Wherever you are, I hope you are at peace and I really hope your songs continue to be played for years after!!

As I close in on my first post dedicated to people who have changed my thinking, I leave you with lyrics from another Carpenters song called ‘Yesterday Once More’ which is also the title to this post. I selected that because I was bringing in yesterday here with me, once more, in remembering Karen’s contribution to society and her everlasting impact on music!

Lookin’ back on how it was in years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad, so much has changed.

It was songs of love that I would sing to then
And I’d memorize each word
Those old melodies still sound so good to me
As they melt the years away

Every sha-la-la-la
Every wo-o-wo-o, still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling, that they’re startin’ to sing’s so fine

All my best memories come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry, just like before
It’s yesterday once more

Epilogue: Just to show my recent internet searches about sexist vintage ads, some links!! Never doubt your beauty ladies!! We’re all special!!

http://neatdesigns.net/35-extremely-sexist-ads-that-you-should-see/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/17/sexist-vintage-ads_n_1798977.html#slide=1396785

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/vintage-sexist-ads_n_4612110.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Topkapı Palace: Back to the Ottoman Times


Day 4: 13th April

  

This was the day when we finally visited the Topkapı sarayı. This Palace is a spectacular example of the Ottoman exuberance as well as the passion the Turks have to conserve their wealth and monuments.

As soon as you enter the Topkapi, there are two paths, one which is called “Valentines Path” which is a path that leads a little into the grounds where couples can generally practice some PDA and an uphill road leading to the palace.

 

A note about Istanbul: This is a city that has a lot of walking involved..lot of uphil walking and climbing. To check the museums and especially to feel that you got your money’s worth, you’ll no doubt check every tourist attraction thoroughly which means considerable walking. If there are any plans  of visiting Istanbul soon then work on your fitness…you will need to!!!!

Back to the Sarayi.. (=Palace in Turkish). We had to climb on a cobbled road that had some marble columns at the side on the grass. Cars could be driven inside though. On the way to the Palace, the Istanbul Architechtural Museum presents itself.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is something that presents itself in 3 chapters (=Trilogy ishtyle)

1.Archaeological Museum (=arkelogi müzesi)

2.Museum of Ancient Orient

3.Museum of Islamic Arts

 

Beyond the gate, the road continues still forward to a large ground with paths and gardens. There you can see the gates of Topkapi Sarayi

Now In Our Professional Opinion (=Oops oh crap copied the wrong stuff out of an Office Doc!!!)

Back to the point..what i was saying is this place merits a full day. They charge TL 35 to get in and it doesnt make any sense to rush it. There is So much to see!!!

 

Now i know keeping up with the typical Indian Itenerary (=I know we tend to Run, Daud and Race…oops someone’s movie list spilled over!! I mean we Indians tend to run across a country in 2 days and be proud of that!!) , with a travel agent, this would be done in say 2 hours but believe me there is so much more to the Palace. Not only are you seeing an important part of Turkish history and tradition but also has a Stunning Treasure Room.

 

Topkapi Palace was not only the residence of the Ottoman sultans, but also the administrative and educational center of the state. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and expanded upon and altered many times throughout its long history, the palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century.The Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad, and the imperial archives continue to be preserved at Topkapi.

 

Following the abolishment of the Ottoman monarchy in 1922, Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum on 3 April 1924, on the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

 

 

Alrite for me to give you the coup on Topkapi Sarayi I’ll have to split it up into

1. What we could Photograph

2. What was Hidden from the Camera

 

As per the Literature that the Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi gave us, it was divided into

1. Main Palace (=TL 20)

2. Harem (=TL 15)

 

But we didnt end up going to the Harem 😦 we indeed were running on a tight schedule. After Topkapi we had to go to the Bosphorus for our cruise which meant we were having a pick up from the Hotel.

 

Like all other Turkish Monuments there was a full closet of information here. Which will be decoded and presented (=Sigh some disadvantages of working!! It does affect the language!!)

 

So the first thing we did was we climbed up the path and up ahead of the Archaeological Museum. And then when we went up and saw the whole Imperial Courtyard lined with army men!!!! In Turkey, every young man Has to join the army for atleast a year. The logic is that this will make the Men a Little (=Read LOTS) smarter and sensitive (=:P) and also develop patriotic feelings. As well as get everyone to compulsorily do community service.

 

And just then we saw…!!!!???

 

What did we see?? That remains to be seen in another Story, Stay Tuned.

An overview from Miniaturk

 

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

 

The Army

 

Whats Up

 

The Ceiling Lol

 

The Sleeping Chambers

 

Ottoman Splendour

 

A sign of good luck

 

Entrance to the Treasure Room

 

Tulips around

 

Sea of Marmara

 

 

Tulips outside the Topkapi

Blue..bLue..Blue a Mosque lies ahead- Inside Sultanahmet Camii


Day 2: 11th April 2011.

After the Hippodrome, we were ushered into (=Rather like sheep don’t you think, being directed from one place to another??)

Next Stop: Sultanahmet Camii / Blue Mosque

Fact: It is known as Blue Mosque because of the blue Iznik tiles that decorate its interior. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

While this Mosque is in active use for prayer, it is also a tourist attraction. While entering the mosque, everyone has to remove their shoes but there are plastic bags provided to the people to keep their shoes in. Also there are brochures about Islam so people get a bird’s eye view of the religion.

The people are quite strict about removing shoes, you pass through checking even after you’ve removed them to be doubly sure. This is really a testimony to how proud the Turks are of their traditions, What must Be Done Must Be Done. Period. (Photo 5)

We did see quite a few firangs (=Oops forgive the Indian way of saying it, a lot of whites would be very racist) complaining about this but the Turks didnt give a damn. You want to come, off go your shoes sir!!

The Mosque faces the Ayasofya on one side and also the Hippodrome. Meaning the Mosque is sandwiched between the Ayasofya and the Hippodrome.

Psst:  Ayasofya was built by the Grand Architect Sinan (=who built more than 450 monuments in Turkey talk about Monopoly!!) , Sultan Ahmad II while commissioning the Blue Mosque appointed Sinan’s student to build the mosque.

Try as he might, he could not build a mosque as big as the Ayasofya. So instead of building a Mosque with 4 minarets which was in case a mosque was Imperial and used for Ceremonies, he built in 6 Minarets…(=Duh Student wants to outgrow the teacher,,,any problem with that??)

At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses.

(=Long live Wikipedia>>!!)

Info Snippets: IZNIK TILES

The name comes from a region in Turkey (also called Anatolia). Iznik tiles are hand painted on quartz (=A semi precious mineral)  Each tile takes about 2-3 months and is painted with natural dyes and glazed with egg white and fired in a kiln. It is a dying art in Turkey now and there are organisations that are taking efforts to ensure that the art continues.

The tiles on the back balcony wall are recycled tiles from the harem in the Topkapı Palace, when it was damaged by fire in 1574.

The most delicate part of the Mosque were the Stained glass windows (Photo 8). Also the lamps that they used were oil lamps and there was a system to divert the smoke into a separate room to be used as calligraphic ink (=Smart!!). So there is not a black speck on the ceiling save for that painted on the tiles.

Also a thing about the carpets:

The whole mosque is carpeted (Photo 4) and there are lines on it some darker than the other. The 2 dark red lines denote the place that a person takes when they bend down in prayer (=Remember how Muslims bend down in prayer on the floor, this is so that when the Mosque is full, your bum doesn’t get squashed in someone’s face!!)

So we were given about half an hour to explore the Mosque and reassemble outside. During this time we went and clicked pictures of the Mosque (=And each other lol)

We also clicked a picture with a fellow tourist, Jeremy who had opted for the full day tour.

Jeremy is from Philadelphia but now stays in Basel, Switzerland. Also he’s been to Mumbai (=and been in the traffic!!) He was even here during the world cup. So it was nice to interact with him.

After looking around in wonder at the mosque, we left.

Ooh!!: Even though this was a mosque, there was nobody who was wearing a veil over their heads, Although we had put our hoods on as a mark of respect. Turkey is a secular country where religion and politics are separate.

This means that even though 90% of Turkish population is Muslim, only about 20-30% are practicing Muslims.  This means that even religion is left to the choice of the person. (=We never got a choice to practice, we just had to!!)

So as we explored Turkey we came to know a lot about the country and also about Islam as a religion and how free and open it can be.

That wraps up the Blue Mosque. After the blue mosque we moved on to a carpet showroom and discovered a lot more things.

Coming Up: Matis and Kaleens…Outer sights, Historical Peninsula

Stay Tuned

Exteriors of the Mosque

The Inner Dome

Inner Lights

Red Carpets

Chappals here n there

A column with Iznik tiles

Calligraphy on the ceiling

Delicate stained glass windows

Beauty!!

The family

Yerebatin Sarnici or Yerebatin Saray1


Yerebatin Sarnici or Yerebatin Saray1

After exploring ‘Hagia Sophia’ or ‘Aya Sophia’ or ‘St Sophia’ (=Too many names) we came out to the Sultanahmet Square where the two most beautiful monuments of Istanbul, The Blue Mosque (=Sultanahment Camii) and the Aya Sophia face each other.

As we left the Aya Sophia, we looked in awe at the huge mosque ahead of us. Now since my sister and my dad had done some reading, they knew it was the Blue Mosque but I didn’t, so I was amazed while I clicked pictures of the cobbled paths and the many roadside sellers.

 

The small and cute stands there sell 3 things

  1. Corn (=Yuck!! No Way, Indian ones are much better)
  2. Simit (=type of bread with sesame/til on it with or without a cheese filling)
  3. Kestane or Chestnuts roasted
  4. Cinnamon cakes (=Spicy and not so sweet)

 

So we helped ourselves to some Simit with cheese and soaked in the atmosphere.

This time is the best to visit Turkey, just off the winter which is quite harsh in the interiors and just before the heat wave hits across Turkey. The weather is extremely pleasant and enjoyable with temperatures between 8-16 degree C during the day and from5-10 degree C at night.

 

There was a trio that was performing in the Sultanahmet Square as a part of the  Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (=I’m sorry I don’t know the exact translation Büyük means big and şehir is city)

At that point it really struck me that Istanbul integrates art into its very fibre. There is an appreciation for all forms of art here be it with history, relics and frescos or be it with music, paint and any other form of expression.

I guess we really don’t see much of that in India with not much inclination to appreciation of art barring those who actually practice.

We also saw the tram lines in Istanbul for the first time.

Following which we went to the Cistern.

Let me brief you a little about how the Cisterns and Aqueducts came into being.

An Ottoman Building using an Aqueduct

The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to serve any large city in their empire, as well as many small towns and industrial sites. The city of Rome had the largest concentration of aqueducts, with water being supplied by eleven aqueducts constructed over a period of about 500 years. They served drinking water and supplied the numerous baths and fountains in the city, as well as finally being emptied into the sewers, where the once-used gray water performed their last function in removing waste matter. (=Long live Wikipedia)

Now the aqueducts were not limited only to Rome. With the spread of the Roman Empire, the aqueducts and Cisterns spread to different states such as Bulgaria,  Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Macedonia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Spain. Which sows the effect the Roman Empire has had over the world.

Also they made Cisterns which were made to catch rainwater and to store it. Cisterns are distinguished from wells because of the waterproof lining that Cisterns have. There aren’t many Cisterns found today.

This Cistern is very famous for the two heads of Medusa that adorn 2 of the pillars

Fact: The Cistern was built in the 6th Century by the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is 9 m high with 12 rows of 28 columns

Fable Speak: There are many stories about Medusa. The most common one says that she had a face so ugly that people who saw her would be repulsed and would turn to stone.

This is why her head appears at 2 columns to ward off evil

The second fable talks about why her hair was turned to stone. It says she was the fairest maiden of the times and once she lay with Poseidon, the king of the seas, Goddess Athena was enraged and so cursed her transforming her beautiful hair to snakes. (=Poor her, jealous goddess)

But there is no accurate record about what really happened to Medusa although she remains an evergreen part of history

Anyway back to the Cistern. The Cistern has been constructed in such a manner that even though it is below the ground, there is fresh air through ventilation shafts constantly.

This too like other museums has an entrance fee (=10 TL or € 6) Most of the people come to see the Medusa’s heads positioned in the 2 pillars.

In one pillar the head of Medusa is facing sideways and in 1 pillar it is upside down. There are many stories as to why these were positioned there and only there and in these positions not looking straight forward. But because there are no accurate records, until a time machine is invented, we can only speculate.

The water even though old was clean. There were places where people had thrown in coins. There is a Roman legend that if you throw a coin i the Trevi’s Fountain,Rome, Italy that you will come back again!! (I should throw many coins there then!!)

Even though this was constructed in the 6th century, it has been preserved very well today with adequate signs for tourists with information. There are also plastic sheets put over the arches that need to be repaired.

Musings: (=How much i think!! My brain should be banned)

I often wonder why we as a country with significant scientific advancement can never manage to set funds aside or use it for the repair, maintenance and restoration of our national wealth. I guess with the decades of ingrained mindset that our sole purpose is to achieve a growth figure at all costs, we’ve let national wealth, arts and culture die a horrendous death, leaving the world deprived of all that India and its rich heritage has to offer.

So after we were finished with the Basilica Cistern, we saw some magnets and postcards (=Everyone sells magnets and postcard) and we went to have Doner Kebaps in the same place we’d seen before.

We had some Doner (=Turkish franky with no oil or sauce), Coffee (=Expresso Leggerimo with Arabica and other South American Varieties). This coffee had a few chocolates and coffee beans coated with chocolate as a side dish. Also we tasted apple chai (=Tea in Turkish is also called as Chai). It was the yummiest and they serve it in such small and cute cups with tiny tea spoons. There is sugar added and cubes also on the side.

After the long afternoon, we had a chilled out session in Room 203 accounting for the expenses (=My job 😛 :P). After which there was the dilemma of deciding the place where we could go out for dinner (=Remember there was lunch at Ozler this is still Day 1). We made a trip to the terrace, (=Our hotel to see if the restaurant was worth going to).

There was a balconey where you could go and sit in the cool evening air and smoke a Narghile (=Pronounced Nar-ghee-Le)

But the menu was very limited. You had to order certain sets like a full meal with an entree, a salad, a meat dish and some dessert. There was no two ways about it. But there prices were quoted in Euros (=Oh No!!) So we decided to skip it and go out exploring. The person who had helped us out in the Convenience store while buying Turkish Delights recommended a restaurant called ‘Balkan’ and gave us directions. We had a little bit of searching to do and it was in a lane that was being repaired (=Hey its not only India where there are dug up roads!!)

Balkan is a Self Service Restaurant meaning- U pick the dish from a limited range, The person serves, You pay per plate for what you order. And it turned out to be our cheapest meal of the whole journey (=:P :P).

So we had 2 chicken gravys, 2 plates of rice, 2 Ayrans, 2 Rice puddings (=Ah yes…yummy!!! All that sweet mixture with caramelized sugar on top!!!! :P) and the food was good.

  • Turns out in Turkey these types of restaurants are ‘Lowest of the Low’ where you have nobody to serve you, you pick and carry. But the place was clean, the food was good and inexpensive and the quantity was better than the other restaurants that waited on you hand and foot.

After our dinner, we made a trip to “Diva Discount Mart” which was our faithful cost saving provider where we picked up some Ayran, Water and Flavoured Milk for the tour ahead.

So thus concludes the 3 part ‘Day 1 in Istanbul’

 

Keep Tuned for further notes!!!

 

Basilica Cistern with its pillars

 

Fishes and Coins

 

Medusa upside down

Hagia Sophia – Musings in the Istanbul Rain


Day 1: 10th April 2011

 

After a sumptious lunch at Ozler, we retired to 203 because it had started raining. Spring as in all countries is marked by bare, leaf-less trees and newly blooming flowers. It is also marked by uncharacteristic rains and gloomy, cloudy skies. Travellers to London during the months of April and May will add that the gray skies (=How is it spelt again grAy or grEy..does it make a difference?) oh yea gray London skies add to the gloom.

Yes so we were in the room clicking pictures and waiting for the rains to stop. After a while we said, its going to rain for some time doesn’t mean we sit n twiddle our thumbs, we dont come to Turkey everyday (=As if!!! I wish we could, kya maze!!)

Yea so we went out on our own exploring Istanbul. Inquiries made at the reception yielded that the Topkapi Palace or Topkapi Sarayi is just 5 minutes from the hotel. So we headed out to explore.

But first things first. Thirsty explorers never make good writers or reporters. Water. From where but?? In a place with scant traces of English that too!!

Luckily for us there was a Convenience Store just opposite to our hotel (= I’m tellin you all good stuff was centred around our hotel and us!!!) So we picked up a bottle of water and also Turkish Delights which are sweets made with honey and dry fruits. My mum thought a white sweet with dry fruits resembled a sweet she used to eat from Armenia but it was not to be

 

Fact:  Turkish Delights or Lokum is a family of confections based on a gel of starch or sugar (=honey used mostly insetad of sugar). Premuim varieties consist of chopped dates, pistachio, hazelnuts or walnuts bound by gel. Now the shop we went to had Turkish Delights in flavours of Milk,Kiwi,Cherry+Pommegranate and Lemons (=Yummy!!)

Well we’d just landed in Turkey on a sunday so we were caught without any Turkish lira on hand. The people at the reception informed us that most change offices were closed on Sunday and it was better to get Euros changed there as compared to a bank because banks charge more commission.

So we didn’t have Lira to pay the Convenience Store lady. But she accepted euros and gave us change in Lira (=At a low exchange rate of 2TL per Euro). So we got our first Liras in hand.

 

Then we walked out to the main street where we saw tram lines and a tram station (=Gulhane Park). Also we could see that the skies had lifted. Right in front of us were the walls of the Topkapi Palace. It has been beautifully maintained because the Palace looks like its been cut out from another era. Also there were lot of pansies and tulips planted everywhere so the sidewalks were green and pretty.

 

We passed quite a few restaurants with their Menu’s displayed out and had a sales rep some out and try to bring us in.

But on learning that we were not going to eat there they left us with their menus.

 

The road to Hagia Sophia turns up the hill from the Topkapi Palace. On that way there were hotels, restaurants and shops selling leather items. My sister loved a goatskin jacket but its of no use in a place as hot and humid as Mumbai.

But we did have our first encounter with Turkish Kebabs (=Which are known as ‘Kebaps’). They don’t cook it the way we do in India. They have a whole load of meat on a skillet (=a stick…i love the fancy names) which keeps turning in circles. On one side is a coal-oven type thingie so the meat gets cooked in coal and gets a smoky flavour along with the juices and marinade which makes the whole thing way too tasty. When a side has browned enough, the Chef cuts pieces off (=just shaves the top layer off) and then it is served in different ways.

 

Also we found a change office that was open so we changed Euro to TL. There were more restaurants, shops selling tourist souvenirs, magnets, trinkelts etc etc. But we skipped all of that and came to the Sultanahmet Square where we entered the ‘Aya Sophia’.

There were two lines outside, one for people who already had a pass and for those who had to get a new pass. So we went in and charged the entry to the Credit Card. (=Aya Sophia Entrance Feesis 20TL per person quite a heavy sum)

 

Also there were audio guides available in a host of languages. The guy at the Audio Guide centre took one of our passports as some security (=duh what do we do with an audio guide??)

Now the Aya Sophia is a huge museum. It has a lower gallery and also an upper gallery. Plus it was a Church that was converted into a Museum in 1934. This is one of the best things that a country can do. Insteads of going into a dispute about whether it is a church or a mosque, open it to the public and preserve the heritage (=It would never work in India we’re too bothered about petty religion to see clearly)

 

So like our tourist brochure says, there are 50 points about which information is given in the audio guide. I’m not going to mention all the 50 we didnt see all either and the history behind it all overwhelms you especailly if you dont know much about it or you hate history. I’d prefer to settle for a guide. They know what they are talking about and often come cheaper. 😀

 

Giving a lot of information about the Aya Sophia is not necessary. So i’ll be detailing about the main things.

 

1.Historical Background

Aya Sophia was constructed as a Greek Orthodox Church in the year 360 during the rein of Emperor Constantinius. Due to riots in subsequent centuries, the church was burnt down twice. Also it had been destroyed by earthquakes, as a result of which many parts of domes were destroyed. The second church was commissioned by Emperor Theodosius II.

 

During the subsequent periods the walls were used to make Mosaics. During the Iconoplastic period, any Mosaic was supposed to be a form of idol worship. So Mosaics were destroyed or plastered over. In any case most of the Mosaics have stayed on for centuries pointing out to the artistic brilliance of those ages.

 

The Church was converted into a Mosque in 1453 when Sultan Mehmet II (=Also called Mehmet the Conqueror) laid siege to Istanbul then Constantinople and thus started an empire which would rule Turkey for decades (=Ottoman Empire)

 

2.Ottoman Calligraphy Plates:

After St. Sophia became ‘Ayasofya’ or a Mosque, there were gigantic circular framed disks or medallions inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. (Photo 2)

 

3. Mihrab and its Chandeliers: (Photo 3)

A Mihrab is something that is seen in all Mosque-Museums in Turkey. Islam believes that when Muslims pray, they should pray in the direction of Mecca. So a Mihrab is constructed pointing out the direction of Mecca. The Mihrab is superbly decorated with calligraphic inscriptions.

In the 16th century the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566) brought back two colossal candles from his conquest of Hungary. They are the two pillar like posts adorning the Mihrab.

 

4.Imperial Loggia (Photo 4)

In earlier times, the Sultans used to pray along with the common folks coming to the Mosque. But with the spread of territories and Islam, the number of followers increased thus necessitating a special chamber where the members of the Imperial Family could pray. The outer marble has been done up delicately with intricate carvings of metal which has been illuminated brilliantly by the Museum authorities.

 

5.Minbar (The golden door in Photo 5) 

The Minbar is a raised speaker’s stand where an Imam (=Leader of prayer or priest) stands to deliver sermons. It is also a symbol of authority.The Minbar is usually shaped like a small tower with a pointed roof and stairs leading up to it.

 

6.Deesis Mosaic

The Deesis Mosaic shows Christ along with Virgin Mary and John the Baptist on the Judgement Dayshowing the pain and suffering of the humans. It is the most destroyed of the Byzantine Mosaics with 3/4th being heavily damaged but is significant for the expressions on Mary and John’s faces.

 

7.Other Mosaics

There are many mosaics of Virgin Mary and Christ especially one at the entrance. There are also Mosaics of the various Emperors and Empresses making donations to the Church. Significant among these is is the Mosaic of Empress Zoe because she had many marriages and thus the face of the husband in the Mosaic kept changing!! (=Talk of keeping up with the times).There are also Mosaics of various priests.

 

8.Other Significant Sights

  • The Hagia Sophia Library is a sight in itself. It is said to have held more than 20000 scrolls and writings.
  • Also the unique architecture is such that it allowed the Architects to put in forty windows around the base of the dome. Hagia Sophia is famous for the mystical quality of light that reflects everywhere in the interior of the nave.
  • There are also inscriptions from the Synod period dated 1166 as well as a Sarcophagus (=A funeral case for the corpse) of St Irene.
  • There are underground Cisterns that used to supply water when needed.
  • The Marble Water Jars date from the Hellenistic Period(=When the Greek influence was at its peak)
  • There is an Imperial Fountain where ceremonies used to take place. It is beautifully decorated.
  • There is a ‘Medresse’ or a religious school where children are trained to be Imams (=I hope i’m getting it right.

So after this hugely historical tour we photographed the tulips and rested our tired legs. Then we returned the audio guide (=We need our passports back!!) and made our way to the Basilica Cistern.

 

The Hagia Sophia looks red and majestic from the outside. It is a true spectacle of art surviving through the ages and

the brilliant tactical move of converting places of worship into centres of knowledge.

 

Coming Up: Yerebatin Cistern, Second Day Tour,Exploring Istanbul

 

(p.s i hope the background was informative)

 

The large dome

 

A view from the Upper Gallery Ottoman Plates in Green

 

Mihrab in all its splendour

 

The Imperial Loggia

 

The Minbar is the golden entrance in the pic

 

The Deesis Mosaic

 

Hagia Sophia from outside

Bangalore Masti-Lalbag and Around


20th April 2010: Bangalore, India
The day dawned bright and clear. We decided to roam about today and also visit a few relatives and friends. We started the day with breakfast at MTR’s. This is the famous one which has the amazing Badaam milk and all the super ready to eat mixes. We did not explore Bangalore in our Civi, instead opting for an Innova because a Metro was being constructed in Bangalore too as a result of which a lot of roads were blocked or closed and we didn’t know all the small lanes which couldn’t be navigated using a scale map.
It was a good idea because traffic in Bangalore is messy and unregulated with people driving like maniacs without adequate signals. It takes a trip to other cities to see that our relentless criticism about Mumbai is unwarranted and the city does fare well on a lot of indicators especially traffic discipline.
MTR looks like a shabby place from the outside, not some place you would notice while driving past anyway. The inside is like a typical small town hotel teleported to a big metro. But despite its appearance, a lot of people frequent it and morning breakfasts are enjoyed with friends and a regular camaraderie with the waiters and staff.
Finally Breakfast:We settled for some tasty rava idli and some upma and kesari bhat(=typical menu). After all that, we decided to have some delicious fruit salad. The waiter who waited on our table was a smiley guy who made us feel jolly and nice. Often we rate a restaurant on the overall experience of which interaction with staff and ambiance forms a major part. If the waiter is smiley then it makes our day even without us realising it. So on this waiter(=his name was Sundar, like how he way all smiley and jolly) This fruit salad was a lot of fruits, custard, the all famous badaam milk, dry fruits and jelly!! Pure delight!!! Plus the rava idlis came along with fragrant ghee. It’s astonishing to see that in South India most of the dishes come along with ghee which improves the taste of the dish and gives satiety to the person. After a super delicious breakfast we left for LalBag

LalBag: Lalbag Botanical Gardens are spread over 240 acres of land This huge space has so many different varieties of plants in it. It has a bonsai display, a horticultural section, an indoor plants section , a decorative plants section, a lake…..!!! But most of the displays and exhibits were closed because it was not the best season to visit. If you really want to visit Bangalore then the ideal time would be January or August because then you can see all the exhibits at the Botanical Gardens.

Now because LalBag is so big, it has 4 gates so that you can enter from any direction,(=i agree its a great route for a morning walk bt not so for a tourist). Sensing this difficulty, the Gardens have arranged for a small van(=electronic van, no pollution) and a guide who’ll take us around all the locations in about an hour so what would take you days to explore on your own by foot is covered in an hour. Smart!!


Our first stop was the LalBag Glasshouse. This is the place where they hold all the flower shows. After that, we made our way to the Lake which had a lot of birds circling it. The gulmohar trees on one side of the lake were in full bloom. Opposite the lake there were black bamboo trees specially imported from Japan. The best feature of LalBag was that they imported internationally known varieties of plants and were constantly pruning the plants and maintaining the park. Also there were many dustbins around all which looked like tree stumps and animals so that there was no littering. One thing i could observe was that this park was maintained superbly and that people did not litter it as they did in parks and roads in Mumbai.
After that, we saw the specially trimmed bushes so that they looked like birds. Also there were birds who were drinking water from an open pipe which was great because the weather was absolutely beastly and hot. We also saw trees which were 100,150 and 200 years old which surprised us because it must have been excellent foresight and planning that they planted so many trees and made gardens long time back. Research yielded that this garden was commissioned during the reign of Tipu Sultan, one of India’s greatest kings.

Then we drove past the indoor plants section and also the horticultural section. There were so many departments and research labs which showed that research personnel were very much-needed for essential jobs like maintaining and the upkeep of gardens.

After that, we ended our tour with the final destination, the Kempegowda temple on top of a hill there. It is said that you can view the entire city of bangalore from here. All in all our trip to LalBag showed su how plants and trees are important for cities and also are a sight for sore eyes. Superbly maintained plants and flowering trees make good viewing!!!!

Coming up Next: Relative visits, our apartment and Art of Living Ashram

 

Exploring Mysore-BLog World Meets Real World.


18th April 2010: Mysore, Karnataka, India
My father is an active blogger and one of his friends from bloggerspace is Mr Swaroop Kagli. We made plans to meet him and take him out to lunch. After exploring the Lalita Mahal, we met him somewhere near his place and he took us to a restaurant called Olive Garden. There was a private party going on there so we had to go from another way. I wished we could sit in the private party after all we were dressed for it(=coz everyone in the party was wearing a sari n i and mum had worn some nice indian dresses). We got a nice seat and ordered some tasty starters and some yummy food. For dessert we had fried ice cream. I was not feeling well, a little drained out but the ice cream made me feel good. We ordered another one.

After lunch, we clicked photos. There were monkeys hopping here and there and creeping to see if they could get any food. There was one naughty monkey who was drinking water from the water pump on top of the kitchen. Inquiries yielded that the tank was used to supply water to the toilets and for washing utensils which was alright. Atleast it did not make it to the food.

After that we dropped Swaroop outside his building which looked swank, and then we made our way to the hotel. From Swaroop we learnt a lot about Mysore and about what he does. Swaroop has a photo blog you see so we were very interested.
Also a fact is that we take whichever place we live in for granted, because whenever anyone comes and asks us what we have to see, we usually can’t think of anything. But for visitors its a whole new experience. Through visitors eyes you see your locality or city in an entirely different view.We also visited Swaroop’s House which was a very cosy home in this fastly expanding city. There we met his mother and sister and one of his relatives who had come over. His mother had made excellent juice for us. It was nice meeting them and we enjoyed there. Sachi learnt that monkeys used to visit Swaroop’s veranda and made a request to keep one for her. She loves monkeys and wanted to keep one as a pet.
It was really nice to see that a friendship which sprung up in bloggerspace translated into a meeting and a friendship that is bound to last for years to come. Through blogs a lot of people get to know each other and its a great way to project your ideas and have discussions. Now that i have my own blog i can really relate. I’d want to travel to some place and meet up a friend from the Blog world too 😀 😀

Coming Up Next: They Mysore Palace,Goodbye Mysore

Fried Ice Cream.My dad and Swaroop.

Exploring Mysore-A trip in the colonial times.


18th April 2010, Mysore, Karnataka, India
Today we decided to explore Mysore. Our first stop was breakfast at the hotel where we were staying. Like always the breakfast menu was the same (=Sada dose, Set dosa, Masala dosa and the like). After that,we went off to the Chamundeshwari temple which was on top of a hill. We had to navigate a bit and ask people for directions but we ultimately made it alright there.There was a welcome gate like all other dwars we had seen all along our journey. There were signs at corners which told us to enjoy the views of Mysore seen from above the hill.

When we did reaCH the temple, we had another obstacle at hand, How to park the car. This parking lot was the most chaotic and disorganised lot i have ever seen. Cars and buses parked in any direction with little or no place for others to park, some which are parked so treacherously that the blocked the main approach road. It was a mess!!! Finally we did manage to find a decent parking space and we left for the temple. Also we noticed a large demon holding a snake and a large knife at the entrance, There were also a lot of stalls selling wooden items.( I must have forgotten but there were shops selling wooden items in the temple complex. I remember some of my playthings being from here when we had visited long time back.)
There were also a lot of monkeys on the trees with some mothers holding their babies. Although i find adult monkeys repulsive, the babies are rather cute and pink.
The Chamundeshwari temple was beautifully carved and had intricate work done. There were different levels with different idols of gods and goddesses. But much to our chagrin, there was a huge huge line encircling the temple. We certainly had picked a wrong day to come here, a Sunday. But have no fear, the temple authorities are here. There is a provision for people who want to see the temple quickly, of course you have to cough up money for that, 100 bucks a person. That goes to the temple for its upkeep(i hope) and the impatient devotees can see the temple fast. We did just that. As luck would have it, we were just in time for the Aarti. We got a quick darshan of the devi and then went to another small idol where the bhatmam handed us the most fragrant and sweet smelling kumkum i’ve ever smelt. Then after a round of the temple complex, we headed out. At the time we got the darshan, another bhatmam handed us a garland (=just our luck!!). Since we couldn’t keep it anywhere, we fed the leaves and flowers to one of the calves sitting outside. Its cute, when you hold it near their nose, they smell it, come close to you and then eat it. they might even lick you!! Its very sweet.
After having some tender coconut water and buying a beautiful picture of the goddess and a rubix cube (= we need something to do on the journey, mobile games are just not enough!!)

Then we made our way to Nandi hill. This is approachable if you take a separate turning while going to the Chamundeshwari temple. The Nandi hill has a huge Nandi who according to Hindu Mythology is Lord Shiva’s Escort. There was also a temple up the hill but it was a long way off. So we decided to skip that. There was a person selling small idols and we got 8 idols of Lord Ganesh which were very tiny and cute!!(=i guess God would faint if the word got out that i found idols cute!! lol)

Then we decided to head out to the Lalita Mahal Palace. The Lalita Mahal is the second largest palace in Mysore and is situated near the Chamundi hills (=wikipedia’d this bit). We decided to check the place out. And then we found out that we could explore the inside of the palace too but we had to buy entry tickets (=Rs 250 per head). This was a summer palace for the Queen and is now a hotel. Its a really good thing that most palaces are converted into hotels. Not only does it attract foreign tourists, but it also preserves the palace. The Lalita Mahal Palace is the only palace i know to be built entirely of WOOD. yes hard to believe but its true!! Its built of wood and done and preserved very well. Once we got the tickets, the guard at the palace led us into a corridor and served us tea.(=i had tea everyone else had coffee!!It was elaichi tea yummy!!) We spoke with one of the men who took care of the souvenir shop and he said that the current CM of Karnataka was doing a very good job. Every year it seems a sum of 1 crore (=yeah i know) was allocated to every village for the development and for celebration of festivals (=smart since festivals will spur the domestic economy and stimulate demand in the village for a lot of commodities). Also the BJP had a super big majority.
Anyway, we saw some people from the Orient coming(=either they are chinese o japanese i can’t appear prejudiced i just didnt know which country they came from).

Discovery:The lift at the Lalita Mahal Palace is one of the 2 oldest lifts in India and also its very well maintained. It looks very quaint. There is also a huge wooden elephant opposite the reception table. There is also a quaint horse carriage much like the victorian times.Once we went inside the first things we noticed or rather we were told to notice were the Raja Ravi Verma Paintings. The paintings are almost lifelike and these paintings seriously compete with the art in countries like Italy and France where Medieval Renaissance took the medium of Art and Paint. The ring and other accessories painted looked life like. There was also a banquet hall which had an air of the old times. You could actually imagine the old times when the queen held balls there and people were dancing on the floor.(=dreaming dreaming).
Also much to our delight, there was one person cleaning one of the rooms. We really wanted to see the rooms and how it would be to see a super deluxe suite. And we did get our wish. The beds looked so beautiful and the bathroom was so grand. I would really like to stay one night here in the room and play the role of a queen. We had to quickly see the room and leave else the worker would get into trouble. Near the staircase, there were 2 stuffed animals, one of a tiger and one of a lion. There was also a long grandfather clock. Imagine the old times when the queen must have roamed with her servants!!!When we were coming out, we were told that there was an ex-minister of Karnataka state who was coming and we saw him getting a ride in the Victorian Carriage. Luck man, be a minister and get to sit in carriages and rest on fancy beds!!

This was followed by lunch and a trip to the Mysore Palace. Which continues in the next note.

Next Episode: Mysore Palace, Cyberworld Meets Real World!!!

one of the carvings

the temple.Nandi HillLalita Mahal Palace.the Victorian Carriage

Welcome Mysore-Vrindavan Gardens


17th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India


Mysore was like a breath of fresh air for us. We’d not expected Mysore to be how it was.For us Mumbaikars, we’re used to polluted, congested areas and absurd traffic with horrendous roads. Mysore is called the ‘City of Palaces’ and so true. At every corner we could see palaces which were used as offices for the Municipality or as hospitals and they were maintained superbly. Also Mysore is a small city so navigation was not difficult (=not taking credit from the planners, its amazingly well planned with lots of trees).

After the rest at the hotel and some snacks, we set out to the Vrindavan Gardens which is built on the sides of the Krishnasagar Dam. It is also famous for its Magical Dancing fountains which dance when a song is played (=kind of like what we had seen in Madikeri except on a larger scale). There was a lot of rush in and around the gardens. Plus it was a weekend and they only have the fountain show on weekends. So the greater crowds. Also there was this real funny scene which happened when we were going. My dad was parking the car and at the same time there was a Santro who was parking in the lane where i was standing. Now this car had 3 ppl who were sitting in it,1 sitting behind. And while reversing, the guy sitting behind didn’t even look out to see where the car was going and they crashed into the steps. And the person sitting in front was giving me a look as if i should have warned when i was not paying attention to them. It was so funny.

The Vrindavan Gardens play the musical fountains only on weekends which draws in a lot of crowd. At about 5:30 when we entered there were about 5000-10000 people in the garden, roaming and going to the place where the fountains were located. I’d never seen such a crowd before. This was really huge. In college festivals and other events, we often exaggerate the footfalls but here i actually experienced what it was like to be in a crowded place (believe me the Mumbai crowds are nothing compared to the crowds here). The garden is beautifully maintained, whatever little we saw of it. Everywhere we looked we could only see people. The garden has different levels and is divided into 2 halves by a stream of water. Near the steps, the water flows like a waterfall. Its beautiful. Plus the water was always spraying off and if you got close by then you could get wet. But this made the weather very pleasant. There wasn’t much we could do because there were so many people and we couldn’t risk getting lost.
We asked one of the guards directions to the musical fountains and got a picture clicked with him.


The light was fading fast. We learnt from the guard that even though walking on the dam is very scenic but they had to stop it after a string of suicides. The top of the dam had pretty lamps with intricate carvings. The sky was darkening and there were lot of nice patterns. We slowly made our way towards the food stalls. All of us had sugarcane juice (=nothing like ganna juice to refresh you) and Sachi had a mango milkshake. After that we had some gobhi manchurian and then made our way to the fountains. There is a bridge which connects the fountains and the main gardens. The water there was very dirty with a lot of garbage in it, I don’t understand people’s mentalities when they throw garbage here and not anywhere at their houses or in foreign countries. Simply infuriating.


Through the crowd, we made our way, through some more poorly maintained gardens and through a maze of people. It was like we didn’t have to walk, we were simply pushed there. We could hear music coming from somewhere and we walked in the direction of the sound. and then we saw the fountains. Huge and swirling, these were big. There was an amphitheatre where ppl were sitting and watching the spectacle. Since we’d seen the fountains at Madikeri with a lot lesser crowd, we were not spectacularly impressed. Although some of the swirls were fabulous the rest was pretty ordinary, I guess the law of diminishing marginal utility played its role.
Once the crowd lessened, we went and sat on the seats they had made. Since it was windy that day, the fountain was tilted because of the wind. Each song plays for 15 mins with a 5 min break ad they play 6 songs in total, So even if you’re late, you still get to watch it. After watching 2 songs, we left. We had to leave from a different route. This was a route through a canopy of trees. During this time we witnessed a super spectacle, lightning in the sky. I’ve never seen flashes of lightning before like this, we were so stunned. Bright red copper streaks in the sky!! It was sheer delight. We just paused and watched, waiting for more. This time it was easier crossing the bridge as there were fewer people. There were also ppl throwing garbage into the water which struck me as being immensely immature. We even reprimanded 2 girls. There was 1 guy who tried to defend them but his arguments lost steam.
We got into the car and left for our hotel. The sky was lit up by the occasional flashes of lightning and the winds indicated rain that night. The drive back was uneventful. We decided to have dinner at a Pizza Place and had delicious pizza. We even saw the person make the pizza. It was great fun.
We were tired and slept soundly.

Coming up next: Mysore Explorers
A weird formation in the sky