Thursday, 27 March 2014

so, where am I now?

Or rather, what have I been doing over the last three weeks?

It's been hectic.    Two workshops at the beginning of the month.   Shed loads of paperwork and admin to deal with.    Prep for my summer workshops, and gathering all the bits and pieces for the two workshops I am taking at the Quilters' Guild AGM in two weeks time.

basket of bags - part of the student's pack
and I cannot possibly say what is inside!

a surprise package from the postman

a package from Australia

way back in November I was asked to submit
an article on shisha for the World of Quilts - India.
which is included  with the Down Under Quilts magazine
 thank you!

Not a lot of stitching going on, one or two pieces sort of on the go when I have a spare minute or two!   The dye pots are busy dyeing yarn, cotton and felt.   It's heads down for
the next week, and then I will resurface and serious get stitching again.

lastly, I just have to post this

I love travelling on Indian Rail.   Overnight trips are great - interesting fellow passengers, or not.   In the morning you are woken to cries of chai, chai, or coffee, coffee.   The country side whizzes by.  If you are getting off at the end of the line no problem, if not, keep your eyes peeled lest you miss your station.

This time we travelled to Mumbai from Ahmedabad, no stopping train for us, but the Duronto Express.   We left just before midnight and arrived at our destination by 6.00am
The coach attendant handed out the Laundry Bag to passengers.  Crisply ironed sheets and pillow case (or 'face towel')  together with a bottle of mineral water.  Bed made up with a cosy blanket on top made for a perfect night's sleep.

Thank you for following my Indian adventures.   Some might have found them tedious!   Since we now seem to find ourselves out in the wilds far away from Internet access, and it takes some time when I get home to sort out the blog, I am thinking I might just set up another blog  just for my travels.

Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary

Up early and ready to go, except after our little night excursion, we found three punctures in one tyre, which only took an hour to mend!

We could see the large lake in the distance, a few more miles through winding country lanes and we were there.

breakfast time

village taxi

Down to the lake, where our 'country' boat awaited.   I was not too sure about that, but it would have been ridiculous to sit on the bank.  Luckily a slightly larger vessel appeared.  How to describe it?!!!   Well, think fibreglass structure, very low in the water, and propelled by punting.   Fortunately the waters of Nalsarover Lake are shallow.  We arranged ourselves
on plastic matting placed on the deck, and off we went.  Not quite Venice, but lovely.

the crew

fishermen unloading and sorting their catch

lunch - and they were delicious

lake temple

and so we just glided along  it was a beautiful experience
so quiet and peaceful 

there were thousands of flamingoes
these are getting restless, they have seen us!

I got a bit carried away taking photos of reflections of reeds
it was mesmerising, watching the shapes change as we passed by

reeds being gathered for cattle food

doing the laundry

Back on dry land again after a dreamy hour on the lake.

Fish for lunch, of course.   Packing to do, we leave for Mumbai tonight.

The Little Rann

North of Dhrangadhra lies a land of salt farms, heat mirages, flamingos and other migrating birds, plus the Khur or Asiatic wild ass.    I visited here with my sister Aly in 2009, can it be that long ago!    (see blog post 16.02.09)

I had to take Keith to see the Asiatic wild ass, and whatever else that might be there.  

a boat

which is a strange thing to see in the middle of no where
there are loads of grass covered islands, know as bets, which, during the
monsoon season really do become islands again    when the waters rise
fishermen take boats out and go fishing for shrimps

So that was just a taster.  Next visit we must go stay in the Koba huts again!

Well, all that salty air means a chai stop on the way home

local village warrior stones

In the evening Mr. Singh took us out on a night safari.   I thought it was around the grounds, but it turned out to be his farm, not so far away.  So off we set, with torches, stumbling through the undergrowth, lots of scuffles and strange noises!  We were looking for night jars or hares.  Think they might have gone to bed.  Then there was great excitement,
two porcupines, never seen here before.   Very ghostly looking.  A frog and a nilgli (also know as a Blue Bull) made an appearance as we walked through a field of fodder, which smelt sweet and delicious.  

A stroll around the gardens of OBGH, we could hear a Little Spotted Owl.  
But, enough, time for bed.   We are going on a boat trip tomorrow.

putting my feet up!

Keith and Samshu set off at 6.00 on their journey to Velavadar National Park, home of the Black Buck, and so much more.   It's beautiful, but I have been there before.   A lazy day for me instead I think.

I sorted my photographs, caught up with my Journal, read my book (The Strangler Vine by 
M.J.Carter, based on the East India Company and The Thugees mid 19c) sitting with my feet up on the balcony looking out on the jungley garden.

Watched a whirlwind/ tornado travelling at great speed across farmland.   Fascinating - either dark or light depending on what it picked up.   There were many whirly things flying in the air.

An invitation for evening drinks with Thakore Sahab Rajah P.S. Jhada of Sayla, best kurta I think.   He is such a lovely gentleman and host.   Indeed, it was a great honour to be invited.

the Durbar Hall

the royal throne

our host and his son, owner of The Old Bell Guest House

It was a wonderful evening.  Tales told, songs sung, all in great company   One of the delights of our travels.  We have a vague plan to start with, but then amazing things happen which could not be imagined, and not knowing where you are going or who you will meet along the way!    The Durbar Hall is full of interest.  In the past it must have magnificent, and you can just close your eyes and imagine the gatherings held here.    

the company

Sunday, 23 March 2014

on the road again

this time heading for Sayla in Gujarat, via The Glass Works,
and I have to admit I was very excited about this.   It seems
to have taken years to track down one place that blows
glass which is used for shisha

hidden down a lane, here it is at last

we had to phone ahead to get permission to call and were greeted by
the son of the owner who was very nice.   His father was relaxing on
a charpoi (day bed) in a nice sunny area between the factory and the
'reception area'.   Shoes off.  Shoes on again to enter.    We asked if
we could take photos.   Father became more than irate, and his son
apologised.   My undercover photographer managed to get one
shot, using his camera behind  his back!   Perhaps we were thought
to be industrial spies?!!  The factory was quiet, no blasted furnaces
or glass blowers hard at work.

so what we have here is a pile of blue molten glass, broken 
in to lumps - top right is the edge of the kiln    

A duffer's guide to glass making  

You need silica sand to which is added sodium carbonate and calcium oxide.  Lead oxide
can be added depending on the intended purpose - it produces sparkle.  Other chemical are included to produce colour

Place the mixture in a heat resistant crucible.  The mixture will melt at temperature ranging from 1500 to 2500 c.  Stir to remove bubbles.  At this stage I believe the molten glass is placed in a large mold and broken up when cold.   A method used by Egyptians.

As far as I can make out, the factory only goes into production when orders are placed.   The kiln would be fired up, a selected lump of glass, taken from one of the piles of different colours, heated up in a small crucible and then blown;  coloured  and mirrored glass for inlay or mosaic work.  To produce mirror glass, it is first blown, then melted zinc is poured inside.     For shisha it is sold in big pieces to be cut up elsewhere.

the chimney which must roar out smoke when in full production

These little sparkly mirrors have fascinated me for a very long time!   Over the years I have been told that they are not made any more, probably because the only mirrors available in the UK were the thick machine cut embroidery mirrors.   This set me off on the trial.   Trying to source coloured shisha the general opinion was they only appear if the firing has gone wrong.  Truth to tell, the glass is coloured, zinc added.  Result coloured mirror glass.

Researching the history of shisha on Google or in books comes up with the same information, some of which I now question.   Enough!

at the end of our visit the son gave me two big pieces of silver and gold mirror glass

on the road to Sayla

ladies bringing home feed for their cattle

bunches of bamboo stalks being sold by the road side

and they do fantastic flags
seen flying at temples large and small

We arrived at Sayla as the sun set.   It had been a long and interesting day.

The Old Bell Guest House shone like a beacon through the jungly garden.  Time for slurps, and a few days of relaxation.

Friday, 21 March 2014

a jolly day out

We planned to stay in Udaipur for a couple of day before heading off to Gujarat.   By a wonderful coincidence my friend Nancy and her husband Michael arrived in Udaipur for a short stay.   They were staying in the same hotel, in fact, three rooms down from us.

We had supper on the roof, exchanging news, breakfast together in the morning when we put together a plan for a little excursion to Akola to visit the block printers.

a fellow traveller - you might just be able to see his turban matches the bullocks' horns

we had a slight diversion due to road works, and came upon a lovely village 

Nancy and me standing in front of this

an old haveli in much need of a little care and attention
but still beautiful in a shabby chic sort of way


blue door

repairing the roof

After the delightful stopover, legs stretched, we set off on the road to Akola.    Not so far from our destination, Nancy spotted activity behind a hedge!    We stopped to find rinsing of block printed cloth going on.

obviously indigo cloth!  the gentleman was giving it a good
old bash, and if you look closely you will see he has only
half his right leg   quite amazing

the rinsing water is channelled away through the fields, watched by a goat
in case you are wondering, I throw my exhausted vat over the garden
and my plants are quite happy!

leaning over the well this old wheel set in a forked 
piece of wood  - used for threading the rope through
to pull up the water

Akola and the block printers

a pot of turmeric ready for printing

boy sieving mud for dhabu paste, whilst checking his phone

the entrance to Mr. Pintoo and Rakesh
Bherulai Chhipa (chhipa - member of the block
printing community)

Oops, Keith managed to catch me coming of
the showroom clutching a bag!

A perfect day in good company.

Notes:   I haven't included pix ofblock printed fabric this time, but if you are interested in the process, together with tie dyeing,  Keith has put together a series of photos taken at various block printers and dyers we've spent time with in Rajasthan.

For the eagle eyed.   One reader has already asked the question - why the sock?!!
Well, we had a little accident in the jeep when leaving the bogged down car.   No mention made until we told the boys on our return home.    The steering rod broke and we ended up in a ditch.    Sitting in the front, I had a few bruises and put my back out, which is a mere nothing compared with Keith.  He slid along the back seat and came in contact with the roll bar.   We were with the head man's son so help arrived quickly.   Keith was taken to hospital and had thirty-six stitches in his ear.   All fine now.   We were very lucky.

The turban swap photo had to be photoshopped to remove any sign of bandage.   Blast, I forgot about my sock!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

retail therapy

Back at Lake Pichola Hotel, early morning the fisherman are busy


Breakfast done - vegetable cutlets, stuffed pakora and curd, yum, we are all set up for a little shopping. 

Samshu arrives in his tuk tuk and we are off.   Whilst Keith and Samshu arrange train tickets from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, I popped into the Majestic Emporium, great name!
This is a very overdue visit.   I've known the owner for years, and since he has had this shop
I have been invited to step inside.  Well, you know how it is.    Arriving, leaving, meeting people, no time.    So, I made time, and purchased this rather fine wrap.

a beautifully soft silk with an outrageous patterned piece
on the other side.   Rows and rows of running stitch, it drapes
nicely and is a delight to wear.  Made by ladies from Pakistan.

a small tin trunk - I simply cannot come home without
some kind of metal item.    I am working up to a 
really large trunk one day.  However, this little one
was a perfect container for something special.

Keith and Samshu went gentleman shopping, so I relaxed
in the tuk tuk and watched the world go by.

I love this window, and with a little adjustment, I managed
to get rid of most of the electric wires all over the wall.
They looked like massed spiders' nests.

Just down the lane is the vegetable market - this lady asked me to take a 
photo of her and her baby.  I will give her a copy when I return in the Autumn.

Meanwhile, I spied this magnificent Sadhu.  He was not a small man!


My man bought me a plain silver chain and another silver bracelet,
this one has camels on it.   Those who know me will not be surprised,
though I am thinking I need a longer arm!

Oh look, more wood blocks!  
who could resist?
and Ileyas made a gift of my very own block

we had lunch in between shopping with Samshu's family
and finished up watching the sun set over Lake Pichola

nice day

To Udaipur

As far as Indian journeys go, this one was quite leisurely.  Only three hours driving time and on roads that are not plagued with mad lorry drivers.  Plenty of time to stop, just to look plus, of course, the necessary cup of chai.

the back window of our car   it seems to have a passion for collecting labels
last November the police 'borrowed' it for the election campaign, so it was
sporting an 'Official Election Car' sticker and the necessary red light on roof
this time we have a sticker from the film company, Car No 031, this caused
quite a lot of excitement when we stopped.   I just had to wear my dark
glasses, travelling incognito, don't you know. 
I wonder if the collection will have multiplied by our return in October

this is a typical rural scene in Rajasthan.  It's a water well.  The two
two cows walk round and round drawing the water which is pumped
on to the fields.  Note the lady sitting on a little seat,  encouraging
the cows to keep on going, and the man, just checking!

So, we stopped here and there, and eventually to stretch
our legs and have a cup of refreshing chai.   You might gather that I
love chai, which is strange as I do not drink tea at home!

A bus pulled up for a rest break,  hmm, chai and nibbles time for the passengers.

what to eat?  

 a little rest in the fresh air

and then it is time to get back on the bus

only another hour to go for us, and we are back in Udaipur for three days