Voyages

For Halloween, Go to The Lucky Restaurant and See The Husain Painting in the Graveyard

lucky restaurant1If you are in Ahmedabad and you don’t know where to celebrate Halloween, that would be an amazing coincidence, but why not try this bizarre snack bar called The (New) Lucky Restaurant and eat among the graves? You can find it in the area of Lal Darwaja, not far from the old center of the city and next to the famous Sidi Saiyad mosque and its even more famous tree-shaped Jali!

 Fifty years ago, a tea stall was situated next to a Muslim graveyard but it was so successful that the owners decided to extend it among the tombs and neem trees.

lucky restau

Neem tree and graves

Today, the graves are painted green and surrounded by railings. They are respectfully cleaned and decorated everyday as they are the highlight of the tea joint. But whose graves are these? After searching on the internet, I read they might date back from the 16th century and were supposed to belong to the family of a Sufi.

lucky restaurant3

Croque-monsieur among the dead…

 I went there in a morning with my friend Shubbhra and we had a dosa and a delicious grilled sandwich. We were sitting by a lovely range of tombs! If you want to improve your French, it is funny to notice that the grilled sandwich I ate is a kind of snack which exists in France too. It is actually called croque-monsieur, ( croque = munch) ! And by the way, it also sounds like another French word croque-mort, (mort = dead), which is nothing less than an undertaker! ( French undertakers were supposed to bite the thumbs of the corpses to check they were really dead!)

Well, if you don’t want to try the lucky “croque-monsieur”, I heard maska buns were the best. (warm buns with butter…). The chai is also really famous for its inimitable chocolate aftertaste. The fresh mango juice is thick and yummy!

lucky restaurant4

by MF Husain for the Lucky Restaurant

 However, my friend and me didn’t even notice the highlight of the place, the gold icing on the jalebi; a real picture by Maqbool Fida Husain himself hanging on one of the walls! We didn’t know a masterpiece was in the restaurant then! The great painter loved going there and he was friend with the first owner Mohammad. He said that place gave him “a feeling of death and life”, a kind of carpe diem sensation. He made a picture and gave it to the restaurant in 2004. Well,to my mind, it looks a bit like a poster for a Tunisian travel agency but I heard it cost a great deal of rupees!

Stories are told about the great costumer: it is said the painter used to come there barefoot. Other rumors say bottles of tea from the Lucky Restaurant were ordered to be taken by friends especially for him while he was self-exiled in Dubai!

 Now, the last question is: Are you ready to have lunch among the dead? In Ahmedabad, some people say they feel the presence of God thanks to the shrines and some others go there every morning to spend an auspicious moment providing luck for the rest of the day… so now, you know why this teashop is called The Lucky Restaurant!

For further reading, you can go to Oddity Central or Live Mint.

Click on the photo to see where there are from.

And to finish, the rules of the restaurant pinned on the wall. I can’t read Gujarati but I know the last rule is “Don’t fight with the waiters!”

lucky restaurant2

Categories: Gujarat, India in pictures, Kitchen, Museum, Voyages | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Funny little Gujarati things…

When you stay for a few weeks in Gujarat, you can see such funny little things:

FUN13

Monkey sending a text…

ET’s House! (Baroda)

FUN3

Monsoon Bike…

FUN4

Don’t spit in shopping malls! (Ahmedabad)

FUN5

The bin is speaking… (Baroda)

FUN7

Hrithik Roshan makes you write…

FUN8

Resting dog… (Ahmedabad)

FUN9

Hi!

FUN11

Dusty bike!

FUN14

Modi wall painting (Ahmedabad)

FUN15

A lady giving birth on the wall of a temple… (Patna)

Categories: Fun!, Gujarat, Voyages | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Adalaj Step-Well: A Sandstone Jewel near Ahmedabad

Adalaj Stepwell

Adalaj Step-well

I stayed for three weeks in Gujarat last summer. A place I wouldn’t have had the idea to go to if I hadn’t had my friend Shubhra living in Ahmedabad. She took me to a must-see: Adalaj Step-well.

Gujarat is the state of step-wells; they call them « Vav ». Basically, step-wells are water tanks which collect the rain. The water was used for anything in the village, from cooking to religious rituals. There are about 120 step-wells in Gujarat. They were meeting places where rich and poor, men and women, villagers and caravan travellers went to, to get water, to enjoy the coolness of the depth or to pray under the carvings of hindu gods.

The vav I saw in Adalaj was one of them. You have to imagine that construction as a kind of underground five-storey building ending in a sort of staircase which gets deeper en deerper and which is decorated with hindu and muslim carvings: flowers and geometrical symbols for Islam, gods, animals and people in their daily lives for Hinduism and Jainism. The more you walk down, the darker and cooler it is. The water is still, mysterious, silverlike, and glittering with lucky coins at the bottom.

Shubhra told me the interesting legend of its construction and this legend itself epitomizes the usual Hindu-Islamic mixture you often find in Indian architecture:

In the late 15th century, a king called Rana Veer Singh decided to have a well built for his people who suffered from drought. The construction started but unfortunately, muslim Mahmud Begada, attacked Rana’s army and killed him. The muslim conqueror had taken Rana’s land but he also wanted to take his widow Rani. She didn’t refuse the proposal but she asked Mahmud to finish the step-well before the wedding. Once Mahmud had granted her wish, she knew her people was safe and to remain faithful to her dead husband, she ran to the step-well and threw herself from the top.

Now, even if the presence of the tourists inside the well deprives you of enjoying the freshness and the silence of olden days, the park surrounding the monument is the perfect place to have a nap under a frangipani tree or to have a picnic on the lawn. However, don’t think you could flirt with your sweetheart between the twisted arms of the large banyan because we saw on our way back, a group a policemen, sticks in hands, going to chase the shameless lovers!

A few pictures:

622

MTI playing the full with a broom...

MTI playing the rani with…a broom…

 

Hindu carvings

Hindu carvings

Banyan tree in the park

Frangipani tree in the park

640

Categories: A Piece of Myself, Gujarat, India in pictures, Voyages | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Harry Potter on the Walls of Old Bikaner…

Strange sight…

Categories: Cinema, India in pictures, Voyages | Tags: | Leave a comment

Meeting Animals in India

Everybody knows that humans and animals live close to each other in India, and sometimes they even share the same places, the same houses and the same feelings.

One likes animals because animals look like us and at the same time, they don’t judge us and have the innocence of young children. I met some of them during my only but wonderful trip to India.

All the pictures were taken by myself. Click on them to see them bigger.

1- In this photo, the animal is on the left. A beautiful and peaceful zebu walking in the streets of Nawalgarh. The creature next to him is not a strange colourful bird but an old lady who was very “successful” during our trip in India. I think Indian people still remember her. No wonder Westerners have the reputation for being indecent  when old ladies dress like punks to go to Asia!

White zebu and garish woman

White zebu and garish woman

2- This man looks perpexed, as well as the monkey at his feet. What are they pondering on? What are they looking at? I was there but I don’t remember anything wrong…

Agra's Red Fort (2011)

Agra’s Red Fort (2011)

3- I was on the air-conditioned bus when I saw this man who wanted to show us his monkey against money. It was just before entering Uttar Pradesh, in the traffic jams. The monkey was lucky as some of us had bananas. But as you can see, the owner was not as satisfied as the poor animal.

Monkey Tamer near Uttar Pradesh

Monkey Tamer near Uttar Pradesh

4- In Pushkar, monkeys go free on the ghats of the sacred lake. They don’t mind pujas or holy bathing. They are attracted to the rose petals which float on the water. Brahmanes try so chase them by casting stones at them but they keep on coming back. (Do you remember my article about Pushkar?)

Monkeys on the ghats of Pushkar

Monkeys on the ghats of Pushkar

5- Less dangerous, goats are real pets in some towns and villages. I find them so cute. They look as if they were smiling! They often live with the families in the houses. Look!

Goat in Old Bikaner

Goat in Old Bikaner

6- Now, let’s go to Jaisalmer where a cow is used as a watchdog?

Cow in Jaisalmer

Cow in Jaisalmer

7- Now, this is a real dog who hangs around the Mughal emperors ‘ palaces in Agra. It seems to be David Bowie’s dog, look at his eyes!

Double colour-eyed dog in Agra's Red Fort

Double colour-eyed dog in Agra’s Red Fort

8- And in Mandawa, if you look up, you can see owls! If you look down, you can see donkeys!

Owls in Mandawa Copyrights Marilay    Donkey in Mandawa

Categories: India in pictures, Voyages | 5 Comments

Happy Children’s Day!!! (But, what is she talking about?)

 Today, thanks to Google, I remembered learnt it was the Universal Children’s Day, declared by the United Nations. I’m sure you didn’t know that!

There are many children’s days in the world. In India, for example, it is on the 14th of November, which is my father’s birthday but Jawaharlal Nerhu’s birthday too…

In France, we don’t celebrate children. At least, it may be a good sign; it may mean that most of French kids don’t have so many problems. On other continents, it is a bit more complicated…

But I’m not going to tell you much about the problems of children in the world in India, or wherever, all of us have heard about children’s labour, selective abortions against little girls and so on and so forth.

Here, let’s just have a look at children, beautiful children, smiling children, natural children, moving children…

These pictures were taken during my only trip in India so far. I didn’t realise there were so many children before selecting these photos to write this post.

Children in Bikaner, 2011

I’m amazed at the way children stare at your camera. They strike the pose, they play supermodels, and they don’t really care to see the result. They just want the pleasure to have their image locked up into a little black box.

Old Bikaner 2011, a broom saler

This photo is blurred but is like a bubble of happiness! Look at the pink walls and pillars, the little girl’s pink dress, and the baby with kajal (kohl) around his eyes to protect him from insects,  diseases and  evil eye! The brooms seem to be magic wands!

पुराना बीकानेर में बच्चा और माता

Village near Bikaner 2011

I don’t like this photo. I don’t know why I took it. For a handful of rupies given by the guide to the people, we were allowed to visit a little village in the area of Bikaner. The children were so used to being the prey of tourists’ cameras  that they lined up like little soldiers as soon as we arrived. These children are really beautiful but they look bored and don’t even look at the camera as if they didn’t want us to steal their souls. It is very different from the warm and carefree attitude from most of the children I had met elsewhere in India.

Little girl in the fort of Jaisalmer, 2011

I like this one! The little girl is smiling and her eyes are full of mischief. She is picking a sweet from the saler’s jar. It seems to be a natural gesture, as if she did that very often. She’s sitting on the edge of the stale like at home. The man next to her is pretending to stop her but he seems to have so much tenderness for this little girl that we know she’ll get her sweet!

Pushkar, 2011

I like the pink veils. The two women are looking at the jewels. We girls are all the same, wherever we were born! I like the little girl’s OM shirt! Very fashion!

Lal Qila (Red Fort) in Agra) 2011

These two girls are so fascinating with their big eyes and their strict haircuts! They are dressed in their most beautiful clothes. Visiting Agra is a bit like a special day to them! I would like to meet them again ten years later. I’m sure they will be very good-looking!

On the road to Delhi

Three boys meeting by chance while our bus was going to Delhi. We stopped to take pictures of a sort of stupid bird in the distance, sorts of heron but these kids were much more friendly! I don’t know what they were doing there. Apart from a flock of sheep and a few stacks of dung cakes, there was nothing. They seem to be wearing their school’s shirts? The three of them, are so, so beautiful and so alive!

Lal Qila, Agra 2011

And to conclude, a future Miss India, or a future Bollywood heroine or whoever! She was an elegant and lovely little Mumtaz in the marble part of Shah Jahan’s Lal Qila.

Namaste!

Categories: India in pictures, Voyages | 3 Comments

A Well in Nawalgarh (Rajasthan)

Categories: India in pictures, Voyages | 1 Comment

Incredible India: The Culture Shock!

 Several things are really shocking in India! Oh yes! Really shocking! 😉

So, what?

 Boys hold hands and have cuddles publicly. It is a sign of « viril friendship ». In the West, it would be a sign of obvious homosexuality. And if these guys happened to hold their each other’s little finger, it would mean they are gay and tacky! On the contrary, Indian authorities can be less tolerant as far as mixed-couple signs of tenderness are concerned!

Follow the Indian Lady!

There are nos pedestrian crossings in some Indian streets and motorists, rickshaw wallas and camel drivers never stop. As a foreigner, I don’t have the knack of crossing safely. So, my way to cross a buzy street is simple. I wait for a lady, a lady with children in the best cases, because I guess she will try not to risk her kids’ lives and hers. Then, just before crossing, I stick to her back, (she usually looks at me with a smile because she understands what I’m doing), I choose a couple of Hindu gods at random, pray very hard, and run with the woman, following each of her steps until I am in the other side of the street. Apart from digging a tunnel, I haven’t found a better way to cross a road so far!

Yummy!

Western-like cakes made by Indian cooks are tasteless. They look like western cakes but they don’t taste like western cakes. That is not shocking but frustrating. And we have to blame ourselves for that; western tourists spend their time criticizing Indian desserts saying they are too fat, too sweet, too this, too that…but stuff themselves with them all the same! As a result, when an Indian pastry cook has to make western cakes for, let’s say…a hotel, he takes care to make brownies, apple pies and puddings without any sugar nor fat in order to correspond to our hypocrite western tastes! Conclusion: we rush onto gulab jamuns! (Once we have understood they aren’t plums in syrup of course!)

Holy Cinema!

Some Indian cinemas are noisy and spectators are really active during the movie. People chat, phone and shout at the heroes… In France, that’s simple; if you dare to unwrap a sweet during the film, a horde of spectators will turn to you with angry eyes sparkling in the dark saying « Shuuush! » until you stop your guilty activity and crouch shamefully on your seat. Of course there are exceptions when you go to a Paris Super Panorama cinema hall on Saturday afternoon to see the latest American 3D action blockbuster: The hall is suddenly invaded by the sound of popcorn rustling and crisp crunching! Hundreds of telephone screens twinkle throughout the film! However, the sound of the movie is usually so loud that you soon can’t hear anything else than you heart pounding in your head!

Welcome!

The hole-in-the-ground toilets. When the door is not broken, one can say it is comfortable. In fact, most of French children knew that type of toilets which is called « Chiottes à la turque » (meaning: Turkish Shithouse, -sorry to my Turkish friends but that’s the way it is! ) The French are infamous for those swampy places which were the worst neightmares of British students for decades! In my Primary School playgroung and in my Secondary School gymnasium, I remember those terrible moments when I had to choose between retaining myself until I found more civilized toilets at home or relieving myself despite the terrible smell of urine contained in the damp concrete ground. So, peeing in « Indian » toilets is not shocking to the French. It is just a moment of nostalgia.

French tourists don’t spit anyway!

Nearly nobody speaks English in India! That’s another common point with the French! Westerners are always told that Indians speak English, English colonialism, official language blahblahblah, but most of the people you meet while you travel in India only speak a few words of Shakespear’s language. According to Wikipedia, 12% of the Indian population speak English fluently, and most of those people are in public schools, universities, offices and big companies and big cities, that’s why you hardly ever meet them in the little villages of Rajasthan! Never mind! मैं हिंदी सीख रही हूँ ! But I still have to learn Tamoul, Punjabi, Marathi, Kannada………………………..

Really shocking, isn’t it?

Categories: Fun!, Voyages | 12 Comments

%d bloggers like this: