Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Two days ago we went for a sightseeing tour of Udaipur. It is an interesting little town of 800,000 inhabitants, but I personally prefer the others I have visited. There are only a couple of interesting sites to visit, the main one being the City Palace, which has been the palace of the Maharaja and was built in 15-something. The palace has now been converted to a museum. Different generations of maharaja's have extended the palace and it is known as the second-largest palace in India, according to the guide.

Night view over Udaipur:

Udaipur has also some very expensive hotels (probably because it is known as one of the most romantic cities). We're staying more outside the city, which is still good and comfy.

Bottom view of temple stairs:

There are not many good restaurant, but one that I can definitely recommend is Ambrai, which is close to the waterfront with a view on the Lake Palace hotel. In the evening it is advisable to make reservations. The food is very good, the ambience is good and at night there are a couple of firework displays around 2030 or so.

Detail view of decoration outside temple wall:

The tour of the city also took us to a temple, another Hindu temple that is, which has a slightly different build than the others. I also took some detailed photographs of the artwork this time. The artwork on the side of the temple is based in layers. The elephant for example is for luck, the horse is for power. Above the horses is a long line of human figures. If you look closely, you will see that these figures are not repetitive, but are all different scenes.

Single snapshot of main entrance to palace:

The Internet access here is more abundant, but still not fast. Many of the shops have one or two PC's where you can access mail, but going to gmail or the blog is a pain to load. Also here in the hotel for example they say there is Internet, but it turns out to be a 333 Mhz machine in windows 98 with a 19,2000 bps connection. One of the shops said he had cable, but the effective speed over it was still not much more than a good-working dialup connection.

Scene at the main lake, near Lake Palace hotel:

There is also a lot of commerce in this town but not of the same quality as we saw in Jodhpur or Jaipur. So far, Jaipur was best for shopping.

We are about to go to the airport now to fly back to Mumbai. Probably I won't post anything until we're back in London for a couple of days. Then Paris for a night and half a day, then back to Recife. Yay! ;).


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jodhpur to Udaipur

The road from Jodhpur to Udaipur is across the mountains. It starts off with a smaller road through some ethnic villages at the base of the mountain. The resort where we stayed offered a so-called "village safari", which is basically a drive through the villages to get in touch with local village life (it is not sightseeing as it is said).

It is good to get off the bigger road for a while and see more of these villages. We went through numerous and saw mixed Hindu and Muslim together. In the picture here you see a young sheep-herder. He is part of one of the villages on the mountain-side.

The whole point of taking the inner roads is to get to the Raknapur Temple. This is a Hindu temple somewhere in the middle of the mountains and bushes. In the time it was built it must have stood right between the trees as well. As you can see in the picture, this temple has enormous delicate artwork on the sides. Inside, it is filled with pillars with artwork engravings and on each side of the temple a carved elephant.

The temple is not even-floored, it has numerous steps and different levels in the flooring. There are some dome-like ceiling structures with more artwork. On each side, there are large windows or sitting areas that look into the mountain side or across the mountain (but not far). The air in the temple is full of incense.

Going more up the mountain, I suddenly saw a very old watermill. The idea is that the water is used for irrigation and flows to another part somewhere after the water is lifted from the area with small bucket-like things a couple of feet higher into a trench. Cows were used to rotate the mill, accompanied by two workers.

Closeby some elders were watching along (what else can you do on a sunday afternoon at the top of a mountain?).

We're in Udaipur now, which has a lakeside. It is known as one of the most romantic cities of India, but I'm not yet personally convinced. In the middle of the lake is a hotel and restaurant, the Lake Palace, owned by the Taj Group. Tomorrow we are going around the city for sightseeing.

I'm staying in room 404 (and yes, for any IT-nerds out there, we actually FOUND the room).

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Well, we are in Jodhpur now in a resort at the moment. This city is getting closer to Pakistan. For this reason there is quite an abundance of military training centers, medical centers and even military schools. Jodhpur is the blue city, which got its color due to the prominance of the Brahman caste.

To explain this further:

Most societies are divided in layers that have different social status. This division can be established in a number of ways (how many women you have, how many camels, job, etc.). In most western societies this division is done by wealth. Here in India, it is actually done by religion and has not much to do with power, nor wealth. This is an interesting point. The blue city is blue because the city that used to house so many people of the Brahman caste live here. They paint their houses blue. This caste consists of priests and is the highest layer in society. You can recognize people from every caste by their last name, which is an indication where they come from. I was told that even up to now, some people follow this distinction. I asked around and found out that the last name "Sharma" is associated with this caste, allegedly.

If you go one level below, you get to the warrior caste. The associated color is red. One of the most common names in this caste is "Singh". Certain maharaja families are also called Singh, like the family in Jodhpur. One level below is the caste of merchants, it is associated with the color yellow or white. The final level below there is the level of nomads, street sweepers and toilet cleaners. Its associated color is black and there is no city constructed with this color.
Speaking of the cities, you would then see: Jodhpur -> Blue, Jaipur -> Red / Pink, Udaipur -> White / Yellow.

The picture with this post is taken from the top of the Jodhpur fort. It shows the part of the city where the priests live. Unfortunately I had to take this picture against the sun, so it is not very clear.

Inside the fort you can still see the rooms intact with some of its inventory. This is an example of the room of mirrors. There is also a room that is now used for dancing, a room that was used by the parliament (in the time when the maharaja still ruled as a king, at the moment he has more like an exemplary role, like the king / queen in the UK / Holland), and finally the bedroom.

Well, Jodhpur is not very rich when it comes to tourist highlights, but it is a lot cleaner than many of the other cities you will find. The only other interesting highlight is the belltower in the middle where the market is located.

The lack of many tourist attractions may explain that you will not find pre-pared clothes, the silk or cotton is normally chosen and then the tailer does the clothes and can bring it to the hotel at night. As a final example, we asked to see some turbans and he wanted to show how turbans are put on the head. Unfortunately his winding skills were not that good, so it was a bit of a weird head-cake.

On The Road

Here I am showing only four of the pictures that I gathered on the road in India. We went by car (Toyota Innova) from Delhi to Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and will go to Udaipur tomorrow. It was explained to us today that the suffix "pur" means the city was established by Hindu's, whereas "bad" means the city was established by Muslims.

The first picture shows a farmer next to the road, who is driving somewhere on his cart pulled by his cow. The cow is far from the only means that is used to pull a cart. I see more camels and horses in this area. Most of the animals that are pulling the cart have some kind of ornament on the horns or nose.

As I noticed earlier, driving around in India is hell. I would be glad to get back to Brazil where driving is at least quite sane :). Humours aside, here is a picture I snapped that shows you the sight you will see driving on your side of the dual carriage way and how they turn on their headlights as if they are in their right. If you imagine the possibility of other ongoing traffic on your side, you can imagine the complexity if the truck drives on the fast lane in the opposite direction. So there is no way you can relax for a moment, then it's a cow, then it's a truck in the other direction, then it's the traffic on your side cutting you off, then it's a donkey, then it's a guy running across the road without looking...

The drivers here seem to only believe in the elements of "good luck" and "bad luck". It's a little bit strange how this works out. I see cars that are sometimes swirling across the road where obviously the driver is suffering from exhaustion or simply is too sleepy to carry on. Rather than stopping and throwing some water on their head, walking around, get back in the proper state of awakenedness, they simply carry on as if it's bad luck to fall asleep behind the wheel. Our driver also suffers from severe drowsiness after lunch. When he scratches his head, his eyelids start to fall down and we have to almost order him to stop, because he won't do it himself (pride? duty?).

Well, the other things you encounter of course are trucks, sometimes voluminously overloaded. This is an example of such a truck loaded with cotton. Some of them have the cotton sticking out on both sides, this one was rather badly loaded. :)

It is always possible that the truck breaks down. Here is an example of the numerous broken down trucks that you encounter along the way. Every 200km I guess there are about three at least. Some trucks have simply flat tires, others have broken axles, others have fallen over in a ditch due to sleepy drivers (or drunk, as my driver told me. It seems that some people do actually drink along the way in some very dark bars and then get back on the road).

So, this is only a four-picture sample of what you encounter along the road. The scenery of course also changes. I have seen woods, lines of birch-trees (I guess birch, not sure), desert, prickly bushes, sand and mountains. Sometimes the land is flat, sometimes you can see distant mountains.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jaipur Sightseeing

Well, one of the things to see is the Amber Fort in Jaipur. I have pictures all over the place.

If you compare the artwork to other pictures I have taken, there are minute differences in the kind of drawings, the colors and materials used. The archways that you find are also different. If an archway has an inverted V without embellishments, it is basically of old Moghul architecture, the Muslim kings also called Sjahs.

But if you see archways that have embellishments in a more circular inverted V, these are old Hindu buildings. The kings of Hindu's were called Maharaja's. There were quite a number of fights already that many years ago between Sjah's and Maharaja's.

Jaipur is a very interesting city. Some of the photo's may show a more desert-like scenery. Ethnically, Jaipur shows a lot more about older India than the other places. If you like shopping, I would recommend doing that here, because the experience itself is better and the kinds of things you can purchase here are also nicer than in other areas I have seen (if you are after beautiful / ethnic stuff that is ). I can't imagine wearing a turban or the traditional clothes at other times than Carnival in Brazil, so I left things where they were. Nevertheless, lots of shiny things in the clothes here, very fine silk, interesting colors and beautifully made. Some of it probably comes from factories, but some deal is hand-made.

Jaipur also has an observatory like Delhi. The most precise time-measuring equipment there can measure time up to 2 seconds, that is taking into account a certain correction.

We're slowly getting to the end of the trip as well. Jodhpur is still waiting for us (the blue city) and afterwards Udaipur. We'll do some sightseeing there too and will then return to Mumbai, London, Paris and Recife.

Arrival Jaipur

This is the trip and the arrival in Jaipur. It is a region only 200 km away from Agra and already looks totally different. It's also in a different state. The craftmanship and clothes look more Arabic than in other parts of India that I have seen. So, I arrive in the city of Nitin and have just done some sightseeing today. The part I arrived in is older and poorer than the real city, as I could see later.

Outside of the city of Jaipur is "Chokri Dahni", which is an ethnic village. Actually a touristic village place with a 5-star resort bordering it, which makes it slightly less interesting, but yesterday it was a good introduction to the more folkloristic side of this place.

Going through Jaipur, I see distint differences also in behaviour and clothing. I think that this city is a lot more Hindu than the rest we have seen so far, quite a lot more. This state seems to have a bit of a ban on the consumption and use of alcohol, although it is mostly fought by the local more fundamental communities. Inside the hotel this is reflected by the lack of choice in beverage, for example in Delhi there is a choice of 6-7 different wines on the menu, but here only 1 or 2.

Agra was also very difficult tourist-wise. Not only is tourism under-developed in the sense that hotels are suprisingly unprepared for international tourists, there are also large scams in some restaurants. One of these scams in Agra was for example that you go to a restaurant and have food. Then you fall ill. A three-wheeler taxi outside seems very concerned and brings you to a local clinic. The doctor there prescribes some medicine after a short diagnosis, but only after having taken $$$$ from your health / travel insurance package. The story ends that the medicines keep you feeling sick actually, so you end up going back and spending more. A British couple since has called for an investigation and the Delhi government has started this in Agra. However, nobody was judged for this atrocious scam, but it has so far not seemed to happen that often.

Back to Jaipur, this hotel "Holiday Inn" is quite good. The food is good, there are two restaurants to choose from and a coffeeshop / bar here.

Taj Mahal

I am three days behind posting here due to a good access point to the Internet. We're now more into the heart of the Indian country, but the access to the Internet from the hotels, even in the streets is not improving.

I will have to resort to manual HTML editing due to the crappy connection or browser I have here. I guess that AJAX isn't still very useful here. Sorry for the badly laid out posts:

This is how some people travel on the dual carriage way at 80 km/h:

Finally, we have arrived here at the most important point of our travels, the viewing of the Taj Mahal.

It is an amazing piece of craftmanship and art. The pieces of marble that were used to side the cement on the inside were taken from a place 350 km away. The sandstone was taken from a place 450km away. All by elephants, horses and men. The total time taken to construct the Taj Mahal is 22 years.

The obrigatory photo with the casual joke:

The Taj is not a palace, has never been. It was constructed in loving memory of the favourite wife of the Sjah Razan. However, other people have countered the argument that the Taj was solely constructed out of love, that it was equally constructed for reasons of "showing off".

The colors of the Taj actually change during the day. Especially at sundawn the colors of the marble are more like pink. In the middle of the Taj, you will see 2 tombs. Those are actually false tombs, because the real tombs are kept exactly one level lower, but in exactly the same place. The reasons for doing this, as was explained, is that the Sjah was concerned that people wanted to visit and would also walk on the higher part of the construction. This could mean people walking over the tombs/graves of the person buried there, which is considered desecration.

The place of the tomb is exactly under the center of the middle dome. The tombs are centered in another piece of beautiful art that has been meticulously maintained by the Indian government.

Outside of the Taj, you get a measure of the size of it. At our time, it was already around 1700, so the sun was setting. You may see also a little bit of a shade of pink or dusky yellow. The "floor" on the main foundations is also made of solid marble. All of the marble used in the Taj is of the best quality that you can find in India.

The Sjah actually wanted to construct another Taj on the other side of the river. The marble you see here is white. The idea was to construct a similar building there, but made of black marble. I cannot even imagine the value this would have generated for the region... but it is immense.

The river that runs behind the Taj is the "Jamuna", which is considered a sacred river that has also parts running up to Delhi. If you look at the gardens and the whole, you'll see perfect symmetry in the water, the foundations, the towers, the gardens and the placement of the trees.

It has been a fantastic experience to start seeing it, through the doorway, and the closer you get the more you marvel.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Delhi Reloaded

Here I am starting to show some images of some of the street life in India. This image is from the way of the Lotus Temple (open to all religions) in India backwards to the Gate of India, which is on the way of the Red Fort.

Here we see poverty in the streets of India. This guy lost one eye and was severely suffering in the sun and the bad pollution of the streets. As he looked up and saw us, he started to rattle his nails on the metal of the car, making a horrible, tapping noise in an attempt to call attention to his status.

On arrival to the Red Fort, of which you can see an image here, you can see one of the oldest establishments in Delhi. Actually, it was said that Delhi was established in this neighborhood, near the river, as a rather small establishment. Later on the moguls got settled.

There is a famous "peacock-throne", which in 17-something was taken to Iran (Tehran), where it is still on display, robbed from this place.

The Red Fort was also the place where Nehru, president of India and Gandhi, religious leader of India adressed the people for social reform.

As you can see on the left, inside the red fort there is a mosque and other quite old buildings that are definitely worth a visit. Basically, as you enter you go through a bazaar, a range of shops, but then very quickly enter a godly garden where you feel how the old ancestors of India are watching you. This photo shows the detail in the pillars.

In contrast with the beauty of the temple and things to see, I am also showing some more terrifying pictures of the state of infrastructure, electricity and public services of India. This picture shows the state of electrical installation that you might encounter in any common restaurant in India. Now, this is not a picture of just *one* fan in that place. *ALL* the fans in that restaurant were rigged in a similar way, up to the fan would just work again. It does show a misunderstanding or fault in the way how people (dis)regard structure, infrastructure and electricity. When I see these things as a software engineer, I start to seriously distrust the quality in software engineering as well.

Well, on these serious notes... the pollution in this city of Delhi is severe. Some books are noting that walking through the city of Delhi for a day equals smoking 20 cigarettes. Walking in the center equals 40 cigarettes. My throat is indeed starting to get irritated in this city. At night after the fort we could clearly see a thick layer of fog throughout the city, which indicates the level of pollution.

The government of India has put out a ban on smoking in public places to increase the quality of air that people are breathing, plus that cars older than 8 years are no longer allowed to go through the city.

At the end of the day, what is remaining, is to finish it with a cup of coffee like this and get ready for the next trip (tomorrow we're going to "Agra", where the Taj Mahal is located, which is one of the goals of our trip):

Monday, October 23, 2006


The following pictures show some sights from Delhi, where I am now. On this left is the "Gate To India", a memorial to the fallen soldiers in the first world war. All the names of the soldiers that have suffered are inscribed on the inside of the archway.

Close to this monument there are the ministry buildings and the house of the prime minister, adjoined by the circular building of the parliament. As in many cases, these buildings are on the other side of a long road, very well-kept, that in this case connects the Gate of India with the parliament and the ministry buildings.

Well, this is the political part of Delhi (being the political center of India). In another part of the city is the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, which is shown below.

Mahatma Gandhi was shot on January 30, 1948 by Hindu extremists.

From Gandhi, we decided to visit a temple of all three main religions in India, starting with a moslim temple (Jama Masjid) that we unfortunately could not photograph at all due to busy markets and some misunderstanding with the driver and guide. Nevertheless, check this out here and you get the idea:


The next temple after that was a Hindu temple. I am not at all familiar with Hindu religion, but found some interesting facts about it here:


It is said that this religion is the oldest in the world. When you look into the temples around India, you will also see a swastika symbol, which to many people may seem very frightening and/or confrontational. Actually, the swastika symbol is not invented by the German Nazi regime before the 2nd world war, but goes back 8,000 years into history. So before you get really shook up, read this interesting wikipedia entry first:


Inside the temple we cannot photograph, so I cannot offer you photo's from there. But there should be enough photo's on the Internet that show statues and other things that you'll find there. The most important god in Hinduïsm is Krishna, the god of love. But I have been told by our guide that the religion counts over 3,000 gods (which I found hard to believe).

The temple that I enjoyed most to visit was the Sikh temple in Delhi.

If you see someone with a turban and a beard that speaks an Indian accent, he'll probably have this religion. The religion requires them to cover their head, definitely inside the temple. So we were also given a cloth to put on.

Contrary to many other religions, this one is only 500-600 years old. It is based on (the books of) gurus, and the temples hold these sacred books in a special kind of altar. One of the stories told in the books is the 'down-to-earth' reality that this religion represents. A guy from a village went to a stream and did not return for 3 days. As he went back, he told people that he had been called by the gods to do good and things differently.

Where most Indians threw water from the river East, as said "towards their ancestors", this guy started throwing water West. As the people inquired why he did this West and not East, towards the ancestors, he said that it was to water his fields. Then the people told him that his fields were hundreds of kilometers away. So the guy replied that if they believed that their ancestors, hundreds of miles away to the East could receive the water, why could he not use the same gesture to water his fields, also hundreds of kilometers away.

As such, the religion gathered more and more followers.

Tomorrow we'll be shopping around a bit in the morning, then visit the Lotus Temple and the house of Mahatma Gandhi. Afterwards, we're probably going to have a good dinner quite early, because we are travelling to Agra the day after.

Friday, October 20, 2006


This is the effigy that people have set up close to the house. This effigy represents Ravan the demon, who was killed by Lord Ram, after his banishment in the forest for 14 years.

Everything about Diwali can be found here:


So, the big party is tomorrow Saturday 21st October, the most important day, but it also depends if you are Sikh, Jain or Hindu.

In Mumbai I also bought a book from Prahalad: "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Paperback) "


It is a very interesting book to read I think, even though I only completed the first 10 pages. It analyzes business and innovation opportunities for very poor people that are at the bottom of the pyramid. Together, this layer is responsible probably for only 5% of the world economy, but it is a market of about 4 billion people and I read something like US$ 30 trillion, but that is to be confirmed.

Taking into account brand awareness as well and already some initiatives towards that market, it would be very interesting to see what can be done from an economic point of view to create market-entry opportunities for these people, rather than make them dependent on more charitable projects and initiatives of the government and world leadership.

One point is clear:"Do not assume that you understand the purchasing choices the poor make, nor assume that there is no market for certain luxury goods there". Example is the television set. Whereas the majority of these people hardly have money for primary needs, 95% of Brazil for example and 70% of Indian poor people have access to television (Brazil seems to have better coverage, which may explain the difference).

One of the problems in this regard is exactly access to the market. If there is a correct and focused economic stimulus for these people to produce and sell, and they work out their logistics problems, I believe there is a very good opportunity to improve the conditions of their lives. So, what is needed here is some focus and innovation in the supply chain mostly.

Problematic is the so-called "poverty penalty". This is an amount of money that goes on top of the actual rate or price due to lack of access to good transportation, too many men in the middle that all put their rates on top of the good, etc... This is the reason why a pack of rice is more expensive to poor people, they have to pay sometimes up to 600% of interest on their loans (against 7-28% for richer people). So there are lots of opportunities there. Even if you reduce this percentage from 600 -> 25%, you would have made an incredible reduction in the interest. Look back towards the number of people in this market, the money involved in this area and imagine this growing with your company brand name in the middle of this movement...

Fishermen here in India use a mobile phone to find the best landing point for selling their fish (they negotiate whilst at sea)... other examples include women in slums that get their hands on a mobile phone and sell the phone minutes for slightly more then they are charged (and considering the complexity of phone minutes, tariffs, discounts, etc... you surely cannot assume that these people are simple. You do need to be able to calculate quite well in order to make money out of those complex tariff schemes, or you lose it if you get it wrong).

There are some Brazilian projects in this area as well, but have not got to that section yet. Tomorrow we'll most likely be celebrating over the place, so not sure if I can post anything.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mumbai to Goa

This is the train station in Mumbai, Victoria Station on the inside. You can see that people are
sleeping, standing, lying and sitting on the floor, even up to vomiting. I guess that is what the heat does to you. When you go a little bit further, there is a special waiting room for ladies only. The reason, as I have been told, is that the men start fooling around with the ladies, so they need to be protected.

As we got to the station, the train was delayed. "Quelle surprise!", because they normally are. The first guy told us it would be only 2 hours, the other guy said 1 hour and later it was called on the PA to be three hours, up to 10am. When you travel by car that early in the morning, there are no problems whatsoever with traffic. Even up to 7am the streets are really calm.

We decided actually to take it easier and book a plane. This will mean that I miss the train ride through the country to Goa (and travelling in India by train is an experience you should not seek to miss), but it will allow us for some easier time in Goa and since we have more people travelling with us, we opted for the latter.

Goa is not really qualifiable as India. It is a state about the size of Holland, slightly smaller, not sure about the number of inhabitants. It has a very strong Portuguese influence still and certain parts are recognizable and could be Bahia, Porto de Galinhas or Itamaraca island.

The boy on the right was also at the station. He's getting things here and there, I think for recycling. He tugged my shirt and wanted his picture taken. So there you go.

The plane was with Go and pretty cheap through competition mostly. The fare is about US$80. It even left on time, but we were almost late due to unforeseen roadworks and weird people on the road. Goa has lots of tourists from all over the place, French, British and Germans. As said it is not very Indian, but has quite some interesting sights that are more contemporary.

If you have never seen an Indian taxi on the insight, here is your chance. This was taken in Goa, so I guess it is still lacking the extensive ornaments.

Goa has a Portuguese fort, cows walking around all over the place since it's more country-side and lots of little towns and places. There are some well-known restaurants here and there where the outsiders go (the people that buy or rent houses around Goa).

As a recommendation, I would say 2-3 days are good just for relaxation. But I would definitely not recommend going "just" to Goa, because you will not be able to claim you have gone to India.

At the moment we are just driving around, using the holiday facilities from our hosts and taking it really easy. I just finished a book I was reading and will be starting on another. Then in 3 days we are going for a longer trip to Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Agra. Every 2nd day we are travelling for 5-6 hours by car around the golden triangle in a Toyota Innova (quite big and comfy car). Then one full day for sightseeing. This should make up for the train trip.

I'm not sure if I will be posting for the next 3 days, but let's see. I'm making pictures the whole time and am reading more on the next book "The world is Flat", which is ideal reading in this area, along with another book on Bottom Of Pyramid that my wife is reading.

As a final anecdote... the apartment we were in never had any problems with the elevator. Just that as soon as we came back from dinner, the elevator got stuck with my wife and our host in it. We were already upstairs waiting for them to return, but it took them more than 15 minutes already. Going downstairs, the guard asked us to help to speak to "those people stuck in the elevator that did not speak English"... well, they did, but the fan was making too much noise. Eventually the main power was switched off and the elevator doors opened, freeing them from the horrible hot air in the basement. They were stuck for about 20 minutes eventually.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mumbai Market

Before heading off towards Goa tomorrow, we decided to look at the local commerce. The first thing we did was visit the market. Here are the pictures. I have many more, but thought these ones are most telling.

The question about why there is not any violence, but the country is, overall, poorer than Brazil is starting to find some answers. A key explanation for this fact has to do with capitalism and materialism. Materialism itself has, until now, been very much rejected by the population. However, Levi's, Nike, Coca-Cola, expensive branded clothing and especially television, american shows, etc. are invading India. This explains that on one hand you see the very strong Indian influence, like in this market, but then as a grand contrast a shopping mall that requires walk-through metal-detectors against terrorists (checking news on CNN, you can see that Mumbai has suffered from terrorism.

It is the lack of materialism and envy which I contribute greatly to the calmness and lack of violence in India. People don't care about things or having things of equal cost (I do explicitly not mention value here).

Well, this expensive shopping centre I have only seen once and not many are like it. But, I do see a strong demand for this growing, which probably will also mean a couple of changes and irregularities in India's society.

I do hope that it does not lead to homogenisation. Looking at the country so far, there are a lot of interesting values and lessons to be learned. I don't think it is even remotely thinkable that the rest of the world will ever want or become equal, but at least certain considerations and reasonings are worth pondering over for our own societies, especially the western worlds.

Other than that, I did buy my clothes at the "expensive" shopping centre. You get very beautiful cotton shirts for about US$20. In R$ that would be about R$45? If you go to Richards in Recife or any other Brazilian shop, the cost of these shirts are much higher. Due to higher wages on seamstresses? I don't know!

The rest of the day we went to see some other things, like lunch at a club that is allowed for Indians. In the time of the colonization by the British, the Indians were not necessarily admitted at every club, regardless of their social status or riches. So, there was a Lord that constructed his own club and made it more suitable for the local people.

Very good food too!


Monday, October 16, 2006

Pictures of Mumbai

This is the gateway to India. It stands at the port in Mumbai. To explain what Mumbai is all about:

It's the financial heart of the country, it's where Bollywood is located and is the industrial hub of about everything. You can notice that this city has money because every half hour you will see a Mercedes, BMW or other type of car pass through. Many cars are already manufactured here, which makes them a lot cheaper. Cars that are imported will typically have a 300% trade barrier. At least originally, I heard it was reduced to 100% due to international pressure. But still, that incredible Maserati I saw yesterday looks to belong to someone that doesn't need to care too much about money.

Historically, this city was inhabited by Koli fisherfolk, which goes back to 2nd century BC. Then it was ruled by various Hindu dynasties, invaded by Muslims in 14th century and then ceded to the Portuguese in 1534. The British were here from 1665 onwards, but leased to the East India Company. And so, Bombay evolved to become a trading port with merchants and pretty soon thereafter Bombay was the trading HQ of all east-coast of India. It had a cotton boom because the American Civil War dried up all supply of cotton from the US. Thereafter it played a big role in India's independence.

Two of the main landmarks are the Taj Mahal hotel (which I visited yesterday and shown on right) and the Gateway of India. These are all on the southern point of the island, called Colaba. Mumbai is actually an island that is connected to the mainland by bridges.

The gateway of India is basically a colonial landmark in Mumbai. It was officially opened in 1924, but only used until some years thereafter (1948), when the British left India to leave it independent. The last British regiment left through that archway. Closeby, the Taj Mahal hotel, was architected by a Frenchman and built by a Parsi industrialist. Account has it that this industrialist was refused access by other hotels on the basis that he was a "native", so he constructed his own hotel over there.

The Bombay university and High Court are of Victorian style though. Another landmark is Victoria Station, which looks more like a cathedral than a plain railway station. The high court building is also interesting... Many of the court buildings around the world use the image of "Justitia", a blind-folded woman that holds the scales of justice in her hands. However, local stone carvers here saw things a bit differently... the image here depicted is that of a one-eyed monkey with scales.

Well, as you can tell, so far I have not really shown you anything of the real India, only boring colonial style buildings ;) We'll be travelling to other parts around India where the influences are quite different and more native. We're travelling by car and driver around the Delhi triangle, going to Jodhpur, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. We're deciding right now what to visit.Last but not least, a horse riksha. Not sure what it is really called, because the driver only speaks Hindi.