Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bathroom Break

There aren't many public bathrooms in India, which is a problem left for another post. Filling a need is the public, for profit bathroom venture. Here's one we like (and we didn't even use the facilities).

The inviting exterior (Believe us. For India, this place is definitely inviting, no irony attached).

The best detail are these fantastic, utilitarian painted signs. So simple, so clear, so well done.

You need to pay the man before you pee.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Meandering Around Meenakshi Temple

Sometimes what's on the outside is just as good as what's on the inside. Or something like that. Or just the opposite. Or forget it.

Or check out the scene around the Meenakshi temple complex. A handful of characters, vendors and scenes worth sharing.

A typical "wishing tree," a fairly common sight in India. The tree trunk is usually painted and the tree has baskets for blessings hanging from it. Sarah, trying not to look soaked, posing with a trishaw.

A worshipper on his way to Meenakshi. Plenty of shiny brass items for sale in the various stalls around the temple. Some bling for the home.

The sacred and profane? When it rains in India, you grab what you can to stay dry. The zip-loc hat.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Meet Me At Meenakshi

In Madurai, a city about an hour by plane southwest of Chennai, is a major Hindu temple called Meenakshi. It's the center of the city and a busy hive of activity. The grounds feature four main gopurams or tower-like gates, each marking a point on the compass. Inside the compound is a maze of halls, shrines, endless carving and groups of vendors selling various trinkets.

It was a lousy, rainy day when we visited, but the gopurams still impressed. As did one of the halls inside.

A worshipper lighting a candle. Hey, check out the resident elephant- so vain with the toupee!

A vendor in his small shop. Listening to what the cow has to say. Didn't Merrill Lynch run a similar ad campaign a while ago?

As one comes to expect at major attractions, one must Exit Through The Gift Shop. No matter how religious you are or how you came, shopping is shopping.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Take A Hike

Don't mind if we do. Getting out of the congested city for a bit is a treat. Living in Chennai, one forgets what quiet, solitude and open space feel like. Staying at Elephant Valley for a weekend gave us the opportunity to take a few walks, at least when the rain wasn't forcing us inside.

Looking a little like a 17th century Dutch landscape. The river is raging due to heavy rain. That's a treehouse cabin in the distance, one of the quirky accommodation options available. We stayed on terra firma. James in front of a trumpet tree, a reminder of flora back in Florida.

Speaking of flora, how about a couple of other examples?

Sarah out hiking. The reward for our forest trek, a nice waterfall. Due to slippery surrounding rocks, we couldn't see the bottom and we weren't going to lean over to find out what it looked like.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Escaping The City

For a recent long weekend, we decided to get out of Chennai and see a little of the countryside. Sure India has 1.3 billion people, but there must be some empty space somewhere, right?

About 3.5 hours outside of Madurai, we found a rural oasis. Greenery! Nature! Our own cabin!

The place had an almost camp-like, communal feel to it, complete with activity/menu chalk board. No, it's not a classic southern alcohol still, it's used for heating water.

Coffee being grown on the property, as in shade grown. Women sorting coffee, literally the fruits of their labor.

It was a regular barnyard with horses (getting a bath) and little chicks running around.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Fabric Of Indian Lives

It must be hard to keep from doing a little bolt shopping while out on your weekly shopping rounds. The colors are so amazing and inviting, who could resist? But then you need to see the hem man, make sure your sewing machine is in top shape and.... Here are a couple of nice examples of typical textile sellers.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

All Sewed Up

Tailoring is big business in India. Whether at home or in shops, making clothes is a common activity. To keep the tailors nipping and tucking, the machines they use must be kept whirring. Sewing machines don't come cheap in India, so sewers hold onto them and keep them repaired as well as Cubans keep their old American cars running.

A typical repair shop, one of about half a dozen places next door to one another in Hyderabad. Must be the sewing machine district. The old school models, in for tune ups.

Why is this overworked repairman smiling? Because he knows there's quite a backlog that will keep him employed for awhile. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

For The Man Who Has Nothing

The lungi is standard (un)dress in India -- basically, a way to wear something as comfortable as shorts without wearing shorts. It's a piece of fabric, sewn into a tube and then worn and tied so it looks like...well...let's just say, a colorful wrap. It's generally the dress of laborers and men hanging all day in the street.

But we guess the lungi can go upscale, at least based on this store and its great name. The store and its suave owner, for the modern lungi wearer!

Some fancy lungi options.
And an example of a more typical lungi look.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Samosas In The Street

Sure you've had a samosa in your life. But how about having the luxury of running into carts piled with the delicacies every couple of blocks in a busy city? One of the small gifts of India:

Popping a couple of chilies and grabbing a bag of water seals the deal.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Lace 'em Up

In Hyderabad, lace, also called hem, is big business. Since homemade clothing is still very much the norm, one goes out, buys material and then goes looking for all the trimmings. There's no shortage of options.

You can first try a store. This next generation shop owner is not standing in front of a bunch of fancy Taqiyahs, but neat rolls of hems.

If stores aren't your thing, there are alway street hawkers with literally piles of material to rummage through. Talk about border bling.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Easy India

It's tough out in the streets of India. Traffic, noise, people and things basically lining every block, no relief. Sometimes it's best to have the right attitude and go with the flow.

What to do? Maybe get in the right mood. For example, this gentleman. If only life in India were as his shirt so proudly exclaims. Certainly it's not, starting with the poor overwhelmed telephone repairman right behind him. Not to mention the usual overloaded stimuli all around our guy.

And it appears spelling isn't so simple, either. Maybe the Queen's English (definitely not her bath robe)?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Something For The Missus

Sometimes the toughest guys are the most sensitive shoppers.

And then again, sometimes you still get doubting looks in the street.