Monday, 22 February 2016

Several thousand words.

Not much I need to say about these, except to tell you that this is where my father was born - the island of Thimmanna Kudru, on the River Suvarna, near Kemmanu, in southwest coastal India. Pretty much unchanged from what I remember as a child, over 40 years ago. A picture's worth a thousand words, it's said, so I'll let them do the talking, and just interrupt here and there with a caption.

View from the tip of the island

Perfect place to just stand and breathe.

Hanging bridge to Thimmanna Kudru

Interracial harmony .. these girls were still hanging out together when I returned several hours later

Coconut tree

Collecting firewood

Someone's got a lovely bunch of coconuts (my cousin, apparently).

Garden well

Things change: heart motifs, a satellite dish and utility lines .. 
also this used to be a thatched hut.

Cashew tree - unripe fruit

Illegal sand dredging - a heavy load

Friday, 19 February 2016

Chalk-white dreams.

I have been collecting old photographs that my father took throughout his life. At first I thought of creating a separate blog for them, but it seems like too much of a hassle! So I've decided to share them here, as everyone knows this blog already.

This picture was taken by Daddy, probably in the late 50s or early 60s.

The Al-Khamis mosque is the oldest mosque in Bahrain, and one of the oldest in the Arab world. The original mosque was thought to be built around 692 C.E. (that's Common Era, in case you were wondering, I prefer not to use the outdated/inappropriate "A.D." which stands for Anno Domini and means "in the year of our lord"). However, an inscription found on the site suggests the foundation dates back to the 11th century.

A mihrab slab found there dates back to the 12th century. The mihrab is a slab of stone (limestone, in this case) that is placed in mosques to indicate "qibla", the direction in which Muslims face to pray, i.e. in the direction of the Ka'aba in Mecca. On the mihrab at the Al Khamis mosque is an inscription of verses 34 and 35 from chapter 21 of the Qur'an.

I have driven past this mosque many thousands of times for the first thirty-odd years of my life, but never thought of going inside. Now I wish I had. I'm not sure visitors are allowed right inside, anyway, perhaps just in the courtyard area where I believe there are also ancient gravestones.

But .. I often dream of this mosque, of climbing up a narrow rough winding staircase of limestone, and going up to the top of the minaret. Everything is chalk white and cool and still. It's one of my favourite dreams about Bahrain, and is just as good, if not better, than a memory!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dr Jekyll, Driver Hyde.

Ashraf and Luqman on the beach at Byndoor
Don't be deceived by this gentle soul, quietly making sandcastles on the beach with his son. Put him behind the steering wheel and point him in the direction of the highway, and he turns into a force to be reckoned with! I recall at least five or six close reckonings from our first drive together. I don't recall any from the subsequent drives, largely because I kept my eyes shut!

I was later reassured by my cousin and his brother (henceforth referred to as the Schumacher Brothers) that this style of driving is de rigeur on the national highways of India and that "everyone drives like this here". It is, apparently, the done thing if you want to arrive sooner rather than later. (The way I drive, I would probably have taken a whole day to make the one-and-a-half hour journey). I think the point is to arrive while it is still light. Or at the speed of light. Or something like that.

Drivers break the monotony of their long drive by playing frequent car games. Their favourite is one that I call "chicken", but in the local dialect is referred to as "overtaking". It is most often played against large lorries who seem to operate in pairs:  one alongside our car, trying to prevent us from passing, and the other roaring towards us from the opposite direction. The highlight of this game is when your car miraculously slips into the little gap between the two lorries, and carries on going. I simply cannot describe how my heart leapt each time we were blessed enough to experience one of these special moments.

An anti-anxiety pill slipped under the tongue (of the passenger, not the driver) helps a bit, because it makes it easier to close one's eyes and resign oneself to one's fate. Having said that, this one survived several such highway drives, and returned home to Bangalore unscathed. So perhaps the Schumacher Brothers are right after all!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

From Bangalore to Byndoor

The beach at Sai Vishram Beach Resort, Byndoor
It was supposed to be the worst of times, but it ended up being the best of times. It was neither the spring of hope, nor the winter of despair:  it was late January, and to those of us who flew in from Bangalore, it was hot as hell. But it felt like heaven.

Last week, I took my first flight in fourteen years, to Mangalore, on the west coast of southern India. My final destination was a seaside resort at Byndoor, about 120 km by road.

This was also my first trip to Mangalore and its neighbouring districts in twenty years. This trip was special for me, not just for breaking my non-travelling jinx, but mainly because my father was born here, and I have many relatives living in the region.

The last time I flew in an aeroplane was back in 2002, when I left my advertising career in Bahrain and came to "retire" in India and be nearer my parents. Full of my usual and quite unnecessary fears, I had been dreading the flight. There was an emotional departure from the safe walls of my little Bangalore flat (well, emotional on my part:  the flat remained quite unmoved). I went armed with half a pharmacy, and left my Will prominently on my desk back at home.

The flight was just an hour long, and although it was one of those small propeller-driven planes that had to be landed on one of the world's tougher runways (Mangalore's airport at Bajpe has what is called a "table top" runway), it was a smooth and easy journey.

Then we got into my cousin's car to make the long drive to Udupi. That journey was a whole other story! My fear of flying has now been replaced by a more tangible fear of national highways.

Come back for more tales of this not-so-intrepid traveller's adventures tomorrow!