Underfoot in India

Look closer: my compression socks on the flight over are on the wrong feet. Analysis: they work this way too.
Geodes in situ: the floor of a monolithic temple at Ellora.
Goa. This excavation into the floor of a Christian church shows the tiles of the Hindu temple it was built on. In between those two functions it was used as a palace.
Another church floor in Goa. Love the colours and bold patterns.
The modern floor in our Goa hotel. The building was formerly a Portuguese warehouse.
Seen on our overnight houseboat excursion in Alleppey, Kerala. In the backwaters of Kochi, some of the villages are accessible only by water. There’s a few walkways like this and the waterways are busy. We saw a young boy paddling a large canoe, successfully navigating between government commuter boats and myriad pleasure craft.
Some temples have specific places to stand to ensure a proper outlook.
Shoes off in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples.
Stray dog sleeping in a temple. India has the largest population of stray dogs on the world. The ones we’ve seen are not aggressive and keep to themselves.
Socks are okay in most temples. Good since the outdoor walkways are extremely hot. Notable in the photo: a splotch of ghee. Ghee is a common offering and some shrines are covered  with it.
We’ve seen lots of whimsical decorations like this in Hindu temples.
Some restorations use pieces of other buildings. This stone shows ancient script.
Garbage. Common in public areas. (Here, between some stepping-stones in Pondicherry.) Since 2014, the national government has been systematically encouraging its citizens to be tidier. Some of the mess we saw in Chennai was due to a recent cyclone.
We’ve dipped our toes in the Arabian Sea. And, here’s the Bay on Bengal washing over my sandals on the other side of the continent
Want to split a rock the size of ten houses? Drill holes a few inches deep. Shove dry wood in the holes (nice, tight fit). Wet the wood. Have a cup of tea while the wood expands and does the work for you.
Some of the floor markings are ancient game boards. Temples are social centres in their communities.
Rice flour designs on the doorstep. Renewed each morning in carefully poured-out handfuls, the designs are pretty and attract insects (keeping them out of the house).
Red ochre. One of my new favorite colours. These tiles were on the balcony of our room in Mahabalupurim.

Continue reading “Underfoot in India”

More Aurangabad + Goa!

Ajanta tempera painting

Ajanta caves. Ancient! Dating from the 2nd century BCE, the massive Ajanta site includes Buddhist temples, monasteries and worship halls–all carved out of the solid rock hillside. It was once forgotten. But, covered in jungle, the caves were rediscovered  in 1819 by a British tiger hunter.

At Ajanta, many carvings were duplicated. Repetition amplified their importance and enabled more the opportunity for direct contemplation.

The carvings and paintings at Ajanta influence the colours and forms of modern India art. Especially the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai which intentionally looked to Ajanta for inspiration. We saw some JJ school examples back in Mumbai at the restored Victoria and Albert Museum (now, the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum).

A Mini Taj

The Mughals were strategic, brutal fighters who amassed wealth through conquest. In turn they built massive forts, palaces and gardens across India. We visited a Mini Taj, constructed by the grandson of the Muhgal Taj Mahal builder. In memory of his mother (and, I like to think, no less heartfelt despite its size), it’s a popular place for local families and young people to visit.

The Mini Taj in Aurangabad.

This adorable small  girl ran to be in the picture. How could I refuse? That’s her mom in the background.

A marble screen frames an Indian family.
More selfies!

Beautiful beaches on the Arabian Sea. Goa is a global destination resort. Beaches. Cheap alcohol. Palm trees. Sunsets.

A young girl dances at the water’s edge.

There’s more.

Goa, India’s smallest and richest state has the highest standard of living in the country. Governed by the Portuguese from the 16th century until 1961, India took military  action to persuade them to leave. It took until 1987 to complete the paperwork, but Goa finally became an independent Indian state

(This is likely the last itinerary-based post I’ll make. Linearity doesn’t quite work here.)

Aurangabad: day one

With driver and guide we explored a 14th century hill fort (Daulatabad Fort) and the Ellora caves.

The fort was started at another location. But the builders decided it was not to their liking so abandoned it. The original partly-built construction was repurposed in antiquity as a shrine.

It’s said the fort was never conquered. Does that mean it was supremely constructed for its purpose or that it was never tested in an attack? I do not know.

Invaders would have encountered dark mazes and misleading passageways, defenders poised in cul de sacs to attack. Once dispatched, to keep the passage clear, built-in chutes made it easy to drop their dead bodies into the moat.

Luckily, in the 21st century we only met friendly selfie requests.

Kirin, Robyn, Greg and
Bolajc, Robyn, Greg and Kiran
At the start of the twisty, dark passages
At the start of the dark passages. (Our guide, Hassan, was prepared with a flashlight.)
Cute? We thought so too until we saw one running by, clamped onto a vole.
Cute? We thought so too until we saw one clamped onto a vole. Bwa ha ha!
School groups were common. The braver children practiced their English phrases on us. Hi! How are you?
School groups were common. Children practiced their English on us. Hi! How are you?
The view from part way showing the city walls below. 650 steps to get to the too. And, yes of course we climbed them all.
The view from part way, the ancient city walls visible below. 650 steps to to the top. And yes, we climbed them all!
An airy royal residence at the top. Suprisingly tranquil and breezy inside.
An airy royal residence caps it off. Tranquil and breezy inside.

Once we’d made our way down, we headed off to the Ellora caves. Caves of the human-built type.

Starting from either the top or the front, enormous shrines and temples–entire monasteries!–were carved out of solid rock. Just like, “Who was the first person to intentionally throw a back flip?” I wonder who was the first person who thought this might be possible.

Constructed 600-1000 CE. Basalt. Over 100 caves total. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain constructions side-by-side.
Constructed 600-1000 CE. Basalt. Over 100 caves total. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain constructions side-by-side.

Even though we’d had just three and a half hours sleep we were inspired by the people we met, the fort, the caves and the fascinating stories told by our guide.

Lemon Tree Hotel: Aurangabad

Got up 2 a.m. to catch a 5:15 a.m. flight to Aurangabad.

Here’s the incredible Terminal 2 we left at Mumbai’s airport:

Opened in January 2014
Opened in January 2014

Wonderland! I sourced the photo online (thank you!) since we had no time to snap our own. From the moment we got to the airport it was check-in, security (separate male and female queues), walk to the gate and get on the plane. All at a steady/unhurried Indian pace that I will try to describe in a future post.

Driver and guide arrived 8 a.m. and we set off.


Suba’s Mumbai

Suba. Greg and I spent a day with you yesterday. And, thank you!  With so much to say, so many details, a fascinating narrative, you brought Mumbai to life!

Elephanta Island: Shiva Temple

A one-hour ferry trip to get there
Mumbai, harbour mega-city. 20.7 million people. Fourth largest in the world. Calm from the water.

Once arrived, we took a small train, followed the path up the hill and after a tourist moment…

Entrance to Shiva Temple, Elephanta Island, Mumbai.

…Suba, you started.

Stories of Shiva!
Shiva, as Ardhanarishvara. Androgenous form: perfect balance of male and female energy.
Shiva/Ardhanarishvara. Androgenous form: perfect balance of male and female energy.
On the return trip we had a great view of the Taj Palace Hotel and the Gateway to India. Arriving from England? You would have passed by here.

Next stop: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. Another Raj leftover. We’d watched BBC’s Bombay Railway documentary on Netflix. A big surprise: seeing it for ourselves was thrilling!

A bit of the outside…
…and a bit of the inside.

Millions of commuters use the local train services in Mumbai EACH DAY!  We saw the main station on Saturday, off peak.

We saw local markets, a garden built on a millions-of-litres cistern, the steps toward a sky-burial tower (with no vultures in the city, focused solar panels do the work these days), and more.

Our final good bye to Suba was at the last stop, a laundry. An image of hard work and hope, we saw men labouring over hotel linens while their children arrived home from school.

Dhobi Ghat. An outdoor laundry. The all-male workers are the Dhobis.

A new bird in Mumbai (Day 1)


I met the house crow today. In cricket pitches, while dodging traffic, and at the sides of stinky sidewalks. Smart-looking and familiar except for the grey head, house crows are able to maintain their gloss even while hopping around in the dust. Immediate favorite.

Other birds I have known:


1. Magpies. Along with jackrabbits, the sassy scourges of indoor cats. Loud. An obnoxious squawk. But look at those feathers!


2. Raven. Tired of darkness Raven stole the light: lateral thinker.

3. Robins. Any type. Here’s a magpie robin! Thank you Google 🙂


Mumbai is 12.5 hours ahead of Calgary 

 Our day started last night when we flew into tomorrow.

Siraj, our Travelpals host and Irshad, our chauffer, met us at the airport. What a relief to hand the what-next questions to professionals.

Tired after the flight. But Siraj was there for us!

 A free day. Wandered around and found Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharsh Vast Sangrahalaya  (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). Spent a few hours appreciating Indian and Himalayan antiquities. Also  a Shakespeare First Folio that belonged to King George III.

 Greg and Surya from 12th century CE

Fell in love with some pashminas at Cottage Industries Emporium. Learned that goat chin wool is pricier than belly wool.


I thought Calgarians were a purposeful bunch. But, Mumbai is a place of high alert! I’m young again from a morning that included dashing about to stay out of the path of cars and scooters.

We have arrived 10 days too early for McDonald’s.

Tomorrow, a tour to Elephanta Island.

Hanging out in Newark

2017-02-22-17-29-49Ahhhhhh! First coffeeof the day, 5:30 pm New Jersey time.

We’ve been wrestling with THE WRONG VISAs  for a few days. The final answer: Air Canada wouldn’t check us in this morning. Our 30-day visa didn’t cover our 32-day plans.

On advice we were headed to Mumbai’s FRRO–Foreigner Regional Registration Office –to sort it out in India.

Air Canada was nice about it, but adamant that we needed to fix it from Canada. So we rebooked our return flight.

Stressful start. Yes, that was us running to make our flight out of Calgary. To her credit, the Air Canada agent ran with us, using her magical powers of authority, waving us through all obstacles.

Next stop: Mumbai!




Snap, crackle, whizzz: How Kellogg coped with a viral video

rising tides

March 11, 2016:  Posted online: a 43-second video showing a man urinating onto a Kellogg’s conveyor belt, clearly contaminating a Kellogg’s product. The video went viral and spread to mainstream media.

Kellogg found itself responding over social media at the same time it was learning the facts.

Continue reading “Snap, crackle, whizzz: How Kellogg coped with a viral video”

Facebook: What’s not to like?

CBC Radio’s Ira Basen explores Facebook’s dominance of the social web in his documentary, Facebook: What’s Not to Like?

Facebook: what's not to like?
Facebook is big and awesome. But will its bigness crush journalism and the open web?

CBC Radio’s Ira Basen explores Facebook’s dominance of the social web in his documentary, Facebook: What’s Not to Like?

The 12-year-old social network has solidified its status as the colossus of the online world.

Listen to it online at the Sunday Edition.

Animation: Robyn Fox