If you’re excited to read my opinions on the tombs of Jaipur, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Jaipur’s not a very tomby place. It’s more of a palacy, forty place. So here’s a quick look at some of those.
This isn’t really a palace at all, but an old haveli (a mansion composed of courtyards) converted into a hotel. It’s where we stayed in Jaipur. It was lovely. The courtyards are decorated with fresco painting and have trees and fountains. While we were there, the hotel was hosting an International Sufi Festival, and had performances of sufi music and dancing every evening.
If someone lets you use their computer, and it needs some updates installing – assuming the owner isn’t there to ask – should you do it?
On the one hand, it’s none of your business. It’s their computer, their responsibility to update it. Just say “no” to the pop-ups and continue checking your email. Maybe they know what they’re doing, and have actively chosen not to run the updates: they prefer the version of the program they’re currently running, for example, and are holding off from upgrading to the latest one.
On the other hand, perhaps like most computer users they’re just hopelessly technologically illiterate and don’t realise they’re supposed to say “OK” to all some of the pop-ups that appear every time they boot up. And what if some of the updates are urgent security patches? Without them, the machine could be hacked, infected, recruited into a botnet and used to attack other systems. Like a child without a measles vaccination, increasing the risk of epidemic in the wider population, every second this computer isn’t updated puts every other computer in the world at greater risk. It’s not just acceptable, it’s your duty to update.
Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb, glowing in the evening light
Where: The north end of central Agra, on the far side of the Yamuna river.
Who:Mirza Ghiyas Beg (?-1622), a Mughal politician and, clearly, a scheming genius, who rose to become chief minister and managed to get his daughter and granddaughter married to successive emperors.
Tomb features: It’s referred to as the “Baby Taj” and considered the penultimate step in the architectural evolution which realised perfection in the Taj Mahal. It suffers from that as people describe it as “imperfect” in comparison, which I think is unfair. It’s a different tomb with different design intentions. The Taj is very austere, whereas Itimad-ud-Daulah is intricately decorated, with the finest inlaid and latticed marble of all the tombs. It’s a nice garden to walk around in, especially in the evening when it’s bathed in golden sunlight from across the river.
Hauz Khas’s calligraphic decoration is in dire need of conservation work. But you can get a good thin crust pizza next door.
Where: About 10km south of central Delhi. The yellow metro line goes to Green Park or Hauz Khas stations but both are 10 minutes’ walk to the complex itself. Have fun asking people for directions, as the whole area is called Hauz Khas as well so you’ll just confuse them.
Tomb features: The tomb is part of a larger archaeological site, the remains of a complex built by Sultan Alauddin Khilji (reigned 1296-1316) and renovated by Firuz Shah Tughlaq. So there’s a whole bunch of old ruins to look at. And a stagnant reservoir. Next to it there’s a modern complex of upmarket boutique shops, bars and restaurants, which I think is the main reason my friend who took me there likes it so much. And beyond that, there’s a deer park. The tomb itself isn’t much to look at from the outside. The ceiling’s ok, with some painted calligraphy, but it’s a poor state of repair.
Summary: If you like to combine your tomb viewing with a bit of clothes shopping and a latte, this is the tomb for you. Otherwise you can give it a miss.
A bit of a break from India for a minute, while I deal with some idiots on Amazon.
I’ve just finished reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and it’s been raved about ever since. Normally I avoid anything with this much hype, but I decided to take a risk on it. Also, I needed a new book, and it was one of the few literary novels stocked by the Indian bookshop, among its stacks of get-rich-quick self-help tomes and Osho tracts.
It was a good decision. The book is, quite simply, terrific. It’s one of the best things I’ve read for years, and I’d zealously recommend it to anyone.
I’ve just read some of the reviews of it on its Amazon UK page, and a lot of people are criticising it for its bad grammar.
One of the annoying phrases I’ve grown used to in India is, “I’m a guard, not a guide.” This is the start of a sales pitch by a security guard for tour guide services in the place he’s supposed to be guarding.
Actually, it’s not the start of the sales pitch. The usual opening is for the guard to just walk up to you, and without any request or agreement, start talking to you about the site or exhibits. Usually he’s not going to add anything that isn’t already written on signs and labels, and any information that does go beyond that is of questionable accuracy anyway. So you don’t want him to do this, since he’ll expect some kind of payment afterwards if you go along with it. It’s when you first tell him, no, you don’t want his information, that he assures you he’s a “guard, not a guide”. That’s when he’ll start haggling for the price of his guide services.
If you’re providing guide services, and expecting payment for it, you are a guide. And while you’re guiding, or touting for it, you’re clearly not being a very good guard, either.
I’ve got a new theory about “Delhi belly”. The usual explanation, other than food poisoning, unfamiliar germs in the water or picked up from surroundings, etc, is that the Western bowel isn’t used to the spicy food of India. It can cope with the occasional hot curry we’re used to at home, but when you start having spice with every meal, every day, it’s overwhelmed.
My new hypothesis provides an alternative to that argument. It’s not the amount of spicy food you’re eating that upsets the gut, it’s all the damned curd. Curd is one of the staples of the Indian diet and is served with every meal, without exception. India doesn’t have yoghurt, as we’d recognise it; they just have curd. Curd with rice, curd with bread, curd with parathas for breakfast, curd with roti for lunch. Curd with fruit for a hotel’s “continental” breakfast. Curd to drink, in the form of lassi. Sure, the Western bowel isn’t used to that much chili and spice, but it’s not used to that much soured dairy, either.
Plus, people are always assuming that you won’t be able to cope with spicy Indian food, so they a) tone down the level of spiciness for you, and b) force you to eat more curd to counter it. Surely it’s more likely that your gut’s overwhelmed by the curd, not the spice?
Plus, I’ve had at least two dreams in the past few days in which I was eating cereal and milk, and the milk was off. Maybe it’s my stomach trying to tell me something?
I’m currently on a two week holiday, visiting the classic tourist destinations of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with my girlfriend. There will be a short blogging hiatus during this time. Normal service will be resumed after the break.
Edit 22/10/13: Actually I’ve got a bit of spare time while we’re in Jaipur for a couple of short posts.
Wagah is a village 30km west of Amritsar, straddling the border between India and Pakistan. It’s the only open road crossing between the two countries. Every evening, the armed forces on both sides simultaneously perform an elaborate gate-closing and flag-lowering ceremony, which has become something of a spectacle for both Indians and tourists.
I arrive there at about 4.30pm, after the experience in the spiritual obstacle course that is the Mata Temple. I am directed by the guards to bypass the long Indian queue and go straight into the VIPs’ and foreigners’ stand, which is supposed to provide a better view. Except that, in the foreigners’ stand, a number of men – all of whom are tall enough to see everything from a seated position – seem intent on standing, so that they can record useless, unwatchable videos of everything, ensuring meanwhile that neither they, nor anyone behind them, sees any of the proceedings with their own eyes.
Apart from those few religions which started as conscious scams – Mormonism, Scientology – most begin when some well-meaning person has a sincere spiritual or moral insight, and tries to pass it on to others. But 99% of the human race are not in the market for sincere spiritual or moral insight. They just want something to bow down to.