March 15, 2009

Agra e Fatehpur Sikri

Sabado 21.02.09

Hoje madrugamos e levantamo-nos antes do nascer do sol para nos juntarmos a mais um par de dezenas de pessoas que esperavam em fila que o Taj abrisse as suas portas. Acabou por abrir meia hora depois do previsto e perdemos a transicao da noite para o crepusculo mas ainda assim podemos vislumbrar a transformacao deste num belo amanhecer. Ao passarmos o primeiro arco deparamo-nos com a ja classica e mundialmente conhecida imagem do tumulo enquadrada pelos jardins e lencois de agua. Tentamos dissipar-nos da restante multidao e procurar o nosso recanto para que podessemos apreciar a metamorfose cromatica do marmore que transita do branco azulado da noite para o branco rosado do amanhecer. La encontramos um banco de jardim a sombra de uma grande arvore e por ali ficamos quase 1h30 a apreciar este edificio tentando perceber se realmente existe pese o facto de estar mesmo em frente dos nosso olhos! Ainda me lembro de ontem, quando pela primeira vez o vi desde a janela da nossa "suite", me questionar sobre a sua autenticidade ou se era apenas uma miragem entre a poluicao e o ruido de Agra! Agora que estou tao perto que lhe posso tocar comeco a aperceber-me de todos os pequenos e minuciosos detalhes que conferem a elegancia ao edificio apesar da sua grandiosa escala. Aproveitei para fazer um esquisso visto ser nestes momentos nos quais conseguir percepcionar os mais pequenos detalhes e ler o edificio de 1001 maneiras... e posso explicar-vos porque... porque mesmo para o olho treinado de um arquitecto quando nos deparamos com um edificio ou paisagem nao conseguimos, num primeiro momento, focalizar os pequenos detalhes que acabam por formar o todo. Primeiro fazemos uma leitura geral do "objecto" e apenas depois partimos para uma analise particular. Por isso este e' um exercicio do qual extraio enorme prazer porque permite-me ver por detras das cortinas e interpretar o edificio nas suas varias escalas apercebendo-me quer dos delicados e coloridos floreados decorativos cravados no marmore branco quer no posicionamento dos 4 minaretes que enquadram o tumulo e lhe conferem uma verticalidade pontual e redistribuem o peso. No entanto fiquei bastante desiludido com o templo no seu interior, muito escuro e praticamente despojado de decoracao, essencialmente visto ter sido confrontado a momentos com o seu involucro. Com o passar do tempo comecei a aperceber-me que se calhar a intencao era mesmo essa... como a celebracao da vida, de um passado e de um amor no seu exterior e a tristeza pesarosa e sombria da morte no seu interior, como uma concha muito bonita que por vezes encontramos a beira-mar para apenas segundos depois se revelar vazia e desprovida de vida...

March 13, 2009


I'm sitting in an internet cafe right now in Thiruchirapalli, a city near Madurai in the South, we've been a little bit out of touch lately, choosing to spend time laying on the beach in Goa, or going from one little town to another without stopping for Internet, but here are a few bits from my journals of the last few days...

March 8, 2009 -- On the coast of India...

I'm sitting next to Sergio right now at a table outside, shaded by coconut trees with the beginning of the sunset peeking through the branches, drinking the coconut water from a fresh coconut, and listening to the waves crashing on the beach nearby. We're staying at a family run resort and the owners are super friendly and welcoming here at Tarkarli Beach. I am so calm and at peace right now, after a day spend sleeping in, then walking miles down a deserted beach, stopping for fish curry and coming back to spend the afternoon writing, that it seems impossible that just two days ago we were winding our way through the chaos of Mumbai. The two places are worlds apart, even though only 400km away in reality. We spent two days in Mumbai, and although I felt like we only scratched the surface of the city, I was pleasantly surprised by it, much prettier than Delhi and much prettier than I imagined it to be. My first impression of the city was that it was crowded, modern, and contained the entire specturm of wealth-slums gave way to skyscrapers, which gave way back into slums, and then back into high rise luxury apartments. In traffic, we were approached by beggars at every stop, yet air conditioned luxury SUV's whizzed past us in our non-AC taxi. The two days there went by so quickly, just walking around and taking everything in. I want to go back for a longer visit, because, as I said, I feel like we only tasted a tiny drop of Mumbai life, only seeing the major touist monuments and eating a small sample of the food, and basically only gettting a glance at life in the city. Mumbai, I will be back!

March 9, 2009

Scootering around in Goa...

I'm currently laying in a cottage on the beach in Goa, an ex-Portuguese colony, listening to an American blues song that is blasting over a set of loudspeakers outside our beach cottage because the Indian-owned resort is having a Russian dance party tonight. Weird.

As soon as we arrived to Goa, we rented a scooter, since we were told it was the easiest way to get around....I can't begin to describe the chaos that is driving in India, so the best way I can think of to illustrate the experience is to give you my stream of thoughts for about 1 minute on the scooter...Now, I'm going to censor it a little, but generally when an expletive is used, it's because a car/motorcycle/autorickshaw/huge bus has passed us, but only just barely, we have passed a car/bus/motorcycle/autorickshaw, but only just barely, or some other really close call has happened. Also, I generally try to avoid using the Lord's name in vain, but something about riding on that scooter in heavy traffic had me invoking His name more than an evangelical preacher in his Sunday morning sermon, so I've replaced all those with the word Jelly.

so, 30 seconds inside Crystal's head while riding on a scooter in Goa and....go!!:

"ah, this is nice, the wind in our hair, the sun on our shoulders, actually, I think I would really like to buy a scooter when we get back to the States, I bet it gets great gas mile--oh sweet mother of all that is good and holy, there is a BUS coming straight towards us, why is there a huge bus in our lane, oh jelly, we're not going to--ok, unclench the hands, eeeeeee, f***, s***, that was really close, eeeeeeeeee, ok, sergio slow down, s l o w d o w--speedupspeedupspeedup!!!! there's a huge truck coming up really fast behind us, eeeeeeeee, sweet jelly, ok, this is ok, sergio is a good driver--cow, cow, COW there is a cow in the road and it's just staring at us, practically daring us to hit it...s***, ok, now there's something in my eye, ow ow, a mosquito flew directly into my eye, of all the places it could have flown, but how can i close my eyes?? then I won't be able to see where we are going and won't be able to warn Sergio of imminent danger, eeeeeeee, owowowow, SPEED BUMP!, EEEEEEEEEE"

and it goes on like that for the entire duration of the drive, however long that may be.

The rest of Goa was great, beautiful beaches, pretty Porutugese colonial houses, Portuguese Catholic churches, and fresh fruit:)

Eventually, we had to leave Goa, and I can completely see why some people arrive and end up just staying there. Everything is so easy and so nice, really idyllic. Reluctantly though, we packed up our bags, put our swimsuits, sunscreen, and my skimpy sundresses into the bottom of our backpacks and have taken back out the long skirts, long scarves, and pants, and prepared our "we might have on backpacks, but we're not your average gullible tourist looks". We also gave up the keys to our independent scooter, and have gotten used to hopping on random trains, negotiating with autorickshaw drivers, and taking 5 hour bus rides for 200 km on bumpy roads with no A/C.

So, we're back to "real" India, but the South is really pretty, and I feel its spirituality greatly. In the North, religion and spirituality were in everything, but more like a whisper or a gentle influence that you couldn't really pinpoint, but felt it's presence. In the South, religion shouts its influence from the rooftops, sometimes literally, with many ceilings and roofs carved with various religious figures, almost everyone wearing Hindu symbols on their foreheads, and Hindu temples on almost every corner.

Ok, off to find dinner, but we'll post more soon, and try to get some pictures on here!

Ate ja...

March 3, 2009

Taking it slow...

We are in Diu right now, an ex-Portuguese colony and taking things nice and slow, blending right into the rhythm of this little city. We've rented a scooter, and have been riding it (Scotty) all over the island for the last few days, without a real destination, just taking everything in. The last two days, we've come back to our guesthouse at night (owned by an Indo-Portuguese family, really nice and cosy) and said to each other, what exactly did we DO today?? And I believe the right answer is: recover from the last two weeks. The beaches here are nice, the seafood is fresh, the sun is hot, and the people are friendly. The most intellectually stimulating part of my day today occurred in the restaurant where we stopped for lunch, in the bathroom, where I was forced to devote way too much time to trying to figure out which part of the floor was actually the toilet, and which way exactly to face. If figuring out the bathroom constituted the most challenging part of my day, I have no learn something new in India everyday, I tell you:)

The Portuguese influence really still lingers here, if you listen closely enough, you can catch snippets of conversations in Portuguese, and bits of Portuguese society and customs pop up between the cows, curry dishes, and autorickshaws. The blending of the Indian and Portuguese has created an interesting culture, and we have been thoroughly enjoying exploring the city: the old, crumbling fort, three Catholic churches, and the winding streets. I was surprisingly comforted upon walking into a Catholic church here, this is what most draws me to Catholicism, I can be in the middle of the confusion of India or the confusion of anywhere, yet walk into a Catholic church and have that feeling of coming home.

We leave Diu tomorrow to keep travelling towards Mumbai, where I'm sure our pace will pick right back up again.

So, off to go pass a few more leisurely hours before bedtime...we finally posted a first batch of pictures, go check them out!

Boa noite!!

March 2, 2009

Mathura, Vrindavan e Agra

Sexta 20.02.09

Hoje acordamos um pouco mais cedo do que o costume para vermos o nascer do sol no rio Yamuna nos ghats de Mathura. Negociamos um passeio de barco durante 30m com um "capitao" muito engracado que nao parava de referir-se ao rio como a "mae" de todos aqueles que habitam as suas margens desde os devotos que se banham naquelas aguas sagradas ate aos macacos, flamingos, pelicanos... Estes sao os figurantes que dinamizam o cenario fantasmagorico e decadente daquela que no passado deve ter sido uma cidade importante com algumas historias escondidas por entre todas aquelas ruinas. Se a tudo isto juntarmos o facto de que uma bruma pairava no ar filtrando lentamente um nascer do sol que pintava a paisagem em tons alaranjados num silencio apenas interrompido pelo bater constante dos remos na agua e pelos esporadicos gritos de um macaco ou do piar de uma ave, Mathura revela-se como uma pintura saida do romantismo do seculo XIX. Mas e ai que reside exactamente o seu maior encanto, na facilidade com que nos transporta no tempo e deixa a nossa imaginacao divagar por entre idealizacoes de como a cidade seria no seu passado glorioso...

De volta ao hotel tentamos negociar um taxi que nos levasse ate Vindravan e depois Fatehpur Sikri mas em vao. Estes indianos preferem perder dinheiro e uma boa oportunidade de fazer negocio com mais lucro do que normal do que nao extorquir escandalosamente um turista!!!

Enfim... la regateamos mais um preco para que um auto-rickshaw nos levasse ate Vindravan com paragens em alguns templos pelo caminho, a maior parte deles devotos a Krishna e que apos observar mais atentamente as figuras mecanizadas pintadas em azul no Templo de Pagal Baba e pensar na sua historia, passado e presente me levou a conclusao de que este episodio do Hinduismo e os devotos de Krishna me arrepiam a espinha! Do conjunto de templos que visitamos aqueles que mais se destacaram foram os templos de Govinda e Rangaji onde os locais nao paravam de nos alertar para o facto de que os macacos nos iam roubar os oculos de sol. Estes templos estao mais bem conservados do que os de Mathura mas a sua volta existe o mesmo tipo de decadencia e passado fantasmagorico ou antes assombrado.