Social Studies Teacher Holly Haynes-Nichols ’98 has been studying and traveling in India since early January. Through the power of technology she has been updating the MD Family regularly on her exciting adventures.
“Yesterday we went to the spice market which was very chaotic and then we went to the government regulated market where all the locals shop. I bought saffron, korma, and biryani spices and a sari. Then we went to the Delhi Haus which sold crafts from all over India. We got to see some artwork from a national prize winning artist.
Today we boarded a bus and drove about five hours south to Agra. We went to Fatephur Sikri which was one of the homes of a Mughal emperor. From there we drove across the city to what is called the little Taj Mahal which is where the step mother of Shah Jahan, who was inspired by this structure to build the Taj Mahal where he buried his wife.
From there we went to a garden that is across the river from the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan had planned to build a mausoleum for himself there out of black onyx, but his son imprisoned him and he was unable to complete the project. He is now buried next to his wife in the Taj Mahal. We are headed to the Taj tomorrow and hopefully won’t have any problems getting in as the Prime Minister of Trinidad is supposed to be there! We are in a very nice hotel tonight so I am looking forward to a got shower and a decent mattress. Until tomorrow! Cheers!
After Agra we drove back up to Delhi and then took a train to Lucknow. Lucknow was a major city for the British East India Company and many of its important leaders were stationed there. When the Sepoy Rebellion or First War for Independence took place in 1857, Lucknow was destroyed. Claude Martin was one of the EIC big wigs and when he died, he left his mansion to be turned into a school. It is still in operation and we got to go in it. We stayed at Lucknow University in the dorms which were pretty gnarly. Let’s just say that I’ve had better accommodations tent camping!
One of the days in Lucknow we me t up with students at an animation junior college. It was neat to hear about their experiences. Last night we flew south down to Bangalore and the weather is nice and warm! Hooray! We are currently reading a text about the history of curry and I can’t wait to get to another spice market! I’m excited to see what I am able to cook up when I get back. We are in a bus today driving to Mysore. Hopefully I’ll continue to have phone service so I can keep you updated.
Mysore was great! With a population just under a million it was drastically from the large cities in the north, especially Delhi that has a population around 15 million. The saris that the women wear down south are more informal and the general attitude is more laid back. On the way to Mysore we stopped in Seringapatum, which was ruled by Tippu Sultan in the 18th Century. He was the last leader before the south to fall to the British – kind of like Sitting Bull in America. His summer palace still stands and is one of the best preserved I have seen in the country. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed.
After hiking around Tippu’s old stomping grounds we made it into Mysore. Mysore has a huge palace pictured above. The grounds are still used for festivals. After visiting the palace we headed to the bazaar. There was perhaps more fresh fruit and flowers than I have ever seen. I found a spice stand and loaded up on black mustard seeds, fennel, turmeric, garam, masala, hing, and cardamom pods. We also ran into a few eunuchs in the bazaar. After lunch, we hiked up Chamundeshvari Hill to the temple at the top. It was a beautiful temple and had views of Mysore below.
Today we drove back down to Bangalore and flew to Kochin. Kochin has been an important trading port for hundreds of years and should be an interesting place to see and taste Eurasian hybridity. Tomorrow we are going to walk the city and the following day I am looking into taking a cooking class. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Yesterday we walked the Kochin Fort area and the European presence was visibly obvious. Not only are there many tourists, but also many Christian churches. There is a Catholic Church called Santa Cruz next to the hostel we are staying in and Mass was going in as we passed. The hybridity between Indian customs and European practice was very interesting. The people leave their shoes at the door as one would before entering a mosque or temple. There were a lot of lights and imagery, which is common to the Hindu tradition. Men and women were served communion on opposite sides and wine was spooned out to prevent caste contamination. We also went to the Church of St. Francis which is where Vasco da Gama was buried.
There is also an area called Jew Town (seriously) that has an amazing synagogue that was built using Chinese tiles and lighting from Belgium. There used to be a large Jewish population here but most left when Israel was created and there are now only four families left.
Today we took a ferry to a few of the other surrounding islands. Each one was very different. One had an Old Dutch palace that was later the British residency and another looked like South Beach on Miami with a bunch of high rises on the water. We are going to have afternoon tea and then I think it’s about time I get some reading done for class!”
Until next time….