Flower shower

Just west of the Eastern Express Highway at King’s circle you will run into an Ayappa temple, a Nalli sari store, and a variety of small Tamil eateries, all signifying that this was once an enclave of Tamil brahmin culture in Mumbai. Although you hear as much Gujarati and Marathi on the road today as Tamil, it still remains Tamil in spirit. At the eoad crossing leading in to the Ayappa temple is a flower market.


In the afternoon the flower market is quiet, but you get a strong feeling that the pace quickens at other times. The morning must have seen a rush of devotees to the temple, and the evening’s customers have yet to arrive. Everywhere people are stringing togther garlands of flowers. Most flower stalls have two levels: the upper level is normally the point of sale, and the lower is the back-office. At this time of the day both levels are workshops.


I took a closer look at one of the persons rapidly putting together garlands. His hands are a blur to the camera. The man concentrated on his work, looking up only once to check me out. Since I was obviously not a customer, his attention was back on his job in a moment.


One man was clearly not in the Ayappa business for the rest of the day. He was rapidly churning out bouquets which look totally different, and could well be used in weddings. As I was taking photos, two young men came by in a scooter and started negotiating a large order for a wedding. Since this is the marriage season, the market must be pretty large.

Going home again

In the huge tome of a travel book called "The Lord of the Rings", everyone who is alive at the end gets to go home. For some, home is The Shire, from where the story starts. The men and the Ents find their homes in various other parts of Middle Earth. But Tolkein places this story at the end of a much larger one. In that larger story, Middle Earth is not the home of the elves, or wizards. But, at the end, the elves and the wizard also go home, and with them go Frodo and Bilbo.

At the end of each year, as travel and work get more and more hectic, I feel like I am caught up in the manic end-game of the story of the rings. I look forward to the end of the journey, and spending the last week of the year at home. But that is still a couple of weeks and two journeys away. At the moment I’m just happy to be home for a weekend: eating curry and chapati, brewing my favourite tea.

I’m far from being an epic hero; I’m not even an extra in the background of an epic. But, one part of me speaks to the other in Sam’s words "But, I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done." The other answers using Frodo’s words "So I thought too."

The holy mountain of Heidelberg


Heidelberg has long been famous for its beauty. In 1843 a guide book on Germany by John Murray explained that Heidelberg “is charmingly situated on the left bank of the Neckar, on a narrow ledge between the Neckar and the castle rock”. Today the soul of this charming old town is lost to the same chain stores which feed like zombies on old town centres in Europe. I walked away to the picturesque banks of the Neckar.

From Bismarckplatz I walked on to the Theodor-Heuss-Bruecke and saw low clouds drifting through the woods on the hill called the Heiligeberg (Holy Mountain). The wooded slopes of the mountain were not bare, as I found eventually when I struggled up the steep Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk). Beautiful as this road turned out to be, the view of the hill from the bridge was more beautiful still, with the fog rolling over the picturesque buildings straggling up the hillside. The old city was rebuilt after it was repeatedly destroyed in the Thirty Years’ War. Many of the buildings date from the Baroque period. The right bank, ie, the buildings in the picture above, would have been built at about the same time.


Heidelberg felt cold this week. It did not snow, but the highest temperature stayed below 5 degrees, and the night dipped a little below freezing. As a result, when I woke up on my second morning there, I saw a dense fog over the river. Apparently this is a common occurrence in winter. The right bank was barely visible in the fog. All very picturesque, and to my mind, more atmospheric than it would have been in the clear light of summer.


Everywhere we went in the hills we saw shoes being dried. In Tawang I saw these boots strung up spectacularly close to the sun. Lobsang started laughing when he saw what I’d stopped the car for. But this was only one of the many places where I found drying footwear.


These really colourful child’s slippers were drying on a sunny rafter beam in a house in the village in Sangti valley. You cannot pass through a village in the West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal without coming across a few shoes or slippers drying conspicuously. Sometimes they are spectacular, and someties they add just a touch of whimsy to a balcony.


Eventually I learnt to look out for people washing shoes. Then I realized that this is a commonplace in the lives of the people in this place. Small boys and girls, grown men and women would be at a tap, or even a hillside spring washing shoes. Travelling largely by car, as we did, we clearly missed climbing the hills they did. The evidence was that our shoes never got muddy enough for us to have to wash them.


knit1 knit2

The Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh seem to have a thing about knitting. When we visited in a pretty warm early November, we found a lot of wool being sold in the bazaar even at the altitude of Dirang. Then in Tawang we saw women knitting all the time. When I say that, it could be that this is a thing for just before the weather turns very cold. On the day before Diwali we walked in the bazaar of Tawang after lunch and found that whenever a group of women gather, at least some of them would be knitting, as in the photos above.

The Family topped all my sightings, as always. She saw a woman walking along a mountain road, knitting as she walked!