Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ladies

When Todd and Lori first moved to India they met a young man in the jughi, the slum across the street from the American Embassy School, named Lal Singh.  One of the other teachers at the school had seen how hard this kid was working in school, and how much he wanted to make a better life for himself through education, so a bunch of the teachers decided to help him through school.  They got him tutors, and helped put him through college.  Lal Singh is the first collage graduate from the jughi, he has a degree in computer sciences and work in the technology department at the American Embassy school.  He has moved out of the jughi and has an apartment, a lovely wife, and two young boys.  And it was Lal Singhs wife, sister and two sisters in law that ended up being the ladies we taught to make my jewelry designs.

The four Ladies and Asha's baby girl who always came along
Lal Singh's wife, a kind and talkative woman who likes everything to be perfect and knows she has the talent to do it.  Rekha is very talented with embroidery, and caught on to the beadwork very quickly.  She's also a very talented dancer, she taught us some fun (and funny) Rajastani dance moves.
Kind and gentle, Asha is 30, has been married for 13 years, and is a mother of 2 boys and two girls.  She is still nursing her baby daughter so she brought her to every class and somehow managed to nurse and entertain the baby while learning everything.  She would often work on the floor to keep the baby occupied while she was working.  Asha is married to Raju, Lal Singh's older brother, she is therefore the oldest woman in the household and holds that position with wonderful grace, kind words, and big smiles.
Sonu, how to describe Sonu...  She is a woman with a big heart and an even bigger personality.  Always demanding of attention, joking, and being mischievous.  She was a handful at first, but I totally fell for her big open heart and was grateful for the laughter she created.  Sonu is in her late twenties, was married 13 years ago, and has two sons.  She is Lal Singh's older sister.
A gorgeous young woman, full of joy and laughter.  Pushpa had such an expressive face it was easy to understand her, laugh and be silly with her.  She also spoke the best English, so she was always helping teach the other ladies, and translating for me.  Pushpa is 23, married to Lal Sings younger brother, and in her words "in no hurry to have kids," even though she always seems to have a baby on her hip.

Kaytee learned all the designs and helped me teach the Ladies.  She helped so much I don't know what I would've done without her!  And now she's making her own jewelry!!
Kaytee also had fun taking pictures of all the expressions the ladies made, her pictures are below

my favorite Pushpa thinking face
Hungry baby!
finally fell asleep...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A million flowers to remember her by

A few days after returning to New Delhi from Varanasi we took a 6am train to Agra and arrived at the Taj Mahal early in the morning.  There is no need to describe the Taj Mahal since its image is so widely known, but no picture can really capture the size and beauty of this masterpiece.

The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his most beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who he called 'the light of the palace.'  She died at 39 after giving birth to his 14th child.  Upon hearing of her death Shah Jahan is quoted saying "empire has no sweetness, life itself has no relish left for me now."  He lived for 35 more years after her death, it took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal.

When you get close enough to the building you can see the Taj Mahal is covered with intricately carved flowers.  These beautiful white marble flowers are delicately carved into the stones surrounding the outside of the building.  Each flower an intricate replica of a real flower, and Iris, a lotus, a lily, a rose.  Inside the building the walls are inlaid with tiny pieces of semiprecious gemstones in the shape of thousands of colorful flowers.  Each one of the flowers could stand as an artpiece on its own, and there are thousands of them.  Shah Jahan did not just build his wife a tomb he built a garden of blooming sparkling flowers for her to enjoy throughout eternity.

We sat and just looked at the beauty of this homage to love for a long time, unable to tear our eyes away, unwilling to leave the presence of the beautiful peaceful energy of this place.  

Totally looks fake.  We were there, promise!

Looking back at the gate leading into the Taj Mahal complex

steps up to the Taj

Little tiny Kaytee (front and center), big Taj Mahal

semiprecious gemstone inlay all over the walls inside the tomb

The tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and her son

There were literally thousands of different kinds of flowers covering the tombs

one of the side buildings through the honeycomb lattice work of the tomb

Arabic calligraphy to the sky

One of the two red sandstone buildings mirrored on either side of the Taj

The Taj from the side (and tiny tiny Kaytee)

Ceiling of side building.  wow!!

Lori posing for a classic Taj Mahal picture!!

The gardener photographer who insisted on taking those last few pics