Something about me

Monday, July 16, 2012

A walk in Mehrauli

Delhi is a walker's paradise (between July and March, that is - I wouldn't venture walking in the 45 degree heat!). There are a lot of walking trails organized by a bunch of organizations. There are atleast five or six of the latter apart from INTACH and the walks are not just ones to enjoy the greenery (of which Delhi has an abundance) but also every other aspect of life in this fantastic city. So there are food walks (very popular), Sufi walks, flower walks in addition to the regular heritage and history walks.
Over the weekend, I managed to rustle up a couple of friends to meet me at the Qutub Minar bright and early at 7 am for a heritage walk through Mehrauli, a walk was organized by Delhi By Foot. Mehrauli is probably the oldest of the seven documented cities which make up Delhi as we know it today. This does not include the Indraprastha of mythological lore, the location of which in the same site as present-day Delhi has not been conclusively proved, yet. Mehrauli was settled long before Prithviraj Chauhan expanded the city and called it Lal Kot. In the early 13th century, Qutubuddin Aibak became the first Sultan of Delhi, with his capital at Siri (where Siri Fort is today). Firozabad (or Kotla Firoz Shah), Tughlaqabad, Shahjahanabad and Lutyen's Delhi are the other cities that sprang up, flourished and decayed between the Aravallis and the Yamuna.
The group was fairly large, about 20 people, most with DSLRs hanging from their necks. Our first stop was at Metcalf''s Folly. Metcalf was one of the first Residents of Delhi and he had erected these structures. No one knows what they were meant for.

We passed through some other monuments, including the very beautiful mosque and tomb of Jamali-Kamali. In the winters, we actually love to picnic in the Mehrauli Archaelogical Park where this tomb/mosque is located (which makes Delhi one of the few cities in the world I am sure where people regularly picnic right on top of tombs).

The original inlay work at the double tomb of Jamali-Kamali. It's in superb condition inspite of not having been restored by the ASI. The tomb is kept locked to avoid a lot of visitors walking all over but the guards are obliging enough to open the gates when you ask them to.
The surprise package was the lovely stepwell which appeared out of nowhere, astonishing me who had been to the park so many times. And since I absolutely adore stepwells, this was a huge treat for moi. Rajaon ki Baoli was it's name, though we don't know which Raja built it and when. We also walked to another stepwell, which was outside the park in Mehrauli village where young boys and men were enjoying the cool waters of the well and jumping off the ledges wiith abandon.
Rajaon Ki Baoli. In the forefront are the steps leading down to the water. However water was drawn from a deep well right on top.
Cool arches to shelter from the heat and rest near the Baoli
Another view of the Baoli

Look at the stunning engraving. Each arch had a different design
The forecast for that morning was windy and blustery. But the Met department being what it is, it was sunny and humid! Fortunately welcome gusts of wind fanned us every now and then and made the walk a very pleasant one. Look at these boys cooling off!

These boys were enjoying a game of ...what

A lovely beginning to a Sunday, for sure. Next up - Tughlaqabad Fort, and hopefully it will rain that weekend!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An award and tag

I was passed on this award and tag by one of my favourite bloggers, Uma.

To be very honest, I used to think the awards in the blogosphere were quite silly. They are passed around until everyone's got one and it just seemed a case of you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours. However, I soon realized the awards are not just some form of artificial popularity contest but just another form of the encouragement and support fellow bloggers provide each other. In any case, most of the time they come with a tag attached and it's a good opportunity to think of something different to write about instead of the same old repetitive thing (many times when I am posting, I think, hey haven't I written about this thing earlier?)
So, a big thanks to you Uma. I think I've done the random things tag earlier but don't mind doing it again :)
Here goes.
1.       I wear glasses. Most people don’t know this cos I am very indisciplined about wearing them, though I've tried to be more regular after my daughter Y started wearing them.
2.       I eat a lot – several small meals a day. While that’s really a very healthy thing to do, I do it mainly  because I have a low sugar problem so need to keep upping the glucose levels with regularity.
3.       I love getting wet in the rain.
4.       I used to not like dogs very much when I was a kid but then my 2 best friends in high school turned out to be dog-lovers! They converted me and now I’m fine with large furry dogs jumping on me, slobbering all over me and lying on their back to be scratched on their tummies
5.       My first car was a Maruti 800 (hardly see those on the roads any more)
6.       I still read Enid Blytons!
7.       I love Tex-Mex but I can’t stand authentic Mexican food.

I'm not passing this on to anybody specific but do feel free to take up the tag (and let me know if you do!).

Friday, July 6, 2012

A great learning experience in Mumbai

We thought we were holding a workshop for not more than 30 girls. But on Day 1 of our business skills course for aspiring beauticians in a small village in Navi Mumbai, more than 40 girls turned up. Our team of 3 had been asked to conduct this course even though it's not exactly the kind of thing we do. It sounded like fun, however, and the money is always welcome to a tiny non-profit, so we said yes! 
We had been working very hard over the last fortnight to create the instructor modules and student workbooks, and all the content through several iterations – Draft 1, Draft 2 and so on until the Final Draft until they were deemed to be just right! Even so, it's only when the training actually starts that you discover gaps in the modules and have to improvise as you go on.
We started our first session even as the monsoon rains started drumming on the asbestos roof of our makeshift “training centre”. Struggling to be heard over the din of the rain, as the NGO people scrambled around to organize a mike, we started with dividing the class into work teams (with each group having a leader). While the girls were a little hesitant at first, they soon loosened up and began to be absorbed in the exercises we had set out for them. The role plays which formed a significant part of the sessions were highly entertaining (most of them had both participants and audience in loud fits of laughter). But they also boosted the girls’ confidence and made them think about potential real-life situations and how they would manage those (irate customers, unhappy customers, hostile co-workers and so on).
The session I handled was all about the economics, how to cost for services and make a rate card, estimate income, calculate profit/loss and so on. A lot of number-crunching! It took a while for them to get their heads around it and we realized many could not easily do basic multiplying and dividing.
Some girls were shy and reserved and some were role models with their wit, confidence and passion. Many had troubles at home. Someone’s sister insisted she leave the workshop to attend college. Another’s husband objected to his mother having to babysit the kids while she was at the workshop. The instructors grappled with these “HR” issues while of us mentored the girls as best as we could. Even so, some of the girls who were there on Day 1 simply disappeared because of family pressures and we never saw them again.
I saw a huge difference between Day 1 and Day 5 - some girls clearly had the drive to succeed and were willing to step up and assume leadership. Some continued to be back-benchers. Many were feisty go-getters who cracked us up wth their typical Mumbai lingo and jokes. We admired the pretty girls in beautiful embellished burkhas and flawless skin and hair, who sat absorbed in class inspite of an empty stomach (they were observing a roza).
Hopefully these few days would make a difference in their careers and lives. I don't know. What I was personally kicked about was conducting a marathon 5 hour session, entirely in Hindi! I felt immensely gratified when my colleagues said "We didn't know you could speak such good Hindi!"