Archive for January, 2012

On horseback in Udaipur

January 18, 2012

Bijli

The main aim of the holiday was to ride through the countryside around Udaipur.We were the guests of Dinesh and Francine Jain, who run Krishna Ranch.

They run short and long rides – anything from two hours to 10 days – from their base in the Aravali mountains. We opted for one half day and one full day, keeping in mind that we hadn’t ridden for more than five years and weren’t sure how the old seat bones would hold up.

Manza

All the horses at the Ranch are Marwaris, a fairly rare ‘hot blood’ breed. They are descended from native Indian Indian ponies crossed with Arabs. They were dying out, which seems strange to us as traditionally ‘hot bloods’ make good riding horses (think Thoroughbreds and Arabs). Marwaris are similar in build and size to Thoroughbreds, but have characteristic inward-turning ears.

Dinesh breeds Marwaris and they’re coming back into fashion thanks largely to tourist operations like Krishna Ranch. Apparently they make good dressage horses because ‘they like to perform’. We witnessed a little of this on one ride with three other people. It was difficult to stop the horses getting too close and Dinesh commented: ‘It’s hard to find Marwaris that want to be at the back!’

Paris (on the left)

We had a good time and would like to return to do some longer trails. Thank you to Dinesh and Francine, but also to Bijli, Manza and Paris, all pictured here.

Xmas Holiday Udaipur

January 18, 2012

Udaipur Lake


Now we know why Udaipur has a great reputation. After a trouble free journey we arrived in the pleasant city centre Khumba Palace Hotel, interesting and comfortable room, well laid out garden and a roof terrace, under the city palace walls. A big difference between here and Goa is the people who are very proud of both Udaipur and Rajastan and make an effort to keep the place up to scratch. It is a laid back and (relatively) quiet city.
There are three palaces, the famous Lake Palace, which has lost some of its visual charm because of new buildings towering above it, the City Palace and the Monsoon Palace. They were used by the incumbent Maharajas etc. in turn as the seasons changed.
The Whistling Teal restaurant deserves particular mention; excellent food, service and surroundings and sensibly priced.
The Khumba Palace Hotel owners, Dinesh and Francine (his Dutch wife), are charming and professional in all aspects of their business, the hotel, a farm cum ranch and horse riding.
We shipped out of the city next day to the Krishna Ranch for our quietest holiday in India to date. It was like a farm in rural England fifty years back. Contented horses, cows, goats, chickens, small plots for vegetables, roots and an orchard. The camels however would have looked out of place, as would some of the abundance of birds, peafowl, hornbills, parakeets and treepies. There was little in the way of contact with the outside world to disturb us.

More 10x10x10

January 8, 2012

Saturday night. 11.56pm we have just returned from dinner with friends in Benaulim and had a chat with the four guys working on the little garage flat. No signs of them packing up for the night. we are assured it will be finished soon. We are not holding our breaths.
Other curiosities this week have been:

Buying buttons. On show a shop girl a clear button and asking if they had some the answer came back that ‘no madam! You are not getting! Only in black’. On expressing disappointment, the girl produced a box of clear buttons of the correct size. She said,’But they do not match, they are not right’. On close inspection she was in fact right, they did not exactly match, just fractionally less clear. We decided that we could overlook the very slight discrepancy at least they were not black

A patient is travelling 600 miles or so to consult with Alison. He is totally unable to make an appointment during the two days available and will call when he is here on the off chance that Alison will be able to see him.

Unexpected closure of our clinic room. Friday morning a call from the manager of the building. ‘Tomorrow we are closed for painting’. Our robust response:’You will open for us! We have eight patients with appointments’ Silence. A query from him about the timings. ‘9.00am to 7.00pm.’ Silence. Then ‘Yes we will be open. They will paint on Sunday’.

Painters, of course, put the fear of god in us. They paint more than required. Liberally. So at the end of Saturday, we take the needful precautions. While doing so, we ask the manager when the painters will be doing our room. He has no clue, probably some time. He does not know the painters gang leader or the boss. Absolutely no idea, except that the painters are in the building now and will be leaving sometime.

We hope they won’t be around as long as the 10x10x10 crew.

Sign on the off license door. ‘We are closed today due to family function. Will open next week.’ We wanted to add sometime.

Buying light bulbs on Friday. Shop closed. No sign. Saturday. ‘You were closed yesterday’ we said. ‘No, not closed’, they said. Yes – No stuff for a bit. Then ‘Oh yes! we shut at 10 am’.

Life’s always interesting, if a tad frustrating.

Electioneering engineering

January 6, 2012

Goa’s Chief of Police was sacked recently, because he had used an official car to take him on unofficial business. This happened despite the fact that he had sought and gained the correct permissions for the use of the vehicle. However the government subsequently re-wrote this particular rule and back-dated it to before the ‘crime’ was committed. So despite having made some unusually good progress in the sorting out of corruption, drugs, sex trade etc, and generally being straight and incorruptible, he still had to go.
So although we could guess at the reason for his sacking, for instance getting to close to nailing a politician, the real reason became clear when we read that between the Chief of Police’s going and his replacement’s coming, the government (illegally) moved their ‘own’ policemen into strategically important positions. These policemen include at least two who are being investigated for some serious malfeasance.
This is all part of the charade for the March general election . Long live democracy and we look forward to seeing what action the Indian Government will take with regard to these blatantly illegal actions.
This might sound like a moan, but actually it is all great fun and part of Indian life. We don’t see this kind of thing changing much in the near future despite a current Gandhi like figure, Anna Hazare, causing a few ripples within the Indian middle classes.

10x10x10

January 6, 2012

Back in November the jewelry shop on the ground floor of our building was closed for refurbishment. After seven days we were surprised that despite 4 men working eight hour days, nothing much seemed to have happened. Like many Indian shops, it is basically a garage space, no windows, no doors, nothing but a concrete 10x10x10ft cube. What, we wondered, was taking so long?
Talking with the owner we gathered that he was expecting the work to be finished for the Christmas rush. New electrics, fitted cabinets, fancy wall coverings, a new roller shutter and a metal fascia to disguise the same were the order of the day. OK, so if everything has to be constructed on site in either cramped conditions or out on the street, it will take some time.
Three weeks later, in conversation with the owner, we gathered that he would be re-opening on 4th January. Without trying to be superior, we pointed out that in the UK, to avoid prolonged closure and resultant loss of business, most of the work would have been done off-site, a team would have arrived with all the stuff in van and they would have completed in a couple of days. He shook his head sadly and said ‘Not possible in India, nothing would fit and all the new stuff would have to be re-worked. This is the only way’.
It’s now 40 days from the start and counting. The four men have been working eleven hour days for the last week, including Sunday and the job still seems far from completion. Maybe they are constructing an underground tunnel to the owner’s house so that he can avoid the increasingly difficult Margao traffic. We can’t believe this is a simple refurbishment job.