Thursday, 29 January 2009

Day 23 & 24-India Pt 2

Jan 22 & 23
THE BEST WAY to travel between Delhi & Agra is by the Shatabdi Express. It runs from the New Delhi Station at 6.15am everyday and arrives at Agra in 2 hours. The return train leaves Agra at 8.15pm every evening and reaches Delhi just before bedtime.

It is an express train and there is therefore no way anyone can cling onto the train without being flung towards the moon.

1st Class seats cost about 1600 rupees both ways and the fare includes a stalk of rose, breakfast, masala tea and a bottle of mineral water for the morning ride PLUS dinner (huge meal of at least 8 dishes), tea, ice-cream and the ubiquitous mineral water again when you return. Fantastic deal and truly the next best thing to the Orient Express!

ALTHOUGH if you are travelling from Gurgaon in the morning, it means waking at 4am, (groggy and grouchy) so that you can taxi to New Delhi (book the night before), do a quick check-in into The Park (hotel interiors designed by Terence Conran and very charming) and then taxi to the station to hopefully catch the 6.15 express.

EVEN THEN, you mustn't do it any other way. For there is nothing like watching the wintry morning landscapes of rural India through your 1st Class window with a cup of assam tea in your hand while speedily chug-a-chugging towards Agra.

We had only 1 day at Agra. So it was just Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal for sights cos they are the essential destinations for my dollhouse project and then the rest of the afternoon shopping at the Kinari Bazaar.


Before I go on, let me 1st provide my sources of information.

To your left is a most reliable source which I found only right at the end of my tour of the city. This guidebook, published as part of the World Heritage Series, can be bought at a real bargain price of 60 rupees at the exit(?) gate.

To your right is our guide (NOT the man with the white cap). Some of his stories did not at all gel and are in fact contradicted by the guidebook. Guide came with an "autorickshaw" our taxi driver insisted we had to take in order to reach the palace because cars were no longer allowed beyond a certain distance (true). He also said Guide's rate of 350 rupees was very cheap (not true).

SuZ thinks Fatehpuh Sikri is more of a must-see than Taj Mahal. I think they are both must-see if you have never been to either but I agree with her that this site is the worthier of the 2 if you fancy a 2nd visit. Her renderings of my palace were in fact from her recollections of this place as she was there with my other sis a few years ago.

This town is completely built in red sandstone and is accorded , as you already know, the status of world heritage site. By the way, India has many heritage sites but it is said that Fatehpur Sikri presents the best example of the culmination of Hindu and Muslim architecture with Mughal splendour. It is so well preserved , it feels as if Akbar and his entourage had just left the day before.

What fascinates me even more is the character behind the architecture. Emperor Akbar who was of warrior descent (lethal combo of Genghis Khan and Timur, both great conquerors) took 15 years to build Fatehpuh Sikri but only stayed there for 14. Perhaps, like his father, Akbar was only "happiest living in a tent pitched amidst a pleasant garden" for he never returned after that.
Pic on left was, accordingly to Guide, the pleasure bedroom Akbar used in the summer. The bed was the elevated part because according to Guide, the floor was filled with rose water to cool the place down. Pic on right shows the door to a secret tunnel leading to the harem. This was apparently to facilitate the comings and goings of Akbar's queens and concubines so that nobody else knew who was sharing his bed for that evening, or so Guide claimed. When asked how Akbar reached his bed since there were no steps, Guide mumbled something about stones on the floor but we could find no signs of them.

Akbar the Great was also a thinker and may even be regarded by some (like me) as a visionary. Rather controversially, he founded a "consensual religion" known as Divine Monotheism in order to unite people of different religions. As a show to his people that this could work, he had 3 Queens (according to Guide, guidebook and the rest of the world says he had "various" queens and definitely more than 4) of different faiths. There was a Hindu and the only queen who bore him sons, a Christian from Goa and a Muslim from Turkey. Now the Guide claimed, because the Hindu queen bore him sons, she got this (click on pic below to appreciate effect):

whilst the other 2 got these:

The guidebook says "Nay" and I say "nonsense" cos all the queens together with 300 over concubines lived in The Haram Sara (1st pic) or the Imperial Harem.

The following are other interesting snippets by Guide:

1.Diamonds, rubies and other jewels were used to adorn these walls but are there no more because the European conquerors took them for their royal crowns!! (Probably true)

2. There were many areas that were barricaded. In this instance of a locked stairway leading to the upper levels of the Haram Sara, it was because a pair of young lovers, met with parental objections, had committed suicide in the "queen's bedroom" !! (It is more likely that too many young lovers were scratching their names or phone numbers on the walls.)

3. In the courtyard where there were squares drawn on the floor, the most beautiful slave girls were used as pieces for a board game to entertain Akbar and his queens. (SuZ has quite cleverly suggested that I use a "marble" chessboard for the courtyard of my palace and maybe my dancing girls can be placed there to re-create this decadent past-time.)

4. Guide also said Akbar and his concubines played hide and seek frequently, along the corridors and behind the pillars!! (Unverifiable)

The ceiling of the summer palace is very low (less than 6 ft) because Akbar was no taller than 4 ft and no one above that height was allowed in here. Ok, Guide didn't really say that but the low ceiling worries me. I don't think I will follow this height for the scale of my palace or my dolls will be hunchbacks in their rooms.

The one down side to Fatehpur Sikri, apart from not very reliable guides, is the hordes of touts. Everyone is trying to sell you something. Even the gardener tried to sell tiny packets of seeds to us!! Sometimes though, you get treasures like the elephant carving on your left. This is a 2.5" square sandstone and the man who sold it to SuZ for 50 rups claimed he made it himself (that's what they all say). SuZ bought it on condition that she be allowed to take a picture of him which I may post later if this page has not imploded by then. SuZ has decided that this shall be the 1st stone for my palace. I will definitely give it a prominent space.


What more can I say about this magnificent mausoleum that has not already been said ad nauseum. Even pictures of it from all angles have been posted so I won't add to it. There is one though which SuZ took, of the view from the palace which I may add later. I think the view is worth sharing because it was a full 20 minutes before I reluctantly left it.

No interesting snippets cos we didn't want a guide although one came free with the entrance fee.

4th and last day, Delhi

This post has gone way longer than I had intended so if you haven't left or fallen asleep, this is what I bought from one of Delhi's bazaar for my palace:

Miniature Paintings for walls of my rooms:
1st Set-Court Series (7.5" by 5")

2nd Set-Courtesan Series (6.5" by 4")

Books -Needless to say, India is the place to go for rare books on India

The 2nd book shown here is actually the Hindi version of what I bought, Maharani, the sequel to the Maharaja. Stories of their lives as recounted by Diwan Jarmani Dass who lived and partied amongst them a long long time ago. The English version of Maharani is so rare that I can't even find a picture of it on Google.

I am glad this post is over. Arghhh.. I forgot Kinari Bazaar...another day perhaps...or not.

Day 21 & 22-India Pt 1

JAN 20 & 21 2009

THIS is the 1st picture I took in India . It was my 3rd day in this incredible country and I was on my train ride to Agra. I have nothing from my 1st 2 days apart from the things I bought in Delhi which I will show later, The Indian Express (from the hotel in Gurgaon and in the picture) and remnants of some body lotion from the same hotel.

That is India in a nutshell. It is either totally forgettable or entirely mesmorising. There are aspects you either absolutely love or just simply loathe. No middle ground and very little balance.

Starting from the Indira Ghandi Airport. Everyone says expect to be stuck in there for up till 3 hours. Guess what? We were out of there in less than 25 minutes from the time the plane landed. We were delayed slightly only because we stopped to browse at the duty free store.

As you may have read in my earlier post, we were expected in Gurgaon on the 1st 2 days. Sadly, although not surprising, there is almost no reason why anyone will want to spend time in this "Mall Capital" unless you have a fashion fair you MUST attend AND they not only sponsor your hotel rooms for the 1st 2 nights, they ALSO feed you once a day and then chauffeur you to and from the Fair everyday for as many time as you wish.

Thanks to the great hospitality from Sangeetha and Surinder, the husband and wife team my sis works with, we manage everyday for the 2 days we were in Gurgaon to travel to Delhi . The rides were long and the roads dusty, but the weather was so cool, nothing seemed to matter, not even the terrible traffic and the constant honking from every vehicle at every obstacle.

1st Day-After a trip to Delhi's textile centre where we met a cow right outside our shop, we returned to the hotel just in time for Obama's Inauguration. Like 80% of the world, I am a big big fan so my 1st night in Gurgoan could not have ended more perfectly, sleeping right after Obama's awe-inspiring speech and waking up to him and his mrs dancing through the 10 inauguration balls.

2nd Day- This was a more hectic day as we had to rush to the New Delhi train station to book our tickets to Agra. By the time we finished the Fair, rushed through traffic, bought our tickets , rushed through traffic again after getting quite lost, we finally reached my die-die must go lace and ribbon shop at 5.30pm. I was given only 10 minutes to get whatever I want at the shop so that we could get back to Gurgaon by 7pm!! (Oh, the other thing about India, if you want to shop , do set aside at least 30 minutes to bargain, pretend to walk away, come back, bargain some more, have tea etc etc with the vendors. Otherwise, be prepared to be fleeced baaaad.)

I shall not tell you how badly I was fleeced at the lace shop but no, no, no regrets for it is the most incredible tiny 3 level lace shop I have ever seen. Can you imagine 3 levels of lifesized room boxes filled with nothing but ribbons, laces and tassels of all shapes and sizes and every colour ever conceived or not? Yes, I swear I met a few new colours at the shop! Regrettably, I don't know where the place is now as we were brought there by Sangeetha's driver but these are some of the ribbons I managed to grab in my 10 minutes:

I am going to have a field day making beautiful furnishings out of these gorgeous ribbons.

I also bought these thingalingding which I will convert into Indian chandeliers:

And then to add the ultimate icing to a most fruitful day, I found out that night that the model maker replied to my email!! This is his very short reply (with slight edit):

Respected Sir,

I am Raju M from Ahmedabad Gujarat. I have professional studio for making models. What you want to make model I have no idea but please give me details. I can make any type of model. Then I will give offer please.

Regards and Thanks

I slept like a baby for the second time on my second night in India.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Day 20-My 1st Award

AN AWARD! From Daisy Capri of Sao Paulo, Brazil, top ten places I want to visit before I die (seriously!) And when I am there, I will meet you, Daisy, and give you a big big mini hug!

I can imagine how this trophy will be quite heavy in real life cos it looks like its made of cast iron. Someone out there should make a miniature of this and all bloggers who are awarded will get a real mini version. Sweet! And now I have to find 15 bloggers to pass this on.

Many "thank you"s to say but will have to run off (bz bz bz day cos tomorrow its DELHI- HOORAY!) Will be back to edit this post further.

But before I go : To Daisy: (This is what I said on her post when I accepted the award)

"Wow Daisy ! (loss for words) Thank you so much for the award. I am overwhelmed! Wow! Don't know what to say except that I am very very honoured, humbled and amazed that great bloggers like you (I know you have at least 4 blogs?) find the time to read my blog, give me helpful, heartwarming and encouraging comments and then present an award like this to me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. :)"

10 hours later and 2 1/2 hours from my flight:

My project here has given me loads of pleasure, thanks to the people who inspired me, Sumaiya, SuZ, Win, the same people who have helped me in this incredibly fun journey and of course, fellow miniaturists and a special thanks to the 8 people who followed my blog which according to SuZ reads like a boring history lesson and inevitably puts her to sleep. Ha!

10 days later and 2 1/2 hours since I logged in:

I have decided, before I start a new post on my trip to India and provide the many updates I have on my mini-quests, to list the blogs I wish to pass the award to (will keep coming back here till I get 15 names). The parts in italics are excerpts from the relevant blogs and the picture posted under each blog name is from the respective author and is usually something he or she had created.

1. Wanna In El Paso who is both a storyteller and miniaturist.
Among my earliest memories is listening on summer evenings to my grandparents' stories on their porch in Oklahoma. I made up stories, too, like why little people didn't come to occupy the little houses of leaves and twigs that I made in the woods...I have always been a storyteller, as was my mother. I used to take notes as she talked, and in 2005 .. I began scrapbooking the family stories... I also learned why I never "completed" certain projects, winding up in a kind of creative paralysis - not wanting to go forward without finishing what I had started but not understanding why I couldn't. Now I know that some of my miniatures only exist long enough to tell a certain story, and that is enough.

2.Shannon's Mini Blog where she tracks the progress of her French shop and shares with us amazing links to great mini works.
In the attic area are the bedrooms. This is the first bed I have finished and will go in the guest bedroom. The backdrop is just paper, but is a similar tone to what the walls will be in the house, only paler. I handpainted and aged a Bespaq bed and handmade the bedding. I am pleased with how it turned out.
Posted on 8/2/2009

3. Liberty Biberty, where Mercedez, a miniaturist, a scrapbooker, a general crafter, a wife and a mother of 2 muses.
Many (far too many) years ago I read a quote from Theodore Roosevelt which said,"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." That quote has stuck with me and really sums up most of the crafty things I do.
Last Christmas
About three weeks before Christmas my eight year old neice asked me if she could have one of my dollhouses. I said to her maybe she should ask Father Christmas for a dollhouse to which she replied,"Oh, I don't think Father Christmas could make anything that good". Well, that just melted my heart and I knew I had to make her something
Posted on 12/2/09

4. Exotic Dolls by S. Mehreen where you can feast your eyes on some of the most beautiful Indian dolls I have seen in the miniature world.
Urvashi was inspired by her mythical namesake, the most beautiful Apsara in Indra's court. She is dressed in a traditional Bharatanatyam costume and is decked in jewelry from head to toe. She wears flowers in her hair, and her body is adorned with henna.
Princess Suhana: as dazzling and regal as the star that is her namesake. She is an incomparable beauty of the Orient, dressed in Indian brocade and exotic jewelry. Her wrapped dress, draped in the style of a sari, is made of a chocolaty plum silken fabric shot with gold: an intricate floral design woven on the achal. Her jewelry is accented in faux turquoise. Her hair is arranged in a braided chignon, but most of her thick shimmery copper curls flow freely about her shoulders.

In Hindi, Suhana means beautiful; in Arabic, it is the name of a star. Princess Suhana will grace a Persian Harem as befittingly as she would an Indian Palace.
Posted on 22/2/09

5. Jean Day Miniature, featuring numerous works of art and free projects by the accomplished miniaturist and artist, Jean Day. Her generosity enables me to enjoy stunning printables and useful tips.
I've been organizing lately and it feels really good. Whenever I'm in a slump I usually organize. It has the wonderful effect of looking great afterwards and I find things I had forgotten about that often are motivating. I moved around tables so I have more workspace and coverd one work table with a new blue and yellow table cover. I placed two very colourful orange and yellow begonias on the table. Very inspiring! Creativity never really disappears, it just hides out in different environments sometimes and has to be rediscovered!!
Last July,
This is a photo of one of my fold out antique albums with a pair of antique children's glasses and pen set. You can see an antique lace blouse in the background and celluloid photo album that I reproduced in miniature a long time ago. It is so wonderful to be able to use some of my favourite things for my miniature business.

Posted on 22/2/09

6.Tallulah-Belle Originals is where Jayne shares her mind-blowing miniature plants with the world and I swear, they are so lifelike, you can see them move.
As a child I grew up in a house that always had a dollhouse. My Grandfather was a master woodworker who built toys for my Mother and her siblings and then for his grandchildren.We not only had dollhouses but we had forts, castles, car garages and the like.My Grandmother would help me make furniture out of whatever was available. I remember making little chests of drawers from matchboxes and using brass pins for handles. We even made a pram with working wheels from card. We made dolls from the old fashioned clothes pegs and dressed them in scraps. She even taught me how to knit small garments using fine wool and cocktail sticks as knitting needles.
Posted on 24/2/09

7. Garden Hopping was chanced upon when I was doing my "flowers" post on day 33. Zoe is not only a talented gardener, her posts are peppered with glorious photos she took of her flowers and infused with just the right dose of appropriate poetry for that perfect finish.
This green man is actually in the kitchen sink, soaking in a wreath of foliage I made earlier in the week!
Green Man In The Garden
Green man in the Garden Staring from the tree,Why do you look so long and hard,Through the panes at me
Your eyes are dark as holly,Of sycamores your horns,Your bones are made of elder branches,Your teeth are made of thorns.
Your hat is made of ivy-leaf,Of bark your dancing shoes,And evergreen and green and green Your jacket and shirt and trews.
Leave your house and leave you land And throw away the key, And never look behind, he creaked, And come and live with me.
I bolted the window,I bolted the door,I drew the blind that I should find The green man never more.
But when I softly turned the stair As I went up to bed, I saw the green man standing there,Sleep well my friend, he said.
~Charles Causley~
Posted on 1/3/2009

8. Jodi Creager, 1 of 2 in a husband & wife dream team, she has been creating museum quality characters for 32 years and married for 34. Her blog is a must read in the wee hours of sleepless nights, dreary Monday mornings or for LOL moments. I go to the Creager Gallery every few clicks to gawk (GV (Gawk Value) 11/10).
OMG OMG OMG!!!! I just got a notice this morning in the mail AND through an email.... that my 4oth High School Reunion is 'Bull Dozing' it's way towards me in a few months... HOLY CRAP, how can this be...40 years...ARE YOU SURE!!!! Well if that is not an Eye Popper /Heart Stopper for the day... I don't know what is...!!
It seems like only yesterday that I was a semi reclusive, anti establishment, un-sociable girl who hung out in the Art Room and Hated Cheerleaders and lusted from afar after the one boy that was a total loner mysterious odd ball that everyone thought would be voted most likely to build a bomb in his basement just for fun. I really hated school when I was there...why on earth would they think I would find joy in returning to the scene of 'emotional crime' ?? And WHY must they find it necessary to remind me how old I am in this manner... talk about rubbing salt into a long time semi open wound!! I must admit I am mildly curious about people I 'sorta' knew back then ... but as I was so transparent back then, blending very nicely into the lockers and hallway tiles that lined the floor between rooms ...I am sure it would all be for not if I decided to just 'pop in' .

Posted on 3/3/09

9. Lotjesdollshouse belongs to Sylvia. Written in Dutch, these are the few things I conclude or guess: Fact: Extremely talented miniaturist Guesswork: Been at it for 3 years. Fact: Gorgeous creations Guesswork: Mother of 3 sons & 1 daughter (edited on 3/3/09) Fact: Blogger of few words but her work speaks volume.
De zolder van een alcoholist: (alcoholic's attic courtesy of Google Translate)
On 19/2/09
Mijn ouders worden in augustus 80 jaar en ik ben een bloemenwinkel voor ze aan het maken. Nu eerst maar eens wat bloemen en de toonbank. (It is my grandparents' 80th anniversary and I am making a flower shop for them courtesy of Google Translate)
Posted on 3/3/09

10. Lissu's Dollhouse is where Lissu showcases her marvellous creations and where I 1st learned of the style and art of the Gustavian tradition. This tradition of fine furniture making goes back to the 18th century when the Gustavian style had it’s peak during the rein of King Gustav III in Sweden.
Itsetehtyä ovat sohva tekstiileineen sekä lautashylly ja kukka.Tuunattuja ovat renginkaappi, Tiimarin halpispöytä ja eurominis-lipasto.Vetimet vielä puuttuu...Massahedelmät ovat monilta taitureilta...Matot nukke- ja nallemarkkinoilta.Astiat Riimikosta ja Doloreksesta,kamee on Tildaa, kynttilä Leealta ja Britalta upea hedelmäkulho Selfmade sofa, flower and platerack,other furnitures are redone
Posted on 3/3/09

11. Brenda's Miniature is new to blogging but an old hand at minis especially antiquing and she made the most glorious adobe from scratch with a little help from her 2 year old daughter. Brenda is amusing, talented and resourceful and she shares her wonderful tips of her finds with the world at this picturesque blog.
Her 1st Post on 7/2/09:This is my first attempt at blogging and I don't have a clue what I'm doing! But I love making dollhouse miniatures and sharing them with others. So, here I go!
Her 2nd Post on the same day at 9am: As I'm trying to figure this thing out, I thought I'd add a little pic to keep me company. (no pic)
Her 3rd Post still on the same day but at 1am: I'm going to bed. (Heading:This is'nt as easy as it looks)
The day after:My current project is an adobe roombox/dollhouse. I don't know what to call it....It's a one-room box in the shape of an adobe! I've finished the outside and am working on some accessories before I take pictures. It's going to be the home of a cowboy. I have the floor, walls, and windows done on the inside.
Posted on 6/3/09

12.Villa Hertta is the 1:12 home of Hertta, the doll and Hertta, its creator. Reading the blog is like watching a soap called "Days of Hertta". Tune in everyday to find out what Hertta and her postman boyfriend is up to next. The blog is in Finnish with slight English translation.
Hertta`s favorite hobby is all kinds of handycrafts. For example with Granny`s old sewingmachine she has sewn all of her clothes. Crocheted bed`s day coverage is self-made as well as carpets in the livingroom and kitchen.
Here is Hertta admiring her new mirror near the outer-door. It's very important for a young lady to chech her appearance before she goes out... even for a mailbox. Especially when her fiance is a postman ; ).
Posted on 7/3/09

13. Taenias Miniatures belongs to Taenia from Austria who has the most elegant taste and incredible resources which she shares readily on her blog. I have bookmarked all her recommendations and so will you. To add icing to her already incredible cake, Taenia is also extremely clever with her hands and her tutorials are priceless. Taenia is also a bag freak, like me.
Today I made the planking for my dining room. It was very simple to make it: You just need some corrugated board and uncoated paper in the colour and size of your choice. I chose 7cm for the height of the planking and the inner squares are 8cm x 4,2 cm. Cut some slices corrugated board, cut the ends to mitre joint and glue them on the uncoated paper!
Posted on 8/3/09

14. At Peace is not really called "At Peace", not really about dollhouses, nor is it really "crafty", except with words. But when the author has one of those moments, he is funny, irresistible and rather brilliant. Here he is, one of my dearest friends at one of those moments.
As the financial and job markets continue to seek inspiration, I'll try a little free association with people whose every spare moment (including moments they cannot afford to spare) are devoted to building miniature houses. Let's see how long it takes to liken them to this current financial situation. First, it begins with some odds and ends left over from some handiwork around the house. The hobbyist is fascinated with the idea of a dollhouse. Soon, she becomes a property developer. Why not recreate, say, Buckingham Palace? Soon, she asks around for toy soldiers and, maybe some princes and princesses. "They're so lovely; let's make them some gold-encrusted jewellery and buttons. Out come the credit cards. Before you know it, the mini-developer is importing miniature bricks for the tower extension. "Er, am I paying up on my credit card purchases on time?" Next, come the complicated derivative swaps. Let's go online and sell or exchange items. Maybe I can time-share the dollhouses. (Forget that the dollhouse was never really completed before all the focus was on the palace). Some online friend sends miniature items for the dollhouse, but it went towards the Buckingham Palace building fund - plus some profit for the expenses incurred by the "dollhouse builder", plus bonuses (justified as "expenses" and "pre-contracted payments"! More online enthusiasts are sucked into a big Ponzi scheme. In the end, the Buckingham Palace becomes too big a project to fail! Hah.
Posted on 6/3/09

15. My Ivory Throne, the author of which, is a humorist 1st and foremost and last but not least, my palace architect and designer who is very very late.
So my sister’s been going through this new phase in her life, and I inadvertently got pulled into it. It used to be collector’s handbags. Anything with a handle that can be got for under $200 on eBay and can hold no more than five $10 bills, a cellphone and a stick of gum, she’s got. But last week, after a housemate invited her to design the interior of a 1:12 scale 3-storey house, it has become her new obsession; dollhouses. It got so bad, she even started a blog. Okay, hang on. Make that two(!)...This new hobby of hers has taught me two things; one, that I am actually interested in the world of dollhouse and miniature making, and two...
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