Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Between Day 78 & 79- Jodhaa Akbar

The world's your inspiration,
Anything you see,
No matter what it means to you,
It means the same to me,

The world's a stage for actors,
Hitched up for a show,
It's a canvas to an artist,
Tells a story blow by blow,

Excerpt from the poem "The World's Your Inspiration" by Abby Wall.

WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION?

Mine is truly from the real "stage for actors", movies.
Epics, romance, tragedies, fantasies,
if they have an Indian palace in it, I'll watch it.
Movies I love have great stories but movies I'll never forget, have great scenes.

My all time favourite, like Katie's, is still Mira Nair's Kama Sutra- A Tale of Love. I watched the heart-wrenching, hauntingly beautiful and mythic tragedy in 1996 when it first came out,
And there I found my Jai, Raj, Maya, Tara.
Since then, I have been searching for another epic romance, majestic setting, larger than life tale.

On 21st June 2009, 4am in the morning, I came home with the DVD of Jodhaa Akbar from the ever reliable Mustapha and found my fix.

I love this movie on many levels.
Not least of all the sumptuous settings.
Be it

The Maharajah's Chamber
where the saga of a historical romance begins and ends

or
The Royal Tent
when a Rajput princess awaits her fate


and the Emperor begins the conquest for the heart of his queen

Beyond the tale of love is also a miraculous union of religions.
And I love how in
The Queen's Palace
this is symbolised by the housing of her Hindu temple (top pic)
under the grandeur of Islamic Mughal splendour

I even love
The Simple Courtyard
which became a grand platform
when the Sufi dervishes dance in divine celebration





and then transforms again into
The Playground For Courtship


And who can resist the most beautiful woman in the world (1994)
portraying the fiery yet graceful
Rajput Princess

Her glimmering costumes

Those ostentatious ornaments

And finally, the awe-inpiring, perfection personified and swoon worthy
Mughal Emperor
a warrior and a philosopher, a visionary and a ruler
at once, powerful and unflinching



yet compassionate and romantic

And with that, may I share with you the final song of the movie mainly for the setting which I hope to recreate in my palace. For those of you, who may want to watch the movie and don't like to know the endings before hand, well, this is a spoiler. But really, this movie is not about endings, it is all about the journey.


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Day 94- Thai Artisans- Fruit For Thought

I can't really believe that I was back in Bangkok again, so soon after the last trip but work and duty called, lucky me. I was there for 4 days, 28th- 31st Aug, Friday to Monday.

I had some free time on Friday and right after I checked in, I headed straight to JJ aka Jatujak/Chatuchak. Many shops do not open on Fridays at the "weekend market" but that was good because it meant no crowd. It was drizzling a little too that afternoon and the experience of meandering through the maze of stalls with the sound of rain on the zinc roof was pleasant beyond words.

As things turned out, it was to be the best 2 hours spent at JJ because I met Laiad, a Thai artisan. It was a little surreal as I have fallen in love with Laiad's mini rambutans months ago when I saw them in a Singapore shop. Due to some unfortunate incident, I could not buy them then and so, when opportunity knocks the 2nd time, you don't ask too many questions. You just buy 50 crates of these fruits and then promise to be back for more!

It is 5 days after my return, my 4th session at this post (see I started this post since 2/9)..too many things on my crate (1" wide, 5/8"high, 1 5/8" long)..well, I can't wait to show these off so ladies, and maybe one or two gentlemen, may I present....

EXOTIC FRUITS FROM ASIA
Rambutans
The rambutan is cousin to the longan and the lychee. Rambutans are grown mainly in Malaysia and Thailand. Sometimes known as Hairy Lychees, there was limited planting in India. In '04, India banned the import of exotic fruits like rambutans and melons. Thanks to the prohibition, this forbidden fruit is now sweeter than ever and is the favourite contraband of our palace.

Lychees
Now these are the real lychees, no hair! India is one of the top five world producing countries although the best lychees are from China. Few can resist the sweet juiciness of fresh lychees but personally, I love them chilled. All you have to do is to throw peeled lychees into the freezer and then wait 3 hours before serving. For other great Indian lychee recipes , check out "Live To Eat" .

Longans
Closely allied to the glamorous lychee, longan is often regarded as its poor cousin with nicknames like mamoncillo chino in Cuba ("little brother of the lychee"), or li-chihnu, ("slave of the lychee"). Longan means "dragon eyes" in Mandarin and is so named because of the fruit's resemblance to an eyeball when it is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris).

Longkong/Langsat

A somewhat less edible fruit of the family Meliaceae.
Small, white or pale-yellow, fleshy, mostly bisexual.
--Julia F. Morton, Fruits of warm climates, pp. 201-3.

A puzzling and rather scandalous description of a fruit that has launched national campaigns (Thailand) and caused mass hysteria (India). Just last year, the Thai Government has proclaimed “Longkong: A fruit of friendship” because the bunching of the fruits signify tight relationships. This campaign has backfired as in April this year, Thai teenagers in the South were caught using the leaves of the longkong tree to concoct a new illicit drug, giving new meaning to the phrase "high on friendship". You may mistake longkongs for longans but the latter has scaly skin while longkongs' are smooth and mildly poisonous.

Melons
(Honeydews, Cantaloupes and Water Melons)
Melon Shoe

These melons need no introduction surely, except to say that they can be made into hats and shoes (click on pics to see where you can find them). ALSO, if they are from Peru, they are banned, banned, banned in India. You can read this 56 page report for the reasons why. By the way, a Japanese farmer has invented square watermelons and although these are not banned, they are prohibitively expensive. I remembered water melon being my 1st ever favourite fruit. Can you remember which one is yours?

Pomelos


Ancestor of the common grapefruit, pomelo is the largest citrus fruit in the world. It is precisely this size that makes it a perfect fruit gift . As nothing is more moving than the sight of someone's shoulder sloping while he/she heaves and pants toward your house carrying a heavy load of pomelo from their hometown. That's why FaiZ brings back to Singapore car trunk load of them (the best, he claims) everytime he visits his hometown in Ipoh and seriously, FaiZ is one of the most popular guys I know. I am not a fan of pomelos but I do love the skin as it smells like a flower bath PLUS it too can be made into ridiculous clothes.

Mangoes
In India, the first mangoes of the year make newspaper headlines and herald the coming of summer. "Mango Mania March-May" happens once a year when mango frenzy is in full swing. This is a country where people know better than anyone how to reincarnate a mango: street vendors squeezing mango juice; fashionable bars mix mango martinis; and restaurants at five-star hotels launch mango minifestivals featuring expensive avant-garde mango curiosities while loving mothers pickle the green mangoes so their kids can have them all year round.

Mangosteens
This “queen of fruits” is widely considered the most luscious and delicious delicacy in all fruitdom, One of my favourite fruits, sadly for some of you, countries prohibit their imports as these ambrosial fruits may carry asian fruit flies, also known as lucky-ass bastards. When imbibing, do take care that the purple skins do not touch your clothes for nothing can remove the stain it caused. It is precisely this indelible quality that makes it one of the best weapon for vengeful harem girls.

Dragon Fruits
I know many people have not seen this fruit, not to mention taste it. I believe it did not become popular in Singapore until my nephew was 3 and I see them in mum's house all the time. Nathaniel is fed dragonfruit everyday for its laxative quality. I have tasted it the grand total of 1 mouthful and it is disappointingly tasteless, like paper (yes, I have tasted paper, couple of times). I'd buy them though because they are so beautiful. In fact if there is a beauty pageant for fruits, this one will be crowned Miss Universe, the Longkong, Miss Friendship. Here is a funny story of an Indian family's 1st encounter with this fruit.

Fragrant Pears, Mandarins and Star Fruits

Fragrant Pears- A misnomer as there is hardly any fragrant but the taste is superb. In contrast, regular pears smells good but taste like sawdust. Originates from China, this pear made headline news on New York Times when it was first imported into America in 2006. The Chinese have cultivated pears for so long that producing delicious pears is no longer a challenge. Now, they are into art shaped pears, like little babies hanging from trees.

Mandarin Orange-Another 3000 year old fruit which is so much easier to peel, its nicknamed "kid glove orange" or "honey pixie", By the way, just so you know, all tangerines are mandarin orange but not the other way around. I hope to grow a lot of these blooming trees in my palace's backyard because they are a symbol of abundance in gold (very popular during Chinese New Year).

Star fruit-This is one tree I cannot miniaturise because in India, it grows to 4000 feet high (333 ft in 1:12!!). Best used in salads unless you have kidney problem for a mere 100ml of its juice will kill. Symptoms of starfruit poisoning includes confusion, nauseousness, agitation and epileptic fits. Oh yes, hiccups too.

Bananas & Papayas
These 2 fruits are featured together for their diametrically opposite qualities. On the one hand, we have the shapely and nutritious banana which contains chelating minerals and the bromelain enzyme, said to enhance the male libido. Central Americans drink the sap of the red banana as an aphrodisiac, while Hindus regard it as a symbol of fertility. A banana left on a doorstep indicates that a marriage is about to take place. Bananas made an early appearance in the Garden of Eden; according to Islamic myth, Adam and Eve covered themselves not with fig but banana leaves.

On the other hand, women in India have long used green papaya for contraception and abortion. Enslaved women in the West Indies are also noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery. Medical research in animals has confirmed the contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya, and also found that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, possibly in adult male humans as well, since they are considered quite similar.

Pineapples
Now, I did not know that peculiar quality about papaya until today. I have heard however about pineapples being used that way. Apparently it was the Europeans (probably English) who gave it the name "pine apple" because they thought the fruit resembled pine cones. Pineapples are used quite a lot in Kerala Ayuvedic treatments for their digestive quality.

By now, if you can understand what I am writing, you are in better shape than me, so thank goodness we are now coming to

EXPENSIVE TEMPERATE FRUITS FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD
(which many of you probably know more about than me)
Grapes & Sugar Apples
I just want to say that of all the fruits here, sugar apple is the only one I have never tasted. It is expensive here, 1 fruit cost about S$3 at the economical food mall! Fafa loves it and told me it taste like milk. Just as well, I hate the taste of milk.

Strawberries and Apricots
I am trying to remember if I have ever tasted fresh apricots. Dried ones, zillion times but I am not sure if the fresh ones are even sold here. Time to go grocery shopping..

Persimmons

Another fruit I am not fond of. As you can guess by now, I avoid fruits that taste like you are chewing sawdust OR

Avocados
milk.

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