Ladies of the palace

Where once the royal harem sat

The palace of Jodhabai was home to Akbar‘s favorite wife. But it also held a large harem, both to attend to the queen’s daily — washing, dressing, feeding, fawning — needs as well as the king’s nightly urges.

When they weren’t otherwise employed, however, the harem would mostly have been bored, whiling away the hours in the nooks and crannies of the palace at Fatehpur Sikri.

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I’m cheering for ya, Mohan

Scribbled love

To the young, macho Indian man, there must be something irresistible about scrawling your romantic intentions on an old monument. This, from a nook at the palace of Jodhabai in Fatepur Sikri. I hope it worked out.

Of course, as much as a dark corner is perfect for inscribing the desires of the heart, it’s also a fine place to dump your litter.

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Classic monument, different angle

Reflecting pool

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My pet dog

Bhasha is a lazy mutt

Meet Bhasha, a stray that hangs around the school where I teach. He’s a scruffy guy, the kids pay marginal attention to him and he’s a bit wobbly, which suggests developmental issues.

He also “never learned to bark,” according to the school principal. But he does grunt, whine, howl awkwardly, guffaw and make other noises that approximate communication.

Sucker that I am for things that are not quite right, I have adopted him. At least for the six weeks or so I’ll be here. He gets my leftovers at meals and he frequently tries to follow me home at night and on jogs. I’m also apparently the only staff who can get him to shut up or sit down with resorting to violence.

He didn’t have a name, according to one teacher. He was literally “no-name dog.” But as he’s always trying to talk in something other than dog-speak, I’ve named him Bhasha, which means language, in Hindi.

For those of you who know that I haven’t always been a dog person, this is a surprising turnaround. Expect more pictures of the scrappy little guy in the future.

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Quiet sunrise, empty mosque

Sweeping out the dust

At sunrise, as the tourists shuffle into the Taj Mahal complex, the mosque to the west is nearly quiet. Except for a few wanderers and the caretaker. Photos below.

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Baby on board

It's the eyes

A bus from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.

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When no one wants a ride…


The Agra rickshaw wallah chills out. Glamor-shot style.

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Getting dressed up, Desi-style

Thankfully it's not me in the sari. Not 'til Halloween, anyway...

My former roommate Pujya (right) helps fix a sari on her friend Tennille before they head for a wedding reception. Pujya may be teaching me how to wrap a sari since I am going to be dressing like a woman this Halloween (2010 is an even year, no?), and India does conveniently have a traditional sect of cross-dressers, the hijras.

Also, sis, I may need to borrow some gold to pull this one off proper-like.

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Some like it hot

Hot food, hot nights

Laal mirch and more from the Fatehpur Sikri bazaar. Feel the burn.

Flavors galore

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Wearing red in Bangkok

Not much for Red Shirts to do, except sell red shirts

My only day in Bangkok a few weeks ago, I wandered the streets and, in particular, the Red Shirt protest zone. The protests are making the news more frequently as the political situation worsens and violence breaks out.

I can’t pretend to sort out the full politics, but the tension includes a healthy dose of class struggle. The Red Shirts, the protesters that are camped in the Thai capital, are mostly poor villagers with nothing better to do, led by a populist leader. They accuse the other side — the Yellow Shirts — and the current government of being morally bankrupt and only focused on urban wealth.

I should also note that it’s generally accepted, if not publicly agreed to, that there’s corruption on both sides of the political-cum-violent struggle.

Tempers are clearly rising now, but the one day I was there, things were peaceful. Aside from a bit of rallying which I stayed away from, the Red Shirts mostly were hanging out as above and below. Police were on guard, but seemed half-asleep at their posts when I spoke to them briefly.

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