Here is the Brady Bunch ourselves...right outside the Taj Mahal.
This place isn't just stunning and beautiful. It has soul. It's the oldest love story; Shah Jahan built it in the memory of this third and most loved wife. A true demonstration of what the loss of love can do...better than any of this Disney rubbish, right?
Being a white blonde Western girl was pretty interesting in India. What you don't see from this photo is a row of people taking photographs of Kriti and myself whilst a Wonder of the World is right behind them. People certainly have their priorities right.
A native can get into see the Taj Mahal or the Crown Palace for a whole 20 Rupees, about 25p, but my frustratingly white skin meant that I had to cough up 400 Rupees for the privilege. But, hell, if it had been ten times, it's still worth it, just to see that marble palace of dreams.
We went to a crocodile national park in Akaltara, here is the sign to the park.
A lady and her grandson selling candies outside the crocodile park.
So here are some of the school kids practicing for Independence Day celebrations.
|Frustratingly, I cannot work out how to change this picture around! But this is a woman that I met on a bike ride around the villages.|
On this bike ride, we stopped off at a local shop for a Thumbs Up! Check out my henna....!!!
So, with a muggy head, I put a shirt on, not even bothering to brush my hair; Kriti slicked back her hair and donned her glasses over a makeup-less face and we headed off to this 'family meal'.
But, here comes the embarrassment. Instead of a family house, we were taken to the only hotel in the village where at the front door was a sign that said 'Welcome to the Singhania family'.
We walked in tentatively and could hear the familiar sound of Kriti's dad, Govind, chatting away. But not to any old person, to a room of over 200 people. We were pushed into the room by an exictable member of the hotel staff who couldn't stop looking at the 'white girl' and asked to sit at the top table. Massive gulp.
Govind was chatting away in Hindi but Kriti was translating. The event was a welcome to the Singhania's and the 'Foreign visitor' who had come all this way to see Akatara. Govind was talking about his life in England; he was the first person from the village to move out of Akaltara, let alone go all the way to the golden streets of England...
Then a young boy came onto the stage and chatted, he was going to America as he had won a scholarship at an Ivy league University. They were talking and congratulating him when the boy said something and Govind stared and me; everyone went silent. The lad, who was a ridiculous super-genius, wanted to shake hands with ME, little blonde odd me, because he was 'blessed' to have a foreignor in his village. A boy who had won a scholarship to one of the most presitigious universities in the world wanted to shake hands with me because I was, well, blonde and foreign. That was the most awkward handshake of my life. He said in English: 'Thank you so much for coming, you have made us all very happy'. Um, erh...wow.
Now that I was in the limelight, Govind took this opportunity to seemingly make me want to murder him. Again he chatted away in Hindi and again the room went silent. But this time the microphone was shoved in my face. Kriti quickly said 'They want you to make a speech and then sing, go on they're waiting'. I could see her face desperately wanting to crease into a massive smile. I've only ever sung infront of her in the car and even then she abruptly turns the music up so she can't hear me.
So, through an urge to run for the hills and a minor murderous rage toward Kriti and her joy at my embarrassment, I chatted away (whilst Govind translated) about how happy I was to be there, turning a fantastic shade of BRIGHT, INSANELY BRIGHT RED BEETROOT at the same time.
And then as the crowd grew ansy, I was forced by no fault of my own to demonstrate how utterly untalented this so called 'foreign movie star Hannah from England' was.
Luckily, well, I say luckily, Kriti's cousin Tuktuk had taught me an Indian dance to a song which goes 'hush hush baby, I'm too sexy for you' the night before. Yes, after I did it she pronounced me 'rubbish' in her Indian accent and then shoved and pushed my legs and arms until I did it 'ok - ish' and yes, she is a five year old girl and yes, the song was the epitome of innappropriateness. But, on that fateful night, I found myself dancing mock-sexily to a group of 200 admiring Indians, all waiting to see what the white girl could do.
And d'yknow what? They clapped. And then the kids all lined up to shake my hand.
Oh, and that picture was one of the many I had with some of the kids that turned up on that fateful night. Myself and Kriti were papped all night, as well as asked for our autographs, facebook accounts and telephone numbers.
So, as part of Hindu tradition, old statues are given to the sea as a gift to the gods. Here is one which was washed up on Mumbai beach.
A dancing monkey on the beaches of Mumbai
A temple in Mumbai