Concluding India

Author: Eulain

It is my duty

To show you her beauty

The food will make you fat

Here all you need is a cricket bat

My heart is more than filled

With the relationships that have been built

When you have been here

There is nothing you will fear

I love this wonderful place

With her dirty but beautiful face


– Eulain –


Natural Laws Of Horn Engagement For Road Usage In India

Author: Jarik

Based on sound scientific method, that includes a statistically significant number of independent and repeatable observations, I offer the following “natural laws” to describe the seemingly erratic and constant vehicle horn usage on Indian roads.  In successive order:

“beep” [single, short] = Polite notification to fellow road user, whether pedestrian or other, that a vehicle is approaching (independent of direction of approach). This is sometimes reciprocated by the vehicle that is being approached.

“beep beep” [two, short, successive] = Notification to vehicle directly in front of approaching vehicle that the approaching vehicle intends to pass and that the first vehicle is to vacate the space it is occupying. This is given regardless of whether first vehicle physically has any viable options to vacate to. If the first vehicle vacates the desired roadway, no further horn exchange between the vehicles takes place.

“beep beep BEEP” or “beep BEEP beep” [three, one long and accentuated] = Given if first vehicle does not immediately oblige to previous signal. Regardless of any reciprocated signalling (which can be vigorous), the approaching vehicle now surges forward giving rise to a challenge of roadway possession. The ensuing duel can take on a level of aggression that can force oncoming traffic to move to the side of the road or even come to a complete stop (mid road).

“BEEP” [one, long and accentuated] = The final signal in the series. This indicates that the victorious road user has succeeded in pushing past its opponent to claim the road space. It will now continue by cutting-in right in front of the losing vehicle, only to come to a sharp halt to avoid hitting a cow or losing an axle in a pothole.

Surprisingly, the Laws of Horn Engagement carries a form of logic and poetic simplicity.  This, however, is obscured by the fact that any given five metre section of roadway can accommodate between seven and twelve users in any particular direction, all active in different stages of the horn engagement laws. Simultaneous interactions with more than one co-road users are also not the exception.  This gives rise to a chaotic cacophony that sets the uninitiated on the front of their seats, waiting for the inevitable metal crumpling sounds that usually follows such overt and incessant horn usage. After a month in India, one, however, develops the capability to simply sit back and enjoy the symphony.

– Jarik –


Road Trip Through The Himalayan Foothills

Author: Jarik

Leaving the patchwork of rice and wheat fields of the Indian plains behind us, our next couple of days would take us into the foothills of the Himalayas. Our driver, Mr Singh, just laughs when we tell him that our GPS shows that the 230km to Shimla will take about three hours. “Six hours”, he says, “with lunch, more”. We inch our way across a mountain pass that is in the process of being widened into four lanes. From what I can observe, it is a disaster in the making. Large sections of the completed lanes are covered in mountains of debris from fresh landslides and are now completely impassable. The retaining walls, built from hand shaped rock, are all to the same height and without any footing regardless of the steepness or size of the mountain that is behind it. Little streams cut through under these new walls that have no provision for drainage. Heavily laden trucks, busses and cars snake through the construction work while scores of women carry buckets full of cement on their heads to the work areas. Some of the roadside shops and restaurants had their front sections demolished to make way for progress, but the remaining halves are still open for business, accessed by make-shift ladders and walkways placed over ditches and amongst protruding steel and electric cables.

Mr Singh safely delivers us to our accommodation in Shimla, a homestay with a friendly family, but an absolute dump otherwise. We find the silver lining we are now desperately looking for only the next day as we explore the area. Shimla, a historical British “hill station”, is rich in history that helped shaped India’s independence from colonial rule. It is set on the ridgelines of a number of steep hills with colourful multi-level buildings cascading down the forested valley sides. Apart from the historical sites, the main Mall, an open shopping and restaurant street on one of the ridges, is the key attraction. We enjoy wandering around the area at sunset, watching the colour of the buildings change and being part of the pleasant night time atmosphere.


After another six endless hours on the road we reach our next stop, Dharamsala. Our accommodation, a mountainside cottage some distance outside the city, is fantastic. Our host is wonderful and after sharing a beer together, we have laid out a plan for an action packed two days in the area. Five o’clock the next morning we set off to McCleod Ganj, starting our day with a steep 6km uphill hike to Triund in the hope of catching a glimpse of the majestic Himalayan peaks in the distance. Reaching the top, we have parathas that our friendly housekeepers prepared earlier the morning and drink cups of chai as the clouds roll in and out in front of the peaks.


After a hearty Tibetan lunch of steamed momos back down in the town, we continue our cultural education as we visit the Tibetan displacement museum on our way to the temple of the Dalai Lama. The history is touching. McCloud Ganj is filled with cultural and spiritual tourists. The temple people flock to, holds very little for the senses, but the ideas and philosophies are powerful.


The next city we visit is also a centre of spiritual tourism for many. Mr. Singh come into his own in Amritsar, the city of the Golden Temple. Here he takes on the role as our personal city guide. We have a fascinating evening walking along the people filled, white marble promenades and admiring the gold covered structure set in the middle of a large reflective bathing pool. With the help of our expert guide, we get to experience the activities that take place right in the centre of the temple. Thousands of devout worshippers come to pay their respects, some sit down to meditate on the reading.


The next day we drive to the border between India and Pakistan (about 30km outside the city) to witness the Wagah Border flag lowering ceremony. The daily event draws huge crowds and we have to wait three hours in the VIP line to get through the gates. The separate gents and ladies lines for non-foreigners are even longer. The event resembles a large sporting match, complete with spectator filled grandstands, snack vendors and the voice of an MC announcing the order of activities. The difference, however, is that no ball passes from one team to another.  All eyes are focused on the sharply uniformed border guards and their very theatrical marching and kick saluting, opening of the “border gate”, waving of fists and retrieving of the flag. This process takes about 45 minutes and every step is reciprocated by similarly theatrical activities on the Pakistani side of the border. Once the flag is folded and safely in the hands of the most senior presiding officer, the crowd roars into a cheer.

Our six day road trip comes to an end early the next morning when we board the train for Delhi. We can’t help to feel sad, as this is our last train for our time in India. We have experienced so much. Mr. Singh sees us off and takes excellent care of us right to the last minute. He refuses to leave until our train rolls out of the station. Thank you India! We are richer for sharing time with you.

– Jarik –

Precious People of Patiala

Author: Mariza

September 2017

We arrived at Rajpura train station at night. An hour later we were in Patiala, the place where we would leave our hearts behind. A warm welcome awaited us at the home of a friend’s parents. We have never met these people, yet they showered us with blessings, embracing us as though we have always been a part of their family.

Over the next few days Grandma, Uncle Bobby, Aunty Satwinder, Pavita and the rest of the family down the road made their way deep into our hearts. We spent precious time talking, drinking delicious tea and devouring mountains of delectable food. Too much food!! Way too much!! But we could not resist.


A day on the family farm was a huge highlight. Green rice paddies, as far as the eye can see, surround the homestead. We enjoyed a drink under the trees, then settled on the porch for tea, cake and lots of talking. The kids visited the chickens and cows and made up games in the shade of a big Jacaranda.

A visit to a temple one night, all dressed up in my bright orange sari, was another highlight. Aunty Satwinder explained everything to us as we followed her around, washing in holy water and eating prasad. How privileged we are to have shared in something so special and significant to all those many local families. Praying as we go along that we shall all know the truth, feeling our hearts expand with love for all these beautiful people.

During a visit to the markets, I acquired a lovely Punjabi suit. Aunty Satwinder bought me stunning Indian leather sandals, which jingle when I walk. I LOVE it! She also bought us bangles and bracelets at her favourite accessory shop. What a fun experience!

We learnt a lot while living in the home of our now adopted Patiala family. Culture, traditions, struggles and life stories. Grandma got married at the tender age of 15 and lived through the separation of India and Pakistan. Her Pakistani in-laws, with whom she lived, lost everything and had to start all over again in India. Very hard times. Pavita’s eldest son, a successful lawyer, will have an arranged marriage in a few years from now. Today both love and arranged marriages are happening in India. Such a fascinating place.


Saying goodbye was a sad affair. Strangers have turned into family once more. How very grateful we are.

The Waraich family sent us on our way with their own fancy car and a driver. Mr Singh will make sure we get to all our lodgings and see all the sights in and around Shimla, Dharamsala and Amritsar.

Until we meet again, dear family. May it be soon!

– Mariza –

Reflections On A Faraway Land

Esto and Rodger

Author: Esto

We were riding in a jeep. I sat right at the back. We were on our way to ride on camels. I was a bit scared, but I thought it would be fun. When we arrived, the camels already had their saddles on their backs. They were all standing on their knees, but they were still very tall. I thought that I would have to share a camel, but then the guide said to me: “This camel is yours!”. I was very happy. The guide helped me to get into the saddle, and then he told the camel to get up.


Right after that Eulain shouted: “No, no! I do not want to go on a camel by myself any more!”. Then Mom said: “Get on the camel, it will be fine”. She got on the camel,  but when the camel got up, she was a little afraid. It was not for long.

The boy that lead Ruzow’s, Eulain’s and my camels hooked the ropes to one another. I thought I would be right at the back, but it tuned out that I was right in front! After we started moving, I asked the boy what the camel’s name was. “The camel’s name is Rodger,” he said. I liked Rodger because he was very gentle.

When we arrived at the place where we would stay for the night, there was already a fire burning and men were making chai tea. We had the delicious hot chai after we put our bags at our camp beds. We were going to sleep in the open under the stars. While the others were waiting for the sunset, Eulain and I played with a ball between the sand dunes. After a while the guide joined us. This was so much fun.


Later, the guide announced that everyone needed to sit down because they were going to serve the dinner that the men made on the fire. I enjoyed it because it was not too spicy. There were no lights, so we had to eat in the dark. I could only see the outline of the plate.

After dinner, we laid down on our back and looked at the stars. This was very, very beautiful. We went to bed, all six of us sleeping next to each other. Some of us saw shooting stars.

The next morning, the chai was ready when we woke up and the men were making breakfast. While we had breakfast, they saddled the camels. I looked for Rodger. He had a green rope around his neck. When it was time to go back, I got onto Rodger and we all rode back to where we would meet the jeep. I had to say goodbye to Rodger. I was sad and I asked my dad if I could have a camel. The guide then said I can take Rodger home. He just joked, but I actually wished that I could take him home with me.


Climb the Camel!


Author: Kali

The open jeep came to a sudden halt in a small clearing where camels were laying on the sand with colourful saddle blankets on their pale brown, humpy backs. It was so exciting to see the animals for the first time from up close. Eulain and I resembled the camels, being covered in dust and sand from riding in the back of the Jeep.

Camels are strange animals. They have long necks that stretch out from their massive, lumpy bodies. Their legs are long and thin, with large knots for knees and funny flat feet that are round with two sharp toes. They have short tails that look like fish back bones with hair and they love to swing them from side to side. Ears that are peculiarly small for such a large animal, sit perched on their heads. Huge teeth and a large mouth that is always chewing, completes the picture. A rod is put through their nostrils. This, as I had once read in The Swiss Family Robinson, is used to control them. Reigns are attached to these rods.

Ruzow climbed his camel like a hay stack. I couldn’t blame him though, it is really hard to get yourself into the saddle without feeling like you are pushing the camel over.  A sharp ‘J’ sound from the 10 year old boy who would lead some of our camels, was the command for them to get up. Slowly, one of the brutes lifted his backside into the air with a loud groaning noise. It was now standing on it’s knees, looking absolutely absurd! With another groan, the animal stood up straight, towering above the rest of the beasts that were now all with their backsides in the air.


Riding was the strangest sensation. It was what I imagined riding a dinosaur would feel like and it was really scary looking down, being much higher than I expected. The camel’s motion is unlike a horse’s. Rocking forward then backward, the strange motion slides the inexperienced rider from the front to the back of his saddle. Even though I had to pay for it with chafe marks on my legs, I was thrilled about riding a camel.



At one stage, Mum’s camel was close enough to mine so that I could pat its hard, dented head. To my surprise, it made a sound somewhere between a growl and a loud burp. Our camels’ guide, Arsheesh, told us that Mum’s camel’s name was Lalu, and mine was Kalu. It was such a coincidence that mine had that name, because Mum and Dad would have called me Kalu if I was a boy. I would’ve had a camel twin! For some reason I’m glad I’m a girl 😜. However, I wouldn’t mind a pair of those long eyelashes.

Until next time,


Snippets Of Precious Memories


Author: Mariza

Camels – what incredible creatures! And so perfectly designed for the desert. Strange too! Especially the way they get up or go down with a person on board. The “walk like an Egyptian” sway, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, making you giggle. To watch the wonder on the faces of our four beautiful gifts and to know the sight or reference to these animals will forever take them back to this very moment we all shared – priceless!

Nothing beats the atmosphere created by food being cooked over an open fire. And to then sit down on top of a sand dune to be served with a small group of lovely people – an unforgettable experience. Still better it gets when, after filling up on Indian cuisine, you simply topple over to look at the stars, while continuing the conversation. Special, special memories never to be forgotten.


Six desert beds in a row, all covered with the same colourful fabric. My heart overflows as we lie side by side as a family, looking up at the stars, talking. Our four precious children, thanking us again and again for this most wonderful experience.


Paradise is sleeping under the stars in the desert with nothing but sand dunes in sight. And billions of stars. And then you wake up to see the yellow moon rising from behind the dune you face while lying on your back. And still the sky is adorned with bright, beautiful stars. All through the night you force your eyes open in the perfect stillness just to peer at that magical sky for one more minute. And off again to dreamland, or is this it? And then, on one occasion, you catch the first sign of daylight. The light creeps up from behind that same dune and touches all in its reach with colour. Further and further it stretches and paints ever brighter, ever changing the colour on a growing canvas. And then after a long time and many colour changes, the sun rises in all its splendour, the artwork completed. My heart is saturated with the colour of every treasured moment.


Caution Captine

Author: Eulain

The jeep stopped. I was so excited. We were going to get onto our camels here. A man pointed to a very large camel called Captine. When he sat,  he was bigger than me. I had to climb on it’s back.  When I was on, the man pulled on the rope that linked Esto’s and my camel. Captine stood on his knees. I thought it was not that high because, it was about the size of a horse. Then he stood up on all fours with a jerk. I was so far from the ground. At this height, I am sure you too would be quite afraid. It felt like I was a mile up in the air.



The next morning after breakfast, we set off for Jaisalmer. The twelve year old boy who was walking in front of our camels started running. The camels all followed his example. I never imagined that camels could run. It was heaps of fun, but the bumping around was quite extreme. I clasped my hand over my open drink bottle. It was a bad choice to drink while riding on the camel. I was terrified when I saw that the rope that I was supposed to hold to guide dad’s camel with, had fallen. I made a grab for it, but nearly fell off. In the bump and grab process, I accidentally showered myself and poor Captine in sticky Sprite.


The Thar Desert

Author: Ruzow

On our camels in the sun,

Oh it’s amazing so much fun.

Over the dunes we will tramp,

Until we arrive in our desert camp.

Watching sunset from a dune,

The moment is gone all too soon.

A thali is cooked over an open fire,

What more could my heart desire.

The camels lying in the sand,

There’s so much beauty in this faraway land.

In my bed back at the camp,

With only the stars for a lamp.

Underneath this starry sky,

I watch the comets shooting by.

I’m in the desert oh so dry.

I am gazing at this in awe,

What a sight I long for more.

As I sleep the moon keeps a watchful eye,

From her perch way up high.

Up again at first light,

Watching the sunrise what a sight.

But now it’s time for a wonderful meal,

Excited I’m now beginning to feel.

Back on our camels we’re now on our way,

How I wish we had a longer stay.

So even though we’ve left it behind,

The Thar Desert will be forever in my mind.




Jewel In The Desert

Author: Jarik

As our train traversed through kilometre after kilometre of dry scrubland, moving deeper into the north-western corner of India, I started to have second thoughts about our visit to the far-flung city of Jaisalmer. The landscape did not seem to be able to sustain any more than a meagre nomadic existence. Can anything here be worth the twelve and a half hour excursion into the Thar dessert?

Jaisalmer, however, turned out to be a splendid destination, steeped in a thousand years of colourful history, with remnants of wealth and splendour from its time as a prominent hub in the Silk Road. Surprises await the curious everywhere. The bright yellow sandstone fortress towers above the scorched plain with tiers of high, curved buttresses, sentinels and beautifully decorated entry gates. Inside, small winding alleys lead to exquisite structures adorned with the most intricate sandstone sculpting. Historic multi-level private homes or “havellis”, with elaborate balconies and terraces display the past fortunes from the opium trade. Masters of their medium, the skill and patience of stone artists, captured in the detailed symmetrical designs that give shape to the numerous temples in the city, bears testimony to their devotion.



Unlike the fortified cities in Europe, the stone paved roads are not shiny from the footfall of millions of tourists in designer footwear. They are worn smooth by generations of barefoot children and the hooves of cattle and goats that are still lead out of the city every morning.

After the heat of the day, the city explodes into even more life. The streets burst with activity – little general stores, tailors, electrical goods, shoe stands, barbers, blacksmiths, food stalls, furniture – all vying for business. The walls of the city, now gold in the glow of dusk, reflect the activity that it presides over. Jaisalmer was much more than we expected.


Our hotel was located five minutes’ walk outside one of the gates in a newer section of the city. It was a delightful place, just off the main road and surrounded by homes of families where the children enjoyed playing street cricket. Even in this location, and all throughout the newer parts of the city, the buildings boast fantastic sandstone facades following the historical designs. This coherently ties the new to the old. We were also drawn into the excitement of the young entrepreneur who runs the hotel and who is in the process of opening a second. The new hotel will be more elaborate, with a rooftop restaurant and amazing sunset views over the city.

The fact that the only way to reach Jaisalmer is by arduous bus or train journey, makes it delightfully less frequented by foreign tourists. (An airport was scheduled to open in 2011, but has still not been commissioned). We, however, went past a brand new Marriott hotel set within a sprawling green lawn about two kilometres outside the city. Hurry, the designer footwear is fast approaching!

– Jarik –


Indian Street Cricket

Author: Kali

A single cricket ball can draw a crowd in India. All it takes is for us four children to start throwing the ball. At first it will be only the little children who come to join in, then the older ones. Sometimes, even older men will play with us. The parents will then come to speak to Mum and Dad. It doesn’t feel like we are just tourists, but friends.

One of our fondest cricket adventures, was playing with the tuk-tuk drivers in Jaipur. The game started simply with us four tossing the ball in the street in front of our hotel. Ten metres from where we were playing about 15 tuk-tuk drivers were resting under a tree, waiting for business and watching us with longing smiles.

It took only one man, who could not resist the urge to come towards us and cup his hands for the ball, to encourage the rest to forget about their afternoon nap. Initially, we only played catch, showing off all sorts of tricks. Later a rough wooden plank became our bat, we formed teams and really got playing.

It was heaps of fun and we played for the entire day in the middle of the road, between the cows, dogs, tuk-tuks, people, cars, busses and scooters. Play is constantly interrupted by passing people or vehicles. The result is that it is a very fast game, with everyone making the most of every opportunity. Players come and go. Some even come very suddenly! A number of times, some of the scooter drivers, waiting in the traffic at the intersection, would reach out to “field” and toss the ball back before speeding off.

We were referred to as ‘The Aussies’. I chuckled as the one man asked me why the people always shout ‘Aussie! Aussie!’ at cricket matches. How do you answer that? No matter what I told him, and even though he nodded as if he understood, I could see very clearly, as he walked away, that he was still puzzled.

The “international” game became so important, that a few cars would patiently wait for the over to be completed before honking and slowly moving though the game. I’m sure the Jaipur tuk-tuk drivers will never forget how they played street cricket against the Aussies. We definitely won’t forget.

Until next time,


Royal Gaitor

Author: Ruzow

Out in the Indian heat, we stood in the city centre of Jaipur, bargaining for a tuk-tuk to take us to the Royal Gaitor. Ten minutes later we had persuaded one of the drivers to take us for our price. He bounced us along, but according to the GPS on Mum’s phone, we were going in the wrong direction. We were beginning to become very suspicious. Fifteen minutes later the driver stopped in front of the wrong place, according to us. It seemed like he had even called ahead to arrange for one of his friends to tell us it was the right place. After about ten minutes of arguing, he finally conceded and said he would take us to where we wanted to go in the first place. However, to our great annoyance, when we arrived he told us we had to pay extra even though he was the one who tried to con us! Anyway, we were finally at our planned destination.

The Royal Gaitor is an old cemetery and as the name suggests, all the mausoleums of Jaipur’s royal and noble citizens were built here. Its architecture and craftsmanship is magnificent, full of detail and intricate designs. We explored all the balconies and terraces. I couldn’t even begin to imagine all the time, money and effort it must have taken to build such awe-inspiring structures.

– Ruzow –

The Pink City – Jaipur

Author: Jarik

The first impressions of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is very good: a modern airport; an orderly taxi rank; a broad, tree lined main avenue; hanging flower baskets on the street lights; vehicles all moving in the right direction; white marble temples; glass clad business towers. That is where it ends. The rest of the Pink City is a great chaotic mosaic of grand palaces, colourful temples, recklessly driven vehicles, shops with wares spilling over into the streets, food carts, rubbish heaps, putrid sewers, monkeys, lazy cows, fresh cow patties, flower decorated shrines, ancient trees and people. This is India as one imagines it.

We were fortunate to arrive in the city on a hot Friday afternoon, just as the city started to come to life for the evening. After checking in at our very basic hotel, we venture to one of the large and lively market streets. Our senses overload. We stare into every little incense filled shop, stocked with everything imaginable. We eat deep fried potato pastries from one of the food carts, much to the amusement of some of the locals. At the flower market, we are decorated with colourful bloom necklaces. The family is a selfie magnet and we stop every few meters for “one photo”. Shop owners start to pull down their shutters by the time we finally meander our way back through the dark alleys. A wondrous evening.

The next morning we learn that we cannot enter the historical Pink City. Jaipur has been placed under army curfew over night. There was a clash between the police and the residents of the neighbourhood we explored the previous evening. A couple of vehicles and the police station were set on fire, gunshots fired and numerous people injured. There are roadblocks everywhere, hampering our plans to visit the historical royal palaces. After spending the morning admiring the architecture of the large Amer (amber) Fort complex that is situated on a hill a few kilometres outside the main city, the boys and I go for a haircut. The cheapest one yet at INR 150 each (A$3) – unfortunately it shows.DSC00802

That evening we discover that the roof-top restaurant above our hotel has the best vegetarian Indian cuisine we have ever had. Truly exceptional. The owner (also head chef) guides us through the menu and we eat there twice more, expanding our palate with new and delicious flavours and textures.

Three days after our arrival, we leave Jaipur at 00:05 by train following another white knuckle tuk-tuk ride to get to the station. Our world has expanded yet again.

– Jarik –


Three Poems from India

Author: Eulain

Henna hands

DSC00615 (2)Sit down in a chair,
make your price fair.
As the brown paste touch,
it doesn’t feel like much.
A beautiful curl,
followed by a whirl.
It fills my heart,
such beautiful art.
A design so very grand,
this is my henna hand.


Tuk tuk riding

Find a tuk-tuk and negotiate,
Indian roads are something I hate.
Bam, boom, ouch! I have bruises!
This is not a car that cruises.
Surely it’s not worth the rate.

My Andean Cross

My beautiful necklace pretty and blue,
it all started in Cusco, Peru.
Such a treasure was my Andean cross,
this is why it is a terrible loss.
If you only knew how much I miss you.

Andean Cross

(Written after I lost my favourite necklace)

– Eulain –


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