Category Archives: India

The Architect’s Apprentice

Tonight my book club at the West Kildonan Library will be discussing The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.   Shafak, a Turkish author,  says her book was inspired by this image of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent which has an elephant in the background. The print created in 1559, during the same time period as the events in the book, is by a German artist Melchior Lorck and is in the British Museum.

Here are four things I found interesting about the novel The Architect’s Apprentice. 

Cristofano dell'Altissimo portrait of Mihrimah Sultan

Mihrimah Sultan is the protagonist’s love interest in the book.  Here she is portrayed by Italian artist Cristofan dell’Altissimo who lived at the same time as Mihrimah did.

Although the protagonist Jahan is a fictional character author Elif Shafak has populated her novel with other characters who are real.  Jahan is an apprentice to Sinan the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan oversaw the building of some 500 structures and nearly 200 of them are still standing. Jahan’s love interest is the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. She is a historical figure as well. So are the three sultans who are in power during the time Jahan serves Sinan the Royal Architect. In one section of the book Jahan and another apprentice go to visit Michelangelo in Italy. 

the architect's apprentice book coverThere are many thought provoking reflections in the book.  Here are a three I really appreciated. 

“If you carry a sword, you obey the sword, not the other way round. Nobody can hold a weapon and keep their hands clear of blood at the same time.”

“……Jahan understood his master’s secret resided ……… in his ability to adapt to change and calamity, and to rebuild himself, again and again, out of the ruins. Sinan was made of flowing water. When anything blocked his course, he would flow under, around, above it, however he could; he found his way through the cracks, and kept flowing forward”

“Stones stay still.  A learner never.” 

another edition cover of the architect's apprenticeJahan’s closest relationship in life is with an elephant named Chota. Jahan arrives in Istanbul as Chota’s keeper and immediately sets about saving Chota’s life.  I am not necessarily a big animal lover and will admit that I’ve never understood the deep love some people have for their pets, but I was quite taken with the way Jahan and Chota care for one another, know each other so well, come to one another’s defense, respect each other and provide each other with solace and comfort at crucial times. 

posing at the taj mahalAnd finally at the end of the book Jahan travels to Agra India to help design and build the dome for the Taj Mahal.  I have been to the Taj Mahal and my husband made me pose for this photo where I am appearing to hold up the magnificent structure by the top of the dome. 

Other posts……..

The Taj Mahal At Dawn

Do Buildings Have Souls?

A Story Board in a Painting

 

 

 

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Hard To Watch

A woman whose face has been damaged irreparably by acid gives a lesson in make up application. 

We went to the Cannes Lions Commercials show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently.  There were many excellent advertisements in the line up but the images I saw in two are still with me many days later.  

The commercials featured a woman named Reshma who has a face grotesquely scarred by an acid attack.  In the first she gives a lesson in applying lipstick and in the second she shows viewers how to put on eyeliner. 

The ads draw attention to the fact that in India there are more than a thousand acid attacks on women a year.  Women have acid thrown in their faces as revenge for rejection of a marriage proposal or sexual advance.  Some attacks are due to religious differences, conflicts over property or are gang related.  

I found a website called Stop Acid Attacks that details the problem and presents demands for stopping it. Some hopeful signs are a Supreme Court decision that hospitals in India are obligated to provide care to victims and victims will receive some compensation. Last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited with victims of acid attacks on a trip to India thus drawing much-needed attention to the issue. 

Acid_attack_victim creative commons

Acid attack victim

Acid attacks don’t only happen in India they are a problem throughout South East Asia. 

Other posts………

India Assaults the Senses

Skin Color

Beggars Everywhere

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Queen of Katwe and A Tour in Delhi

Dave and I saw Queen of Katwe this week.  The movie tells the true story of a girl from the slums of Kampala who becomes a chess champion.  The film connected with us because it was directed by Mira Nair. Although Queen of Katwe takes places in Uganda where Ms. Nair has lived for decades, her first movies were set in India where the accomplished film maker was born and educated in the city of Delhi. After her initial movie successes in the 1980s Mira Nair established the Salaam Baalak Trust a charitable organization that now provides food, clothing, education and health care to more than 8,500 street children a year at 25 centers throughout the city of  Delhi. canadian visitor with children at salaam barakk trust dehliWhen we visited Delhi we were able to take a tour of one of the centres and be guided through its neighbourhood by a graduate of the Salaam Baalak Trust to learn what life is like for the 50,000 children who call the streets and train stations of Delhi home. 

At the movie theatre on Tuesday night the film Queen of Katwe gave us a glimpse into life for children on the streets of Kampala,Uganda. On our trip to India we were given a glimpse into life for children on the streets of Delhi, both courtesy of Mira Nair. She has used her profession to raise people’s awareness about the needs of children living in poverty around the world, and to strike a note of hope that they can have a better future. 

Other posts……..

Children on the Streets of Delhi

India Inspiration

Love in a Lunchbox

 

 

 

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India, Peacemaking and Hospital Life

golden son

I just finished reading The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda . Although the plot of the book is a bit predictable and formulaic I enjoyed it throughly because I learned so much about India, the inner workings of a large American hospital, and the art of diplomacy.  

The main character is a man named Anil.  I  have a friend Anil who was born in India so that was a personal connection to the book for me.  Shilpi Gowda tells Anil’s story as well as that of his childhood friend Leena. In doing so Gowda teaches us much about the customs, traditions, gender role expectations and the influence of caste in India.  

A good part of the story takes place in Dallas, Texas as Anil carries out a residency in an inner city hospital there.  We learn about the daily life inside that hospital as Anil moves from area to area; in particular we learn about cardiology, oncology and emergency care. 

How will Anil handle the freedom  life in America offers him? How will he handle the discrimination he faces there because he is from a minority group?  How will he balance the opportunities offered him in America with the responsibilities he still has towards his family in India?  How will he explain some of his life style choices to his very traditional mother? 

Most interesting to me was Anil’s role as a community diplomat, a role he takes on after the death of his father.  Everyone in the neighborhood is used to coming to Anil’s father to help them settle disputes whether it be marital discord or property conflicts. Anil is expected to continue doing that work on his trips home to India and via the phone while he is in Dallas.  I found it intriguing to watch as Anil develops his diplomacy skills and learns to apply some of the lessons learned to his own life. 

You may have read Shilpi Gowda’s first novel The Secret Daughter.  The Golden Son will no doubt be as popular largely because of the interesting subject matter it addresses. 

Other posts………

Beggars Everywhere

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

Meeting the Street Children of Delhi

 

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The Hero’s Walk-Canada Reads- My First Place Choice

I think The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami should be the winner of the Canada Reads contest beginning in less than a week.

a hero's walkThe book takes place in India and the author makes the city on the Bay of Bengal where the story is set come alive for readers with her haunting and often humorous prose.  

Sripathi Rao, the main character is about my age. He’s trying to be a good son at the same time as he’s trying to be a good grandfather and he’s having a hard time adjusting to the fact that his roles as a husband and father have changed dramatically .  His two children anger and frustrate him because neither is following the path he thought their lives should take.   

Who is the hero in The Hero’s Walk?  There are plenty of candidates. 

Sripathi’s best friend Raju who must decide whether or not to take his severely handicapped daughter’s life before he dies because there is no one else to care for her. 

Sripathi’s daughter Maya who surmounts many odds to build a successful academic career and has the bravery to flaunt tradition and family expectations to be with the man she loves.

Sripathi’s son Arun who is a political and environmental activist and envisions a better future for India, one he feels responsible to work toward. 

Sripathi’s grandaughter Nadana who must leave her home in Canada to start a new life in India with her grandparents after her mother and father are killed in a car accident. 

Sripathi’s wife Nirmala who refuses to play the role of submissive wife and daughter-in-law. She starts her own business and continues to have a relationship with her daughter even though her husband refuses to. 

Sripathi who eventually realizes that while moral integrity has value, when you stick too rigorously to your pre-determined ideas of what is right and wrong you can be very unhappy and ruin your relationships with the people you love the most. 

The Hero’s Walk is about a family in India but it could be about a family anywhere.  The issues and problems Sripathi’s family faces are ones we can all identify with in some way. 

Note: I read this book while we were in Costa Rica.  We went on a night hike to watch sea turtles nesting.  In The Hero’s Walk Sripathi and his son Arun watch sea turtles digging nests and laying eggs one night and it brings about a change in their relationship. 

Other posts……….

Bone and Bread- Canada Reads- My Third Choice

Turtle Night Walk

India Assaults The Senses

 

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A Different Kind of Snow Angel

snow-angel-museum-of-civilization-quebec-city
We had our first snow in Winnipeg last night and it made me think of this art piece Snow Angel I saw in the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City. It is by Karine Giboulo and shows a child playing in a garbage dump in Mumbai where her family sorts different colors of plastic to sell and make a living. Artist Giboulo says, ” What could be more common to North American children than making a snow angel? But the image takes on a whole other meaning when juxtapositioned with the reality of children working among the refuse in Mumbai.”

sorting-plastic-in-mumbai-by-karine-giboulo-jpg

Other posts…….

Beggars Everywhere

India Assaults the Senses

Co-Creation at the Art Gallery

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Filed under Art, Childhood, India, quebec city

India Inspiration

recycling workers dehli india

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it. – Lou Holtzcamel on the highway india

Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.- Moliere
women with cows in indiaWhen you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. – Ralph Buchanantaj mahal at dawnMarble I perceive, covers a multitude of sins. – Aldous Huxley

little boys playing ball in india

Peace begins with a smile.- Mother Teresablind beggar in dehli india

“When I lost my sight…… people said I was brave……But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”- Marie-Laurie-a  character in Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot Seeman selling foot in dehli india

Presentation is everything.- Amanda Clarkmonkeys in india

Being a mother is an attitude, not just a biological relation. ― Robert A. Heinleinchild begging in dehli

Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.. for of such is the kingdom of God.  Luke 18:6

woman in sari in india

Rest and be thankful.- William Wordsworth

I took all these photos on a trip to India in 2008.

Other posts about India……

 Seeing the Taj Mahal At Dawn

Indian Tiger Safari

Beggars Everywhere

 

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Filed under India, Inspiration, Reflections