Paris – multiple terrorist attacks

As I write this I am listening to the radio at night. Only two hours ago there was a report of a shooting in a restaurant close to the Stade de France where France was playing in a friendly football match against Germany. Several people were shot dead, currently believed to be 40.

Since then there have been five more shootings across Paris and it seems like a coordinated terrorist attack. Continue reading

Snow Leopard

DARJEELING - SNOW LEOPARD - modified

Snow Leopard, Darjeeling

There are just a few thousand snow leopard left and mainly distributed along the Himalaya, they are endangered. A few years ago I was taken round the Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling by a young experienced mountaineer, he has retired now because he has a son and his wife says he must be responsible. This has not diminished his enthusiasm and he gave a very stimulating tour of the museum. At the time the snow leopard conservation project was well under way but not open to the public although I was allowed access to see the Red Panda and this wonderful leopard. The site is open to visitors except for the breeding section. Here is a link that gives current information about Project Snow Leopard.

Earthquake

As I awoke today Sky news announced a massive earthquake somewhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan and North India. Clearly this was a big one and as it turned out during the day the epicentre was near Jurm, Badakhshan, Afghanistan and recorded as 7.5 on the Richter scale. It was enough to stop the Metro in New Delhi for fifteen minutes, 1200 miles away, but much more seriously at least 280 people nearer to the source have been killed so far. That number is likely to increase.

With the wonders of modern Internet, when it’s working in North India, we were able to establish within just a few minutes that our friends in Kashmir were safe.

Nepal

Nepali family - PatanI heard last night that much of the Durbar square in Patan had been smashed in the appalling earthquake that hit Nepal recently. Anyone who has been to this extraordinary land-locked country will have been impressed by its beauty, the generosity of the people and the dire poverty.

Let us hope that the many international tourists and world heritage organisations will dig deep to restore as much as possible of this amazing place. Here is just one photograph of a typical family who are bound to have been affected.

Loot

Loot is an Indian word and William Dalrymple has just published an excellent article in the Guardian about a part of the brutal looting reign of the [English] East India Company. He cleverly links this with modern India and worlwide multinationals. A new book is promised next year.

Carving against the grain

Num panel and detailHouseboats are serious business in Srinagar, Kashmir and in two senses. In good times they are full and profitable but in the 20-year conflict they were largely left to decay. Then there is the puzzling law. No new houseboats are allowed at all and repairs are bounded by heavyweight bureaucracy, even a permit from Central Government. Meanwhile many of these iconic boats are starting to decay.

Recently there have been newspaper articles about the decline in woodcarving which is a major feature of these boats – “Kashmir’s famed woodcarving a dying art” says one paper. I have witnessed the resurrection of one of these boats and so here are some illustrations for the record.

The num or verandah on Mascot 1 Continue reading

Happy New Year and a great 2015

TBanjara - clap handshis photo of a Banjara Gypsy always cheers me up and I hope it does the same for you. It’s an old  shot (2003) taken at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the Deccan which is a wonderful place in itself even though the Mughals rolled it over and the Empire ended in 1646. There is a lot to see and Hampi is a stunning World Heritage Site.

If you have not been there it is worth a pilgrimage.

Kashmir revisited 4

Typical houses on the river bank 3

Typical houses on the Jhelum River bank and the eagle tree.

I have given no clue as to the distinctive character of Srinagar city itself. It took me by surprise two years ago and I must put this omission right. Anyone who has shares in corrugated iron must be very content as I have never seen so much anywhere in India, and brand new sheets are going up daily as repairs continue. In contrast there are many rather rickety but engaging timber framed buildings lining the banks of the River Jhelum; no doubt these were once bordering on palatial. And they are very practical structures which have outlasted many other buildings of brick or concrete construction.

Here is one snapshot taken from the high water mark of the flood that gives some idea of these unusual structures that seem out of place compared with many other buildings in the subcontinent. Maybe it is a symbol of Kashmir’s singular identity and political complexity.