100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups Week# 45

Julia’s little treat this week is the prompt ‘there’s a real buzz about this place’, as usual I’m a little off the wall but here goes.

A Chance to Dance

So many nationalities. I’m the only one from Pakistan. My friends back home have dared me. ‘Don’t travel all that way and do as you do at home’ said Jamila. ‘Taste the alcohol and come back and tell us about it, let your hair down’, from Rashida and Yasmin together. It’s my last night and I haven’t done anything radical, nothing that Ammi would be ashamed of, but there’s a real buzz about this place and I may never get another chance. This Niqab is coming off now; I’m going to dance with a man who can see my face.

There will be lots more entries to read over at http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week45/

Tag You’re It – 11 Questions!

Cathy over at a nomad in the land of nizwa tagged me in 11 questions and because I liked them I’m going to do it this time!

http://catbirdinoman.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/tag-youre-it-11-questions/

Here are Cathy’s questions:
1. When was the last time you told someone honestly how you felt?

Three hours ago when working with a very special woman who has made incredible changes in her life. You know who you are and how proud I am of you 🙂
2. What is something or someone you miss most from your childhood?

Dora. She was constant.
3. What song will be forever connected with an important event or person in your life?

Wash me clean by KD Lang. Explain. It’s a song that marked a huge transition in my life.
4. What three things in nature do you find most beautiful?

I love orchards, any tree that looks beautiful in blossom , bears delicious fruit and then reveals its structure before doing it all again.

The sea, I can stare at it for hours. The one I liked best was the the South Atlantic off of Ghana when I realised there was no land fall between me and the Antarctic.
5. What scares you most and why?

The usual things like rats, insects and snakes. Not because of the creatures themselves exactly, more because you don’t know where they are or when they will creep up on you!
6. What was the year you were most happy and why?

This year, its better than last year which was better then the  year before which was better than the year before which was … you get the picture!
7. What is your favorite part of the human face and why?

No surprises here – the eyes have it, so much is revealed.
8. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?

Say goodbye to my father knowing that I wouldn’t see him again.
9. What kind of food do you like best: sweet, salty, savory? Give an example.

Sweet, mango!
10. What is the last movie you watched and how did you feel about it?

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, loved it. It brought memories of India back to flood my senses.
11. Are you usually late, early, or right on time?

Pretty much on time – boring!

So, some questions from me.

1. Is there an item that you never leave home without, if so what is it?

2. If you were given a free holiday is there a destination you would refuse to go to?

3. Did you have a school uniform? describe it!

4. Do you still have friends from your school days?

5. Have you ever tried any extreme sports/

6. Whats the longest you have slept in one go?

7. From what you know about me is there a book you would recommend?

8. Could you ride a skateboard for a hundred metres without falling off?

9. Favourite breakfast?

10. Can you navigate on a journey to a strange town a few hundred miles away?

11. Is there something you cook really well?

I’m not going to tag anyone specific but I would love it if you, yes YOU, answered my questions.

Karni Mata, facing my fear

In the depths of the Thar desert, Rajasthan, stands the wonder that is Karni Mata, and bravely or foolishly we decided to visit. We had been advised to put socks on, so we obeyed and left our expensive walking sandals by the entrance in a pile of worn, grubby, flip flops. It was only 9am but the courtyard felt like a hotplate and we were grateful for the barrier the socks provided. Right away we spotted rats running along the ground. I stood still and looked around, realising there were odd ones everywhere, mainly quite still but on all levels of the temple walls, on little crevices and niches. Following the route around, I kept my head facing directly forwards, on a neck that was as rigid as the temple walls. My eyes roamed in every direction to the degree where whatever that muscley cordy thing is that stops eyeballs falling out, was hurting. I didn’t want to see them, but I wanted to know where they were and whichever way I looked I could see them. Not many, not flocks or whatever the collective term is, but a few, just going about their ratty business, dashing, pottering, sitting upright with whiskers twitching. 

The place was getting busier, mainly with Indian families, well dressed tourists, the women and young girls in colourful saris and salwar kameez, the men in smart fawn trousers and neatly pressed shirts. Judging by their appearance, our sandals probably looked less posh in the pile now.

We were being funnelled from the sun towards a cave-like entrance. Just as I was thinking what on earth is this dark hole, someone drew my attention to the walls where a series of hand prints were visible. ‘It’s the widows’ they said, ‘they were mourning and about to commit Sati . . . throw themselves on the pyre. I’d heard of this of course but having it presented to me was another matter. The rats scurrying around my feet became as nothing. How could I fear an eight inch long-tailed creature when those women had felt compelled to throw themselves onto a fire? Looking at every hand, I reached a point where the hallway turned a corner, into total darkness. My worst nightmare and I turned to look behind, meeting the eyes of the Hindi women who saw that my eyes were moist, ‘Don’t worry’ they said, ‘the practice is outlawed now, it rarely happens, keep going it’s okay’. I had to walk on and after five yards or so another corner with light at the end.

Emerging into the heat I took a deep breath and the stench registered for the first time. A bell sounded and I don’t know if it was coincidence or if the rats knew it was chow time, but far too many of them emerged and headed towards a corner area. There an elderly man had set down large metal trays of milk, which they devoured. 

I felt very queasy, but also drawn to watch, it was easier in the courtyard. It is considered very bad luck to step on or harm any of these creatures; they are revered as sacred Hindu deities. There are thousands ruling in this temple, with its ornate silver doors and marbled floors littered with droppings. Just a few are white, and I saw one, supposedly very auspicious. Having them that close made me feel really anxious. I don’t think it was auspicious for me; Karni Mata could have been where I caught the bug that made me lose three days of the journey being ill. I still can’t bear rats, but when I look back at my photos – very few because I couldn’t concentrate – and don’t have to avoid stepping on them, they look nearly, just a tiny bit cute. Apart from those tails. I’m glad I dared to visit and I’m grateful to Mugan Singh for the sock advice. 

Konya, Mevlana-Rumi and Selimiye Camii Mosque

Konya is reputedly the most devout city in Turkey and when we arrived in the hot late afternoon it certainly had a different feel to the other towns along the way. We were directed towards the exquisitely tiled tomb of the Sufi mystic Mevlana, also known as Rumi.

The mausoleum holds a collection of ancient Korans, some very tiny, some gilded, and a carpet that is supposed to be the world’s most valuable. We were the only westerners and attracted a lot of warm, curious stares especially from a group of teenage girls. They giggled at us behind their hands and never one to miss an opportunity I said hello in my best Turkish, merhaba. They blushed and giggled even more. I tried ‘Where are you from? What is your name?’ and a slightly older girl was pulled to the centre of the group. ‘Do you speak English?’ I said ‘Yes I am English.’ There followed a sweet conversation where through her they asked questions and looked at me strangely. I knew they didn’t get me – I was wearing a scarf around my head and shoulders, so because of my skin they thought I must be Muslim. I explained that I’m from England but am half Nigerian and watched the quizzical frowns smooth to happy smiles. I could have stayed all day but eased myself away to look around and every so often I’d turn a corner and catch one of them smiling.

I was drawn to a crowd gathering around a glass case and edged closer to investigate. There was an ornate casket inside and people seemed to be taking turns to press their nose to the corner of the case. I tried to keep a respectful distance, but again the friendly glances and they started to talk to me. I understood nothing but a woman took my hand and led me closer. I was instructed to follow them in the nose pressing activity, and saw a tiny hole that they were inhaling through. A sniff revealed a jasmine frankincense aroma, and a sign in English, that the casket contained the beard of Mohammed. Later there was a debate among friends as to whether it was supposed to be a hair from the Prophets beard or that of Rumi, this remains cloudy, maybe someone knows the definitive answer?

Through abundant rose gardens stands the Selimiye Camii mosque, 450 years old with sumptuous decorations in the Ottoman style. Friday prayers had ended and I approached the door. In contrast to the bustle of Rumi Mevlana’s tomb hardly a soul was around and my friend sat in the sun while I tried to find out if I could go inside. I was nervous, in one of India’s most important mosques, the Ajmer Dargah,  non Muslim women were not allowed to enter and I had felt uncomfortable even in the courtyard. Here though a gesture from me and a nod from a local gave me permission to enter. I tidied my scarf, slipped my shoes off and crept inside.

The silence was the sort that makes you hold your breath. The domed ceiling was as high as heaven and the carpet was the richest red, velvet to my feet. I sensed, rather than saw, a woman glide beside me to the door and taking stock I realised there were just three men and a small boy there now. My first instinct was to go right back outside but I stood like a statue (that would NOT be allowed in the building) and made sure that no-one was going to shoo me away. It was amazingly peaceful; I wandered around and found the niche which shows the direction of Mecca for prayer. I felt quite overwhelmed with emotion, nothing that I could name, but very spiritual, as if I was being safely held. 

Konya may be a lovely city, I don’t know, we only had an overnight stop in an okay hotel. I enjoyed the encounters both earthly and ethereal. For my friend the town itself had a heavier, darker atmosphere. I wonder, if she had gone into the mosque, would she have seen another side to Rumi’s ancient resting place?

So who has heard of threading?

Apparently it originated in the Indian sub-continent. Picture this: – Five women in a hotel room in Ankara, strangers just five days earlier. One American, one Indian, one Australian, one English-Nigerian and one Pakistani; two are sharing the room, the others are invited.

‘I’m going to deal with India’s whiskers’ says Pakistan.

‘You’re what???’

‘I’m going to thread her.’

‘What on earth?’

‘Come and see, I did Australia last night’

‘Yes look at me it’s amazing, let’s get some wine, you can watch her’

‘I’ll do you too’

‘Sounds painful, America, shall we go and watch?’

India lies on the bed; Pakistan takes two feet of white cotton, ties a knot to make a circle, a few deft movements and aims it at India’s top lip. They watch amazed as a mass of black hair is whisked away leaving a totally smooth finish. The process took just a few minutes.

‘Didn’t that hurt?’

‘No, I had it done before I came on holiday, it just pulls a little, no problem’

‘Where do you get this done? Pakistan are you a beauty therapist?’

‘No we learn from our mothers at home.’

‘You talk about it? How embarrassing.’

‘Why? It’s part of life, especially once you’re a certain age.’

Before she knew it America is on the bed lying on her side.

‘Owwww’, a squeal like murder, hope the room is sound proof.

‘Get her ice quick’

‘Ice, where from?’

‘The mini bar, quick a beer can, throw it here’ hisssss, it hits something hard on its journey across the room oozing brown lager bubbles onto the pristine five star bed linen.

‘Ow ow ow’ another half dozen whiskers hit the knots.

‘Uh . . . no need to worry about me, I immacced before I left home, I won’t have any long enough for you to grab.’

‘Bet you have, I’ll find some.’

‘Uh no, but I’d really like to learn how to do that, is it difficult?’

‘Just takes practise, here try it on your own legs.’ England-Nigeria takes a piece of thread and tries it on her hairless calves, nothing happens.

‘Here try it on America’s leg, she has plenty’

‘Ow ow ow aghhhh, noooo I need them to keep warm’

‘Oh how can I learn? This would be so useful, it can’t hurt that much’

‘Your turn now, over here, no you have to lie down I can’t reach you’

‘It’s too dark isn’t it? How can you see what you’re doing?’

‘Aha no problem, you have many, many fine hairs, it will take much longer on you, and you thought you didn’t need it, wouldn’t you rather be nice and smooth?’

‘Yes but…’

‘America, drink the wine it will stop the pain, now England-Nigeria you’re used to plucking your eyebrows so it won’t hurt, another beer can please!’

‘Put your tongue under your cheek to make your face stretch out’

‘This is crazy I never . . .’

‘Shush, you need to keep still stop giggling’

‘Ah’, England-Nigeria drew her breath quickly.

‘Watch America, you need to learn how to do it for me’. Four pairs of eyes looked down as a dozen hairs at a time were lifted from her skin. ‘Can you do this with bikini lines too?’ Five continents collided in a giggling heap.