Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Shoes, too many shoes? May 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — benjamuna @ 5:05 pm
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A colleague from India, a first time visitor to our home, commented while he was leaving – nodding towards our shoes: How many people do actually  live in this flat? This was, as a matter of fact, the second time a guy from India made that particular comment. But I was able to come up with a quick reply this time: These are shoes for cycling (not mentioning that I have another two pairs; for cycling in the summer and for spinning) – and these are for walking cum treadmill, and…. I then reminded him of his remark one hour earlier; about Stavanger and its four seasons pr day. Which makes it necessary to have a pair of shoes – not for any occasion, but for any type of weather….

But his remark wouldn’t go away. For a week I have been thinking, do I have too many shoes? (yes of course I have). But how come? (silly question). 
Does one need, for instance, three pairs of Converse? I have blue ones (for jeans), brown ones (for my brown jeans). And my favourite shoes above all; the brown suede ones with orange “teddy bear” lining (for spring and autumn…). And there is the Converse look-alikes, black “silk” with grey velvet laces….. Bought in Berlin solely because I was so disappointed I could never find brown Converse….

My favourite shoes which I could never, ever part with....

And, does one need two pairs of Adidas from the Superstar series that came a few years back. The black pair called “Berlin” and the blue suede ones, bought in their trendy flagship store in Berlin…. Maybe not, but if I had to choose….?

Then there is the (sort of) tiger striped ballerina shoes, bought in 2008 in Colaba, Mumbai. Ida and I were looking at shoes when this absolute “fruitcake” of a young Indian salesperson targeted  us. Ida lost all sense of common sense and bought two, if not three pairs. Whereas I bought only one pair (the sensible stepmother), and pretty useless as well the sole being so slippery I almost broke my neck later that evening. But I use them, in the summer, when I go out with the garbage. Does that make sense? – a pair of shoes for getting rid of the garbage (alternatively collecting the mail).

Useless shoes. But I shall never forget the young man who sold them....

But Colaba gave me another pair of shoes last November, my Rajasthan sandals. So pretty they could stand on a table just for sheer enjoyment…. but so hard to wear. I only have try harder!

My Rajasthan sandals are more sparkling than this photo is able to justify!

It’s not my only pair of sandals though. I have many more. For walking on asphalt, in rough terrain, suitable for the beach (where I never go), as well as a restaurant…
A few years back we travelled to Berlin. The summer weather in Norway was so bad we forgot that it could be nice and warm elsewhere. My feet was absolutely boiling, and then I caught a glimpse of a pair of brown and turqoise sandals in a window in Oranienburger strasse. And when it comes to that particulat colour combination, I lose common sense. Besides, the sandals gave me exactly what I needed; airy feet when I was about to melt!
Could I have done without them…. Probably, but my defence is strong: They were not that expensive and takes hardly any space in the luggage. Which means they can go almost anywhere without creating trouble (!)

Brown and turqoise, an unbeatable combination!!

A couple of years ago, rain gear came into fashion. If you can’t beat them, join them. That is: when it’s raining a whole lot, one might as well look good. Suddeny one half of Stavanger’s women was wearing Danish designer Ilse Jakobsen’s rain coats, and boots. Luckily I never surrendered, I never gave in neither to the coat or the boots. Or any other designer’s rainy collection. Instead I find my old 30 or something year’s green “wellingtons” perfectly usable and fashionable (I think retro is the word).

Could never part with these....

And these are ony but a few of my shoes. Because there are hiking shoes, winter shoes, Dr Marten’s shoes (only one pair though), dress-up-together-with-black-trousers-try-to-look-like-a-lady- shoes, – and some other of unknown category.  It’s a fact that one can grow out of (and back into….) clothes, but the shoes always fit. And they pile up. And they tell a story. My Converse are bought in Roanoke (VA) USA, Lausanne (Switzerland) and Oslo. But don’t let me start all over again………….


So many trees…. May 4, 2010

Filed under: Indian literature — benjamuna @ 3:38 pm
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I don’t really recall the first time I read about the Banyan tree, but it was definately in a novel. And definately I understood it had absolutely nothing to do with bananas…. I got the feeling the tree had some significance, and that it was big! The first time I actually saw one, was in Pune some years back. My friends Girish, Sanjay and Mandar took me to the University of Pune, and I asked them to look one up for me, in the huge surrounding garden.

The Banyan tree (Ficus bengalensis) is sacred to the Hindus and is often found near temples. It is extremely long-lived,  one of the the oldest one – of 400 years – can be found in Kolkata Botanical Gardens. Yes, it’s big and not at all attractive in the sense of elegance…, but the aerial roots that decends to the ground from the branches gives it a  fairy tale look and also a very distinct look.
I often come across the Banyan tree in novels, very often described as big, and yes, it often grows to a phenomenal size.  I’m always on the look out for a Banyan, the first Indian tree I got to know.

A Banyan tree in the surrounding gardens of The Red Fort in Delhi.

Another tree which I have come across in many novels, is the Neem (Azadirachta indica). Its more elegant than the Banyan and very popular because of its medical value. Neem twigs can be used as a tootbrush, where plastic yet has not enveloped the society.  This is something often referred to in Indian novels, used mostly among poor people.
The first time I really saw a Neem was outside the gates of Taj Mahal in Agra. The Taj Mahal was grand and beautiful, but it takes some effort to visit one of the world’s seven wonders…and thus it was a bit of a relief when we escaped the guide….and my eyes fell on the big and beautiful tree that stood majestetically in the middle of a square. A beautiful Neem.

A Neem outside the gates of the Taj Mahal in Agra.

I fell in love with the banyan the moment I saw it, but it is quite possible to fall in love with the name of a tree….. The first time I read about the Gulmohar (Delonix regia), it was the name itself that caught my attention. Gulmohar or Gul mohur as I have also seen it written. 
Gulmohar is the name of a character in The Peacock Throne by Sujit Saraf. She is one of the whores on GB Road in Delhi. “It’s a flower, the bai said to her. It will make people swoon over you to catch the whiff of your fragrance“. Gulmohar comes from Nepal, snatched away from her hometown by her uncle Jangbahadur to serve as a whore in Delhi at the age of 16… The book is a terrific read, set in old Delhi and its main thoroughfare Chandni Chowk.

Somehow I associated the name Gulmohar with yellow… I envisaged a tree with yellow flowers. Obviously because “gul” in Norwegian means yellow. The tree has in fact beautiful orange/red/vermillion flowers. Its flowering season in India is April – June, a time of the year of which I don’t go to India. But my great wish is to see one, in full bloom! And for sure I will think of poor Gulmohar in GB Road!

Google helped me find this beautiful specimen!