Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Indian textiles May 2, 2012

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 5:18 pm
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Why is India a shopper’s paradise…. Among other things; the irrisistable beautiful, colourful textiles….

In the book I’m reading right now; Planet India by Mira Kamdar, she writes about retailing in India. And tells the story behind FabIndia. Every time I go to Mumbai, I visit FabIndia in Kala Ghoda: A symphony of colours spread over three floors and a quiet cafe – with exellent coffee – as well. They sell clothes, all kinds of textiles and other stuff for your home, organic food, organic personal care… FabIndia was in fact founded by John Bissell, an American who came to India in 1985. He fell in love…, with both a woman and Indian handicrafts.  Qute understandable! FabIndia is now run by his son William.

A big, beautiful woolen shawl from FabIndia.

I have many Indian shawls… The word shawl is in fact the Persian word for “a piece of wollen clothing that you wrap around yourself. ” The first I bought, and also one of mye dearest, I picked up in Cochin, state of Kerala. Black wool with golden embroidery. It’s always diffiult to chose among “a million” beautiful samples; the patterns, colour combinations – it’s endless and overwhelming.After many visits to India, I have now chosen quality before quantity. Shopping from the street markets is cheap, the haggeling is fun and the exciting feeling of getting something really, really cheap is always there…. But once you step indoors, especially in Colaba, prices leap upwards and so should quality. For the most part I believe I’m paying the right price even when I feel it’s a bit over the top, but you never know….

“Madam, real pashmina madam….” How often don’t you hear these words when you’re around & about in India. I have give up “real pashmina”, I don’t think I have one – I always avoid pashminas because I think you need to be a “conoisseur” to be able to tell right form wrong. Better then to buy a real cheap one because you really liked the pattern. It’s the same as buying silk; in Vietnam and Thailand you are always offered “pure silk” – but then the trick is always to carry a lighter. If the treads melt, it’s synthetic. If they just disappear, like hair, it’s the real thing. Or is it….? Well I have been cheated, and I’m not the only one. So when I’m affered “real pashmina” I’m at a loss…

Some years ago I discovered Maspar just behind the Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba. Quite a big store for home furnishing: colours…. quality…. I wanted to revisit in 2010, but alas, the shop was gone. It wasn’t until last year, when I sat in the car from the airport to Colaba that I spotted Maspar under the bridge at Kemp’s Corner. So I went back a few days later, just to disover that the shop had shrinked considerably. The shop assistant told me that after the terror attack against Taj Mahal Palace had made safety precautions in the area extensive – and thus clients had vanished.My best shopping tip? go and have fun………..and buy something for your mother and sister as well!


Benjamuna beads… February 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — benjamuna @ 6:27 pm
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I have always had “something” creative going in my life… There has been numerous projects; knitting, sewing clothes, dried flowers, patchwork, calligraphy…..
When I was a teenager I made tunics out of old jeans. I knitted colourful sweaters through high school. When I got my own sewing machine (early twenties) I made blouses – of all things. And they never fitted properly. I came home for Christmas with half made projects and my mother had to come to their rescue. I’m not sure a half made blouse was the most popular item in my luggage…

Making decorations out of dried flowers was another passion for some years. I took courses. I planted appropriate flowers in my garden. I dried flowers. I made decorations, – not always as symmetrical as I wanted them to be. I still have a lot of ceramic bowls in the basement, remnants of numerous decorations. Where did I keep them all? I mean, it’s not as if you send dried flower decorations via mail, as presents…. My house hasn’t seen a dried flower for years……

Then came patchwork. Again – I took courses. I bought fabrics and all sorts of equipment. But I was swearing in front of my sewing machine. Patchwork… well you have to be extremely accurate. I once went to a course with some colleagues, in the 90’s. The teacher thought I was talking too much, and working too little. Concentration has never been my strong side! And after making one really intricate kettleholder I almost fell apart when I realised I had to make one more… Kettleholders always come in pairs….. Exit patchwork, although I must admit some of my Christmas runners came out quite successful!

Then came calligraphy, quite a long lasting hobby. I took courses, I even went to England to attend fantastic summer schools, I got new friends. In between I went to a course and learnt how to make paper. But… it gave me a bad neck. Exit regular calligraphy sessions, but I still use all sorts of pens for cards and letters.

So what now? It’s beads… I guess “bead-mania” has been around for some years and that I’m a bit slow… But it seems like I always need a new challenge and beads came in my way. Last November, when Ram and myself was visiting Jaipur and Udaipur, beads were very much on the agenda. We were going here and there by autorickshaw, or on foot, searching for beads. Ram explaining numerous people what we were looking for. And we found…, in a basement in Jaipur. It was wholesale, so even though I bought 1,5 kilos I didn’t get a WIDE selection. But I was happy and content about whay I got.  Ram’s comment: I’m fed up by beads. Let’s go for coffee.

Bracelet made of memory wire and cloisonne beads.

So I have started. I have taken a course. I have bought the proper equipment. Here we go again………
I have made some bracelets, and to be honest I think my bracelets are better than my patchwork and dried flowers.

Here’s a few examples of Benjamuna Beads…:

The first bracelet I made. Brown and turqoise of course....

So far, the one I'm most happy with. Made by various beads given to me by Nathalie and beads bought in India.

Another bracelet made by memory wire and beads that originally was two other necklaces.

Favourite colours.........


The last day of the holidays… January 13, 2011

When you’re on holiday, there is always The Last Day when you very often feel restless, a day difficult to enjoy in full. Sometimes, when you’re on a low-budget airfare trip to Europe, the last day means getting up at four in the morning in order to catch a 6-ish plane back home via, say Amsterdam. So in that case there is barely a last day, only a bad start of the day. Travelling home midday is probably ideal; after checking out of the hotel there is nothing much left to do but to go to the airport and hope the tax free shops are good… Travelling home at six in the evening, well… it’s OK if the weather is warm and sunny and you don’t really miss a hotel room.

Travelling back home from India, well that can be a challenge. Lufthansa is definately worse than KLM. Lufthansa leaves Mumbai at approximately 3 30 in the morning. Now that means many hours to while away without access to a hotel room. KLM is slightly better, leaves Mumbai right after midnight. Given the fact that you should be at the airport 3 – 4 hours prior to departure, and that the taxi ride from say Colaba in the south of Mumbai could take up till two hours on a bad day – you better leave for the airport around nine in the evening. But what to do all these hours in between room check-out and departure….?

I was ready and prepared to go home on the 6th of November last year, but I had plans for the long and last day. But then my friend Joan called in sick in the morning. OK, I decided against going back to Bhuleswar market because I wasn’t sure  I would find my way around that crowded maze. Furthermore, it felt more hot than ever…and I knew from some days earlier that the market would be terribly crowded.
Better opt for a day in slow motion. Go to cafes, read, buy those last minute presents, eat, more coffee, read….

When I checked out, the hotel offered me a room for free a couple of hours prior to my departure, to relax and fresh up. Great! SUBA Palace knows how to treat returning guests!

Preparing for the American president.....

Next… When I came out of the hotel and took my usual right-left turn I almost got a shock when I entered Colaba Causeway. No market, no stalls, no vendors, almost no cars and hardly any people – and it hit me – of course – : Mr Obama was due to arrive the next morning and he was supposed to stay at the hotel only a stone’s throw from my hotel. But sweepers were plentyful, cleaning the streets where Mr Obama would never set his foot. And oh, beggars were obviously driven away.

I opted for the nearest coffee bar where I knew the coffe was good, and read for an hour (+ went to the toilet, a must whenever toilets seem nice and clean). When I came out I ventured down the causeway, left side southwards. Shops were open, but the causeway felt horribly deserted without the stalls. And it struck, something is not right when itæs not crowded…  And in the midst of Diwali, on top of it. I hope somebody told Mr Obama how much his visit hurt on an otherwise great day for shopping.

The Jehangir Art Gallery in Khala Goda, in the south of Mumbai.

I visited some shops, but my jhola felt heavy on my shoulder and I decided I needed another break so I set course for the Jehangir Art Gallery where I initially wanted to visit the famous Samovar Cafe. But it was closed because of Diwali so I opted for the art gallery itself. Jehangir Art Gallery is Mumbai’s most famous gallery, built in 1952. The art gallery is the most prestigious and modern venue for Indian artistes in the city. It is situated in Khala Goda (“black horse“), and area with many other art galleries. Visiting the gallery is pleasant for many reasons; the four halls are spacious and quiet and above all, it’s cool. And I needed to cool down!

In the second hall the paintings caught my attention. As well as the artist himself. Because in India, artists spend their days in the exhibition hall, talking to visitors. The tall man, dressed as a kind of dandy, was Yaseen Khan. Oh yes, I could sense his charm when he approached me. We struck up a conversation, and I eventually asked him if I could take a picture of him, because: I like to take pictures of people I meet and talk to. – I’m not peope, he said, I’m God… Well, I don’t know God, so he could well be. When I returned after taking a look at the exhibition in the next hall, he approached me with his mobile phone, put his arm around me and we stood there listening to Air by Bach. And thus said god bye!

Yaseen Khan - yes, I actually liked his art!

Outside the gallery I met some young people who seemed happy about Diwali in their nice Punjabi dresses. I made a halt and they asked me: – Do you want to dance with us? We talked for a little while and I thought of going for a walk towards Fort and the many books stalls at Flora Fountain. But decided against it, my suitcase was already 22 kilos. Instead I found a shadow and contemplated the traffic who holds everything in India.

Young girls enjoying Diwali outside Jehangir Art Gallery.

I don't know why really, but this always facinates me...

My very special handbag....

I took another stroll down Colaba Causeway and eventually found The Oak Tree, a shop I had read about. Many a time  have I wondered; will I ever find a handbag in my favourite color combination turqoise and brown…? And as I entered the shop, the bag hung right in front of me. The Handbag itself. Right color combination, right shape, right size. Before checking the price tag I made and estimation; and was more or less right. I wouldn’t be ripped off, it would set me back around 500 NKr. The handbag was designed by Mumbai designer Vani Gupta, and I’m sure I will never see another one. The shop was otherwise great, but I bought the bag only (I’ll give you 10 percent off the obvious owner said) and I went next door, to Theobrama, and celebrated my prey. Strong coffee and a sandwich. And I was ready to go home to Norway!


My very special colour combination… July 9, 2010

Is it possible to fall in love with a colour combination? Well yes…. But I am in fact a bit shameful to say that it was the Norwegian princess Märtha Louise who brought my attention to the combination of brown and turquoise. She was wearing a dress some years back, can’t remember the details any longer – only the colours! I thought it was an unusual combination, but I got hooked. And – the hunt was on! But I realised I needed a bit of luck. Shops do not swell with brown and turquoise!

I always find what I look for, in India…. In 2009  I visited designer  Geetha Hardasani’s shop in Bandra, Mumbai. When Ida and I visited Mumbai in 2008, we visited her shop, at that time in Colaba. I kept in touch with Jharna, the designer’s daughter, and thus made sure to pay their new shop in Bandra a visit in 2009. I saw the kurta only seconds after I entered the shop. Wow – something brown and turquoise. Before the others had managed to manouvre themselves inside, I was dressed in…. brown and turquoise… And – sold!

I almost spotted this one from outside the Hardasani shop....

I wanted to buy a designer made outfit; a kurta, churidar and dupatta – and went searching through Geeta’s rows of fabric. I chose the best one, the most expensive one (!) with a fantastic dupatta made of a variety of fabric. But the embroidery on the kurta had the colours of…. brown and turquoise…

My designer made wedding outfit!

Close up of the kurta.


In 2009 Asbjørn and I went to Delhi and one day, strolling through the arcades of Connaught Place I saw it from a distance, a tunic of – yes – brown and turquoise. It was only one left, my size, which proves it was meant for me!

Bought at Connaught Place in Delhi, photograph taken somewhere around the Fort in old Delhi. A young girl wanted her photo together with a farangi...

It’s not so hard to find jewelry in the colours of brown and turquoise. Maybe because of the stone itself, the turquoise…. Moreover, I can’t be the only one in the world thinking that this is a great combination!
My favourite bracelet is bought at Arts and Crafts (Norwegian brand), and people often comment on it. But a while back I was thinking; it must be possible to make jewelry by oneself?!!? So I took a course at a bead shop and learnt some tricks… I’m not going to make a home industry out of it, but it’s nice to be able to make something when inspiration hits you…. Beads do not come very cheap in Norway, what I’m now looking forward to is my travel to India later this year. Shopping for beads in Mumbai….. Must be some treat!

Three strands of beads made by myself, beads and colours carefully picked....

These - my favourite bracelets - have everything that I like; the beads, the colours, the antique look...


Last summer our grandhild Claus, now aged 10, known for his high level of justice, realised that everybody had gotten a summer’s gift  except from granddad… He had seen something suitable though, in a shop in Stavanger…. So Asbjørn and I were left to wait in a cafe, whereas he dragged his mother to Ting and bought a case for toothpicks – and what’s more; the colours were brown and turquoise. The young man was very proud of himself; not only was it the perfect present for Asbjørn who can’t live without toothpicks, but the colour combination was such that Anne-Trine could enjoy as well! He proudly stated. A 10-year old to be proud of!

A perfect hiding place for tooth picks!