Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

One elephant. And one more elephant… March 28, 2012

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 6:48 pm
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I grew up with an elephant.  I always thought it was mine, until my elder sister claimed her right. I must believe her, there are after all reliable witnesses. So I grew up with an elephant in the household, a soft toy named Gus Gus, no doubt named by my father who was a maker of names. Gus Gus had a red cloth on top, like a horse cloth, but I shouldn’t say had because he is still very much alive – although he looks like he has been through a lot and the cloth seems to have been shrinking over the years.

I was searching for another Gus Gus at Crawford Market in Mumbai last November. I had the idea that such elephants would be plentyful in India, and I magined an elephant with an upgraded red cloth of velvet with sequins and fine embroidery. But the elephant I had in mind never materialized, of course….

Elephants are supposed to bring luck, and many people collect them – in many varieties. I don’t collect in earnest, but realise I have quite a few…. Some smaller things, available everywhere in India – like key rings and book marks, are hard to avoid.

Gus Gus - old and worn, but still with that sly smile on his face....

Book marks with elephants are not hard to come by in India....

Neither are key rings, it remains to find the best ones....

One “elephant piece” that I really appreciate and value is a small miniature drawing bought in Udaipur (state of Rajasthan). Together with a friend I was staying at a small hotel, and the brother of the owner was an artist. Just by chance we ended up in his shop, and the very first thing I saw when I entred through the door was a small piece of art under the glass counter. It was an expensive piece, he had plenty of other elephant-ish items – but this was the one thet stood out and the only one I wanted. So be it….. The artist’s technique was just fantastic, what a gift to be able to draw such extremely fine lines. But like Jairaj told me; – The day my hands start to shiver – I’m out of business.

In Norway, it’s possible to create personal stamps, and even personal VISA cards. A chance not to be missed…. And then you can use the stamps together with some nice, elephant writing paper….

Elephant writing paper from Chimanlals in Mumbai.

Elephant illustrations can be very ornamental, in gold and red  with that typcal ‘touch of India’. But simplified patterns seems to be very modern these days. Like my ‘Apple pouch’ for my Apple remedies; which are the chargers for my Apple devices. When travelling these days one has to carry so many things one even didn’t have to think about ten years ago. Various chargers are not to be forgotten and better keep them in one place!

I try to keep my elephants small, but there are some medium sized… Like the small “silver” family which is guarding the wedding portrait of Ida and Erik. And then there is Prem and Ooty who is sharing our meals with us every day. Prem was bought in Dehli, a nice brown specimen from the shops by The Red Fort. It was my good friend Prem Singh who made the bargain… Ooty was bought in…. Ooty (state of Tamil Nadu) last November. A very nice specimen with beautiful ornaments!

A silver elephant bought at Indiska in Stavanger. The smaller one is a gift from my sister.

My 'Apple pouch'....

Ooty and Prem share our meals every day....









A favourite among jewellery...

And then there is my elephant table, brought here by UPS, from Mumbai. It didn’t – unfortunately – come without damage, but that’s another story. And maybe I paid too much… that’s a story I don’t want to venture into…  And it came with some small animals who only a Norwegian winter was able to kill when my elephant table had to spend five days on the veranda – indeed with a blanket….

Search Amazon com or uk, search for elephant jewellery and you have work for the next hours for sure. My favourite piece of jewellery, one of them, has a small elephant and I always wear this bracelet when I’m travelling overseas. It’s bought in Norway, it’s a Norwegian brand (Arts & Crafts) although people seem to think that ‘this must be from India’.

Nothing said so far about the elephant in general, but let me then refer to another source….:


A glimpse of Rajasthan November 23, 2010

Most people who visit India for the first time, do a “Golden Triangle Tour”. Which means Delhi, Agra (to see the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. I have been to both Delhi and Agra earlier, now I was curios about Rajasthan.

I flew to Delhi 23 October and teamed up with my friend and colleague Ram – already on holiday in hometown Delhi. Sunday at noon we entered a bus that took us to Jaipur, known as The Pink City. The best thing about Jaipur was …… the hotel. The Umaid Bhawan is definately the best hotel I have ever stayed in. The house itself is not really old, but the furnitur, the decor – everything – makes you think of old money. It’s incredible, and not at all costly. I dreamt about a Kingfisher on a beautiful roof top restaurant, exactly what I got!

Detail from beautiful Umaid Bhawan, a hotel gem in Jaipur!

Jaipur has heavy traffic, the roundabouts are crazy. All means of transportation in every possible direction. The old part of Jaipur is painted in pink, thus it’s called The Pink City. So is that why tourists go to Jaipur?
Well Rajasthan has numerous old forts and palaces. After five days in Jaipur and Udaipur I got the feeling we saw them all….

But in between all that history, we were searching for beads. The search took us to back alleys that reeked of the stank of urine. We were talking to numerous people, beads beads beads – where to find? We found… in a basement. And left with 1,4 kilo, simple as that.

Beads, and more beads....

Jaipur is a shopper’s paradise: streets lined with shops selling colourful textiles – and everything else under the sun. But as a tourist you’re constantly attacked from every possible angle, and in the long run shopping doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Walking the back alleys, where the natives go shopping is more fun!

Colours of India.... found in a shop in Jaipur.

Next on the agenda was Udaipur and we decided to take the night bus. A good bus is often known as and equivalent to a Volvo. Good branding, Sweden…. And yes, the trip was comfy enough! Bt we arrived in Udaipur at five in the morning, quite tired and the bus station seemed cold and unwelcoming. Also, it took some time to wake up the hotel: The Krishna Niwas, run by three brothers, two of them artists.

Colorful Rajasthani shoes and slippers.

Udaipur was different from Jaipur. We were staying in the old part of the city, narrow and hilly. Udaipur seemed small, in a way. But when we took an autorickshaw to a Barista – because I desperately needed a decent coffee – and further on to a pizza place called Uncle Sam (because I desperately needed a pizza) – I realised that the city was not so small and cramped after all. But, not unlike Jaipur, with Western tourists just about everywhere.
Udaipur has lakes, and thus some really beautiful views. Hotels market “lake view” hard, but how often did I look out of my window in order to enjoy the meagre lake view? It was nice though, the Picola Lake, and fortunately Rajasthan has had quite a lot of rain this year (doesn’t happen too often) and thus all the city lakes were filled to the brim. Very often the lakes are dry.

Sari embroidery in the streets of Udaipur.

If we were looking for beads in Jaipur, Udaipur took us to numerous shoe shops. Ram’s wife wanted mojaries, Rajasthani slippers. It was fun, the shoes are very colourful and we went to the local markets, not those for tourists. But we did do the City Palace… the heat was intense and we decided that enough was enough! Instead we intensified the search of mojaries.

Our hotel didn’t have Umaid Bhawan’s grandeur, but lots of charm. The narrow building had no lift, we were constantly climbing stairs. The hotel had a small shop selling leather books and binders of all kinds, they were even produced on the second floor. All over the old part of Udaipur these types of books were sold, very nice handiwork. Also, miniature painters seemed to be plentiful, art galleries were everywhere – also in our hotel.

So what was my first, second and third impression of Rajasthan….. If I had to chose between – say – Rajasthan in the west, Kerala in the south and Uttaranchal in the north – Rajasthan would come third. Maybe it was the swarms of tourists everywhere, the dryness and the heat, the overwhelming historical tourist attractions. Well who knows. But I enjoyed every minute of the stay, and if I get the chance to stay at the Umaid Bhawan in Jaipur once more, it would be hard to resist!