While stationed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between 1980 and 1984, for the World Bank, we traveled with the two kids, David and Samantha, (8 and 6), through India on several occasions, from east-west to north-south: wonderful and unforgettable experiences. Some pictures you may remember from your own travels in that intriguing part of the world.
How did we travel? By air (it takes three hours to fly north-south), taxicabs, and rickshaws. We visited palaces and temples of artful architecture which showed the richness of India in the Middle Ages and earlier, while Europe was building its own cathedrals and palaces.
We watched the Gometeswara statue above in awe on our way from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Bangalore. The kids were still too young to feel ‘shocked’ by the enormous penis, but on a beach in Goya later, daughter Samantha pointed startled at a live male nudist’s penis because to her big shock it dangled precipitously.
Dave and Sam in front of the impressive Palace at Mysore in southern India, a huge complex designed by Englishman Lord Henry Irwin and built between 1897-1912 after the old wooden structure burned down. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his mother Maharani Kempananjammanni Devi, commissioned Lord Henry to build it. The royal family lived in these palaces since the 14th century.
A photograph of the Hoysaleswara temple at Belur. Here is where Sam and Dave disappeared in the dark inside. Worried about child kidnapping in India, we found Sam later sitting with a local family, selling mango fruits as if she had become Indian. They did not want to be photographed. When Sam ran back to us I sneakily took a picture of them anyway.
Notice the natural Indian beauty of the young women selling mangos, squatting with – probably – their mother.
The ancient Indian art of temple sculpture is breathtaking. You see much of that art spread throughout South Asia and the Far East (Indonesia).
Of course, we had to visit the Taj Mahal (“Crown of the Palaces” – in Hindi) in the city of Agra while staying with friends in New Delhi who kindly babysat the kids for this trip. Joy is shown with the Taj Mahal in the background. My grandfather, a great-uncle, and father went there too, so it became sort of a pilgrimage for me. For Joy, all travel in India, in particular Bombay and the south where her family hailed from, was an all-out pilgrimage to visit her roots. Her family name in Guyana being Jaundoo, we searched the English language Bombay telephone book, which listed the name Chandoo. In Guyana, it had become Jaundoo. The pronunciation was exactly the same in Hindi, but spelled differently in English in British Guyana.
The inside of the Taj Mahal glorifies Persian, Mongol and Indian art. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (source Wikipedia) Next to the Taj Mahal is the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile. I’timad was an important Persian official in the Mughal Empire, whose children served as wives, mothers, and generals of the Mughal Emperors.
From Agra we traveled to nearby Fatehpur Sikri, a remnant of the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1571 built by Emperor Akbar, serving in this role from 1571 to 1585 (Wikipedia). It is a remarkable assembly of impressive buildings which excel in structural simplicity.
From there, we traveled to Jaipur to complete the Taj Mahal ‘triangle.’ A historic old town with a remote castle on top of a mountain that one can only reach by elephant.
A ‘Joyful” elephant rider: the elephant seems to like her.
Following are two local Indian paintings we bought in Jaipur. The one with the Hindu figures we could not get because the store where we saw it displayed in the window case was closed. Indian friends of ours – thanks again Anand Seth if you read this blog! – who are from Jaipur purchased it for us later. The other painting displays a typical Indian rural scene as we encountered them on our travels by car.
Back to New Delhi to pick-up the kids to travel to Srinagar in Kashmir, a state torn by strife between Pakistan and India, now dangerous for tourists. We spent there a week in a houseboat on the lake at Srinagar, from where we traveled around Kasmir with its beautiful scenery that reminded me of Switzerland.
Following are some more pictures of fascinating Kashmir with Joy, Dave, and Sam:
It was great to relax in Kashmir. But on a day trip with a rented car, we got a flat…and no spare in the back! I had to walk to a nearby village to get some young guys to help me carry the tire to a local workshop to get it repaired. The young guys said proudly: ‘Kashmir is Pakistan.’ They were also proudly Islamic. It reminded me later when I sat with Palestinian colleagues looking over the Dead Sea at the West Bank mountain ridge. ‘There is Palestine,” they said, as proudly. Behind the scenic beauty in the world, strife is not far behind.
Meanwhile, Sam took it easy: she ate an apple I plucked from a nearby fruit yard, with the scenic valley and Himalayan mountain ridge in the back.
Next album: Darjeeling and more.
Where is James?
I want James.
James? Where are you?
James, please make up my bed.
James, have my breakfast and coffee ready at eight. Don’t forget to pick up the paper from the front door.
James, clean my wife’s bedroom, PLEASE! And bring her a cappuccino, a fried egg, a toasted buttered muffin, and don’t forget to sprinkle it with bacon crusts and paprika.
James, drive my car out of the garage and wash it. I have to go out.
Here’s the shopping list for today, James. Make sure you cross out evrything to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
Drive me to my lunch date, James, at noon sharp, and pick me up at two.
James, please light the fire at four. Get some fresh wood from the shed.
James, why is my tea not ready yet? Don’t we have marmalade in the house? Don’t you know I always want marmalade on my crackers?
James, please bring me my sherry at five, and a plate of Swiss macaroons. Some salmon mousse on those little toasts, too, please. Thanks.
James, when is dinner served? What did Missus order? Steak, pork or what? I hope you didn’t do those awful Brussels sprouts again?
James, where’s my evening gown? Didn’t you get it back from the cleaners? I was so mad when I messed it up with my brandy l
James, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderpoorten are coming for dinner tomorrow. Is everything on schedule? Table silver polished? Candles set?
Anything more of your service, Mr. John?
Thank you James. Did you bring Missus her bedtime tea?
James, where are you?
Are Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas the same or ‘brothers’?
Daughter Sam figuring as Santa Claus at Georgetown Visitation, Washington, D.C., schmoozing with Papa John.
The Dutch (and Belgium/Luxemburg and northern France) celebrate ‘Sinterklaas’ (or Saint Nicolas in French) on the evening of December 5 and the morning of December 6 (Belgium/France). In Holland, this is a major festivity, which keeps the children in great expectations of what gifts they will get, on the condition that they behave well. The Dutch Sinterklaas is the precursor of the British/American Santa Claus, which is celebrated at Christmas. Most Americans probably don’t know that, but the American Santa tradition emerged from the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, now New York. How this happened is lively described by Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas) and I will not repeat it here, but as a Dutch family in the US, we celebrated Sinterklaas with the children when they were young (from 4 to 8) and still believed that Sinterklaas really existed.
Sinterklaas comes around on a white horse that can fly over the rooftops, and drops gifts through the chimneys with the help of his servants, called ‘Black Peters’. The origin for this story is that at some stage the bishop Nicholas moved from Turkey to Spain in the middle ages, and in Spain, wealthy people had servants from northern Africa (‘Moors’) who are brown skinned. The ‘Black Peters’ are nowadays in uproar in the Netherlands because of a culture clash with inhabitants from Surinam and Africa, even though Black Peters were never considered a ‘racial’ matter before. But politics have a tendency to destroy the fun of long-established national customs.
At the time we were on assignment in Bangladesh (1980-1984), the Dutch diplomatic and foreign aid community always celebrated Sinterklaas enthusiastically, and for us parents, the period leading up to it was a perfect time to keep ‘the kids’ in good behavior. Every night they put their shoes out (in the living room) and if they were well-behaved they found a little gift from Sinterklaas. If they did not behave well, they could be ‘punished’ by Sinterklaas when, on December 5, they met him and his ‘Black Peters’ who would put a bad boy in a jute bag to take him to Spain to drill school (of course, if they put one in a jute bag, he was released a short while later).
The main differences between Sinterklaas en Santa Claus are that Sinterklaas rides a horse that flies, and Santa sits on a coach pulled by flying reindeer. Sinterklaas has Black Peters as servants while Santa is accompanied by elves who do not punish children for bad behavior. William Bennet wrote an interesting book about ‘The True Saint Nicolas’ worth reading: https://amzn.to/2LxG8lg
Below follow some pictures of a happy Sinterklaas childhood.
The Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Pim Damstee, receives Sinterklaas at the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, surrounded by expat children, and followed by his ‘Black Peter’.
Son Dave (6) absorbing a well-deserved dressing-down by Sinterklaas, reading from his notes about Dave’s bad behavior he’d heard about. Dave narrowly escaped the jute bag.
Sam, whose behavior was more cautious in the face of possible ‘punishment’ by a Black Peter, walks away happily with a gift.
On return to Washington, years later, the Sinterklaas fun continued for the grandkids, at the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. The festivity is organized by the Dutch club “DC Dutch” in collaboration with the Dutch Ambassador.
The Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Renée Jones-Bos, receives Sinterklaas at the Embassy for the annual Sinterklaas festivity (picture dates from December 2011). We knew Renée when she was a young Third Secretary at the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh where we became good friends. We met her again when she was stationed in Washington as Embassy Counsel, and given her brilliant reputation, we were not surprised to see her nominated Ambassador to Washington years later, one of the highest posts of the diplomatic service. In 2012, she was appointed Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the highest level of the civil service, a post she held until 2016 when she became Ambassador to Moskou where she is still today. She was selected as ‘the most powerful Dutch Woman.’ Quite a career!
Son David in animated discussion with the Ambassador, her husband Dr. Richard Jones (UK), a writer, sharing in the amusement.
Black Peter entertains grandson Preston and his dad.
Next, Preston John meets Sinterklaas, expecting his gift.
Sinterklaas hands Preston John, called PJ for short, his gift, Black Peter looking on. No jute bag this time.
PJ’s younger sister, Sadie Rose, takes Sinterklaas and all Black Peters for granted and goes for a snooze. She knows she will see her gift later,
PJ to the contrary is admiring his gift.
Merry Christmas to you all, from Santa Claus!
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
“A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
“A fine romantic thriller” – Daniel Dwyer
“A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
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Read it while traveling or waiting in the doctor’s office.
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It’s Friday night and Fred, Frank, Tom, and Ted are drinking beer with their regular friends at the Hullahoo bar, talking about the issues of the Me Too Movement. Cindy sitting across from Frank yells, “Me 2 is taking over boys. It’s role reversal. You better take notice.”
“Scary, Cindy, I did,” Frank says. “I stopped dating for fear of being broadsided or perhaps even castrated.”
“Right,” Ted added. “Broads do that nowadays. What are we going to do about love?”
“You guys are all babes in the woods,” Marlene scoffs. “Me 2 wants real men that do not assault or belittle women like calling us broads.”
“Oh yeah?” howls Frank. “You mean those real men with their naked torsos trunked on romance novels?”
“All written by women, including erotica,” Ted adds. “The three Ls: Love, lust, and lasciviousness. Are they also members of the Me 2 movement?”
“You’re hallucinating,” Marlene’s friend Melissa says. “Me 2 women have their own sense of self-esteem, even if they write erotica.”
“Ha, ha,” laughs Fred. “If I write an erotica novel, I’ll be called a pervert and if you do it, it’s called art. Call that a double standard.”
“When I walk the corridors in my office,” Ted says, “I look straight ahead now and say nothing anymore to the girls passing for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.”
“I won’t open the door for any woman anymore either,” Tom says. “For fear of being told off that she can do that herself. And when I am in the elevator, I won’t even try to let the woman exit first. I rather travel up or down to the next floor. For fear of being told that I’m making inappropriate advances.”
“Me 2 is a serious movement,” Cindy buts in. “You guys shouldn’t make fun of it. It responds to a longtime abuse of women in the workplace or domestic violence, and nobody did a damn thing about it. Thanks to the Me 2 Movement they do now.”
“We’re not denying that, Cindy,” Fred argues. “To the contrary, we agree and I personally am glad that this screwy matter has been put in the limelight. But Me 2 has thrown a wrench into the courting ritual. It’s like lighting a firecracker on the Notre Dame square with all this social media hype. Ever seen male pigeons pursuing female pigeons? Aren’t you guys denying nature’s procreative role?”
“Humans are rational people, animals are not,” Melissa says, raising her voice. “Men have been denying female rights for far too long.”
“You say,” Frank exclaims. “What about those female empresses that sent their lovers to the gallows?”
“Kathryn Dunoova, that French movie star, also said Me 2 had gone too far,” Tom says. “You’re throwing your loverboy away with the bathwater.”
“It’s Catherine Deneuve, you butthead,” called out Emily from the other side of the counter. She pretended she could speak French. “She later apologized for critiquing Me 2.”
“Okay,” Tom responds. “Maybe she did. But she and some ninety-nine other famous French women said the usual male courting rituals shouldn’t be called sexual harassment, and that’s what’s happening here in the US. It’s killing our romance. I guess French women are different from their American species. I’ll be moving to Paris.”
“I was going to propose tomorrow at the top of the Empire building,” Ted announces. “But for fear of being laughed at I may just as well throw myself over the railing.”
“Why should you guys have the exclusive right to propose?” Emily wonders. “Why can’t I propose? Waiting for someone nice to propose is very frustrating for women.”
“I’m sure that most of us men were already proposed to in bed by our girlfriends after our cummy, whispering let’s get married,” Frank says. “Most of us would be too embarrassed to say ‘no.’ So Emily, get your act together.”
“Would you like me to try?” Emily asks, her eyes full of seduction.
“Are you proposing?” Frank asks, among loud laughter.
Emily comes around, pushing his friend Fred off his seat and sits next to Frank. “Yes, I am,” she says. “Pay me a drink to seal it.”
The Hullahoo friends raise their glasses, cheering, “Long live Me 2!”
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
” A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
” A fine romantic thriller” – Daniel Dwyer
” A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
Get it on Kindle: https://amzn.to/2UID9dQ
PAPERBACK COMING SOON!
You may remember the blog on MICE AND ICE: https://www.johnschwartzauthor.com/enchante-mice-ice/
Well, Miceans Maxie and Maxine came back after having been deported last year. The worlds they lived in were hard and unforgiving, they said. No food and shelter for kids, and lots of neighborhood cats and pray-birds out there to kill or mistreat them. So they sneaked in illegally, even borrowed kids, those little creatures with those dreaming tear-jerking eyes that make your heart turn mushy when they look at you, especially on TV. They were asking for a space in our home.
ENCHANTÉ consulted an outsider to come to grips with this invasion: Mars Man. You may remember him, that Marsian face which turns ‘human’ when he lands in a Nebraska cornfield close to Omaha to have TV interviews with his earthly wife Kathryn, an adorable and much-loved anchor at Omaha TV. One of his appearances on ENCANTÉ was in 2016 – https://www.johnschwartzauthor.com/mars-mans-tv-economy-stupid-stupid-economy/.
Mars – his first name – gladly returned to Earth to report for his weekly Mars City TV “Mother Earth’s Weekly Squirms” show on the high-profile Miceans approaching the US and the similarity of this event with the continuing efforts of Mother Earth attempting to invade Mars. Kathryn did not waste any time and scheduled him for an interview on the border issue just a few hours after he landed in the Omaha cornfield with Space Scooter One.
He had hardly the time to morph into his earthly body and a Balenciaga outfit.
Kathryn had invited Ted and Frank from the Washington, D.C. Bureau to join in the discussion.
Kathryn launches her show, OMAHA’S WORLD TODAY, with a quick re-introduction of Mars Man, Ted, and Frank. She asks Mars to reflect on the oncoming Miceans invasion from a Mars point of view.
“Kathryn, thank you so much for this important question. We have discussed this before in other forums, but clearly, this is of immediate relevance to Mars. Like everybody on Mother Earth, we hold our planet and our sacred homes dearly. We do not tolerate strange invaders. Any time when a rover or other earthly space unit dawns on Mars and lets mice lose to test our living space, our alarm systems go off and we are ready to defend ourselves. We use appropriate baits and traps and those rovers – you call them rodents here – usually get worn out pretty fast and disappear in a remote ditch somewhere.”
“But what if NASA sends a few thousand rovers to Mars?” asks Frank. “What would you do?”
“It’s insane to even think that’s possible, but we would mobilize a whole army of MICE controllers to chase them back into space. MICE stands for “Mars Invasion Control Entity.”
“We have exactly the same name for it,” Ted exclaims. “Does your president need congressional approval for that?” Ted has no clue of Marsian politics.
“We have a supreme leader, “Mars Man lectures. “He or she emanates from the majority political party. Mars has three parties, the Jupiterians, much like your Libertarians; the
“So your supreme leader would mobilize the army to stop a caravan of mice on earth?” asks Kathryn.
“Exactly. You call your MICE police and get them out, despite their doe-eyed kids, put up barb or bob wire because those kids grow up fast, multiply fast, ruin your home and turn your people into endangered species before you know it. Like what we would do on Mars: turn them back with all your might.”
“Would your Venetians agree with that?” wonders Ted.
“Most likely not, they love your type of
“Once we find our home is no longer ours because the
“You must take action,” Mars Man says. “Even if you are not Republican. Just to save your home from those nasty droppings, loud gnawing, and demolition of wires and cables in your attic.”
Also, to save your kids from dangerous diseases, and to keep your sanity and healthy sleep.”
“But to play the devil’s advocate, what about those poor
“Sure,” Mars Man says. “And soon they’ll want more space in your house, skid through your bedroom with their many kids in their wake, and ask for house-membership and your money to buy more cheese, peanut butter, marshmallows and other drugs free of traps.”
“Why would your Venetians let them in then?” asks Frank.
“To get more votes, beat the
“Gee, that sounds so much like us on Mother Earth,” Ted observes. “It must be an alien habit turned earthly.”
“And next they claim citizenship of your attic,” Mars Man warns. “Kathryn knows, but she does not want to admit it openly. She’s afraid that the Miceans will attack her under the table in a restaurant, saying she is racist.”
“I have just texted my wife we are installing a deep-rooted fence around our yard,” Ted announces. “Our neighbors objected when I explored the idea with them because they found it racist. I told them they could have all the
“We will do the same,” Frank says. “I have a team to plug all the holes around the house and put bab wire at the edges of our the lawn. No more friendly welcome signs. It will also keep my in-laws at bay.”
“That’s the issue,” finalizes Kathryn. “The
The show closes and the tweets run amok. Maxi and Maxine were deported once more, with their offspring. But the authorities expect them back,