Travel with Twinny … Spanish surprise

One of the easiest languages in the world to learn is Spanish and the first word which comes to mind is OLE’!

This oft used exclamation has its roots in the Arabic ‘WA ALLAH ‘ meaning ‘ Oh God!’

Now thats a surprise!

Soon one learns that Azucar is Spanish for Sugar,

Aceite for oil ,

Fideo for noodle ,

Jarra for pot or pitcher,

Azar for luck or chance etcetcetc

and that all these are Arabic words ,

routinely used in NORMAL Spanish conversation.

There are some 4000 words ( mostly nouns) along with

one preposition ( hasta.. meaning ‘until’) which form 8% of the Spanish dictionary!

Wow! How come Twinny ??

Hold on Amruta , let me tell you more.

Visit Alhambra ( the MEDINA citystate of Granada in Southern Spain ,’medina ‘again an Arabic word) and you will be startled by the beauty of ISLAMIC architecture in this UNESCO world heritage palace -fortress. Look…

Elegant gardens, fountains , honeycombed vaulted domes( muquarnas)

mesmerising alcoves, cornices, inscriptions ..

800 years older than the Taj Mahal and stunning to say the least !

Similar Islamic elements are in the mosque of Córdoba …

and in the Giralda of Seville …

One begins to wonder

‘ Am I really in a European country which is 90% Catholic or a Middle Eastern one instead??’

Good grief Twinny .. How come ??

There you go again Amruta …

Patience dear!

From 711 AD to 1492AD ,

that’s close to 800 years .. SPAIN was ruled by MUSLIMS !

‘MOORS ‘

from Morocco and Northern Africa ..

Naturally black and superintelligent .

They brought paper which they had learnt to make from the Chinese , cotton , silk, rice, saffron.

They introduced oranges, lemons, peach and apricot trees, figs, dates, ginger !

They constructed libraries ,universities ,

public baths ,pavements and provided street lighting !

Astronomy , Maths , art ,architecture and handicrafts flourished!

As did other religions besides Islam !

Amruta my dear ….in the reign of the Moors …SPAIN saw its GOLDEN AGE !

Wow Twinny that is simply Amazing!

Oh there’s lots more Amruta !

Musical instruments like the Spanish guitar ( kithara), the lute ( el oud) and the lyre added haunting music to soulful poetry and fiesty dances .

Interesting too that many present day

Spaniards/ Hispanics have a mixed lineage from North African blood .

Simply fantastic Twinny !

Tell me Twinny ..the Arabians had such a profound impact on the Spanish ..

Did the Arabs also imbibe something from the Spanish ??

Of course they did Amruta !

THE VEIL!

Veiling was essentially Byzantine in origin .. Orthodox Catholics and Jews used to wear head scarves as a symbol of piety ,devotion, modesty, humility , self expression , liberation!

The Spanish veil or MANTILLA is worn till today ……Here is a picture of a baby wearing one!

Ooooh that’s lovely .. will don one myself ..

The headscarf was one article the Moors / Arabs adopted . Over the last two centuries of course ,they took it to another level ..

Hijab , Niqab , Burkha !

I quite like the hijab Twinny .. there is an element of mystery in it …

And a sense of pride too ..

See!

Who needs a falcon ?

Geese are the new millennial look!

😎!

Hasta Manana( until we meet again )!

Travel with Twinny … Flamenco!!

VOLUPTUOUS is the only way to describe a female flamenco dancer!

No ‘skin and bones’ like a ballerina, or the plump jiggling frame of a Hawaiian dancer…

Just sheer FEMME FATALE !

Dressed in red or black the señorita magestically sings, dances, claps , stamps , snaps her pretty fingers .. all …more or less simultaneously!

The first thought that struck whilst watching a Flamenco show in Barcelona was that

Hey this sure is LOUD!!

LOUD

Stamping and stomping of feet ,

LOUD snapping of fingers,

LOUD raucous Clapping of hands together or across ones body ,

LOUD crooning,

And LOUD though wholesome Strumming of guitars !

That’s the unusual thing about Flamenco!

It SHOUTS out EVERYTHING !!

While what the lead singer was trying to say in her song remains a mystery (she sang in Spanish)

one could guess by her pained expressions that the content was tragic and the events that she sang about in her life were steeped in pathos.

Punctuated with fits of anger and bitterness too !

No joy , only oceans of grief!

Ole’!

The accompanying male dancers sporting long wild hair and longer sideburns, danced skilfully stamping their feet akin to tap dancers ….And of course never a smile escaped their lips!

Ole’!

The guitarists .. a welcome addition ( since the 1800s) to this art form which took its origin in 800 AD definitely enhanced the evenings experience.

Flamenco guitars are lightweight ,made of cypress rather than rosewood and are strummed very deftly and lightly !

The beats in the cafe cantata that night rose in cadence from gentle to frenetic , from a trot to a canter to a climaxing gallop !

So how best to describe flamenco except that it expresses FEELINGS!

Feelings of angst ,passion, bewilderness, of love lost !

A deep seated lament!

A mystery !

It is born of so many influences ..

ARABIC / CHRISTIAN / a little JEWISH/ a little GYPSY !

All fusing to produce a crosspollinated flower of uniqueness !

The hand movements look definitely Arabic ,

The Foot movements European folk ,

The guitar ranges from soulful to violent ,

The singing bursts with Moroccon overtones!

What an unusual mix !

Heady too !

No wonder then this art born in Andalusia , Southern Spain.. with its cousins in Morocco and Latin American countries

Won the UNESCO prize for INTANGIBLE WORLD HERITAGE TREASURE in 2010!

🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖!



With all this clapping and stamping ,

am tempted to practise the footwork ….

And to don my black dress…

Here goes….

Ole’

💃💃💃💃💃!

Byeeeee!

Travels with Twinny..FLAMENCO!

VOLUPTUOUS is the only way to describe a female flamenco dancer!

No ‘skin and bones’ like a ballerina, or the plump jiggling frame of a Hawaiian dancer…

Just sheer FEMME FATALE !

Dressed in red or black the señorita magestically sings, dances, claps , stamps , snaps her pretty fingers .. all …more or less simultaneously!

The first thought that struck whilst watching a Flamenco show in Barcelona was that

Hey this sure is LOUD!!

LOUD

Stamping and stomping of feet ,

LOUD snapping of fingers,

LOUD raucous Clapping of hands together or across ones body ,

LOUD crooning,

And LOUD though wholesome Strumming of guitars !

That’s the unusual thing about Flamenco!

It SHOUTS out EVERYTHING !!

While what the lead singer was trying to say in her song remains a mystery (she sang in Spanish)

one could guess by her pained expressions that the content was tragic and the events that she sang about in her life were steeped in pathos.

Punctuated with fits of anger and bitterness too !

No joy , only oceans of grief!

Ole’!

The accompanying male dancers sporting long wild hair and longer sideburns, danced skilfully stamping their feet akin to tap dancers ….And of course never a smile escaped their lips!

Ole’!

The guitarists .. a welcome addition ( since the 1800s) to this art form which took its origin in 800 AD definitely enhanced the evenings experience.

Flamenco guitars are lightweight ,made of cypress rather than rosewood and are strummed very deftly and lightly !

The beats in the cafe cantata that night rose in cadence from gentle to frenetic , from a trot to a canter to a climaxing gallop !

So how best to describe flamenco except that it expresses FEELINGS!

Feelings of angst ,passion, bewilderness, of love lost !

A deep seated lament!

A mystery !

It is born of so many influences ..

Arabic/ Christian / a little Jewish / a little gypsy !

All fusing to produce a crosspollinated flower of uniqueness !

The hand movements look definitely Arabic ,

The Foot movements European folk ,

The guitar ranges from soulful to violent ,

The singing bursts with Moroccon overtones!

What an unusual mix !

Heady too !

No wonder then this art born in Andalusia , Southern Spain.. with its cousins in Morocco and Latin American countries

Won the UNESCO prize for INTANGIBLE WORLD HERITAGE TREASURE in 2010!

🎖🎖🎖!

With all this clapping and stamping ,

am tempted to practise the footwork ….

And to don my black dress..

Here goes….

Ole’

💃💃💃💃💃

Byeee!

Travel with Twinny .. Seville

Disappointment writ large on our faces!

12,500 Tickets to the Bullfight at the

PLAZA de TOROS , SEVILLE

all SOLD out !!!

How could one visit SPAIN and NOT witness a MATCH between MAN and the mighty BULL ??!

No no Amruta, it’s not like what it appears!

BULLFIGHTING in Spain is NOT considered a BLOOD SPORT , rather an ART FORM and very much part of Spanish culture.

Fortunately ,just like outside Bombay Talkies one could earlier procure cinema tickets at blackmarket rates, friendly Spanish touts cheerfuly SOLD us tickets at TWICE the original price,

no doubt for the very BEST seats,

the ones closest to the ring and in the shade! Sol tickets or tickets in the Sun are much cheaper!

You sure were DESPERATE Twinny !

Agreed Amruta!

But then ,when ever would I see a LIVE bullfight ??

Bullfights have been banned in Barcelona since 2010 and animal activist laws may soon do the same in Madrid!

You can see when you visit south of France , Peru ,Cuba …….Twinny !

At least THERE they will NOT fight till the bull drops down DEAD . They will stop short at harassing . No KILLING of the bull!

Shhhhhu Amruta !

It’s not like I am condoning this spectacle . I am just a curious spectator- LET me see!

YELLOW OCHRE is the colour of Seville ,the welcoming ,romantic CAPITAL of ANDALUSIA , home to the Muslim ALCAZAR castle , the gorgeous Gothic CATHEDRAL, also where legendary explorer Christopher Columbus was buried….

YELLOW OCHRE is the colour of the centre of the bullfighting arena!

GRAND is the stage!

Dressed fashionably as though going to the Derby and armed with cushions to sit on the stony steps of this huge arena established since 1700, the heady smell of cigars filling the air , PASSIONATE Spaniards wait for the DRAMA to unfold.

And it does!

The orchestra begins to play, the intrepid matador enters with a prayer on his lips, places his hat on the ground at the centre of the ring

And Ole’

Here charges in the angry 😡 bull!

First , PICADORS try to exhaust the bull with their RED capes ! I learn later the capes need NOT be red, bulls are colourblind!

Just the MOVEMENT of the cloaks is enough to incense them !

Hither thither the maddened animal runs, sinewy despite his bulk !

In come the blindfolded horses , with a HORSEMAN who expertly spears the back of the charging bull …..

…….followed by the picadors

thrusting 2 darts at a time on either side of the bulls spine!

2 this side , 2 that side , 2 back on same side as first!

A total of 6!

The poor ,poor animal already is at a disadvantage, exhausted and bleeding, yet

valiantly fighting on .

The crowd raises white handkerchiefs in appreciation of the brave bulls efforts!

Now struts in the matador .

Ole’! Ole’! Shout the crowd!

Gracefully pirouetting and swirling his cape just inches away from the bulls horns ( the hapless creatures ONLY defence and attack weapon) the matador in a series of well calculated moves majestically spears the heart .

Down falls the doomed animal

to

be carried away by a train of horses in a trice!

Ole’ Ole’!!

How GRUESOME is this art Twinny !!

Before you become so judgemental Amruta,

consider THIS …….The bull sent in to fight has lounged on a lush bull ranch ,been fed and cared for , for 5 years.

The one that is killed for its meat is just a baby , a bull calf , only 18 months old!

Now WHICH is better?

To die a death in glory,

Or prematurely in the slaughter house?

OMG Twinny!

I can’t say which is worse !

If IBERIAN STEAK were not so delicious , I would have turned vegetarian long ,long ago!

Alas!

Stop whimpering Amruta !

Am off to Barcelona !

Have to ” catch a bull…

……by its horns ”

…… and procure RINGSIDE tickets for the football match at CAMP NOU , BARCELONA !

At COST PRICE !

NOT at ‘ ANY COST !’

….even if MESSI is playing! 😌

OLE’ !

ZARAH DIARIES … the most INTERESTING people I don’t even need to seek .. they just walk right into Zarah Clinic…

Assamaalikum Doctor Sahiba!

Ali Khans old familiar voice resounded as he sauntered into the clinic for his ANNUAL fix!

BOTOX !

Sab

khairiyat? I ask … trying to impress with the smattering of Urdu I know..

I distinctly remember our first meeting. Burly in a pathani suit and peshavaris, Ali strode into the clinic and I have never been more surprised!

An unknown ‘middle aged’ Pakistani in Zarah Clinic, what twist of tale could have brought him here?

When asked what was his age .. he counter questioned .. aap aandaaza lagaa saktay hain?

He had salt and pepper hair falling on a thick scarred face , deep set eyes with crow’s feet running helter skelter down to his cheeks..Though he looked 54….

I answered a conservative 45 !

But balked when he said 27!

Whoops !!

Quickly trying to cover this faux pas, I immediately distracted him by asking about his life, and the nature of his work.

It turned out Ali had qualified as a civil architect , was out all day on construction sites in the hot Quetta sun , screwing up his eyes looking up at unfinished constructions!

An occupational hazard then ,to develop crow’s feet along with solar aging of his otherwise youthful skin!

”I want to get married ”

He blurted out in all earnestness ,”but girls reject me because they think I am too old!”

”Doctor Sahiba..

Kuch Upaay dilla sakthi hain??!”

Of course I suggested Botox .. am well aware that THIS IS the miracle method which no cream or medicine can achieve to actually eradicate or soften lines. Despite all the myths surrounding it , it is supersafe and USFDA approved and as of today , the most popular cosmetic procedure in the USA.

Took Ali no time to be convinced and soon he was having his first cosmetic treatment!

The first time around ,I applied anaesthetic cream for an hour before giving micro mini injections into relevant muscles .

That was then!

Now ,he is a champ!

Needs no numbing cream …just a little ice and a lot of chitterchatter!

Ammi jaan Kaisi hain??Lahore Ka mahaul Kaisa hai?!

It’s all over in a matter of minutes!

Within 10 days to a fortnight…

the muscles around the eyes and the deep frown lines begin to relax ..

And hey presto a younger version of oneself emerges!

Like Magic!

Ali is happy EACH and EVERY time.

The ravages of premature aging are erased so easily !

Who would guess??

That’s what makes him return year after year ,

each time enthusiastically sharing pictures of his growing family , warmly inviting mine to his home .

YES, he DID get married within a year of his very first treatment !

The second time he came he presented me a box wrapped in yellow cellophane . Doctor sahiba, I brought you something, the best pistachios from Lahore.”

Seeing my hesitation he quickly added “No you must take it, it’s for the kids.” Not wanting to appear impolite I accepted the box. Little did I know then ,that this was one of many boxes of dry fruit that Ali would hand me over the years, wrapped in cellophane yes, but wrapped more in respect and affection as the years went by . 10 years now!

Big Ali with a bigger Heart is how I will always remember him.

The political climate in Pakistan is undoubtedly unsafe but the hearts of our brethren across the border are large and hugely respectful of us.

I remember my dear friend Lekha Merchant trying to buy salwar kameezes for her schoolteacher colleagues in a Karachi equivalent of Crawford market being told .. aap Bombay se hain ..aap liijiye jo aap chaahein..

hum aapse paise nahin lenghein!

Now that’s something WE never do!

Botox done, now it’s paytime folks!

Our ‘mehmaan nawaazi ‘pales’ in comparison.

Ali and I end up comparing the neighbor countries and often conclude that our ordinary everyday lives are pretty much the same!

He laughs “our WOMEN and our TRUCKS are probably more colorful than yours!”

It’s true, our silly ‘horn ok please’ truck slogans are NO match for the Pakistani counterparts, which are arty ,veritable mini carnivals on wheels!

What designs ! What colours!

Women? Nah! Ofcourse we can be colorful I fume as I deftly drape my most lively and flamboyant saree of the day ……a blue, black and white busily printed soft-to-touch ‘malmal ‘ with multicolored, happy tassels cheerfully strung along the border…

Watch!

Byeeeee!

Will be back soon with another interesting patient of mine!

Zarah Diaries…..The most INTERESTING PEOPLE I don’t need to even seek, they just walk right into Zarah Clinic!

At precisely 12 noon I heard this rather timid “hello Dr. Radha” on my door.

Rapt in a reverie after my last patient as to what could I cook today for impromptu dinner guests tonight I looked up to see Parul , all of 26 confident years old.

As we got talking she mentioned she heard of Zarah clinic through friends and that she was looking for LASER HAIR REMOVAL . “Upper lip?” I questioned …it being the most common amongst young girls .

‘No ‘ she said, “actually under arms”,

And ‘full bikini’

and ‘lower legs’

Oh …She’s getting married…I thought ….anyways we continued to set appointments and discuss do’s and don’ts around the treatment.

I set up my baby ZARAH MEDICAL and COSMETIC SKIN CLINIC 11 years ago, when cosmetic enhancements were somewhat an exclusive territory. Now, that equation has changed and LOOKING GOOD ,therefore FEELING GOOD…is de rigueur.

Right from selecting the unaffordable state-of-the-art EQUIPMENT , to sketching the Zarah LOGO, to framing the MISSION STATEMENT in all sincerity or selecting professional STAFF and the soft MUSIC and varieties of GREEN TEA as patients undergo various treatments were thought processes that belonged to me.

I wanted Zarah to be a comfortable place people walk into and walk out of …with poise and confidence!

After 2 long sessions with Parul I realized to my total amazement, shock and awe that the girl was NOT getting married, in fact she NEVER would !

She was undergoing complete laser hair removal because she had chosen to become a JAIN MONK!

Oh Lordie No!!

Instantly I tried talking her out of this idea but No ..

She was set ! THIS was her chosen life path!

Life of a pious mendicant???

Heavens no!!!!

I looked at her, mesmerized as she narrated how that once she had attained DIKSHA she would NOT be able to shower, personal hygiene would have to be compromised, that she would live life as a wanderer eschewing not only the material world but also all emotions.. the VOW of Nonpossesssion or APARIGRAHA!

WOW!

From being the FASHIONISTA who partied every weekend wearing her ‘Pradas ‘to the glitziest of events,she was to be catapulted into a life where her focus was PRAYER.

She would live life as the perfect Ascetic, practise nonviolence and detachment with only her white simple robes , a bowl and broom , maybe a few religious texts… as her only worldly possessions .

All this she CHOSE ….Of her own FREE WILL!

WHAT A GIRL….

I mused …..as I adjusted my light blue linen sari in a small mirror with a black wrought iron frame at the far corner of my room at the clinic. Something you need to know about me – I love life and I love sarees. Every day of my life is only that much wee bit happier because I can wear a beautiful sari with some exciting jewellery to the clinic!

Today’s sari of the day is a a very light powder blue linen gifted to me by my best friend Sangeeta who shops online especially when she is unwell!

The jewellery I picked up from a cute little shop in Kochi .My blouses never ever, ever belong to the sari itself and this one with long sleeves I picked up at Chandralok.

As I sign off I wonder about Parul ..

Where would she be ?

..walking barefoot , learning , assimilating

Not a roof over her head …a free soul!

Wherever you are .. Parul .. hope you are just fine!

Here’s me expressing ..for lack of a better word…

Solidarity….. even if just for a day !

Guess each one’s journey of life is different.

Have a great day folks!

More in my next post of another interesting patient of mine!

PS…..

Name of patient changed to protect identity .

Parul looked beautiful, dressed in bridal finery on the day of her INITIATION procession.

Once she became a SADHAVI .. she RENOUNCED not only all her worldly possessions , giving them away in charity but EVEN HER NAME !

Last I heard of her .. she was perfectly happy and in equanimity !👍