India. A place far from the perceived normalities of Western culture. A place where colour is vibrant, loud, and constant; so constant and loud, that your senses combine to a point when you can almost hear, taste and smell what defines its physical nature. At eight years old, when I first travelled to South India, these were the things that stood out to me the most and I have found that a child reacts to their surroundings by what they see rather than what they hear or understand. Continue reading
As part of a short placement with the British Council in India last year, Natalie spent three days experiencing life at Maitreyi College in Delhi.
Maitreyi (meaning ‘friendly one’) was a Hindu philosopher who lived during the later Vedic period in ancient India. Considered a symbol of Indian intellectual women, she is the namesake of an all-girls college in Delhi, the starting point of my story.
A green oasis in the heart of a busy city, Maitreyi College (a part of the University of Delhi) states that ‘education is the best asset of a nation.’ Single-sex colleges are rare in the UK and I have always wondered to what extent they have an impact on academic success and overall how useful they are in terms of being an accurate representation of ‘real life’. Is it right to separate academia by gender? Walking into the college for the first time, I was sceptical of the environment, filled with questions for the young women who studied there. Continue reading
Pakistan — a country which encompasses deserts, rivers, mountains and sea — is rich in history and scenic beauty. One of the most populous countries in the world, it shares borders with India, Afghanistan, China and Iran. To travel through Pakistan is to travel though a vast landscape full of Mughal Empire history, where each of its provinces and major cities offer up something different. Our journey starts in the south of the country. From the warm sand of Sindh and its largest city, Karachi, we embark on an expedition to explore Pakistan, one historical place at a time. Continue reading
The thick, heavy heat hits you at 6am on a Mumbai morning during monsoon season like any other hour of the day. This, however, is the ideal time to wake up if you plan on venturing out into the streets on a bicycle, ready to explore its hidden areas. During a busy morning, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of lorries overtaking each other, as well as being driven out of lanes by busy auto-rickshaw drivers with no time to waste. Starting an adventure at this hour allows you to experience a time in the city that would have otherwise gone completely overlooked, a time when the city wakes up, when it starts its trade and readies itself for the bustle and the humidity. Continue reading
“Towards India he turned his reins quickly and went in all glory,
Driving like the blowing wind, dapple-grey steed swift as lightning.
With bounty and liberality he returned to the capital;
Round his stirrups were the heavens and angels round his reins.
A thousand thanks! The beauty of the world has revived
With the early glory of the throne of multi-coloured gems.”
The Emperor Shah Jahan, creator of the Peacock Throne and the Taj Mahal, presided over the golden age of one of the most sophisticated empires in the world – the Persianate Mughal dynasty which ruled over most of India for nearly 300 years, from 1526-1857. The Mughals were descended from Timur the Great, whose great capital of Samarkand I have discussed in a previous article.
Their heritage was the luxurious sophistication of their Persian and central Asian forebears, and their attempts to recreate this tradition in the dusty plains of northern India resulted in great buildings, paintings, poetry, gardens and a rich cuisine. Continue reading