Friday, 31 August 2007

An Indian Marriage

So it finally happened - we got married. However, it didn't happen on Friday the 17th as I had you believe with my previous post. When we arrived to the district court it turned out that some of our papers hadn't been properly attested due to the dishonesty of an attorney we had used for it. So we had to run out and get them re-attested by which time the district commissioner had left his office. So we had to go home without getting our marriage certificate. We were told that we should have come earlier in the day, since that is normally when the commissioner performs marriages.

Yet when we came back to the apartment our elderly old landlord couple invited us inside. They happened to have all the old ladies in E-block on a visit and wanted to add us to their prayers.

Here is the lady of the house, who we call only "auntie" (such familiar terms are common as a sign of respect in India).

Ladies passing around snacks.

Our landlord - who we call uncle - stayed in the kitchen to leave the ladies to their business in the living room.

So the following Monday we showed up at the district court again, this time early in the morning as we had been instructed. Since I had to fly to Europe that same evening we were getting pretty desperate to get things done. Also we had to bring three witnesses which had to take time off from work, so we really wanted to get things done. But - of course - the district commissioner had gone to some important meeting without anyone else being able to cover his responsibilities in the office. So we had to wait. Here is Nitoli and one of our witnesses waiting, still in high spirits despite waiting for two hours:

But waiting was not new to us. In order to get married in India you have to wait for 30 days while you hang for public display at the court. Here we are:

Finally, at 12.50 the district commissioner arrived to the court. But although we had arrived first, at this time several other couples had arrived hoping to get married. So now we had to move fast to make sure that we were first up to get married. Because if not, then he would probably go to lunch and we would have to wait another hour or more. One of our witnesses really needed to get back to work, and besides it was important that we saw the commissioner soon, so just in case there was still trouble with the papers we had time to get it fixed same day before I got on the plane for Europe.

It worked, we got in and this time papers were all in order. So within 5 minutes we got married by the commissioner who talked on his mobile phone more than half the time. Not very romantic or ceremonial, but of course we'll have all that next year.

Happy and relieved afterwards with the certificate in hand.

All of our witnesses had to go back to their duties afterwards, but Susanna's mother and sister, Elizabeth, who were in Delhi to buy stuff for Elizabeth's wedding went with us to a restaurant nearby to mark the occasion. It was a happy day,but also quite stressful.

Friday, 17 August 2007

A Special Post on a Very Special Day

Today, Nitoli and I are getting married. Surprised? Well, I know I haven't been writing anything about upcoming wedding plans. The thing is there haven't been that much to plan. Although the reason for our marriage is entirely built on love, the particular timing has been determined by practicalities. Thus today we will be entering into a court marriage at a very simple ceremony involving little more than a few signatures on a piece of paper. We'll have a real church wedding in the company of friends and family next summer.

Although we try to make this a simple affair, so it doesn't take anything away from our real wedding next year, it still marks that we are making a life long commitment to each other. This post is dedicated entirely to the amazing journeys we've made together, the many laughs and more than anything the love we have shared for two years and five days. Now we have a whole life time of that, to look forward to.

I went through my picture archive to search only for pictures with both of us in them. You may remember most of the places and events from other posts, but hardly any of these pictures have been on my blog before. That is because Nitoli was too shy to appear on my blog for the first long time we were together. But here we are, sharing two amazing years:

As far as I know the first picture ever taken of the two of us together. This is October 6th 2005 - Nitoli's birthday. We went out to our favourite restaurant in Delhi, Olive, which unfortunately has been closed now. By this time we had been together for less than two months.

Later same night.

At Nitoli's birthday party a few days later. I am stealing a kiss in the corner.

Together in March 2006 for the sunrise on Tiger Hill with Mount Kanchenjunga - third highest peak in the world - in the background.

At Nitoli's old boarding school, Mount Hermon, in Darjeeling. She practically grew up here so it was special for me to get to see it. Our last picture together before I left India for six months. If you're wondering about my pink hair, it is because I was attacked with coloured powder as it is tradition for Diwali.

View from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, when Susanna came to visit me in Europe in the summer of 2006.

Susanna with my whole family in my grandmother's garden.

In Stavanger, Norway, shortly after we had been together for 1 year. This was in August 2006.

On top of magical Pulpit Rock near Stavanger.

Outside Fantoft Stave Church in Norway.

Inside the same, completely wooden church.

At Nitoli's birthday party October 6th 2006. First picture of the two of us together, after my 6 months back in Europe. Taken the day after my return to India.

Blowing together on a windmill toy at a party in the interns' apartment in Vasant Vihar.

In full Indian gear for the wedding of one of Susanna's old friends. October 2006.

Self Portrait from the wedding reception in the evening.

By the mighty stone chariot of Hampi in South India.

In Bangalore with Susanna's sister Elizabeth. This day in late October '06 was the first time I met any of her family members.

Hussainabad, Lucknow. January 2007.

After our paragliding experience in Nepal, March 2007. This is the our whole rookie group.

On Pokhara Lake, Nepal.

Garden of Dreams, Kathmandu.

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, April 2007. With a man with an incredible moustache.

In the pool at a recent event I am yet to blog about here. To the right is our Finnish friend Juho.

So far it has been an absolute blast. She is such a wonderful person to be around and I seriously can't see myself ever growing tired of her company. We have our little arguments, of course, but all in all I am just so amazed at how incredibly strong our relationship still is after two years. It is really better than ever, and I can't wait for the next two years, and the next and the next...

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Animal Life in Greater Kailash

Since I am not travelling much these days, I have to find motives for my photographic obsession a bit closer to home. Luckily the colony in which we live is filled with fascinating and beautiful creatures. I here show some of my more successful animal pictures, most of which are taken on or from our terrace. It is mostly birds and insects, but in the end there are also some mammals. One nocturnal mammal I had to go find in it's very special habitat.

A dragonfly posing beautifully for me, hanging from a stem on the terrace. I find the intricate pattern on its wings to be very beautiful.

An even closer look at the dragon fly. With modern cameras you can get much more detailed views of small animals than you ever could with the naked eye. I know some of my readers might find close ups of dragon flies less than interesting, but I am very fascinated by the incredibly complex natural design of such little creatures, which we tend to overlook. I think Albert Einstein expressed it incredibly well, when he said:
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
I fall squarely within the last category. I find constant amazement and wonder in such little details of nature.

Another beautiful design, created by millions of years of evolution. This picture was taken yesterday when Nitoli called me out to the terrace because she spotted it while watering our plants.

Same butterfly, only with it's wings closed and in a different location. Notice in this picture how it is using its long proboscis to suck water from the leaf. It's like a straw as long as the butterfly's legs.

Another butterfly, this one with big green-yellow eyes using it's proboscis to suck nectar. Notice also how dusty the leaves of the plants get. It's like that in Delhi. Unless you wash them daily they dust over, like everything else here.

A strange four-winged insect. Perhaps a moth of some sort?

From insects to one of their mortal enemies: A common tailorbird, easily distinguishable by its yellow back and red cap. You can see by its long tail, that this is a male.

And here is his mate, to the left looking after their duller looking chick on the right. The whole family frequently hangs out on our terrace, where the grown ups hunt for insects, while the chicks hide in our many plants.

A squirrel checks out one of the local electrical poles. You would think it was a dangerous place to hang out, but I've never seen any of these get hurt.

Enough with the insects, birds and rodents. Time for some mammals. A few weeks ago I had a very unexpected visit on our terrace from this fellow:

A macaque monkey! These guys are very common in India, but never before and after that day have I seen them anywhere near our colony. I was sitting at the table near the door working on my thesis, when suddenly I saw a flash of something big and brownish-red jump onto our terrace from the neighbouring rooftop and continue downwards to the terrace of our downstairs neighbours. I grabbed my camera and ran to the railing and looked down to see the monkey check out it's new position. It turned out that he was being attacked by a murder (meaning "group") of crows. For some reason the crows hate macaques - perhaps because the monkeys steal their eggs?

After the attack in which it got pretty badly defeated by the crows, the monkey found a spot - still on the downstairs terrace - to sit and regain it's strength and confidence.

Now it is time for a look at the last mammal I promised. Mostly nocturnal and the only one I couldn't catch from the terrace. I am talking of course about the party animal:

Yes, this is it. A small group of party animals, in their local habitat: A lounge called "Polka", which is much preferred by the party animal for it's plentiful supply of alcoholic drinks at low prices.

Okay, silly jokes aside this is an aspect of my life, which I haven't shown much of on this weblog. Party pictures tend to get very boring, very quickly for people who aren't actually there, so I tend to keep such pictures on my facebook profile (if any of my readers want to be my "friend", just search for Esben Agersnap on facebook). However I felt it was time to show that I do have a social life, which extends beyond the company of birds and butterflies.

There is a story to the crazy scene above. India is in many ways stuck in the early 90s and one of the ways in which this manifests itself, is that Bryan Adams is still a superstar here. Especially his song "Summer of '69" is a massive hit, which frequently gets played in night clubs to the great joy of all the locals there who stand up and sing along. However, Emil (sitting bottom right), hates Bryan Adams and particularly Summer of '69. So naturally we have made a habit of specifically asking the DJ for that song whenever he is present and then sing along like the locals. This is what we are doing in the picture above. Standing from the left Mirva , Sidsel, Me and Peter. Nitoli took the picture.

A quick introduction, although most have been mentioned before: Mirva is from Finland and is working at the Finnish Embassy. She is the girlfriend of Emil, who - like me - is a former intern at the Danish Embassy and currently working with Danish company Kring in Delhi. Sidsel is also a former Danish Embassy intern and she will also soon be working with Kring. Peter is also working for Kring, whenever he is not busy running his website for Delhi Expatriates.

A little trick photo using the decorative background of Polka Lounge. This picture and the one above was taken with Sidsel's camera and I borrowed these pictures from her weblog.

Looks like the camera was drunk when this picture was taken? Well it sort of was - at least under the influence of alcoholic beverages. We had left the camera on the table and some sticky drink (probably vodka/red bull) had gotten smeared on the lens making it so sticky that the lens cover got stuck halfway closed. The camera is fine now.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

An Old Friend and Old Delhi

This is Peter, an old friend from University in Denmark. He came to India to celebrate finishing his thesis (well, almost finishing it - I'm not the only one struggling to get it over with). I offered him to stay with me and Nitoli, and one of the first days I took him to Old Delhi. Here he is enjoying some delicious street food, as it is customary in Old Delhi. You might notice two Muslim girls in the background - Old Delhi is home to a very large share of Delhi's Muslims.

Old Delhi is generally fairly run down, crowded and gritty but it also has plenty of character and history. Here it an really nice old colonial building, which must have been quiet impressive back in its day.

Old Delhi has a few broad avenues, but is dominated by small lanes, which can be packed so tight in between the houses that you sometimes feel more like you are walking around indoor than outdoor. It is a labyrinthine place filled with dead ends, gates, stairs and tiny pathways which suddenly leave standing in someone's house. It is definitely worth spending an hour or two getting lost in the amazing neighbourhoods. here we found a particular area selling these gold embroidered red textiles, which are apparently used for wedding. I'm not sure of their exact use, but Peter seems to think it's supposed to be used as a cape.

Some local men - at least two of them Muslim - enjoying a cup of coffee.

Gear wheels handing in front of a small mechanics shop.

Peter at the great Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), the principal Muslim place of worship in Delhi. It is a very grand place with stunning architecture and room for 25,000 worshippers in the courtyard.

The best thing about the Jama Masjid is that you climb the South Tower for a great view of all Delhi. This is the view to the north west showing the mosque's large central dome and the compact neighbourhoods of Old Delhi. you can really see how close the buildings are put together.

A view to the roof tops across from the south tower. Notice all the kites in the sky. Old Delhi is famous for it's kite flyers, who go to the rooftop and compete trying to cut down each other's kites.

View to the north east, showing the mosque's courtyard and the mighty Red Fort in the background.

The principal entrance to the fort, Lahore Gate, seen through my zoom lens.

And finally Peter on the ground in front of the very same Lahore Gate. After the trip he told me, that he is now a big fan of Old Delhi.