Good Finds at Good Earth in Chennai, India

I need to get my mind out of the gutter that is our Chicago basement lately, and find a happier place, like the original purpose of this blog:  decorating the India apartment!

We visited Good Earth while in Chennai last year. Good Earth had the merchandise mix we love:  comfy upholstered furniture, old Chinese cabinets and tables, plus a dash of India. This is pretty much the style in our Chicago home.

Things we saw at Good Earth …

I like this interpretation of columns, fashioned of wood and painted silver:

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Nagaland Style

We stepped through a simple door like all the others. Except after stepping through this one, we were suddenly made so small. We felt uncomfortable, as if something tipped over, we’d be crushed. We hurried through the room of enormous objects. Things were chunky and crudely carved. Hulking brooding shapes. Baskets and bowls big enough to feed a village (and they probably did). At 1/5 scale these things could be pretty cool. But they were not for us. We scurried out in search of more manageable things.

They were the things of Nagaland. They were in a room at Crafter’s in Cochin. I got the sense they had once belonged to strong people. Survivors. They made steady unshakeable things like these …

Shown at CNNGo, Nagaland tribal doors:

A bed, which could become a coffee table, at Michael Donaldson Antiques:

A table shown at Terra Firma:

A panel used to decorate a village men’s house, available at Under the Bo. See what I mean? Big! (that is not me):

A wood carved chair via Purple Onion — this page is also a fascinating read about the people of Nagaland and their customs:

The textiles, jewelry and other personal adornments of the tribes of Nagaland are predominant with red, black and white. Here’s a collection of Nagaland artifacts via Potala:

Detail of Nagaland textile once available at Zena Kruzick Tribal Art:

Here are bronze cuffs from a tribe of Nagaland, at Guillermina Asian Arts and Antiques:

If you want to learn more from people who have traveled to Nagaland:

I admit my focus on the objects of Nagaland feels ridiculously superficial, when there is so much to know about the people and the culture. This is making me curious to learn more about them.

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The Day an Owl Visited the India pied-à-terre

It’s not just pigeons that bring messages. Owls can too. We know they are wise.

Three of us were in the Chennai apartment debating about ceiling fans (referred to briefly in the previous post) and perhaps we needed a break. We got it, delivered by a loud cardboard crash.

We found an owl on the living room floor, sitting next to a dust-covered box, now etched with the outline of crashed wings. I approached, crouching and asking “are you OK?” Like it’s going to answer.

The owl eyed me while I eyed its wings and legs from a respectful distance, looking for anything askew. My mind whirred. I’ve heard owls at night during our Chicago summers. I’ve seen them in photos and on TV. But never in person, right here. This guy is much bigger than parakeets we’ve had. What if it’s hurt? That beak looks sharp. I spot a towel nearby, to throw over the owl if needed. Can I grab it? Then what do I do with it? What do I put it in? Would I hurt it more while trying to help it?

Where we live near Chicago, there’s a wildlife rehabilitation center in Barrington. We’d go there, and they’d know what to do. Who knows what to do with owls in Chennai? All this, whizzing around my mind within seconds.

The owl probably had its own mind-whizzing going on in whatever way it understands. It decided to flap around the apartment, which feels big enough until a bird with long extended wings starts banging around everywhere … so fast … one wall here, one wall there, crashing into the ceiling … oh gosh, don’t hurt yourself!

We’re now running around, flapping our arms, everyone and everything flapping. I run to a big balcony door and open it, showing the owl, talking to the owl, here …  here … here’s how you get out. Now it sat atop the kitchen cabinets, resting.

We had a moment to let the situation soak in:

There’s an owl in the apartment and now we feel really responsible for it.

The owl knows how to take care of itself though. Once it had a chance to survey its surroundings and its options, it flew gracefully and purposefully across the place to an open window. Relief flew over us as it took flight back into the open air where it belongs. Relief was very short-lived though. As you see in this video … ravens awaited … you can see them circling, circling:


We hadn’t noticed so many ravens until they flew after the owl. Watching carefully, you can see them fly off to the upper left. Now I felt sick. We don’t know what happened, but my husband thinks far off in the distance, he saw the owl out-fly the predators. My husband is a very optimistic person. More optimistic than me.

Later downstairs, Amma said it’s a good omen to be visited by an owl, and good things will happen. The timing was full of serendipities — this was the first day both of us were in the India apartment together, having flown halfway around the world to see it after 18 months of construction. It was also the one-year anniversary of my husband’s grandmother’s death. For Hindus this could certainly bring wonderings about the young owl’s intentions.

We heard later that our nephew saw the owl being chased by ravens, and it flew through his second-floor porch, but not through his open apartment door. The owl then avoided another open apartment door below us, and went out of its way to fly up around the staircase, around a corner, and through our open door. It was not the flight path of least resistance. At the time our nephew thought the owl, despite being chased by ravens, was specifically aiming for our apartment.

We wanted to believe our visitor was a good omen. But what did the presence of the ravens bring? What did that mean? If you’re going to be superstitious, you can’t be selectively superstitious only in your favor. This weighed on us. Ultimately, while thinking about what it all meant, my husband got some insight into business troubles he was having. Literally, he felt ravens were picking away at his business. He now saw with clarity that he needed to shake the ravens off, that they weren’t going to change. They are what they are. In the months since, he’s made moves to shake the ravens and get his business into more of a safe haven, under one roof. It’s led him in the right direction. See what wisdom owls can bring …

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Happy New Year!

A virtual New Year’s Eve view from an imaginery hotel.

I wish all my wonderful visitors here a very prosperous and happy 2012!

A Taj Mahal travel story:

I had wanted to photograph the Taj Mahal from afar at night (my dream was to have dinner at the Oberoi), then again in dawn light the next day. We left Delhi with plenty of time to reach the Taj before evening. On the highway from Delhi to Agra, we saw exit signs saying “Taj Mahal” but our driver kept going straight. We figured maybe he knew a better way. Turns out, our driver didn’t know any way to to the Taj Mahal or nearby hotels! Whaaa?!? We wound up in an area in Agra where tourists should never go. The driver didn’t speak English or Tamil and my husband doesn’t speak much Hindi. But we had to find a way to direct the driver to our hotel, and somehow we did despite never having been there before and lacking GPS. An angel must have been guiding us. By the time we got to our hotel, we were crabby and tired, so no Oberoi and no Taj at night.

So above, finally, is my virtual view of the Taj Mahal at night.

And in the link below, you can see a few photos from our visit to the Taj …

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