Posts Tagged ‘Goodluck Jonathan’

Letter From New York 04 01 15 Lunching in a Maharajah’s Naveli…

April 1, 2015

As I begin to write this, I am looking out at a lake across the road from the Trident Hotel in Jaipur where I have checked in. A small balcony is attached to my room and from there I have a clear view of a lake and the palace that sits in the middle of it. The story goes that the palace was built five stories tall and was a place for the Royal Family to picnic. Then they decided they wanted a lake, so they built that and now only three stories of the palace rise above the water.

It’s good to be Maharajah.

Speaking of which, I had lunch this afternoon at the Royal Heritage Haveli, a boutique hotel owned by the current Maharajah, even though they don’t officially have Maharajahs anymore. He still has the title and property. The State of Rajasthan has been encouraging the old aristocracy to turn their residences into hotels for the sake of tourism.

Pradip Singh, who runs the Royal Heritage Haveli, is related to the Maharajah through is wife. Once a very powerful politician in Ahmedabad, he retired from politics when he got on the wrong side of someone and came to Jaipur and took over the renovation of an abandoned villa into a glorious boutique hotel. Go take a look: www.royalheritagehaveli.com.

It is a magnificent building, now restored to its old glory; each room is unique. Brilliant blues and startling whites are common accents; each room has a magnificent modernized bath almost the size of a studio apartment in New York.

Most have sitting rooms with contemporary or traditional furniture and it is all a stunning feast for the eyes.

We lunched, starting with a pea mint soup, followed by a superb quinoa salad, and then had chicken with gravy and a mousse for dessert.   It was easily the best meal I have had in India.

The Royal Heritage Haveli was used in one of the scenes for “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” currently in release in the U.S.

We drove down this morning from Delhi, with Joginder at the wheel, accompanied by my friend Sanjay, his friend Andy and his colleague, Angelia. They are here prepping for two Cultural and Culinary tours they are leading this fall and next spring.

We made good time despite the traffic and were in Jaipur by noon. Most of the ride, I did my best to sleep. It seems the best way to cope with Indian road madness. We slowed once to a crawl as we threaded our way carefully through a crowd of holy cows inhabiting the center of a two-lane highway.

Seeing them reminded me that I hadn’t seen many cows in Delhi this trip.

We passed a female mahout upon her elephant and carts drawn by camels, making their way slowly up the roadway.

Driving back from the Royal Heritage Haveli, Sanjay asked me what I was thinking about what I was seeing. It occurred to me that I was just taking it all in, hopefully not making judgments but simply absorbing what I was seeing.

There is great beauty, like the sight outside my window, and there is bone-grinding poverty though it doesn’t seem as bone grinding as it did twenty years ago. Shelters of brick and tin, sturdier in the monsoon season, have largely replaced mud huts with thatched roofs.

Tomorrow a guide will come plus a car and driver and I will do my best to see all that Jaipur has to offer.

In the meantime, I glanced at the headlines and the marathon talks in Lausanne continue between the P5 + 1 [US, France, Russia, China, Britain plus Germany] and Iran continue even though the self-imposed deadline has passed. Congress doesn’t return until mid-April, giving Obama and Kerry a little breathing room.

Netanyahu is unhappy.

Misao Okawa, the oldest person in the world, died at 117. Her secret to a long life? Eight hours of sleep and sushi.

In a positive sign, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has conceded defeat to his opponent, Buhari. It looks, thankfully, that there will be a peaceful transition of power in a country where not much has been peaceful lately, thanks to the Boko Haram.

The world ticks on. IS and Iraq are still duking it out over Tikrit. Yemen is bleeding badly. There are more than three million Syrian refugees scattered across the Middle East.

Here in the subcontinent, I am going to post this and then head for dinner at what is supposed to be the best Chinese restaurant in this part of India.

Letter From New York 01 13 15 Deciding for yourself…

February 13, 2015

On this Friday the 13th, I find myself in the Acela Lounge at Penn Station, warding off the freezing temperatures that have descended on the Northeast. Actually, I am waiting here to hear from my friend Paul, who may need some help from me after he has outpatient surgery today. He is having a stent put in his leg this afternoon. I am waiting to hear from him about going to his apartment, not far from Penn, to be with him after his surgery.

While Claverack will probably only get bitter cold today and tomorrow, the coastal areas of New England will be hammered again by snow, another foot added to the already record amounts that have fallen. Locally, the harsh winter has resulted in a road salt shortage and rationing has been started.

While a peace deal has been signed in Minsk, fighting is continuing in Ukraine and there is some skepticism that fighting will end when it is supposed to at midnight Saturday night. Ukraine has a slumping economy and has received a promise of $17.5 billion from the IMF to prop it up.

The negotiations to reach the agreement were difficult and “buckets of coffee” were drunk, according to the host, the President of Belarus. It was the first time in years any western leader had visited his country. He’s known as Europe’s last dictator. He met Angela Merkel with a small bouquet of flowers and seemed very pleased she and Hollande were there.

Probably not very pleased right now is President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina as a prosecutor has launched an investigation concerning her potential involvement in a cover-up regarding facts about a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of a synagogue in which 85 people were killed. Iran has been blamed, a statement they deny.

It is the latest twist in a bizarre case. The last prosecutor, Nisman, was found dead in his apartment the night before he was testify in the case. Supposedly a suicide, it is now being investigated as a potential murder. The case is riveting Argentina.

Another riveting scene is watching who will blink first in the Greek debt restructuring negotiations. Greece isn’t budging from its position of wanting a restructuring and European Finance Ministers are not moving from demanding that Greece honor the terms of the bailout. Particularly severe is Schaeuble of Germany, a formidable figure, in a wheelchair as a result of a 1990 assassination attempt.

The Boko Haram launched their first attack on Chad. The BBC reported that the savagery was severe. Soldiers had their throats cut and women were carried off as “war booty.” President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria is requesting American troops to fight Boko Haram.

In another chapter in a sorry week for media, David Carr, the well-respected media critic for the New York Times, collapsed last night in the Times’ newsroom and died. He had battled drug addiction in his younger years and had climbed out of that hole and become one of the most respected reporters in the country.

Brian Williams is reported to be considering an apology tour of the country after seeking counseling. As he considers his next moves, investigations are continuing into many comments that he made that are now doubted. Was he with Seal Team 6 as they flew into Baghdad? Did he actually shake the hand of Pope Paul II? Was he at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall fell? He might need to wait to make that apology tour until he knows exactly all that he needs to apologize for.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of our Supreme Court is reported as having had a bit too much wine the night of the State of the Union address and drifted off during Obama’s speech. It made her seem so human.

Speaking of things human, the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend. The reviews I’ve read or heard are all over the place, from superb to terrible, beautifully acted to woodenly performed. One reviewer reported that at the end of the screening she attended, everyone began to giggle, probably from a combination of factors. If you are interested [and it is assumed a lot of people are going to be interested], you will probably have to rely on your own take.